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Mendocino County Today: Monday, Oct. 2, 2023

Cool | Fall Color | Assessor's Report | Woodstove Replacement | Wild Garden | Structural Deficit | White Goat | On Zooming | Not Guilty | Goodbye Summer | Sutro Baths | Bostrodamus | California Zones | Tow Trucking | Jaca Concert | GG Wave | Paperboy Memories | Yesterday's Catch | Senator Butler | Cliveden Set | McCaffrey TDs | Kerouac TD | Klaas Case | Not Magician | Stone Mountain | My Hometown | Infinite Capacity | Missing Revolution | Unread Books | Kropotkin's Death | Artistic Treason | Ukraine | Toting Hubby

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A SHORTWAVE crossing the area will promote one more day of moist and cold conditions with increasing cloud cover and drizzle along the coast late this afternoon. Warm and dry weather will build in midweek with highs above 70 even along the coast. (NWS)

STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): Another overcast start with a cool 47F this Monday morning on the coast. The fog seems to have moved to the south so I am not sure why overcast in the 5am morning darkness? A quiet week is forecast with warming temps later in the week. We have showers in the forecast for early next week, we'll see.

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Sumac Tree Turning Red, Willits (Jeff Goll)

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ASSESSOR-CLERK-RECORDER KATRINA BARTOLOMIE’S (ORAL) REPORT to the Supervisors (during last Tuesday’s “public expression”): 

We are still in the middle of the conversion of the Williamson Act properties in our new property system. We have been working with data from our old system and discovering in many cases that the data may not have been calculated correctly in the past. We do our part of the tax bills to be sent on through the Auditor's office. We had to do the assessed values so the taxes can go out on time. We encourage the Williamson Act landowners to call our office if they have any questions. We are writing a letter to the Williamson Act property owners that will be sent out in the next week and will be posted on the website with additional information as we discover it. We value our ag land in Mendocino County and we are doing everything to ensure ag growth in our county. We are still working with both the vendor and our information technology (IT) department to get accurate reports to allow us to provide updates for the Board of Supervisors on how many parcels were assessed and the assessed values. Our goal is to send supplemental notices and corrections out on a monthly basis. This will allow us to have a much better knowledge of the assessed value being passed on to the Auditor's office. We were able to send out approximately 1,050 notices in August and September. We feel that with this system that is an amazing feat. We are still moving forward and we continue to move forward on that. We are still trying to get accurate reports through the vendor and through our IT department. We will come up with a good report which looks really good, but the assessed values are just wanting. So we can't release anything until we have a better understanding and better knowledge of this. In November we will be staffed at approximately 86%. That's up from less than 70% that we had a few months ago. We have hired two new appraisers in the last month and they will be onboard by mid-November. Two of our current appraisers passed their appraisal exams last week, and we are recruiting for three employees, two in our personal property division, one clerical and one auditor-appraiser, and one clerical person in the real property division. We continue to discover unassessed structures. We will have them on the tax rolls as we move forward. We have been working with the Golden Gate initiative. We are excited about this. We are looking at our processes, procedures and workflows. They have interviewed staff and we look forward to their recommendations. We are also in the process of conducting an election and that will be November 7 for the city of Fort Bragg. We are working on our March 5 election. We are issuing petitions in lieu of filing fees for those candidates in the First, Second and Fourth districts. We are doing everything we can to get these assessed values out and published. It seems like every time we think we are going uphill, we go downhill. We are working with the CEO's office, County Counsel, the Auditor's office, and our vendor. … Part of our goal is to have a report that has partial numbers on it, of course, and the new owner’s name, the value that is currently on the roll, the new assessed value, and the difference. That difference may not be exactly what's going to hit the tax roll immediately because it has to prorate. Maybe they bought it in the last part of the fiscal year so only one month of that assessed value will hit the current tax roll and then it will be prorated from there on. That's what makes it so difficult. We can tell you that we assess another $30 million, but that's not necessarily what will hit the tax roll immediately. It will be the following year and stuff like that. It's difficult to produce an adequate report. During our supplementals we can at least know how many properties were assessed. So we have done 1,050 or a little more in August and September. By the next board meeting we hope to have better reports because IT is amazing. We get a little closer each time, but we are still not to where we are used to having our reports.

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Mendocino Air Quality Management District is opening our Woodstove Replacement Program on October 2nd.

If you have an older, non-EPA certified stove you may be eligible for a voucher up to $5,000 to replace and install a new EPA certified wood stove or other home heating device such as a pellet stove, natural gas/propane heater. 

For more information please visit the District website and click on the Information/Grants section, or call the District at 707 463 4354.

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MIKE GENIELLA: Six years ago the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah dedicated the Wild Gardens, a legacy project of former museum Director Sherrie Smith-Ferri that was funded by $3 million in grants from state agencies. Smith-Ferri, a noted native scholar and descendant of Dry Creek Pomo and coast Miwok tribes, and a design team envisioned a microcosm of the Mendocino County landscape, with plants acting as living exhibits. Native populations for thousands of years managed the surrounding environment as “gardens,” with a focus on food, fish, and materials used to make acclaimed Pomo basketry. The Wild Gardens are maturing, and offering the promise of a unique and valuable education resource for generations to come. The state grants also paid for valuable infrastructure improvements at the Hudson, including a wall encircling museum grounds, much-needed drainage, and expanded parking. A win-win project for the museum, and the city of Ukiah.

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Responding to Jim Shields, AVA, September 29, 2023:


“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. ”

On reporting, issue is basic competency. Nothing to invent. Textbook problems.

On untenable fiscal mess, the cost of doing business has outpaced revenue. This has been long standing. The county has increased wages by deferring maintenance of buildings, infrastructure, software, training, jail, etcetera. Under Prop 13, in a no-growth county, it’s foreseeable that the cost of doing business will increase at greater slope than revenue. One can agree with “hire more people, pay the people more,” but the revenue doesn’t create this possibility.

“Several months later, the Board discovers it is facing a ‘structural’ deficit of $6.1 million.”

Perhaps this was a surprise to some, but recall, Feb 20, 2019 I submitted an agenda item for a hiring freeze, noting the structural deficit.

“Since no one has explanations or answers to what caused the ongoing…”

Your idea would be good if we truly didn’t know how we got here. We already know. Over decades, officials grew the county beyond what the revenue from $90k people can support. The county will need to reorganize.

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White Goat, Willits (Jeff Goll)

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Brown Act Remote Meeting Procedures…

Both personally and as someone who has been involved in the governing process and served as an elected and appointed official (federal and local levels), and as someone whose opinion on the Brown Act has been sought out by former judges when they served on the Superior Court, as well as by current local government officials, I have this to say about these aspects of the local governing process:

1. One of the few positive consequences of COVID emergency orders regarding local agency meetings is the opportunity for the public to participate remotely in those meetings. All reasonable measures to stimulate and foster participatory democracy should be embraced and supported by all, including elected officials. Remotely conducted meetings are a Godsend for handicapped individuals and others with medical or physical restrictions that make in-person meeting attendance difficult if not impossible to do. Additionally, those with work schedule conflicts, childcare responsibilities, and transportation and distance of travel obstacles, now have the option to participate via remote meeting technologies.

2. Regarding the issue of Zoom-bombing public meetings as we experienced at the most recent Supes’ meeting, there’s an easy solution(s). My radio program’s engineer told me there is an FCC regulation that mandates a minimum three-second delay in all over-the-air broadcasts. He believes that rule applies to related media such as Zoom programs. If that’s not the case, then the County’s IT staff can surely tweak their remote systems for a five-to-10 second delay, allowing any and all jackassery to be dumped. Likewise, the County’s remote applications come equipped with the means to identify phone numbers and ISP and email identification. Once that information is acquired, just simply block all traffic from that source(s) for the duration of the meeting. Any sort of permanent blocking action would most assuredly trigger Brown Act, as well as Constitutional challenges, you know free speech and all that stuff. The during-meeting cut-off of racist, anti-Semetic, anti-whatever, is permissible under the Brown Act due to its presumable non-relevance to actual agenda items and related matters. But strictly as legal and constitutional considerations, the utterance of racial and ethnic slurs are, with just a few exceptions, protected by the First Amendment: It protects hate speech from governmental regulation, punishment, or censorship.

3. I could care less about whether local government officials are gathered together physically for quorum purposes in a central meeting place. If such a rule would improve an elected official’s performance, or make them more accountable to the public, or more amenable to actually listening to and processing constituent comments, then I’d be at the head of the line supporting it. But as we all know, that’s not the case. Pragmatically speaking, from real practical experience, I know from my long-time roles with our Water Board, Town Council, and other local government bodies I’ve served on, that complying with in-person quorum mandates is a perpetual predicament. It’s especially problematic in large rural counties with sparse but far-flung populations. For example, here in the Laytonville area, the jurisdictional boundaries for our Town Council, School District, Fire District, and Water District are massive square-miles of land mass. For many board or council members, travel distances from where they live to meeting locations in town are 20-mile round trips, and the trip to town doesn’t get easier in the winter. So allowing board members to virtually attend meetings (and thus count toward forming a quorum) is a reasonable and doable solution. By allowing virtual attendance, I know that more people would be willing to perform public service because it would eliminate travel distance as a primary obstacle.

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A Mendocino County Superior Court jury returned from its deliberations late Monday afternoon, Sept. 25th, to announce it had acquitted the trial defendant of the single felony charge.

Vincent Brock

Vincent Keith Brock, age 36, of Ukiah, was found not guilty of an assault on his father, age 67, by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury.

The agency that responded to multiple 9-1-1 calls for law enforcement assistance in late February 2023 was the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

The prosecutor who presented the People’s witnesses to the jury was Deputy District Attorney Heidi Larson.

Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder presided over the one-day trial.

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by Tommy Wayne Kramer

All of you who’ve been complaining about the heat and the hot weather and the sweat and the high temperatures and how hard it is to fall asleep when temperatures are not even in the 90s, I hope you’re happy.

Fall is here. Thanks a lot.

Oh don’t worry about me, just another one of the frail elderly who gazes sadly at the calendar on the wall and wonders if he can once again survive all those upcoming months ending in “er” and “ry.” They add up to a whole lotta months or the rest of my life, whichever comes first.

No worries. Don’t you fret about me for even a minute.

I probably have a pair of thick socks I can get out of storage. In the meantime you go ahead and enjoy yourself and all your hayrides and pumpkin latte spice aroma room spray fresheners and Christmas carols on the sound systems in every store. I’ll be home watching one of those ten-hour YouTube videos of a fake fire in a rustic fireplace while dreaming about owning a parka.

Fall means football is back on TV following a three week break that took up most of July. Strikes Two and Two-and a-half.

I hate Winter the way I used to hate the Yankees. When I was 12 I had to deliver, door-to-door, 57 copies a day of the Cleveland Press around my far-flung neighborhood in sub-zero temperatures. I probably have PTSD.

I hate Winter, and to me Fall is just foreplay for those greedy long icicles probing our frostbitten skin deep down to the last remaining embers of thyroid and pituitary warmth. Next stop: an icebox at the county morgue.

But enough whining. You go have fun at Farmer Fudd’s Pumpkin Patch Gala Corn Maze. Me, I’ve seen way too many movies about horrors hidden in cornfields. I wouldn’t walk through a corn maze even if Paris Hilton had me by the hand.

Well, you say, Sure it’s a little cool in early Fall and then it gets a little cooler in late Fall, but at least it gets dark early so there’s none of that loafing around outside in evening summer sunshine sipping gin & tonics and picking through the finger foods.

Nope, it’s hearty beef ’n’ beet borscht by oil lantern again tonight, then mutton with turnips and alfalfa soup tomorrow. Grandma’s Olde Fashioned Succotash Casserole will tide us through the weekend. Next Friday, if we set the alarm we should be able to get to the Early Bird Dinner Special at Denny’s unless it’s snowing and the roads are closed.

Meals sure are important in Winter months. The cold and dark has a depressing effect on people, so our little family combats the negative emotional impacts of winter by dining on so-called comfort foods.

Trophy the wife keeps it simple. She sits down with a knife and fork, tucks a napkin into her collar, and opens a nice fresh 3 lb. box of See’s Candies. I’m on a health kick so I limit myself to a six-pack of Old Milwaukee and a medium-size bag of reduced sodium potato chips.

Winter weather: Such wonderful rainy relief from those hot August afternoons full of blue skies, big clouds and and getting a suntan. Instead we’ll have the opportunity to do some things around the house in the late afternoons, like gathering firewood and stoking the fireplace again.

And no more mowing the lawn in 95 degree heat, not when we can enjoy a brisk January afternoon at your brother-in-law’s house, patching holes we can’t find in the roof while his wife puts empty buckets around the bedrooms.

Go for a Fall or Winter walk? Why not? What’s not to enjoy about dark, wet, cold puddle-stomping and dodging cars without headlights? Unless it’s slipping on ice and wondering, when you wake up in the hospital, whether you broke some bone(s) or just herniated a lower back disk or two.

At least it’s not like when you have spend a weekend morning in July cleaning up all those paper plates and cups from last night’s neighborhood barbecue. And what in the world are you going to do with that half-empty keg of Heineken at 9 in the morning?

Now that’s a decision you’ll never have to face in February.

We’re planning to go out to the Mendocino Coast tomorrow because Trophy is all excited to see polar bears frolic on the icebergs. After that we’ll go to Jenny’s Giant Burger and have a hot, steaming Seal Blubber Sandwich with cheese and extra mayo.

Then home to Ukiah to hunker down and wait for the clocks to get set back, adding more despair to our lives by subtracting more hours from the days.

Nothing to worry about. We’ll get those hours back in the summer, exactly when we don’t need them.

(Tom Hine has long used the TWK byline but until now no one ever requested being written about. Ken Edmonds, a runner-up in the “Hometown Heroes” feature, wishes to also be honored as a County Hero and a State of California Hero. He says he was almost named Most Popular in high school and would have starred in football had it been invented by the time he graduated. In July, 1973 he nearly stopped on 101 to help an old lady with a flat tire. Ken says he’ll soon be named Emperor of the Ukiah Lions Club. He is also a notary public, an excellent florist and plays bassoon.)

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Above Sutro Baths, San Francisco (Jeff Goll)

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To the Editor:

As the leading proponent for “thinking outside the box” in the Ukiah valley, the Ukiah Daily Journal is pleased to announce the location of the first randomly chosen free solar home and electric automobile to be provided by our local fossil fuel economy, Chevron, down the road in Richmond. It will be located on Waugh Lane between Gobbi and Talmage Road. Henceforth for each person who puts a solar roof on his house, Chevron will provide two solar roofs and electric cars. There are plenty of wealthy old ladies on Ukiah’s west side to keep the ball rolling. This will be the first commitment for the fossil fuel industry to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Gov. Newsom’s proposal to call for a constitutional convention in order to combat climate change is not realistic. There has not been a constitution since 1787. Trying to get 34 state legislatures to call for a convention and 42 legislatures to ratify is impossible, particularly since republicans will never support it.

It’s time to think outside the box, which would be to hold a national referendum, privately organized and operated to put pressure on Congress to enact climate control legislation, two years public service after high school, all elections decided by popular vote, one six year term for the president and term limits for congress at 12 years.

Everything is polled now. The big polling outfits are uniquely positioned to set up a national referendum, but they don’t wanna. They are too dumb to see the billions of dollars that would be generated. The only person who advocated for a national referendum, our local billionaires don’t wanna help fund a start up.

We will have to wait for some eccentric billionaire who wants to think outside the box just for fun. R. Richard Roger, owner and CEO of the largest super market chain in the country decided to hold a referendum in his stores in three red states, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio with three questions of national interest. He put stacks of prepaid postcards in each store so that registered voters (to avoid fraud) could mail them and thus be registered for the referendum, and any future referendums. Each voter would receive a ballot in a prepaid return envelope and as they say in England “and Bob’s your uncle.”

Now what’s going to happen? The media is going to give these red states intense scrutiny, as is the rest of the country, and will probably be greatly surprised at the results. It will give ideas to others who will want to follow with their own referendums, which may expand nationally. Thinking outside the box might work. It will take some time, so we will have to live with the electoral college a while longer.

Ralph Bostrom


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OCTOBER 8: FIRST CONCERT and Last Chance for Season Tickets!

UCCA Season Launch with Guitar and Clarinet Duo 

The Ukiah Community Concert Association kicks off our 76th season Sunday, October 8, 2:00pm, at the Mendocino College Center Theatre with clarinet and guitar duo Jaca (Wesley Ferreira and Jaxon Williams), bringing an adventurous, passionate, and completely original musical style to our stage. Jaca’s music defies the constraints of a single genre, inspiring the review by The CoffeeHouse Classical, “It’s classical music, but you wouldn’t believe it,” as they shift from Flamenco to Fado, Appalachia to Argentina. If you haven't subscribed already, and if you have, tell your friends!: This concert will be the final day for purchase of season memberships at $120 for four world-class performances.

Following the concert we will have a members-only reception catered by the Mendocino College Culinary Arts program. Members will have a chance to get to know Wesley (clarinetist) and Jaxon (guitarist), after being wowed by how Jaca combines classical and world music to bring an adventurous, passionate, and completely original musical style to our audience.

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While not included in our season ticket price, you'll want to mark your calendar now for the Professional Pianist Concert series of 2024 on Saturday, January 27 at 7:00pm, and Sunday, January 28 at 2:00pm. Whether as a season member or an individual ticket holder, we're looking forward to celebrating great music in a new season with you! 


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ON-LINE COMMENTS OF THE DAY, the newspaper that was…

Lindy Peters: I delivered the SF Chronicle in Davis, California in the mid-60’s. The papers were dropped-off in a wired bundle at about 4 am and you had to wake-up and tightly tri-fold each paper, place a rubber band around each one and then load up a two-sided sack that slung over your shoulders via a strap on either side and San Francisco Chronicle emblazoned across the front. Then you jumped on your bike and had to finish your delivery by 6:30 am. I can tell you right now there weren’t any 12 page newspapers back then. And the Sunday edition? By God it must’ve weighed at least 3 pounds. This was 365 days a year through the cold, the rain, the barking dogs and no adults around to help you if you struggled out there. And during school year you did all this before your first class. It was truly a great first job that taught you time management, responsibility and resourcefulness. So along with the journalists and newspapers themselves, the entry level job known as the paper-boy has also vanished.

Mitch Clogg: First job I got here, on this coast, was the 2 A.M. Chron, delivered, strangely, from the front seat of my Chrysler to the various woodsy subscribers. That was 1985. By the time I refilled the gas tank each day, there was little left for bacon & beans.

Marshall Newman: Minor followup. According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation,” published September 29, 2023, paid circulation to the paper has fallen from 63,091 to 43,538 – a decline of 31% – in one year.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, October 1, 2023

Acosta, Alvarez, Bautisata, Bomba


JOEL ALVAREZ-LOPEZ, Ukiah. DUI while on court probation, suspended license for DUI, no license.

JOEL BAUTISTA-ARAMBURO, Scotts Valley/Ukiah. Pot transportation.

ANTHONY BOMBA-CILUCCKETTA, Castro Valley/Ukiah. Cultivation of more than six pot plants, pot possession for sale, felon-addict with firearm, ammo possession by prohibited person.

Capri, Haley, Jimenez, Kester

KHALIL CAPRI, Redwood Valley. Domestic battery.


ANTHONY JIMENEZ, Ukiah. Burglary, DUI-alcohol&drugs, under influence.

LORRIN KESTER JR., Willits. Fighting in public, disorderly conduct-alcohol.

Lell, Mathewson, Mirata

SHAUN LELL, Ukiah. False ID, county parole violation.

AARON MATHEWSON, Healdsburg/Ukiah. DUI.

SOLANA MIRATA, Willits. Domestic battery.

Munnilal, Pierachini, Schueller

JEREMY MUNNILAL, Rivera Beach, Florida/Ukiah. Pot possession for sale, suspended license.



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JUST IN: LAPHONZA BUTLER, a woman who once worked to elect pro-choice candidates, is soon to be California’s newest senator. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office confirmed Sunday night that Butler will replace Dianne Feinstein, who died early Friday of natural causes after more than three decades in the U.S. Senate.

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PAGE 23, PRIZE WINNING “ANTI-AXIS” CARTOON contest: “Forgive them not, for they know what they do!”

March 3, 1942

I would love to see that “New Masses Quiz Book” advertised on Page 32, “What do you know?” (760 questions and answers — bet this would be fun at the Trivia contest).

Here’s a taste, from Page 2:

“Cliveden Set — that’s the phrase on everyone’s lips these days. The President brought the existence of this crowd to public attention in his famous press conference some ten days ago. They are a circle of men and women who stand in the way of our full war effort, who hate Churchill, hate Roosevelt, hate Stalin.

“Thomas Dewey used the phrase in his Lincoln’s Day address, in which he warned that within both major parties, there were powerful miniorities working toward a negotiated peace with Hitler. And Bruce Minton, our Washington correspondent, make the journalistic scoop of the year in his exclusive NEW MASSES feature last week, naming the names of America’s Clivedeners.

“But did it ever occur to you who first put the spotlight on the original Cliveden set? Well, it happens to have been our London correspondent, Claude Cockburn. In his famous newsletter, ‘The Week,’ there used to appear the inside doings of the men and women who brought Munich about.”

And here’s a sampling of the amazing artwork scattered throughout:

So much love from Upper Lake,

Betsy Cawn

Upper Lake

PS. Oh, here’s the URL:

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49ERS' CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY'S 4-touchdown day breaks records, earns LeBron's love

by Alex Simon

It seems like the entire sports world is taking notice of what Christian McCaffrey is doing with the 49ers.

McCaffrey continued his stellar start to his red and gold career with four touchdowns in the 49ers' 35-16 win over the Cardinals on Sunday. And among the people marveling at his record-breaking day was LeBron James.

“CMC you’re ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!!!!” James posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “My GOODNESS”

James has publicly supported the Cowboys and his hometown Browns in the past. But even a major Bay Area rival in a different sport knows it’s hard not to be astonished at what McCaffrey did on Sunday. He finished the day with 177 total yards – 106 rushing yards on 20 carries and 71 receiving yards on seven catches.

In the first half alone, McCaffrey had 93 yards (53 rushing, 40 receiving) on 14 touches, plus the three touchdowns: a 1-yard rush in the first quarter then an 18-yard rush and a 6-yard reception from quarterback Brock Purdy in the second quarter.

McCaffrey’s first touchdown extended his scoring streak to 13 consecutive games, including the playoffs. That breaks Jerry Rice's record for the most consecutive games with a touchdown in 49ers history. He’s now in range of the all-time NFL record of 17 consecutive games, held by former Baltimore Colts receiver Lenny Moore.

The 27-year-old didn’t limit himself to just one touchdown, adding two more in the first half to become just the eighth player in 49ers history with three touchdowns in the first half. He added a 2-yard touchdown run at the start of the fourth quarter to give him four on the day. It’s just the seventh time in 49ers franchise history that one player has scored four touchdowns in a single game.

He’s also the first player to tally at least 100 yards from scrimmage and at least one touchdown in each of the first four games of the season since DeMarco Murray in 2014. It's just one of the many records McCaffrey has likely broken in his first four games of 2023. And if the season continues like this, these likely won't be the last records he breaks.

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JACK KEROUAC, Aged 17, scoring a touchdown at the 1938 Thanksgiving Day game, Lowell Vs. Lawrence. 

He was a big enough star to draw college scouts to look at him. Frank Leahy, the Boston College coach at the time, watched Kerouac run for the winning touchdown in the 1938 Lowell-Lawrence Thanksgiving Day game, and then was invited over to the Kerouac home for the holiday meal. Later, Leahy put his public-relations man, a young guy named Billy Sullivan, on the case. Sullivan's uncles owned the Lowell print shop where Leo Kerouac, Jack's father, worked. But the younger Kerouac turned his back on Boston College to become an Ivy Leaguer, a halfback for Columbia.

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by Kevin Fagan

She was called “America’s Child.” And after her murder 30 years ago, the nation mourned — and the way America treats kidnappings and child safety was changed forever.

Her name was Polly Klaas. She was 12 when a career criminal snatched her on Oct. 1, 1993, from her sleepover party in Petaluma, and the rarity of a total stranger pulling off a kidnapping rather than an acquaintance triggered such horror that the story went national.

The FBI, police and thousands of neighbors launched the most intensive search of its kind at the time for a missing child, drawing in then-President Bill Clinton and celebrities from Winona Ryder to Johnny Cash. The search only ended two months later when Polly’s decomposed body was found stuffed below a pile of scrap lumber in Cloverdale. 

She had been left there by 39-year-old Richard Allen Davis, who had an eight-page rap sheet for kidnapping, burglary and crimes against children, and to this day he’s never explained why he took the child. He is on Death Row for the crime. 

By the time a memorial was held in Petaluma on Dec. 11 for the dimpled small-town girl with a glowing smile, the “America’s Child” nickname had stuck — and Davis was reviled as a bogeyman come to life. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson and Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were among those paying homage, and as the overfilled church crowd wept on live TV, Joan Baez sang “Amazing Grace” and Linda Ronstadt sang Polly’s favorite song, “Somewhere Out There.”

Now, a generation later, Polly’s death is remembered mostly by those old enough to have watched as the drama unfolded.

But this anniversary carries a couple of milestones.

A book on the case will be released on Oct. 3, giving never-before-seen details, including a suspect that led investigators down the wrong path before a lucky break snared Davis. And Polly’s father, Marc Klaas, says he intends to close the KlaasKids Foundation he started after Polly’s death to help hunt for missing kids and prevent kidnappings.

“My own tragedy around Polly’s death is becoming increasingly difficult as the years go by, and the tragedy of others is hard to carry over time,” said Klaas, who is now 74 and lives in Sausalito. “I am not as young as I was and I would like to have something else in my life besides tragedy and advocacy.”

His foundation has conducted 500 missing-child searches and trained more than 1,600 volunteers in search and rescue techniques. But there are now many other nonprofits that also help with child abductions, including another started after the kidnapping, the Polly Klaas Foundation.

“This whole 30th anniversary is very difficult for me,” Klaas said. “I’ve been looking through hundreds of pictures of my daughter and I get infuriated. It’s the promise lost, the whole idea that something so horrible can happen to someone so innocent.

“After Polly’s tragedy, my wife, Violet, and I consciously decided we would try to create meaning out of her death, and we got involved in a lot of legislation and work that I believe helped cut crime.”

Among the causes Klaas pushed were laws creating public registries for convicted sex offenders, more severe prison sentences for people convicted of crimes against children, and the pioneering 1994 California “three strikes” law requiring life sentences for criminals convicted of three or more violent felonies. The three strikes law was softened to give more latitude to judges after legislators determined it was too harsh, but Klaas says he is proud of its legacy and would still like to see punishment stiffened further for longtime offenders — like Davis.

“Davis should never have been out on the street, and I think it’s outrageous that the governor has put a moratorium on executions,” he said. “There are people who deserve to die for what they did. Like Davis.”

Klaas said he intends to close his foundation by the end of next year, “and then one thing I’m totally going to do is buy a guitar and learn how to play; I love the blues.” But he plans one more big action before then — releasing a search and rescue manual on the anniversary of Polly’s kidnapping.

Other reforms that grew out of the search for Polly and its aftermath are speeded-up police and FBI responses to kidnappings, and forensics techniques in detecting latent palm and fingerprints. Polly’s abduction also forced media organizations to reckon with the question of why they gave outsize attention to the disappearance of a white girl from middle-class suburbia while overlooking similar kidnappings of non-white children. It’s a subject that is still regularly debated.

Author Kim Cross said immersing in the saga for her upcoming book, “In Light of All Darkness,” took its toll. 

“It came at a great cost to my physical and mental health,” said Cross, who lives in Boise, Idaho. “A lot of days I wrote through nausea and tears. It forced me to challenge my world view. I’ve always believed that people are inherently mostly good and when they did things it was mostly because bad things happened to them. This forced me to challenge that.”

Among the revelations in her book is the fact that before the fortuitous discovery of a sweatshirt and other evidence on a lonely Sonoma County road where Davis strangled Polly, investigators were zeroing in on a convicted child molester named Xavier Garcia in nearby Vallejo. Garcia was arrested 10 days after Polly’s abduction when he broke into the home of another 12-year-old girl with condoms, rubber gloves and a knife. 

Cross had unusual access to details like that — her father-in-law is retired FBI agent Eddie Freyer, who was in charge of the probe. But one of the things that stood out most for Cross was the caution that Polly’s kidnapping embedded into parents everywhere, making them fearful of letting kids out of their sight. And Freyer, who teaches investigation techniques locally and internationally at colleges and police, military and FBI training centers, said he finds that chilling effect all over the world.

Not everyone remembers Polly’s name, but they know that something happened decades ago that has made them more afraid today. 

“No other case has impacted the globe this way,” Freyer said. “All of us in our generation are affected by it. I was more careful with my kids, and now I have grandkids, and I watch them much more closely because of that case. Even if they don’t know it, parents are affected by this case.

“No matter where I go, and I go all over the globe, when people learn about my connection to that case, they want to talk. This case struck at the heart and soul of America.” 

(SF Chronicle)

* * *

* * *


by Erin L. Thompson

Ignoring the many ‘no pets’ signs, a man on the trail to the world’s largest Confederate monument was leaping from rock to rock with a ball python wrapped around his neck. I began to think I hadn’t really understood Stone Mountain at all.

It was spring 2022, and I had just published a book on the history of controversial monuments in the United States. One of its chapters told the story of Stone Mountain, Georgia. In 1914, an elderly Confederate widow dreamed of a massive memorial carved on a cliff visible from downtown Atlanta. The sculptor she recruited, Gutzon Borglum, promised hundreds of figures, but after a decade he had finished only a single head, of General Robert E. Lee. The Stone Mountain Memorial Association accused the sculptor of embezzlement, fired him and blasted his portrait of Lee off the mountain. Borglum defected back to the Union, convincing some small-town boosters in South Dakota to let him turn their plan for a few sculptures into the project that would keep him in funds for the rest of his life: Mount Rushmore.

Georgia’s governor, Marvin Griffin, bought the land in 1958. He turned it into a recreational park and arranged to finish a 58-metre frieze of three Confederate leaders – Lee, General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson and President Jefferson Davis – who now ride along the cliff.

I had written my book during lockdown and was only now making my first visit to the site. I wanted to see what the activists who had begun to call for changes at Stone Mountain during the Black Lives Matter protests were up against.

The trail from the car park runs for a mile over slabs of rock through loblolly pines. It’s uneven but easy until close to the top, where the mountain humps up two steep shoulders. It was busy with people. ‘Too many breaks,’ I overheard a teenager chiding his family. They ignored him and flopped down on the rocks near where I, too, was resting.

More than a century earlier, on Thanksgiving night 1915, a group of men had climbed this path by flashlight. At the summit, they dressed in bedsheet robes and pointed hoods, set fire to a kerosene-soaked cross made of pine boards, and took their initiation oaths in the reborn Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. For those men, too, I realised, sitting on my boulder, watching the groups around me, the climb must have been a bonding exercise.

The top of the mountain is pitted with shallow pools. Fringed with yellow pollen and spilled popcorn, they are home to an endangered species of fairy shrimp. Klansmen held annual rallies here until the state took over the land. After that, they moved downhill to burn their crosses on private land below the mountain until the early 1990s.

The Confederate monument on the cliff face isn’t visible from the trail or the mountaintop. To see it, I went back down and paid the entry fee for the amusement park at the base. An animatronic T-Rex roared and jerked into periodic action beside the path. I rounded an undersized brachiosaurus to make my way into Memorial Hall, which houses an exhibition on the history of the carving.

The building has the carpeted deadness of an unpopular conference hotel. Several display cases had burnt-out lights; some of the artefacts inside had tipped over. In an auditorium, a Ken Burns knock-off documentary about the Civil War in Georgia features artificially grainy footage of re-enactors and unbearable amounts of fife and fiddle. The narrator describes the Union’s capture of the last railroad in Confederate hands as ‘the final link in the chain to shackle Atlanta’, as if the Confederacy were fighting to free itself from slavery instead of maintain it. The only acknowledgment of the cross-burnings I could find was a text at the bottom corner of a display. I had to squat to read that ‘Stone Mountain had the dubious honour of being the Klan’s “sacred soil”.’

The best place to see the carving from is Memorial Lawn, a long stretch of grass directly beneath it. But even from there, the monument is surprisingly hard to make out. The carving requires regular cleaning to keep it visible, but this hasn’t been done since 2020. The Stone Mountain Memorial Association is currently dithering about whether or not to spend the half million dollars it would now take to clean it.

I looked around instead at the other people on the lawn: a young Asian woman with a tote bag and a sweatshirt denouncing the patriarchy; teenagers with purple and red hair sparring with plastic light sabres; a pair of older women with crewcuts relaxing on a tartan blanket. Families stood up to take group photographs with the indistinct monument in the background, calling out to each other in Arabic, Vietnamese, Hindi. If the three Confederate leaders could really see out over the lawn, I thought with satisfaction, they would be horrified.

But then I remembered that every low-wage worker I had encountered during the day, from Cameron, who’d taken my $20 parking fee, to Keyser, who’d sold me my lunch, was a person of colour. The composition of Georgia’s middle and even upper classes may have changed since these men rode, but the identity of the working poor has hardly shifted.

As dusk fell, a lightshow began, opening with a booming announcement of its sponsorship by an insurance company. Lasers projected from the lawn outlined Lee’s head, multiplied it, lit the heads in psychedelic colours and spun them in circles, like the Lost Cause on LSD.

An animated Dolly Parton sang. Star Wars droids skittered across the cliff. Children jumped up and danced. Three flame cannons shot ten-storey pillars of fire up into the night.

The show’s historical portion culminated with an animation of Lee riding past a burning city and a dead soldier, grimacing, drawing his sword and breaking it. The pieces of the blade tumbled around until they become the outlines of the Confederate and Union states, which then merged together. More lasers shot out to outline the Western states – electronic Manifest Destiny. The lesson seemed to be that Lee’s surrender stopped the North’s heedless destruction, reunited the Union and cleared the way for America’s present prosperity.

In 2021, the first Black chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association was appointed. In 2022, the Association announced a project to revamp the displays in the moribund Memorial Hall and tell the truth about Stone Mountain – all the more important since state law currently forbids any changes to the monument itself. Perhaps visitors can reclaim the site by using it as a place for celebration and enjoyment of their own lives. But only if they know what they are ignoring.

(London Review of Books)

* * *

“SOMEDAY, I would like to go home. The exact location of this place, I don't know, but someday I would like to go. There would be a pleasing feeling of familiarity and a sense of welcome in everything I saw. People would greet me warmly. They would remind me of the length of my absence and the thousands of miles I had travelled in those restless years, but mostly, they would tell me that I had been missed, and that things were better now I had returned. Autumn would come to this place of welcome, this place I would know to be home. Autumn would come and the air would grow cool, dry and magic, as it does that time of the year. At night, I would walk the streets but not feel lonely, for these are the streets of my home town. These are the streets that I had thought about while far away, and now I was back, and all was as it should be. The trees and the falling leaves would welcome me. I would look up at the moon, and remember seeing it in countries all over the world as I had restlessly journeyed for decades, never remembering it looking the same as when viewed from my hometown.”

— Henry Rollins

* * *

* * *


The wave of global popular protests that erupted in 2010 and lasted a decade were extinguished. This means new tactics and new strategies, as Vincent Bevins explains in his book “If We Burn."

by Chris Hedges

There was a decade of popular uprisings from 2010 until the global pandemic in 2020. These uprisings shook the foundations of the global order. They denounced corporate domination, austerity cuts and demanded economic justice and civil rights. There were nationwide protests in the United States centered around the 59-day Occupy encampments. There were popular eruptions in Greece, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Turkey, Brazil, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Chile and during South Korea’s Candlelight Light Revolution. Discredited politicians were driven from office in Greece, Spain, Ukraine, South Korea, Egypt, Chile and Tunisia. Reform, or at least the promise of it, dominated public discourse. It seemed to herald a new era.

Then the backlash. The aspirations of the popular movements were crushed. State control and social inequality expanded. There was no significant change. In most cases, things got worse. The far-right emerged triumphant. 

What happened? How did a decade of mass protests that seemed to herald democratic openness, an end to state repression, a weakening of the domination of global corporations and financial institutions and an era of freedom sputter to an ignominious failure? What went wrong? How did the hated bankers and politicians maintain or regain control? What are the effective tools to rid ourselves of corporate domination?

Vincent Bevins in his new book “If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution” chronicles how we failed on several fronts.

The “techno-optimists” who preached that new digital media was a revolutionary and democratizing force did not foresee that authoritarian governments, corporations and internal security services could harness these digital platforms and turn them into engines of wholesale surveillance, censorship and vehicles for propaganda and disinformation. The social media platforms that made popular protests possible were turned against us.

Many mass movements, because they failed to implement hierarchical, disciplined, and coherent organizational structures, were unable to defend themselves. In the few cases when organized movements achieved power, as in Greece and Honduras, the international financiers and corporations conspired to ruthlessly wrest power back. In most cases, the ruling class swiftly filled the power vacuums created by these protests. They offered new brands to repackage the old system. This is the reason the 2008 Obama campaign was named Advertising Age’s Marketer of the Year. It won the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and marketing-services vendors gathered at the Association of National Advertisers’ annual conference. It beat out runners-up Apple and The professionals knew. Brand Obama was a marketer’s dream.

Too often the protests resembled flash mobs, with people pouring into public spaces and creating a media spectacle, rather than engaging in a sustained, organized and prolonged disruption of power. Guy Debord captures the futility of these spectacles/protests in his book “Society of the Spectacle,” noting that the age of the spectacle means those entranced by its images are “molded to its laws.” Anarchists and antifascists, such as those in the black bloc, often smashed windows, threw rocks at police and overturned or burned cars. Random acts of violence, looting and vandalism were justified in the jargon of the movement, as components of “feral” or “spontaneous insurrection.” This “riot porn” delighted the media, many of those who engaged in it and, not coincidentally, the ruling class which used it to justify further repression and demonize protest movements. An absence of political theory led activists to use popular culture, such as the film “V for Vendetta,” as reference points. The far more effective and crippling tools of grassroots educational campaigns, strikes and boycotts were often ignored or sidelined.

As Karl Marx understood, “Those who cannot represent themselves will be represented.”

“If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution,” is a brilliant and masterfully reported dissection of the rise of global popular movements, the self-defeating mistakes they made, the strategies the corporate and ruling elites employed to retain power and crush the aspirations of a frustrated population, as well as an exploration of the tactics popular movements must employ to successfully fight back.…

* * *

Umberto Eco

THE WRITER UMBERTO ECO belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have ! How many of these books have you read?” and the others - a very small minority - who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary. 

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb 

* * *



Greg Afinogenov recently wrote a fanciful tale concerning Lenin's treatment of Kropotkin between 1918 and 1921. Lenin, he writes, “admired Kropotkin” and ensured that he “could live out his declining years in comfort in his dacha outside Moscow. When Kropotkin died in February of 1921, dozens of anarchists were released from Moscow's prisons to attend the lavish funeral.” 

Kropotkin's daughter, Alexandra, painted a different picture in a talk — of which there is a summation — she gave on May 9, 1961 at a memorial marking the 40th anniversary of her father’s death:

“The Bolsheviks wanted to make political capital out of Kropotkin’s popularity. In public they seemed to do everything possible to make him comfortable. Behind this hypocritical facade they filled his last days with harassments and bitterness. They held back the foreign papers that were sent to him and censored his mail. To obtain the slightest thing, Alexandra had to wade through miles of red tape and fill out reams of forms and questionnaires.

“Alexandra and her mother did not want a government funeral and insisted Kropotkin be buried in the family plot. The Bolsheviks wanted to inter the body under the Kremlin wall, but Alexandra told them her father’s bones would never be mixed with the remains of scoundrels who were drowning the revolution in the blood of the Russian people.

“Alexandra promised her dying father that she would try to free the imprisoned anarchists and other revolutionaries. She threatened to expose the phonies [Bolsheviks] to the delegation of foreign newsmen who attended the funeral. She told the leaders of the Bolsheviks that if they tried to monopolize the funeral, she would throw all the government wreaths into the mud. Her efforts, along with those of many others, forced the commissars to relent. They released a few anarchists, who attended the funeral and who were later put back in prison.

“Thousands of people marched in the funeral procession. As the cortége passed the Butyrskaya prison, the prisoners waved (the prison cells had barred windows facing the streets] while singing the Anarchist Funeral March.”

Kropotkin died in a small village called Dmitrov, where his family was driven after their apartments in Moscow were “requisitioned.” In March 1920, when Emma Goldman visited, she found the 77-year-old living in one barely heated room with his entire family. Provisions depended on what they could grow in their garden (a cow provided milk), plus donations sent by anarchist comrades.

As for the “lavish funeral,” which Afinogenov implies was Lenin’s doing, it was organized by a committee of anarchist syndicalists and anarchist-communists, who arranged for Kropotkin’s body to lie in state for public viewing in the Hall ot Columns of the House of Unions in Moscow. Their only request to the government was that all anarchists held in prison be freed to attend the funeral. This was met with evasion right up to the last moment, when the Cheka brought a few dozen prisoners to the Hall of Columns and selected seven for release (only after a group of students volunteered to take their place should the prisoners fail to return). Tens of thousands of mourners accompanied Kropotkin to his final resting place, and the coffin was carried part of the way by the emaciated anarchists who were “on leave.”

Allan Antliff

Victoria, British Columbia

* * *

THE TROUBLE IS that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil is interesting. This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. 

— Ursula Le Guin 

* * *


Ukraine says it is working with the US after Congress did not include new wartime aid in a last-minute deal to avoid a government shutdown. US President Joe Biden vowed that American support would continue.

The party of an openly pro-Russian politician won Slovakia's parliamentary election, although it will need a coalition partner to govern. Slovakia — which is part of NATO — has been one of Kyiv’s staunchest allies.

Flights were briefly restricted at Sochi International Airport in Russia after a Ukrainian drone was shot down. Ukraine has been stepping up its drone attacks on Russian infrastructure beyond its borders.

Ukraine is marking Day of the Defenders, the national holiday honoring veterans and fallen soldiers. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said that "victory will come" against Russia while attending a ceremony.

* * *


  1. George Hollister October 2, 2023


    Speaking for myself, and my tomatoes, when will Summer begin? This has been the coolest Summer period I can remember going back to the early 1960s. Nice outdoor working weather, though. NWS described the typical daily Summer temperature forecast as “approaching normal”. How about calling it what it was, below normal?

    The green beans liked the non-Summer, as have the Redwoods, and every kind of berry.

  2. Call It As I See It October 2, 2023

    In regards to Assessor Report, this is what happens when an office is combined and all the importance is focused on Elections. Ironically we have only found out about this because Bowtie Ted and his fellow Stupidvisors combined another office and then waged personal attacks on the elected Auditor/TTC. Why? Because they don’t like her, it’s that simple. She held people accountable on their budgets and egotistical DA, Supervisors don’t like this.

    Let’s talk about Assessor Office, over 20 years ago was combined and since has been under the direction of Marsha Wharf, Sue Ranochak and now Katrina Bartolomei. Elections are its sole purpose in the minds of these three and they have allowed the Assessor to lose valuable knowledge and walk out the door. Staffing is at all time low because Ms. Bartolomei simply doesn’t care about this part of the office. She is only focused on it now because she has been forced to by Bowtie’s ridiculous rants against Ms. Cubbison. Bowtie Ted has praised this office in the past, REALLY! They are 2 years behind in reassessing properties that have sold. In the end Ms. Bartolomei figured out that if you kiss Bowtie’s back end, it keeps you out of the crosshairs.

  3. Chuck Dunbar October 2, 2023


    Common sense, in letter to the editor, New York Times, 10/2/23:

    “…By definition, A.I. lacks any real heart and soul, as it is ultimately computer-talk. There is a fraud on all of us when we allow computer-generated A.I. to be conveyed as being human, unless there is an honest and reasonable disclosure/labeling of the artificial nature of the communications and content.
    Now is the time to recognize and establish a right of the people to know whether content is H.I. (human intelligence) or A.I.”
    William August
    Cambridge, Mass.

  4. Marmon October 2, 2023


    Ukrainian forces are laying down their Western-supplied arms and surrendering en masse! Using emergency radio frequencies, they’re receiving food & medical care and even sharing critical intel with Russian forces. Is this the final chapter?


    • Bruce Anderson October 2, 2023

      Fake news. Hasn’t happened, isn’t likely to happen.

      • Bruce McEwen October 2, 2023

        Fake news? I’m not so sure. It was a hectic Monday at the store but still I heard someone on CBS say if the Congress doesn’t give the Ukrainian nazis another several billion then they will have no ammo for their US-supplied weapons…. So they could be laying down their guns…. After all, an empty gun is more of a liability than an asset, isn’t it?

    • Marshall Newman October 2, 2023

      Almost certainly BS.

    • Bob A. October 2, 2023

      There’s an interesting piece in today’s New York Times titled “Putin’s Next Target: U.S. Support for Ukraine, Officials Say” that says, “…for every development making life harder for Russia’s online trolls, there are trends pushing in the opposite direction. The X platform, formerly known as Twitter, has dismantled teams that were hunting for election interference efforts. And the most influential platform among young people is now TikTok, a Chinese company. China has been stepping up its own influence operations, modeled after Moscow’s operations.”

      Without dipping too deeply into that particular media pool of stupid, I’m curious to know where Marmon is getting his “breaking news”.

  5. Kirk Vodopals October 2, 2023

    Re: Polly Klaas… that is the worst kind of evil: unexpected, unexplainable, unjustified and completely random. It keeps me up at night as the father of two girls. It’s the kind of evil that can’t be explained away with “He works in mysterious ways.” It’s the kind of evil that makes the world go dark and fills hearts with rage. It is troubling even to think about it.

    • peter boudoures October 2, 2023

      If he was shot while leaving the Petaluma home guess who would be in jail? Her dad. Soft ass California.

      • Kirk Vodopals October 2, 2023

        Any decent Father would take that shot.

        • peter boudoures October 2, 2023


          • Lazarus October 2, 2023

            Me too…
            Be Well,

  6. Alethea Patton October 2, 2023

    Love the Henry Rollins quote. Thank you.

  7. Marmon October 2, 2023

    Jim Mockel, Trevor’s father, sent me a Facebook friend request two days ago. I hate to say it, but Jim is about the only one of the Trinity Gang who took over CPS with the Schraeders that I liked.


    • Marmon October 2, 2023

      It must be noted, Jim is currently employed by the Schraeders.


    • Marmon October 2, 2023

      Jim Mockel and Chuck Dunbar were two of the three on my hiring committee at CPS, they both were enamored with my presentation and experience, it was love at first sight.


      • Marmon October 2, 2023

        Chuck wasn’t one of those “go along to get along” guys but he still votes Democrat.

        • Marmon October 2, 2023

          Chuck had no idea about was goin on inland.


        • Chuck Dunbar October 2, 2023

          True , and thank you for that, James. I vowed to myself to always raise issues when things were awry and to speak my mind while I was on the job. Management in general did not like that, but that was fine with me. You are right, I was on the coast and not aware of the whole inland picture, though I knew the Ukiah office was nearly always a pretty toxic place to work. It was good to be on the coast, away from a lot of the bureaucratic BS.

    • Marmon October 2, 2023

      Jim was one of those “go along to get along” guys.


  8. Jim Shields October 2, 2023

    Responding to Jim Shields, AVA, September 29, 2023:
    “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. ”
    On reporting, issue is basic competency. Nothing to invent. Textbook problems.
    On untenable fiscal mess, the cost of doing business has outpaced revenue. This has been long standing. The county has increased wages by deferring maintenance of buildings, infrastructure, software, training, jail, etcetera. Under Prop 13, in a no-growth county, it’s foreseeable that the cost of doing business will increase at greater slope than revenue. One can agree with “hire more people, pay the people more,” but the revenue doesn’t create this possibility.

    “Several months later, the Board discovers it is facing a ‘structural’ deficit of $6.1 million.”
    Perhaps this was a surprise to some, but recall, Feb 20, 2019 I submitted an agenda item for a hiring freeze, noting the structural deficit.
    “Since no one has explanations or answers to what caused the ongoing…”
    Your idea would be good if we truly didn’t know how we got here. We already know. Over decades, officials grew the county beyond what the revenue from $90k people can support. The county will need to reorganize.

    Jim Shields Responding To Ted Williams:
    If I understand what you’re saying, it’s essentially that the “untenable fiscal mess … has been long standing.” And the “structural deficit” issue was “Perhaps a surprise to some …” but in February of 2019, you “submitted an agenda item for a hiring freeze, noting the structural deficit.”

    I won’t argue with your recollection of these events and the timeline you present.
    What is puzzling though is in my original recommendation to you and your colleagues, I said the following that you never responded to:
    For example, in February of 2022, about-to-retire CEO Carmel Angelo was farewell-addressing on various media platforms. In an interview with Mike Geniella, he reported, “As she prepares to step down, Angelo said she is especially satisfied that the county, facing near bankruptcy in 2010, is today on firm financial footing with $20 million in reserves in the face of an annual budget of $340 million. ‘I leave knowing the situation today is much healthier than when I was appointed CEO in 2010,’ said Angelo.”
    Several months later, the Board discovers it is facing a “structural” deficit of $6.1 million, and at this week’s meeting (Sept. 26), Supe Dan Gjerde said the structural shortfall is somewhere around $10 million with another “three, four, or five million dollars on top of that $10 million structural deficit” if an agreement is reached in negotiations to bring employees “up to market.”
    So my question is, assuming that both you and I are correct in our respective narratives, why haven’t you (or any of your colleagues) at least asked former-CEO Angelo to explain her assertion that “she is especially satisfied that the county, facing near bankruptcy in 2010, is today on firm financial footing with $20 million in reserves in the face of an annual budget of $340 million. ‘I leave knowing the situation today is much healthier than when I was appointed CEO in 2010.’”
    There’s a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between you knowing back in 2019 that the County was in big trouble and Angelo’s declaration that it was “on firm financial footing” as she made her exit in 2022.
    Something’s not right with those pictures.

    • Mark Scaramella October 2, 2023

      I think there are two short answers. One is that taxes are not being collected and Angelo probably assumed that they would be collected and at rising rates like they had been for the years she was CEO. Second, reserves are too high and the Board won’t consider dipping into them because they’re afraid they might not ever be restored as revenues decline. The Board, including Williams, have not shown any interest in tax collection after they blew it up by rashly consolidating the Tax Collector with the Auditor’s office leaving it badly understaffed and underexperienced, (especially when Schapmire and Forrester quit) probably out of animosity toward the Auditor who they want to blame for their own dithering. Without proper tax collection, the County’s entire financial picture is on shaky ground. The Board deserves all the blame for this entirely avoidable situation.

      • Ted Williams October 2, 2023

        Mark, we’ve already dipped into reserves. I’m not against using reserves again, but it must be treated as one-time funds because this is a structural deficit, not an off-year. Revenue is increasing slower than market wages due to the fed printing too much money. Assessment and tax collection are important, but even if it were operating at 100%, we still have diverging trends between revenue and cost of operations.

        Jim, Angelo’s state of feeling satisfied is irrelevant to me. I’m looking at the numbers, not anyone’s feelings. The county cannot pay market wages to its existing employees, maintain its existing buildings, and maintain its roads with the current revenue. Perfect assessment and tax collection would help, but it won’t completely solve the gap. I’ve studied the budgets from 1965 to the present. It appears one board after the next ignored certain long-term liabilities in order to focus on limited priorities. For example, roads were forgotten. When was there last a long-term plan to maintain the road network? Your original question presumes the county was functioning well under prior officials. I find this wasn’t the case. The bad math was simply hidden.

        • Jim Shields October 2, 2023

          Mark, I agree your short answers find some of the missing pieces to the fiscal puzzle. Another missing piece that has really never been there anyway, is the fool’s gold that was, and is, the still-born Weed Ordinance assembled piecemeal by the BOS and the CEO-created “working groups” of pot people. Show me the money.
          Uncollected taxes, remedial adjustments to property tax rolls, assessment clean-up, etc., will over time bring back revenue that never should have been MIA in the first place.
          The discussion with you centers on the argument that the fiscal footprint of the County is no longer sustainable. This assumes that at some point, even if the currently missing revenues are restored, we’re still in the big hurt locker because, “Over decades, officials grew the county beyond what the revenue from 90k people can support. The county will need to reorganize.”
          When you talk about the “need to reorganize,” I’m assuming that means laying off employees, eliminating certain services, selling off assets, including property and buildings, perhaps refinancing certain financial instruments (COPs, POBs), etc.
          In other words, you’re most likely proposing something similar to a quasi-Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Reorganization, sans Bankruptcy Court.

          • Ted Williams October 2, 2023

            The county has a long-standing tradition of paying below-market wages, but it was only able to pay these low wages by deferring maintenance. Essentially, the county-operated under a Whac-A-Mole model where certain problems would get addressed by defunding other needs. The underfunded pension debt hasn’t helped, but there isn’t a single cause for the financial woes. It’s cumulative impact from decades of decision-making without sufficient data. When a building was acquired, parkland accepted, a road adopted, the county didn’t plan and put aside dollars for eventual maintenance. Rather, it just kept empire-building. That’s all caught up with us. The local portion of In-Home Supportive Services was paid from general fund because nobody knew the 1991 Realignment could be used. The $27M or so we spend on privatized specialty mental health services isn’t money that could be used for other purposes. In fact, it only flows when services are provided. In my view, past boards didn’t connect the dots between the performance of mental health services and general fund impact of public safety. I say this because standardized data does not exist to compare the performance in our county to any other county, the state or the nation. Dollar for dollar, how does our performance rank? Untreated mental illness and social problems generate general fund expenses under Sheriff, District Attorney, Public Defender, Alternate Defender, Jail and Probation.

            Mark’s job here is to critique the board, and I understand wanting a game-changing plan rolled out at a board meeting. It’s not possible. Changes are happening. Look at the cumulative impact of agenda items, a number sponsored by me, and you have an approved restructuring.

            It’ll be a softer landing if the board makes hard decisions well in advance of June 1. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

            Bottom line, the revenue growth curve, considering state and federal mandates, is inadequate to meet public expectations. Change the board, change management, blame this person or that person, and the core problem will persist. It’s structural.

            Jim & Mark, I appreciate the discussion.

            • Jim Shields October 2, 2023

              Likewise, Ted

            • George Hollister October 3, 2023

              “past boards didn’t connect the dots between the performance of mental health services and general fund impact of public safety.”

              How about past CEOs, and Boards didn’t connect the dots, or didn’t care? The CEO needs to know these things, but did she/he care? From personal experience, there is a saying I have adopted, you can’t care for people who don’t care. Caring goes directly from the Board to the CEO. If the Board does not care, the CEO won’t care.

              Remember, in Mendocino County the Electorate doesn’t care either. So this goes from the Electorate to the Board, to the CEO. Since when in the last 50 years has a supervisor been elected on the basis of good governance? Never. Election outcomes here are based on tribal conflict.

              Ted, this is true in your case as well. Remember Measure V? If you had run on a good governance platform, guess what, someone else would have been elected, and not you. The AVA has been selling its newspaper based on local tribal conflict as well. So no one can claim to be blameless.

        • Call It As I See It October 3, 2023

          I’m taking your comment about prior officials, you mean Carmel. May I remind you that you and your fellow Stupidvisors were her boss and allowed her either to hide or misrepresent. As a matter of fact Bowtie, you and Carmel were very close. You allowed her to try and take over every office to form her “Dream Team” and it’s still going on with Ms. Antle. Ms. Antle sits there quietly as you grill Ms. Cubbison with questions that should be asked to Ms. Antle. Ms. Antle was Carmel’s budget person on Carmel’s Dream Team. So she would have a lot of answers about what was hidden, as you say, or is this you trying to push blame? Let me quote the great John Wooden “A man is not a failure, until he starts blaming someone else.” Think about that Bowtie!!!!

  9. John Sakowicz October 2, 2023

    Jim Shields, you see things clearly. Crystal clear.

    • Jim Shields October 2, 2023

      Thanks John, have always appreciated your insights as well.

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