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A 5.0 MAGNITUDE EARTHQUAKE jolted a fairly remote region about 7 miles west of Fall River Mills in Shasta County Friday morning.
The epicenter of the quake was detected shortly before 10:30 a.m. in an area between the Shasta and Lassen national forests, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.
There were no immediate reports of significant damage or injuries as a result of the quake, which was detected at a depth of about 9 miles.
Twenty-seven seconds later a 4.4 quake struck about a mile away.
MOSTLY DRY WEATHER is expected for the next seven days. Warmer temperatures are forecast for Sunday into early next week, particularly across the interior. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): A foggy 52F on the coast this Saturday morning. Clearing later, same tomorrow. Clear skies & breezy early next week.
AV UNIFED NEWS
Dear Anderson Valley Community,
We have had a spike in illness at the elementary school. Please be mindful not to send your student to school if they have active symptoms. Your consideration is appreciated.
Mark your calendar for the first Student Awards Assembly at the elementary school on September 19 at 12:30 and Back-to-School Night on September 27 at 5:30. The more you participate, the better our schools will be!
Thank you to those who attended the CTE/Site Council. Your time and feedback is appreciated.
The district is urgently hiring aides. We lost another stellar employee today due to unaffordable housing. We need aides in preschool, elementary school, and high school. It is fun and rewarding work and you can be on your student’s vacation schedule. Call Sarah Hayward at (707) 895-3774 or email her at email@example.com. Jobs are posted at AVUSD JOBS. We also need subs for both classified and certificated employees. Call us! We want the best for our kids and we need some help!
The elementary septic will have the main tank installed beginning September 28 and then that project should wrap up quickly. The front of the school is now primed with paint and will be completed in the coming weeks. We expect our plans for our high school remodel will be out of DSA on September 19 and then we need to run the CDE gauntlet. More FUN!
We are excited about our many partnerships to provide music, Aikido, Martial Arts, and a new “esthetician’s club”, along with yearbook, drama, Climate Club, drone photography, Service Learning, and other enrichment opportunities at the sites (site offerings vary). Our after-school programs serve a vital recreation component in the Valley, as do our play opportunities through our powerhouse sports teams! Congrats to Soccer, Volleyball and Football for a strong season start!
A huge thank you to all of the community members that support our schools. I continue to reflect as I walk the high school campus about the joy of hearing students all sit together phone-free and have laughter and conversation during lunch. I enjoy walking the hallways at the elementary and seeing the amazing art and language displays that have been produced.
Our academic focus for this coming year is Math, Math, And More Math. If your student is in Junior/Senior High, we have a math tutor available free of charge on Tuesday and Wednesday directly after school. The elementary school has a veteran teacher working as a math coach to assist in instructional opportunities. Good stuff!
Have a wonderful and safe weekend!
Louise Simson, Superintendent
AV Unified School District
WE WANTED TO GET A LOOK at how the spiffing up of the Elementary School was going on Friday afternoon so we drove down to take a look. We ignored the “buses only” sign in front of the newly painted building for the moment to get a good shot. But before we could even get our camera out, a woman rushed out to tell us we were in the “buses only” lane and a bus was about to arrive.
“Ok, I’ll be gone in a few seconds,” I replied. “I just want to get a shot of the painting. Is that the final color?” “No, that’s the primer; it’ll be like that,” the woman replied, pointing to a nearby newly painted building.
She then quickly added, “The bus is here, sir. You have to move.” I took a quick pic and departed to get the shot of the next door building, duly chastised for not heeding the signs. We left impressed at the cool but courteous authority the woman used in our casual encounter.
ON THE WAY BACK, we stopped for a pic of the progress of the construction of the new Boonville Catholic Church.
In just a few days the substantial framing was completed and ready for Phase 2. More impressive local progress.
THE BOONVILLE PANTHERS will prowl Laytonville's storied football field tonight (Friday) under lights that once shone over the old Seals Stadium in San Francisco where, as a member of Knot Hole Gang, I got into ball games for a nickel, enjoying from the bleachers with other feral children many a magic ball game.
LAYTONVILLE FOOTBALL was always a spectacle under coach Grover Faust. To an amplified Ring of Fire as sung by Johnny Cash, the Warriors would come charging out of the rural dark and on through an actual burning hoop ignited under the west goal post, a wonderful prelude to a football game.
FAUST was an excellent coach. For twenty or so years, his teams pretty much ruled the Northcoast's small schools, with Laytonville often battling Fred Austin's Potter Valley Bearcats for the championship. Austin was another truly excellent football coach, and both of them too often feasted at Boonville's expense.
GROVER always seemed to have one kid who could throw, and one or two very fast kids who could also catch, and his passing offense was just too much for opposing teams unprepared for a sophisticated passing attack. Last I heard, the old coach had retired to his ranch in Covelo, and everyone who remembers those days of outback football is certain to wish him well.
WELL HELL. Started the morning with a blaring security notice from Apple that locked up my computer. Had to call an 888 number where a barely coherent East Indian told me to do this, do that. Said I'd been hacked. I said I don't care. He said my computer wasn't secure. I said I don't care. He said he'd have to report my lack of security. I laughed. He said people can listen to my phone conversations and read my e-mail. I said I don't care. Long pause on the other end. Am I finished, I asked, can you take this disembodied creature's voice off my computer and unlock it so I can read the New York Times? Yes, sir, he said. The process is complete. But every time I try to access the Times, without which my daily quotient of bullshit is not complete, on comes the blaring voice and the demand to immediately call India. Que pasa?
WHY is the good ship SS Mendo headed for the rocks? Our ship has been adrift since — sexist alert — Mike Scannell and Al Beltrami departed the captain's cabin, leaving the wheel in the volatile hands of a woman trained as a nurse with no experience in public administration. Fiercely arbitrary, formidably large, nostrils flaring, bangles bangling as she fixes wild eyes on anybody who dares defy her (cf former supervisor McCowen), former CEO Carmel Angelo totally intimidated her theoretical bosses, the supervisors, as cringing a collection of male wusses and aged-out Ukiah High School pom-pom girls as ever held elective office any place in our doomed country, and proceeded, full steam ahead for the breakers, presently in full view from the fore deck. Firing capable people — mostly men, of course — for no stated reason and at great expense to the county in legal costs and the large awards to the fired victims for their unjust terminations, all of it with the garbled approval of our tax paid county counsel, the second-highest paid official in Mendo, and the highest paid lawyer.
WHEN The Nurse abandoned ship and rumbled off to a savage retirement in distant San Diego, one of many high end County employees to flee the featherbed after they'd plucked Mendo clean, Angelo selected a wine pal as her replacement in the captain's chair, another lady with no significant public admin experience. The oblivious supervisors, led by “I Always Know Better” Williams, ignoring the warnings from capable county administrators past and present not to combine the Auditor's office with the Tax Collector's office, the two separate functions were combined with, of all people, District Attorney Eyster, offering his blessing in the public session of the Supervisors where the deed was done. (As part of Eyster's ongoing campaign to destroy Chamise Cubbison, administrator of the combined offices.) It’s all very ONLY IN MENDO, and only just beginning.
SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS: This [below] proposal is the vital first step when making positive changes. Please. Please, everyone on the Coast drop what you are doing and attend this meeting and voice your support. No excuses please. This change will ultimately free up your business from excessive regulations. Words are not enough, action is needed if you want more freedom.
BOS Sept 12 - item 4f - RE-ROOFING LIBERTY.
St. Anthony's Church Parish Hall, 10700 Lansing Street, Mendocino
Discussion and Possible Action to Direct Planning & Building Services to Effectively Exempt like-for-like Re-Roofing Applications within Coastal Zone from Coastal Development Planning Review, Coordinating with California Coastal Commission on Best Approach, Whether Waiver, Immediate Local Coastal Plan Amendment, Urgency Ordinance or Alternative (Sponsors: Supervisor Williams and Supervisor Gjerde)
Summary Of Request:
At present, Planning review can delay re-roofing projects by months. Re-roofing is categorically repair and maintenance. Where like-for-like materials are to be used, for example a composite roof replacement with composite, there is not a public policy benefit in delaying applicants. The county will ultimately always approve. We anticipate these projects being exempt under the LCP update. Until such time, we should not collect a fee or delay projects. The building permit serves as sufficient review.
DONNA WINKLER REPLIES: Total BULL SHIT! If I had a shake roof I sure as hell wouldn’t replace with another one. Just pisses me off that they think they even have the right to tell me what I can and can’t do with my house!
COUNTY AGENDA NOTES
by Mark Scaramella
Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors Meeting is scheduled for September 12, 2023 at St. Anthony’s Church Parish Hall, 10700 Lansing St., Mendocino.
Agenda Item 4i: “Discussion and Possible Action Including Direction to Staff Regarding an Increase to the Transient Occupancy Tax for Vacation Home Short Term Rentals in Mendocino County. (Sponsor: Supervisor Haschak)”
This one will be interesting because, although the idea sounds good in principle, the County hasn’t exactly defined what a Vacation Home Rental is, nor how they will identify them, nor how they will calculate the tax base, nor how they will collect the tax. Nor have we heard what Tax Collector Cubbison thinks about the idea. It’s another half-baked idea that should have been accompanied with some proposed details. As it is, the most likely outcome is some meandering blather followed by another “directive” to staff to look into it where it, like Haschak’s non-existent “wildlife exclusion service,” will be indefinetely tabled.
Item 4k: “Discussion and Possible Action Including Approval of Creation of an Amnesty Program for Building Permit Penalties; and Direction to Staff to Implement the Amnesty Program for a Period Not to Exceed One Year (Sponsor: Supervisor Haschak)”
In the past, permit amnesty programs have attracted a few new buildings, and brought in a little permit revenue and additional property taxes, since only the penalty is being waived, not the often exorbitant permit fee itself. Reportedly, there are lots of unpermitted structures in the Mendo outback, including things like hoop houses which probably shouldn’t require building permits at all. Whether a permit amnesty will produce a significant amount of applications or revenue, however, remains to be seen. (The owners of the many abandoned pot grows/structures in the North County are not likely to get in line for permit amnesty.)
Consent Calendar Item 3i is another handout to the Schraeders who seem to get unquestioned new contracts or extensions almost every month: “Approval of Amendment to BOS Agreement No. 23-136 with Redwood Community Services, Inc. DBA Redwood Community Crisis Center, in the Amount of $195,000, for a New Agreement Total of $260,000, to Provide and Monitor Crisis Assessment and Psychiatric Hospitalization Aftercare to Individuals Within the Boundaries of Mendocino County Not Eligible for County Medi-Cal Services Due to Having Private Pay and/or Medicare Insurance, Effective July 1, 2023 through a New End Date of June 30, 2024 (Original End Date: September 30, 2023)”
There is no indication which pot of money this contract will be paid out of. And, of course, no competitive bidding. It is to be “routinely” approved on the consent calendar without discussion.
Another consent item for the Schraeders: Item 3j: “Approval of Third Amendment to BOS Agreement No. BOS-22-063 with Redwood Community Services, Inc., in the Amount of $660,481, for a New Total of $2,116,068, to Provide Residential Treatment Facility Operations and Crisis Residential Services on a Transitional Basis to Mendocino County Adults, Ages 18 or Older, Who Are Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis, Effective March 16, 2022, through a New End Date of June 30, 2024 (Previous End Date: September 30, 2023).
No funding source, no discussion, no bidding, no explanation for this $660k extra hand-out either.
Consent Calendar Item 3n has a curious new word describing the “services” being paid for. Clifton-Larson-Allen LLP is already on contract to conduct the routine annual audit for the County. But now they’re apparently being asked to do a “forensic” audit as well. The contract language is not attached to the agenda item, so we don’t know at this point what the County expects Clifton-Larson-Allen to do “forensically” for an extra $50k. We cannot find any record of what “Agreement No. PA-23-63” is either. You might think with all the allegations swirling around the County’s finances these days that contracting for a “forensic” audit would be of interest to the public and the Board. But no, here it is on the consent calendar: “Approval of Agreement (Second Amendment to Agreement No. PA-23-63) with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, in the Amount of $50,000 for a New Total of $100,000, for Forensic Audit Services, Effective March 3, 2023, through December 31, 2023.”
Oh, look. Another few hundred thou for the Schraeders on consent. This time it’s “retroactive” (again). No explanation is offered for why it has to be retroactively rubberstamped. Apparently, because it’s on the consent calendar, nobody is interested in how or why the original $10.5 mil just wasn’t enough to cover whatever this extra $400k worth of “services.” is supposed to provide: “Item 3t): Approval of Retroactive Second Amendment to BOS Agreement No. 22-166, with Redwood Community Services, Inc., in the Amount of $400,000, for a New Agreement Total of $10,523,000, to Provide Specialty Mental Health Services to Eligible Medi-Cal Beneficiaries of Mendocino County, Effective July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023.”
We couldn’t help but notice that there is nothing on the agenda regarding the monthly report from the Assessor on tax assessment status or progress. Two months ago the Board “directed” that they get monthly written status reports on what was vaguely intended to be a two -year program to try to pick up maybe half of an unknown number of un- or under-assessed parcels/properties. Since then we’ve only seen an info-free informal oral report from Assessor Bartolomie. She appeared under public expression, even though the Board hadn’t even asked about it and Acting Board Chair Maureen Mulheren wouldn’t even let the Assessor finish her “report.”
A draft response to the Grand Jury’s scathing take down of the County’s Human Resources department is also on Tuesday’s agenda. Guess how many of the Grand Jury’s sensible recommendations regarding Human Resources the County’s response says will be implemented? (Hint, there’s only one and it says “already implemented.”)
For example, in Finding F6, the Grand Jury “found” that “The challenges faced by the HR Department are likely to continue for the foreseeable future because the BOS and CEO have stopped recruiting for a department director and have recently unfunded the position.”
Proposed response: “Wholly Disagree. A different model for HR leadership went into effect at the beginning of 2023 in which an Assistant HR Director position was filled to oversee the operations of the HR department, while the Interim HR Director position, which is filled by a fully qualified Deputy CEO, maintains the Director responsibilities. This model allows the Interim HR Director to focus on high-level HR strategies and coordination with department heads and Executive Office while working with the Assistant HR Director who is ensuring the HR department operates smoothly and implements changes/improvements. This model has been working well, because both the Interim HR Director and Assistant HR Director have extensive experience in HR and have set a strategic vision for the HR department and are implementing improvements. Staff are not confused or discouraged, rather they know where the department is going and how they’re going to get there.”
A “different model”! Take that, Grand Jury! They can’t hire a competent Human Resources Director so they simply called their present Rube Goldberg arrangement “a different model.” You’re excused if you think this response sounds not only muddled to the point of nonsense, but has echoes of the forced and unplanned consolidation of the Treasurer and Auditor offices which has worked out so well.
In finding F20 the Grand Jury found that “The County has a 27.5% vacancy rate overall, with some departments experiencing vacancy rates as high as 49%.”
Proposed response: “Partially disagree. The vacancy data was accurate at the time information was provided to Grand Jury but had yet to be defined down to funded/unfunded status of vacant positions. Unfunded vacant positions should not be used in calculations for vacancy rate because it is not possible to fill due to lack of funding. The vacancy rate has been updated since and with consideration of counting only funded vacant positions, the County vacancy rate is at approximately 15%.”
Since when is the vacancy rate based on funded positions as opposed to workload and shift coverage? If a necessary position is unfilled because there’s a funding shortage, it is still “vacant” and should be listed as such. Besides, if you want to reduce the vacancy rate, wouldn’t you recruit for all vacancies, not just the ones that may be funded at the moment?
The proposed response continues: “When the budget was approved for Fiscal Year 23/24 the positions authorized for funding was for 1,100 with a 15% vacancy rate. The adopted budget, with a $7 million structural deficit, did not assume all these positions would be filled and funded for the entire fiscal year.”
There’s that infamous and still-undefined “$7 million structural deficit” reference again. The only person on the Board who has mentioned that particular “structural deficit” is Supervisor Gjerde, so we assume he’s the one who drafted this (these?) non-responses. Instead, Gjerde (and his colleagues) again insult the Grand Jury and the public by ignoring not only the Grand Jury’s serious attempt to identify a systemic personnel management problem, but by assuming nobody cares how bad the responses are. (Unfortunately, they may be right.)
The Grand Jury also found that “The hiring process is reported to average 2-4 months before an applicant is notified of a job offer, sometimes up to 6 months, resulting in the loss of qualified applicants.”
Here, although the draft response says “Agree,” nothing is proposed to speed up the process. (In other local jurisdictions, we know of managers who use extra-help and temporary hirings to bring people in early and see if they work out, for example, while they wait for the tedious hiring process to take its sweet time.) Instead, all we get are lame excuses: “After a recruitment (minimum of two-weeks posted) closes, Human Resources provides a referral list of candidates to departments. Departments then receive the referral and have 30 days to schedule interviews, interview, and extend an offer to candidates and they then need to onboard their new hires. Referral lists are typically sent to a department within 72 hours pending other factors such as they are still interviewing from a previous referral.”
Similarly the Grand Jury found that “The County is experiencing major challenges retaining employees. Average turnover rate in the County was 30.6% in 2022, with turnover among some job classifications up to 120% in a year.”
Proposed response to this staggering statistic: “Agree.”
That’s the entire response. High turnover? Yup. Guess so. Ho-hum.
The Grand Jury concluded: “The County as an employer has suffered due to the workplace culture, which makes the County less attractive to potential applicants.”
Proposed response: “Partially disagree. The County’s workplace culture may look less attractive to potential applicants if the culture is known by the applicants and is as bad or worse than the current workplace culture the applicant is enduring.”
This makes no sense at all. But let’s parse it just for fun to see if we can figure out what that “response” means.
First we’re told that the Board agrees that there’s an extremely high turnover rate which one assumes is related to a bad “workplace culture.” The (“partial”) disagreement seems to be that on the one hand the Grand Jury found that the County’s nebulous “workplace culture” is “less attractive to potential applicants,” and therefore the County has suffered.
On the other hand, bringing out our best magnifying glass to examinet these soggy tea leaves, the Board’s proposed response disagrees “partially” because the workplace culture “may look” less attractive. But only if the applicant knows how bad it looks and if, after careful comparison, decides that Mendo’s workplace culture looks worse than whatever job the potential applicant currently “endures” and therefore decides to stay where they are. Possible translation: “Yeah, it’s bad, but everybody else is as bad or worse,” therefore nothing to be concerned about.
Famous distortionist M.C. Escher himself couldn’t have stuck his head further up his own intestine.
To summarize, Mendo’s personnel management is in serious disarray as clearly spelled out by the Grand Jury and even the Board’s “responses.” But instead of addressing the problem, this Board’s response is to tell the Grand Jury to bugger off.
UKIAH CONSTRUCTION UPDATES for the Week of September 11th:
Important: Starting the week of September 11, we’ll see work occurring on both the north and the south ends of the project.
On the south side (Mill to Gobbi), crews will begin trenching for the new water lines in and around the intersection of Gobbi and State. For the safety of the crews and for traffic control, the traffic signal will remain in “flash” mode, which means the intersection should be treated like a four-way stop. There’s no doubt about it—this will impact traffic circulation, especially during peak travel times. If you can take a different route, please do. In general, this work will progress north toward Mill Street. Water lines are located along the west side of State Street, but no driveways are expected to be impacted next week and no interruptions to utility service.
On the north side (Norton to Henry), crews will begin saw-cutting the “joint trench,” which will hold the new underground electric lines, as well as phone and cable lines. This work will progress fairly quickly from Norton to Henry, and any impacts to driveways will be noticed in advance and plated quickly to resume access.
Deputy City Manager
City of Ukiah
300 Seminary Avenue
Ukiah, California 95482
QUICKDRAW HOLSTERS FOR POT TRIMMERS, get ready for the season with these fancy-shmancy trimmer holsters… will consider trade in lieu of cash. (Bruce McEwen)
AUDITS & MORE AUDITS OF COUNTY FINANCES
by Jim Shields
Despite assurances from former County Executive Officer Carmel Angelo in March of 2022 upon her retirement that county finances were in good shape, that’s certainly not the case as county officials learned within a few months of her exit.
It appears from discussions at recent meetings, there’s a $10 million to $11 million shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year. Even that is an estimate at this time because the past fiscal year has not been closed out because the independent, outside audit required by law has not been completed.
With the exception of Third District Supervisor John Haschak, the rest of the Board voted in December of 2021 to consolidate the formerly independent, elected offices of Treasurer-Tax Collector and Auditor-Controller into a single office, thus eliminating vital internal controls over finances. Without a doubt, the numero uno principle of fiscal matters, whether your books are kept in either the private or public sector, is you never, ever eliminate internal financial controls. The more eyes you have on the numbers, the better off you are.
At the time of this consolidation incident, I said the impetus for it was a 2021 petty bureaucratic squabble instigated by DA David Eyster over his office’s travel reimbursements being (correctly) rejected by then Acting Auditor-Controller Chemise Cubbison because he refused to follow county reimbursement guidelines. As I recall, in another example of burning through another stack of taxpayer money, CEO Angelo hired an outside law firm to render an un-needed opinion on this stinkeroo. In any event, CEO Angelo backed the D.A.’s play and there was soon hatched the proposed combining of the Auditor-Controller office with the Treasurer-Tax Collector, which would eliminate one of the two elected positions.
Back at the time this tempest in a teapot occurred, Bruce Anderson, of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, succinctly captured the root of the dispute when he said:
“The Supervisors found themselves in the middle of a bizarre dispute Tuesday. What began as a routine appointment of Assistant Auditor Chamise Cubbison to fill out the remaining term of retiring Auditor Lloyd Weer, saw DA David Eyster, in full bluster mode, zoom in to claim that Ms. Cubbison was ‘wrong’ in requiring documentation to accompany a grant claim. Ditto, Eyster said, for several DA staffers’ claims for training-related travel. Ms. Cubbison had rejected the claims for not being accompanied by the proper paperwork backup, and already taxpayers should fall in love with this lady for scrupulously guarding the public purse against windy big spenders like the DA who, incidentally, plays the CEO [Carmel Angelo at the time] like a bass viola, getting whatever he wants from her like, for instance, a half-dozen full-time investigators to investigate the three crimes a week committed by Mendocino County's master criminals. Eyster, though, insisted that the Auditor’s requirement didn’t apply to the DA’s office, and submitted various documents to allegedly prove his point. But the vallient Ms. Cubbison held her ground. She said she was simply following county policy, and as an independent auditor she was duty-bound to impose the local, state and federal rules as necessary.”
Speaking of internal financial controls and audits, the State Auditor has begun an examination of Mendocino County finances.
According to a statement last week from state Controller Malia M. Cohen’s office, she has authorized “an audit of Mendocino County after conversations with county officials who expressed concerns as to whether the annual financial reports required to be prepared and delivered to the state are correct and complete. Controller Cohen acknowledged receipt of the request for an audit from the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, who voted unanimously to request the State Controller’s Office’s assistance to resolve what some officials have referred to as a ‘fiscal crisis’ within the county.”
So now a state audit is underway in addition to the ongoing but incomplete annual federal audit. Great, the more audits the better since the public has been informed that the County keeps three sets of books and no on knows how much money is in the bank.
But we also need another process to occur that should have happened prior to the December 2021 consolidation of the Treasurer-Tax Collector and Auditor-Controller offices. It’s something that yours truly and two Supervisors have recommended take place for some time. Here’s the most recent request found in a response I made to Supe Ted Williams:
“Ted, As I’ve suggested, as well as Supe Haschak and I believe Supe Gjerde also, the Board should call in former officials responsible for fiscal matters (Treasurer-Tax Collector, Auditor-Controller, Assessor, CEO) and interview/question and, hopefully, learn from them how they did their jobs. This is critical information the BOS admits it is lacking. This process would include but is not limited to such things as assessments of their responsibilities and how they performed their duties, how they exercised fiscal oversight and the identification of internal financial controls, systems that were utilized (manual vs. electronic/software, etc.), staffing levels (classifications and job descriptions) narrative descriptions of interdepartmental and third-party (ex.: outside, independent audit) working relationships detailing scope of work and information disclosed and received. Since no one has explanations or answers to what caused the ongoing, untenable fiscal mess the county is in, you need to conduct an inquiry and start finding answers to all of the current unknowns prior to launching a substantially, momentous alteration to your organizational structure with this idea of a Department of Finance. By the way, if the Board does decide to hold an inquiry, it won’t be necessary for former officials to attend in-person. That’s the beauty of zoom meetings.”
Here’s a short list of former County finance-related officials who should be called into a public hearing to share their information and insights on how they did their jobs over the years:
Shari Schapmire, Treasurer-Tax Collector
Lloyd Weer, Auditor-Controller
Meredith Ford, Auditor-Controller
Dennis Huey, Auditor-Controller
Tim Knudson, Treasurer-Tax Collector
Carmel Angelo, CEO
Jim Anderson, CAO
It would also be interesting to find out what they think about the wholesale replacement of the current fiscal organization with the proposed creation of a Department of Finance.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)
ON THIS DAY IN MENDOCINO HISTORY…
September 8, 1894 - Dr. James W. Milliken joined the Mendocino Hospital Company as a consulting physician and surgical doctor. Dr. Milliken, an 1877 graduate of the New York Medical College, had arrived in Mendocino in 1883 and started a medical practice here the following year.
Dr. William McCornack established the Mendocino Hospital Company, the first important medical facility in the community, in 1887. From 1887 to 1895, the hospital operated from a rented house on the southeast corner of Ukiah and Howard Streets in Mendocino (today’s Blue Door Inn). According to Herman Fayal, “He used to charge a dollar a year - everybody - all the working people. [...] If you got hurt or was sick or anything you went in there and it didn't cost you nothing.”
In 1895, the hospital moved to a building on Main Street (demolished in 1941) across from the Ford House. Two years later, Dr. McCornack relocated the hospital to Fort Bragg. Dr. Milliken remained in Mendocino, continuing his medical practice until 1909, when he passed away suddenly from a heart attack.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Friday, September 8, 2023
THEODORE BURGESS, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.
BRITNIE BURNETT, Shelter Cove/Ukiah. Battery.
ERIC KOTILA, Fort Bragg. Paraphernalia, conspiracy, probation revocation.
IVETTE MENDOZA, Ukiah. Under influence, probation revocation.
ERIK MONAN, Redway/Ukiah. DUI with blood-alcohol over 0.15% with priors.
KENNETH PARTRIDGE, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, pot for sale, conspiracy.
RONNIE PASCHAL, Willits. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent, stolen vehicle, failure to appear.
MEMO OF THE AIR: Live on KNYO from Franklin St. all night tonight!
Marco here. Deadline to email your writing for tonight's (Friday night's) MOTA show is like 5:30 or so. Or send it whenever it's done and I'll read it on the radio next week.
Again I'll be in the cluttered but well-lighted back room of KNYO's 325 N. Franklin studio. To call and read your work in your own voice tonight, the number is 707-962-3022. If you want to come in and perform in person, that's okay, but bring a mask to put on, and of course stay away if you have a tickly throat. But if you're in perfect health and neither drunk nor nuts, fine, why not, and bring your ukulele or accordion or whatever.
Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio is every Friday, 9pm to 5am on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg as well as anywhere else via KNYO.org. Also the schedule is there for KNYO's many other terrific shows.
As always, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a pre-post-star-diaspora jumbled library of Earth-That-Was, to be pre-post-diasporally nostalgic over until showtime, or any time, such as:
"Flab will start to turn into healthy beautifully firm tissue." https://www.weirduniverse.net/blog/comments/disco_body_shaper
El Tango de Roxanne.
And the 2023 Thai rocket festival. "Afterward, everybody eats."
Marco McClean, email@example.com, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
SEEING WAS NOT BELIEVING
by Eric Foner
It is no secret that the news media are in crisis, with troubling implications for American democracy. Jobs for reporters are scarce, partly because local newspapers are fast disappearing; in many communities local government proceeds with no journalistic oversight at all. News has largely migrated from print to cable television and the Web. Until a few years ago, Starbucks sold local and national newspapers at its 8,000-plus locations in the United States, but it has abandoned the practice for lack of demand.
Most young people get the news from social media such as TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram. News websites do attract many visitors, and nightly news broadcasts on the TV networks still enjoy large audiences, but these are not adequate replacements for in-depth print reporting.
Not long ago, every other rider on the New York City subway seemed to be reading a physical newspaper. Now they gaze at their phones, and not, in most cases, for the day’s news.
These developments have unavoidable financial consequences. No one has discovered an economic model—other than a paywall, something viable for only a handful of national newspapers—to support serious political journalism. In the nineteenth century newspapers were generally financed by political parties, in the twentieth by advertising, now considerably diminished. Both sources of funds might be preferable to relying on the long-term commitment of billionaire publishers like Jeff Bezos (owner of The Washington Post) or on online ads, which create the temptation to shore up income by maximizing clicks via the use of outrageous language and are subject to algorithms that drive people to sites that reinforce their existing beliefs. All this makes impossible the public-spirited dialogue necessary in a democracy.
Then there is a crisis of a different kind. Newspapers have suffered from the broader decline of respect for once well-regarded institutions such as universities, now under assault as hotbeds of “woke” indoctrination. Donald Trump went so far as to declare the press an “enemy of the people.”
Few persons outside the media seem to care that the leading presidential candidates—Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Joe Biden—have all but given up holding news conferences or subjecting themselves to interviews with reporters.
Journalism’s crisis began many years ago, but in her new book, ‘When the News Broke,’ (When the News Broke: Chicago, 1968 and the Polarizing of America, University of Chicago Press), Heather Hendershot identifies a specific moment when broad public regard for the news media gave way to the widespread belief that they could not be trusted. This was in August 1968, during the infamous Democratic National Convention in Chicago, a gathering remembered today for the violence directed against young demonstrators by the police and the National Guard. As they faced assault on the city streets, protesters chanted, “The whole world is watching!” They knew that earlier in the 1960s, televised images of violence against civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Selma, and other cities had galvanized public support for the civil rights movement. But this time, Hendershot Says, violence in the streets had a different result. A large majority of TV viewers sided with the police and excoriated the networks for liberal bias.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
In 1850, the population was self reliant. No matter what happened over the next 20 years, unless killed in battle, most families were able to survive or flourish through the civil strife. In 2023, as a society if there is 1 month of interruption of food communication, transportation medical care we will lose at least 1/2 of our society to anarchy, malnutrition and sickness. There are no good answers to the quagmire.
THERE IS NO Ordinary People Lobby. There are no heavily funded think tanks placing arguments for normal human interests at key points of influence in Washington. The scales are forcefully tilted against what normal members of the public want and need, because what the rich and powerful want and need differs so sharply from the interests of the public. Society is a mess because we have systems in place which allow a small number of people to dictate government policy and decision making against the interests of everyone else.
A big part of the problem is the fact that our rulers are always thinking in terms of mass-scale psychological manipulation and normal people almost never are. There’s all this work and research pointed at how to manipulate human minds at mass scale, and nothing comparable exists that’s pointed at countering that influence. There is no anti-Bernays. This is an entirely one-sided fight that most people don’t even know they’re on the receiving end of.
— Caitlin Johnstone
NOTE TO READERS
by Matt Taibbi
I recently received, for the first time, a questionnaire from an “anti-disinformation” firm that rates trustworthiness of media outlets as a commercial service. As Racket is not advertiser-supported, my initial instinct was to non-answer, but such services at least theoretically now have many ways to impact even a Substack business, whose newsletter format is designed to be resistant to such digital pressure. We’re entering a new world and I wanted to share a few frosty observations on this front before posing a question to Racket subscribers.
Algorithmic blanketing of independent media is reaching levels unimaginable even a year ago. Obviously the decision by Twitter/X to depress Substack links is a big factor for those on this platform, but the story’s not much different elsewhere. Subscription-based content was an effective hack of the censorship loop for a time, but new deamplification tools reduce visibility to the point where effective marketing has become difficult even if you can afford to pay for it. I would be less irritated by this had I not spent much of the last eight months seeing academic researchers and legacy news organizations snitch out alternative media to platform censors, both in Twitter emails and some recent FOIA results (another reason I’m in a bad mood today).
They’re doing this while larger corporate outlets that according to “anti-disinformation” trackers score highest for trustworthy practice are tossing out standards. The New York Times since eliminating its public editor has lacked basic accountability mechanisms, leaves even infamous oopsies unadorned by editor’s notes (here’s one of Judith Miller’s worst WMD goofs flying free), and routinely publishes whole articles about topics or events without linking to source material, as “contextualizing” in place of allowing audiences to judge for themselves becomes standard. Leaving news stories mostly or totally uncovered if they feature inconvenient narratives is similarly a norm. Washington Post coverage of the Missouri v. Biden Internet censorship case has been thin to the point of being amusing.
Meanwhile, in what might be a double or triple-irony, platforms like Google that score papers like the Post high for “authority” plant warning flags on sites like mine for, no kidding, editorial commentary about Orwellian practice.
This is in addition to the litany of preposterous warning categories (“adult content,” “unsafe content”) and economic sanctions (like the recent hold on a Grayzone fundraiser) that have been cooked up to apply almost exclusively to non-legacy outlets and individual users. This entire system is also corrupted by the fact that many of the larger news companies that benefit from de-ranking of independents either partner with or subsidize review organizations.
This site, now called Racket, has always had great subscriber support, and my idea of how to help alternative voices — which I always thought was part of the point of such ventures — has been to reinvest in new contributors. However I now realize that’s not enough, so if subscribers are okay with it, I’d like going forward to use this space to promote worthwhile new stories, shows, document releases and so on by Substack contributors especially (but any independent outlet overall). Likely this would come in the form of Q&As with authors, maybe even live video interviews.
I’d of course promise not to overdo it, but would like to get in the habit. As site subscribers are the boss, I wanted to check before extending such a standing offer to other writers, so comments are welcome. In the meantime, thanks as always for your support, hug a thought criminal if you happen to run into one, and have a good weekend…
UKRAINE, FRIDAY, 8TH SEPTEMBER
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected suggestions he negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, telling CNN it is impossible to compromise "with a liar."
One person was killed and dozens wounded in a Russian missile attack on the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, officials said. Three people were also reportedly killed in strikes in the southern region of Kherson.
Ukraine accused a group of Chinese bloggers of violating its borders after opera singer Wang Fan was filmed singing a Soviet war song inside the theater where hundreds were killed during Russia's assault on Mariupol.
Ukraine has made further incremental gains in the south amid fierce fighting, accounts from the front lines suggest.
ELON MUSK REFUSED TO ENABLE UKRAINE DRONE ATTACK ON RUSSIAN FLEET
News that Mr. Musk did not allow the use of his Starlink satellite network highlights concerns in Kyiv and Washington about his outsize influence in the war.
by Richard Pérez-Peña
Elon Musk foiled an attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet last year by refusing to let Ukraine use his satellite network to guide its drones, Mr. Musk has acknowledged, provoking a furious response from a top official in Kyiv and renewing questions about the global power wielded by a multibillionaire businessman.
Ukraine’s military forces have relied heavily on the Starlink satellites owned by Mr. Musk’s SpaceX company for communications since Russia disabled Ukraine’s internet services as part of its invasion in early 2022. But Mr. Musk would not allow the network to be used for an attack last September with maritime drones on the Russian naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that Russia illegally seized in 2014 and then annexed.
At the time of the attempted attack, Mr. Musk spoke with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly I. Antonov, who had told him an attack on Crimea “could lead to a nuclear response,” according to a biography of Mr. Musk by the historian and journalist Walter Isaacson. Copies of the book were obtained by The New York Times from a bookstore on Friday, though it is not set to go on sale until Tuesday. The account was included in an excerpt from the book published on Thursday by The Washington Post.
Mr. Musk confirmed elements of the story, writing on his social network X, formerly Twitter, “If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation.”
Within days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Mr. Musk began sending Starlink terminals to the country — eventually more than 42,000 of them — in response to public pleas from Ukrainian officials. Throughout the war, the connectivity provided by Starlink has been pivotal for Ukraine’s military to coordinate drone strikes and gather intelligence, and it has also aided hospitals, businesses and aid organizations across Ukraine.
Mr. Isaacson’s account left several questions unanswered, including who had initiated the call between Mr. Musk and Mr. Antonov, and whether Mr. Musk had revealed the planned attack to the Russian ambassador. The book says that Mr. Musk consulted with Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but not whether the American officials urged him to allow the attack to proceed.
Mr. Musk disputed one part of the account by Mr. Isaacson, who reported that Mr. Musk had instructed Starlink “engineers to turn off coverage within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast.” Mr. Musk said there had never been such coverage. The request he turned down, he said, was to extend the network’s range to allow the attack.
Ukrainian and U.S. officials have long been uneasy with the vital position in Ukraine held by Mr. Musk, reportedly the wealthiest person in the world. He has acknowledged for months being in contact with Russian as well as Ukrainian officials, raising concerns about his being influenced by the Kremlin’s view. He is also known for his unpredictability and has suggested elements of a peace settlement to the war that officials in Kyiv have dismissed as capitulation to aggression.
Mr. Musk said last October that he could not “indefinitely” finance Ukraine’s use of Starlink, then abruptly reversed course. The Pentagon later began paying at least part of the cost of the service. But because Starlink is a commercial product rather than a traditional defense contractor, Mr. Musk is able to make decisions that may not be aligned with U.S. interests, analysts have said.
Ukraine has no alternative to his satellite network, potentially giving him enormous power over the course of the war, just as the U.S. government has no alternative to SpaceX for some of its efforts to launch satellites and people into orbit. Ukraine has consulted other satellite internet providers, but no other services come close to Starlink’s reach.
Russia uses its ships to launch cruise missiles at Ukraine, often at civilian targets, and some Ukrainians insisted on Friday that an attack on the Black Sea fleet was little more than an act of self-defense.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, accused Mr. Musk of enabling Russian aggression. Because of Mr. Musk’s decision, “civilians, children are being killed,” he wrote on X on Thursday. “This is the price of a cocktail of ignorance and big ego.”
As long ago as February, Mr. Musk said that his company would not allow use of Starlink for long-range strikes by Ukraine, and a SpaceX executive said that Starlink had taken steps to curtail Ukraine’s use of the technology to control drones, infuriating Ukrainian officials.
Some sophisticated drones rely on satellite links for navigation, either autonomously or steered by a remote operator. Without that, the drones used in the attempted Sevastopol attack “washed ashore harmlessly,” Mr. Isaacson wrote.
The book quotes Mr. Musk as saying: “I think if the Ukrainian attacks had succeeded in sinking the Russian fleet, it would have been like a mini Pearl Harbor and led to a major escalation. We did not want to be a part of that.”
In July, The Times reported on Mr. Musk’s refusal to allow the service to work near Crimea, and the broader challenges Ukrainian officials were facing because of the country’s dependence on Starlink.
Ukrainian troops use Starlink to communicate on encrypted messaging apps like Signal, to send each other live drone videos, to run a Ukrainian networked battlefield awareness app called Delta, and to unwind in their down time, browsing the internet and talking to loved ones.
On the Ukrainian side, the diminutive Starlink antennas, draped in camouflage nets, cables snaking back to a battery and internet router, are found in forests and fields, mounted on the roofs of trucks or propped up on sidewalks in frontline villages.
The system has increased the lethality of Ukrainian artillery strikes. Before Starlink turned up, spotters with binoculars or flying drones would radio coordinates to a commander, who would decide whether to strike, then radio an artillery unit.
With Starlink, artillery teams, commanders and drone pilots can all watch video feeds simultaneously while chatting online, cutting the time from finding a target to hitting it from nearly 20 minutes to a minute or so, soldiers have said in interviews.
“Starlink is indeed the blood of our entire communication infrastructure now,” Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s digital minister, told The Times in a recent interview.
WHEN CHINA WAS COMMUNIST
by Michael Nolan
I always imagine writing about my China Experience, but how to even begin to tell what it was like to not just visit Mars but to live there, to work there, to be so inside an alternate reality that you can be effective in it? That time and place is impossible for me to return to life in words so I keep giving up.
Just now I realized that I had a passbook savings account in the Bank of China, Taishan County Branch, in the Spring of 1981. I believe that no other non-Chinese person on earth can make that statement. So I have to write that part at least.
If you are younger than me what follows may be hard to experience. Your China is so very different than mine. The People’s Republic of China in 1980 was an agrarian, third-world, closed and xenophobic alien world when I first got inside. Everyone here and there was trying to work with a situation that no one had experienced. The unquestioned ruler for the past 30 years, Mao Zedong, had died and a new leadership was consolidating power. The old order had passed and a new order was just being figured out. It was a time of optimism for many Chinese people. After 50 years of hating and fearing America suddenly Nixon had come to China and American tourists were paying big money to get the difficult visas necessary to join a tour group to see the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in a carefully controlled week in Beijing. Otherwise China was as closed as it had been since 1950. Few Chinese people under the age of 30 had ever seen a “white man” in person. No foreigners were permitted except for a trickle of people contained in Beijing on a state-sponsored tour. Like any forbidden place just discovered, the media was filled with China and it was a most sought-after visa conferring prestige for the few who had managed to get one.
In 1973-74 I had worked with Larry Davis at Sonoma State. We liked and respected each other in spite of some different opinions about the work we were engaged in. I left Sonoma State to build a new life in Comptche. Then shopping in Santa Rosa one afternoon in August of 1980, I'm stopped at a red light on College Avenue and Larry walked across the street in front of me, I yelled, “Hey Larry.” And he said, “Mike! I've been looking for you.” We sat on the lawn at Santa Rosa JC and he told me that his student, Buk Lu a Chinese-American, had found a backdoor to his hometown in China and he basically smuggled Larry in. Larry asked the local officials if he could bring some of his friends back next time and the officials were encouraging, but there was a snag. It was against national law in China for a foreigner to stay overnight in a private home and there were no hotels in Taishan permitted to take foreigners. Larry asked if he could build a hotel for foreigners? They loved the idea. But of course it was impossible for either party to actually do. So Larry went looking for me.
Larry knew that I had a degree from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. He figured with my background he could persuade some real estate investors that he knew to fund the adventure. Larry wanted to pay my way to China. I had never been outside the US. I was in Taishan four days later. Larry took me to Hong Kong and then into China to evaluate the situation. | was enchanted. From the the stonefaced border guards with red stars on their army greens to peasants plowing behind a water buffalo, it was a whole new world to revel in. I couldn't have imagined that in the near future those stern Red Army border guards would greet me with smiles and handshakes and we'd share a couple of Marlboros before they waved me in.
Everything was different. The way it looked, the way it smelled and felt, the humid South China heat, the streets empty of cars and full of bell-ringing bicycles, the acrid coal smoke. People were shocked, they stared, they formed crowds around me. I didn't realize that I was a terrifying and awful sight. I had an abundant black beard and shoulder-length hair and a long nose. I smelled bad to them. I was interesting. And so were they to me. My life would revolve around Taishan for the next five years. It is not long absent from my mind even now.
So, anyway, about that first year: Because I wasn't a tourist anymore and was doing something the Taishan County government wanted (making a place for foreign tourists and their hard currency US dollars to come into local hands) the officials had to figure out how to house me and allow me the companionship of my family; they were big on family values. The Taishan County government (and I never figured out how they pulled that one off) got visas for Anne, daughter Kathleen and son Mike “Boojie” to spend the Summer of 1981 living in Red China. Since I was now some kind of resident (they would eventually build me my own tiny house after my family went back to California), I would need regular things. Like a bank account.
China had two monetary systems at that time: regular money called “renminbi” RMB, the people's money. And FEC, Foreign Exchange Certificates, purchased with and convertible to hard currencies like Hong Kong dollars, Singapore dollars and US dollars. Foreigners were supposed to use only FEC and Chinese people only RMB. Everyone wanted FEC or, better, dollars. It was the only widespread crime I ever saw in China: a thriving black market for hard currency. I was a favored guest and never bought or sold money except at the bank. So I needed a bank account. When I showed up and asked, through my interpreter, to open an account consternation ensued.
When I proposed to the bank manager to deposit my FEC and withdraw RMB because I was living there and needed the local currency for groceries and supplies (you understand, no foreigners had lived there or bought groceries, let alone offered to exchange valuable FEC for RMB) he had the delightful dilemma of getting valuable US dollars and giving RMB, shabby little paper yuan and aluminum coins, versus prison if he was wrong. He opened my account and issued me a passbook.
PS: Anne and 13-year-old Mike and I were likely the only American family actually living in China, population one billion, in the Summer of 1981.
Mike was a sensation. All the kids wanted to be around him. So much so that we had to limit visits so as not to overload him. When he and I rode our bikes through town late one evening I heard “Boojie! Boojie!” as we passed. To many families I was known as Boojie's father.
There were no private cars or motorcycles. Everyone wanted one. The local officials hinted that I could buy a motorcycle out in Hong Kong (I could go in and out freely; they couldn't) and import it for the use of our joint venture the Stone Flower Mountain Inn (i.e., The Taishan County government's use; certainly not for our use). They would work with (bribe) Customs to let it in.
So I went out to Hong Kong, which I knew pretty well by then, and shopped hard for a small motorcycle. I got such a good price that I bought two. Back in Taishan we waited to see if the scam would work. After a couple of weeks a truck brought two crates and we unpacked two bright shiny 100cc Yamahas.
We got fuel and Mike and I fired them up and went riding out into the country. Wonderful feeling! We both had motorcycles back home and the freedom and sensuality of riding fast on empty roads in a hot and humid south China was so outrageously fun we laugh about it today.
Public Security was freaked out. Two Americans, who actually weren't even supposed to be there, were loose — god knows where — having unsupervised fun. On motorcycles! When we got back the cops had to be polite because of who we were. But you could figure out the words without an interpreter. “Are you guys nuts?! This is Communist China! You can't just hop on a motorcycle and go roaming. We can't do that and we're the police.”
But, in general, the strangeness of it all gave both them and me prestige. They could look very progressive for somehow pulling off a joint-venture with an American company (which was the first successful joint venture between an American company and a Chinese County government. We were featured on national news. Anne's parents watched it in Detroit. I was quoted in Newsweek magazine and in an AP dispatch).
And, as for me, Taishan County had a “state-of-the-County” annual meeting of the leadership at which the heads of the Communist Party, the city mayors, the County government offices of health, public works, education, agriculture, security, etc. — all the usual power points — would convene to assess last year's progress and plan for the next. About 200 participants.
The Provincial Governor sat in the center seat on the raised dais. I was seated on his left. That was as in as a white guy could get. I cherish the photos of that event more than the media stories.
The Chinese referred to us as “ghosts,” not because of our white skin, but because we suddenly appeared, made incomprehensible sounds, acted weirdly and then disappeared, never to be seen again. So how was I going to be taken seriously as a leader which would be essential to do my job? My strategy was to be so regular as to become predictable. “Here he comes, he'll want pu-er tea and two char siu bao.” He has become real. Wear the same clothes: blue workman's cotton shirt and pants. Arrive at the same time. Predictable.
In the Fall, after Anne and Boojie had left, they built me a tiny two-room brick house with a bed, a table and a chair. There was no running water but there was a standpipe out in front so I could wash. My house was close to our construction project and every morning as the workers arrived I enjoyed giving out a smile and small bow as they passed by. They reciprocated. Nobody had made the small bow since grandfather's time. They began calling me, “Mi seen-san” (Mister Mike). Nobody still used “seen san,” that was old style from before the revolution. The politically correct address was “tung ji” or comrade.” I couldn't be a tung ji since I was neither Chinese nor Communist. They wanted to show respect to me as I had to them. I loved working there.
I have always wanted to write a pamphlet on how to work with and through an interpreter. I had watched Larry and others talk for two minutes and three ideas. Chinese, too, did the same thing. Then the interpreter was to not only remember all that, but to interpret it just as it was meant. Impossible, even if the interpreter’s language skill is really high, and you don't know if it is do you?
My Method: Two conditions you will encounter: You bring your interpreter to the event, or they provide an interpreter that you have had no time or affinity with.
Spend as much time with your interpreter as possible before the meeting. Talk about some things other than the meeting subject: casual stuff, how old, where are you from, any family? Food, art, whatever. You are assessing the person's level of English and intelligence and experience so you know how to educate your interpreter about your objective in the meeting. You are only as smart as your interpreter. Your interpreter is a pipe through which the ideas, your and theirs, are going to flow back and forth. It's essential that the interpreter can adequately render your thoughts. This is your problem, not theirs. Tthey can't be any smarter or suddenly more fluent in your language. You have to adjust your choice of words, your speed of speech to your interpreter's ability. And you have to make some judgment about the intelligence, receptivity and time of the person or group that you are communicating with.
Unless you are working with an interpreter who knows exactly what you want and is fluent in both languages, use this rule: Only one thought per sentence. Don't rely on the interpreter to extract the important part from your rambling explanation or story. This is slow and takes real discipline on your part but if accuracy matters, and it often does, go one sentence per exchange.
Tea was the universal drink. Everyone, everywhere. Hot water, a pinch of oolong tea leaves and a cup. There was no hot running water. A communal boiler was heated by a coal fire in the morning. Boiling water was poured into everyone's one-liter thermos and pots and cups were made all day. This caused much slop and spill making the ubiquitous wooden tables warped and ugly. For the tea tables in the Stone Flower Mountain Inn rooms I wanted marble tops. I had seen enough nice marble in China, so I knew it was available somewhere.
You know how in military movies there is always a guy who knows where you can swap a jeep for a case of whiskey? Meet Mr. Wu. One-eye Wu was the tiny inconspicuous shabbily dressed man you went to when you needed to find something locally unobtainable. Wu was our fixer. Wu knew.
There was a marble quarry way southwest of us near the Vietnam border. Wu contacted them and they were willing to cut what we wanted and sell it to us directly. We huddled and agreed to go there tomorrow. Wu would find us a van. So Wu, Lee Yeh Nu, my interpreter, Ah Bien the construction foreman, and Driver (everyone just called him “Driver”) and I set out. We stopped for lunch in a smoky crowded truck stop. And at that moment with our chopsticks pulling out of the common dish, we were a crew. I love that memory. Just one of the guys out on a stunt. So we got back on the road and found ourselves part of an army convoy. Oops. Not in the script. We were not legally there at all and with an American very off limits in a military event. We found out later there was tension between China and Vietnam and that was why there were troop movements to the border. We left that road and went another way.
I got to select the stones that would be sliced into table tops. The quarrymen were delighted to be in on this stunt; selling their product directly to an a American for FEC. A couple of weeks later their truck dropped off highly- figured marble table tops at the Inn.
And a last Mr. Wu story: Gold tile roofs were for temples and high government buildings only. Wu found a source of factory-seconds in Foshan, a town noted for ceramic production, and only 30 kilometers away. So our Inn had gorgeous tile roofs in various shades of gold. Cheap.
I hired some laborers to clean up the site before opening day. It was a hot humid day. All the men had retreated to the shade. One little girl, big straw hat, was raking. Slowly, but never stopping. I hired her onto the Inn staff on the spot. The Inn women told me that she had named herself Wendy. Wendy Wu. She was Mr. Wu's youngest daughter.
My banquet. After the Inn had been open for a while I organized a tour group made up of California State and local officials to meet with their Chinese counterparts. So, as host, I would arrange the formal banquet. I knew that the Chinese officials that I wanted to impress would be there. I had often eaten dinner in the Hubin Hotel because the chef was brilliant. I sat with him to plan the dinner. I'm a person who cares, probably too much, about food and the eating of it. We spent a mutually enjoyable afternoon discussing a seasonal menu with what was fresh - and exotic. It was Fall and Three-Snake Soup was the ultimate protection against the rigors of Winter. But Three-Snake Soup is extremely expensive because some of the snakes are poisonous and all are difficult to catch. The soup would cost as much as the whole rest of the meal.
It would be the first course. A Cantonese banquet starts with soup, usually special with herbs and other healthy and nutritious ingredients. And just to show the Chinese how far in I was, I chose dog stew as the main course. Dog was party food. They called it fragrant meat because it was. It, too, was expensive. And delicious. The Chinese officials were glowing with appreciation for this feast. Me too.
I should add, “expensive” is relative. In 1983 that lavish banquet for 20 in the finest restaurant in Taishan cost me about $150. A bowl of the best wonton soup I've ever had in my life was 12 cents in the Taishan Number One Noodle Shop.