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DRY WEATHER is expected through the afternoon today before another weather system brings periods of rain to the north tonight and Saturday. Additional rain is then expected Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Drier weather is expected for Wednesday and early Thursday. More rain is possible late in the week. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): I got a meager .07" from the light rain yesterday. The forecast has really fallen apart from earlier runs. Dry skies today then scattered rains for the weekend. We'll see what next week offers is a couple days.
AV UNIFIED NEWS
Dear Anderson Valley Community,
Congratulations to our soccer players who have advanced further into the playoffs following their win on Friday. Their respect and behavior have improved over the Fall and we are proud of their improvement as players and young men. The game against Waldorf is scheduled for Saturday at 3:30. Tickets to be inside the field are required.
As you know, this game schedule and pricing is completely controlled by CIF. I apologize that the playoff game tickets are very expensive and we are required to collect gate fees and enforce the policy. Please be mindful this is not a school policy, and please do not take out your displeasure on the employees that are helping for the game. This is the CIF league policy. There will be a petition on site for you to sign that these fees are disproportionate and discriminate against low income communities. This is one of those things in life that is just not right and will not change unless we make it change. I am grateful that CIF responded to our initial complaint by giving every student in the game two tickets for their family to attend. You hear all of those CIF commercials about how important it is for students to play sports, which is true, but it is also important for their community to be able to watch them without losing an hour of wages.
Louise Simson, Superintendent
AV Unified School District
40TH ANNUAL CHESTNUT FESTIVAL
Come Rain or Shine, the 40th Annual Chestnut Festival is only a few days away.
The 40th Annual Chestnut Gathering Festival will be at the Zeni Ranch, 30995 Fishrock Rd, Yorkville, CA 95494; Saturday November 4th from 10 am to 4 pm.
Potluck dinner returns this year! Bring something to add to the table along with your own eating supplies. Jane will be providing a succulent roasted pig for the table.
Dogs on leashes ok, but your responsible for your pet.
Chestnuts are $4.00 a pound if you pick, or $5.00 if already picked.
Fresh raw chestnut honey, T-shirts and our popular nut sacks will be available, along with other farm products.
For more information, Call or text Jane Zeni at 707-684-6892
On Monday, October 30, 2023 at 3:39 P.M., Mendocino County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) Deputies were dispatched to a report of brandishing of a knife in the El Dorado subdivision on Vista Verde Drive in Ukiah.
MCSO Dispatch advised the subject who brandished the knife left the area in a red Lexus with Texas plates. Personnel from the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Ukiah Police Department (UPD) began looking for the vehicle.
Deputies contacted two victims in the El Dorado subdivision and learned the suspect's (Christian Beyer’s) vehicle had been parked in the area for the past several days.
Through the course of their investigation, Deputies learned that Christian Ernest Beyer, 41, of Petaluma, was confronted about moving his vehicle and Beyer was in possession of a small knife, with a two (2) inch blade.
Beyer stepped towards the first victim with the knife as the victim stepped back. Beyer then got into his vehicle and drove away at a high rate of speed towards Ridgeview Drive.
Beyer completed a U-turn in the vehicle and accelerated back towards the victim as the vehicle Beyer was driving crossed to the wrong side of the road, as the victim ran up a small embankment near some trees to avoid being intentionally hit by Beyer.
Deputies contacted the second victim and learned they were standing with the first victim, when Beyer left in his vehicle and Beyer turned around and drove towards the victims who were in fear for their lives. Beyer subsequently left the area in his vehicle.
As Deputies were speaking to the victims, they learned a UPD officer located Beyer in Hopland, (approximately 16 miles south of Ukiah).
Deputies with assistance from the Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, UPD, and CHP responded to Hopland as Beyer was last seen running through a vineyard east of town.
A large perimeter was set up with assistance from a CHP fixed wing aircraft and Beyer was able to avoid capture as he was last seen carrying a large knife type object.
As a result of the Deputies investigation, they developed probable cause to believe Beyer committed the following crimes: Assault with Deadly Weapon Other than a Firearm, Brandishing or Exhibiting any Weapon Other than a Firearm, and Resisting, Delaying, Obstruction).
Through MCSO Dispatch, Deputies issued an stop and hold bulletin for Beyer's arrest.
On Wednesday, November 1, 2023, at 2:00 P.M., MCSO personnel learned Beyer was arrested in Petaluma by the Petaluma Police Department.
Beyer was located/arrested at a family member's residence on an unrelated Federal warrant. The charges stemming from the incident in Mendocino County will be filed with the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office for prosecution.
The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office would like to thank the Ukiah Police Department, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force, Petaluma Police Department, and the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office for their assistance.
by Mark Scaramella
THERE GOES MEASURE P! (Just as we warned.)
Anyone who watches gangster movies is familiar with that stereotypical line usually delivered in a heavy Brooklyn accent where the mob boss adjusts his tie, twists his neck, shakes his head, and then indirectly but obviously threatens to do harm by saying something like, “Boy, that's a nice car ya got there, Joey. Be a shame if somethin’ happened to it. You know? Very unfortunate. You don't want that to happen, do you, Joey? We sure wouldn't want to see anything happen to that beautiful machine. I know how much you like it.”
Compare that with this comment from Supervisor Ted Williams on Tuesday: “I don't think we are going to reach bankruptcy. I think we are probably going to make the necessary cuts. But one aspect of this that makes me nervous— the board committed to the public when they passed the transient occupancy tax on campgrounds for fire and Measure P for fire that that money would always be allocated to fire per the voter-supported advisory. If we were to someday find ourselves insolvent and entering bankruptcy the funds would be pulled back to cover County core services. It would no longer go to fire. We wouldn't have the option to allocate it that way. I think it may be appropriate for us to suggest to the public and the fire community that they re-run those as a voter initiative so that they can focus on a 50% plus one and lock it in as a special tax and remove the risk. I don't think this will be where we go. But I would feel really bad if it did happen. And I think there's a way to prevent it.”
Supervisor Glenn McGourty asked County Counsel Christian Curtis what he thought.
“It's for the voters to decide,” replied Curtis. Meaning that the Board can grab as much of the Measure P money they want whenever they want it. If the public or the cash-strapped local fire services don’t like that, it’s up to the local fire services and the voters to “re-run” the entire signature gathering, promotion and ballot qualification exercise to stop the Board from going back on their promise and grabbing the money. Never mind that most people would consider “fire services” to be a core function of the County.
McGourty: “In terms of us initiating something like that?…”
Curtis: “I don't know that you would be able to initiate anything like that. That would have to be the voters…”
McGourty: “The voters.”
Curtis: “It's not something the board would be able to do today. It's not something staff would be able to spend resources on.”
* * *
BUDGET INFO GAPS: Still No Departmental Budget Reports.
by Mark Scaramella
Next Tuesday’s quarterly budget presentation from CEO Darcy Antle opens with: “Fiscal Year (FY) 2023-24’s budget is relying on over $7 million in one-time funding and is not a sustainable approach to any future budgeting for the County. The Executive Office continues to work with department heads and elected officials to seek ways to reduce waste, improve efficiency, and reduce costs.”
Yet again, no mention of ongoing assessment updates, no mention of adding untaxed parcels and properties to the tax rolls, nothing about capturing property improvement assessments, nothing about collecting delinquent taxes due and increasing revenue. This is typical of the Low Gap Mindset these days: insist that cuts must be made without mentioning major revenue shortfalls due to ongoing neglect — and one of the main reasons the Good Ship Mendo is drifting aimlessly toward some very rocky shoals .
In fact, nowhere in Ms. Antle’s entire collection of reports and presentations is tax collection, revenue enhancement, or assessment backlog and catch up mentioned.
Later in the Presentation: “Current Departmental Projections Estimate the County will be Approximately $1 million Over Budget in FY 2023-24, largely in Facilities and Public Safety Salaries.”
“Facilities”? What facilities? What costs? Nothing. Not a word.
Were public safety salaries mysteriously increased without board approval? Or are they referring to overtime costs? We’re not told. Nobody seems to care.
In the body of CEO Antle’s quarterly report there’s another “executive summary” which provides a little more info.
“The final carryforward/fund balance amount from FY 2022-23, to be used as one-time expenditures, is unknown at this time. … [Fiscal Year 2022-23 ended in June of 2023, going on five months ago now.] “The Executive Office Fiscal Team [sic] relies on departments to provide accurate quarterly budget information, and the Auditor-Controller’s Office for revenue estimates, month-end and year-end closings, which are the basis of developing the County’s budget. The Fiscal Team [sic] is aware of numerous factors that can affect this preliminary estimate of the year-end outcome, including unanticipated expenses, under-realized or over-realized revenues, vacancy factors, as well as other unforeseen circumstances. The Executive Office continues to provide budget trainings, with the goal to improve the estimation of future expenditures and revenues through increased awareness and knowledge of county fiscal staff. The County will continue to experience increases in operating costs, with the biggest impacts expected to be salary and benefit-related costs and infrastructure.”
Their “goal” is “training” and “awareness.” Not improving the financial picture. Pathetic.
Despite their belated acknowledgement that “The Executive Office Fiscal Team relies on departments to provide accurate quarterly budget information,” there’s nothing in any of the presentations about departmental budget status.
Your ordinary PTA Board meeting does a better job of managing its finances. Yet this is one of California’s 58 official Counties with hundreds of millions of dollars annually mismanaged.
PS. Despite CEO Antle’s statement last week that there’s only $10 million in General Fund reserves, their own latest reserves chart shows that there’s more than $20 million in General Fund reserves.
Or is this Ms. Cubbison’s fault too?
KANGAROO LOOKING FOR A COURT
by Jim Shields
Here’s the latest installment in the super-politically charged, three-ring legal circus that is the Chamise Cubbison affair.
At the Oct. 17 BOS meeting, the County’s ever-escalating fiscal dilemma was propelled even further into chaos when the Supes unanimously suspended, without pay or benefits, Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector Cubbison, who stands accused of allegedly misappropriating $68,106 in public funds.
This week, Cubbison, who was not given the right to be heard and respond to the allegation on Oct. 17, was belatedly offered the opportunity at the BOS meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Although ably and fiercely represented by her lawyer at Tuesday’s session, it left supervisors unmoved and Cubbison remains suspended pending the trial moving forward, assuming the twice postponed arraignment results in Cubbison actually going to trial, which is no guaranteed outcome at this juncture.
Following the conclusion of Cubbison’s “hearing” on Tuesday, social media was afire with comments from a mostly aroused and angry public supporting Cubbison.
Here’s one example:
“BOS item 4e involved reconsideration of the suspension without pay of Auditor Cubbison. It was an absolute shock to see a SF-based lawyer represent herself as BOS counsel and in effect assume [the Board of Supervisors] Chair role and dictating conditions for the dealing with this item. Cubbison stood next to her lawyer as he basically informed the Board that they violated statutory requirements for due process related to getting rid of elected officials. He made other relevant points as did several others from the audience. Sadly, the board just moved on to the next item without even discussion on reconsideration. That’s a shock given they were informed also by another lawyer that the actual code related to removing elected officials had superseded the old code drug out by the SF lawyer …” —Mike J
For the record, I’m the “another lawyer” referred to by Mike J.
I’m not an attorney, but when I was in the labor movement I was allowed to practice labor law, administrative law and code, and airline regulatory law at the federal level. Two of the primary restrictions placed on me were I could not hold myself out as an attorney at law, nor could I solicit clients. I had a 95% win record in arbitration cases, so I was somewhat competent acting as a non-bar attorney.
Anyway, I addressed the Supes at the Oct. 31st meeting and told them their integrity was at stake because they had allowed themselves to be pulled into a petty bureaucratic squabble between and among the DA and three different auditors: Meredith Ford, Lloyd Weer, and Ms Cubbison over the DA’s dubious demands for certain expense reimbursements and questions regarding his handling of certain asset-forfeiture funds. I said the record is undisputed that all three auditors were doing their jobs performing their sworn duties in taking their respective actions regarding the DA’s expenses and asset-forfeiture funds. The DA was clearly out of line.
By the way, I’m still waiting for somebody to explain why are we on the hook now for this outside, expensive San Francisco law firm’s representation and advice when we have a County Counsel’s Office entrenched with nine lawyers. I told the Supes their outside counsel cited an outdated provision, Government Code Sec. 27120, in justifying the Board suspending Cubbison from office on Oct. 17: “Whenever an action based upon official misconduct is commenced against the county treasurer, the board of supervisors may suspend him from office until the suit is determined. The board may appoint some person to fill the vacancy, who shall qualify and give such bond as the board determines.”
GC Sec. 27120 is an antiquated provision that appears to have been inadvertently carried forward when the State Legislature in 1943, acting upon a 1942 statewide initiative, “modernized” and updated the 1879 California Constitution. The State Legislature’s modernization sessions resulted in “An act to establish a Government Code, thereby consolidating and revising the law relating to the organization, operation, and maintenance of a system of State and local government, and repealing acts and parts of acts specified herein.” That old provision, Sec. 27120, reflected back on a county government structure and organization that no longer existed in 1943. Likewise, it designates only the treasurer position as being subject to suspension. I believe everyone is in agreement that Cubbison’s alleged wrongful acts were committed in her role as “acting auditor.”
A new Government Code was created in 1943, and one of its provisions, Section 1770, addresses the different ways in which an elected office becomes vacant, but I’ve included only the relevant event pertaining to the Cubbison affair :
“Division 4. Public Officers and Employees [1000 – 3599]; (Division 4 enacted by Stats. 1943, Ch. 134.)l Gov. Code Section 1770. An office becomes vacant on the happening of any of the following events before the expiration of the term:
(h) His or her conviction of a felony or of any offense involving a violation of his or her official duties. An officer shall be deemed to have been convicted under this subdivision when trial court judgment is entered. For purposes of this subdivision, ‘trial court judgment’ means a judgment by the trial court either sentencing the officer or otherwise upholding and implementing the plea, verdict, or finding.”
With the exception of the antiquated GC Sec. 27120, there is no provision addressing the authority of a Board of Supervisors to suspend an elected officer pending their adjudicated conviction.
It’s more than obvious that the clear intent of the state legislature back in 1943 was to prevent the very kind of rash rush to premature judgment that occurred 80 years later in Mendocino County when five supervisors peremptorily unseated a duly elected official who has yet to be even arraigned in court, let alone “convicted of a felony or of any offense involving a violation of his or her official duties.”
Your guess is as good as mine in attempting to discern why five supervisors are marching in lockstep to set up the taxpayers of this county to continue paying for what promises to be ongoing, significant legal expenses, which doesn’t include prospective damages if Cubbison sues if she is found not guilty as charged.
This is certainly one time when the Supervisors should have taken no action, made no decision, and chose to select the safest, least risky, most viable option available: Follow the damn law.
Unfortunately, as I’ve said before, this sorry and embarrassing spectacle is a long way from being over.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, email@example.com, 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)
EARLY THIS MORNING, before we could get Thursdays generous helping of pure truth to a thirsting world, we received this message: “[Investigating] We're currently looking into an issue affecting the connectivity to the DreamHost Web Panel and all services on our PDX1 datacenter. We are closely monitoring the situation and will be posting periodic updates as further information becomes available.”
WHICH translated to me as, “The mysterious and often malign forces who have us all in their merciless grasp have, for reasons I'm unable to decode, shut us down.”
BOB ABELES put it plain.: The AVA website is down, but it's not just you. Your hosting service, Dreamhost, had a power failure at their Portland datacenter that has taken down thousands of websites. No ETA on when they'll be back up.”
THE MYSTERY WONKS, or wanks, had us re-attached to cyber world by about 2pm. Two hours later we're still attached and confident — check that — prayerful we will remain attached.
LEMONS MARKET, PHILO, is getting hit hard by shoplifters. This morning, Matt Lemons, showed me a clip from the market's security camera that shows a van carelessly, or drunkenly, or stoned, or all three, battering up against the store's porch, then several young people spilling into the store to help themselves to the goods. A couple of the thieves have been identified. Matt and I agreed that we need a resident deputy. Bad. We were spoiled by having Deputy Squires for many years, followed by the just as intrepid, Craig Walker. Either Squires or Walker would have identified the thieves immediately, and the thieves would have already made restitution. And wouldn't do it in the first place because they knew the deputies would nail them pronto. Our resident deputies always knew who did what, but when Squires retired and Walker left for a cop job in the Bay Area, the Valley's petty crooks were unleashed. Sheriff Kendall is short of deputies, and suffers the ongoing problem of deputies leaving for much better paying jobs in other counties, even leaving the Sheriff's Department for better paying jobs in Ukiah (!). The present supervisors, being in a state of disarray of their own making, it's unlikely that pay for Mendo deputies will be improved until these supervisors are replaced by capable, conscientious people.
“ISRAEL must take all possible precautions to avoid harm to civilians,” the Secretary of State said. “It means food, medicine and water and other assistance must flow into Gaza and to the areas people need them. It means civilians must be able to get out of harm’s way. It means humanitarian pauses must be considered for these purposes.” Secretary of State Blinken of the Biden administration whose green light to the Israelis has created what amounts to an all-out attack on all the people of Gaza. Of all the repellent, shocking events of recent years this one takes the grand prize for crimes against humanity. Yes, yes, Hamas started it, but retaliation on a whole nation of people is a proportionate response?
MOTORCYCLE GANG CHILD KILLER DIES IN PRISON
Notice has been received from California state prison authorities that a motorcycle gang member has passed away while serving a life sentence in state prison for the gruesome murder of a young child.
Surviving family members of the victims were notified today of this outcome by Andrew Alvarado, the District Attorney's Chief of Investigations.
Charles Anthony "Chuck" Diaz, age 75, the vice-president of the Vallejo chapter of the Hells Angels in 1986 when a family of four was murdered just outside of Fort Bragg, was convicted by a Mendocino County jury in 2004 of murder in the first degree of Dallas Grondalski by means of a knife.
On October 5, 1986, the newly-relocated Grondalski family was murdered in their "new" Mendocino coast farmhouse because of the husband/father's past gang association with the Hells Angels.
The family consisted of Billy Grondalski, Patty Grondalski, 17-year-old Jerami Nolan Vandergriff, and 5-year-old Dallas Grondalski.
Billy, a former member of the Vallejo chapter, attempted to secretly move his family from the Bay Area to Fort Bragg to escape his past, hide from the gang, and start a new towing business in Mendocino County. Billy feared for his life and the lives of his family, a fear that morphed into a horrible reality once the gang found out where he was living.
Either before or after his murder, Billy's gang tattoo was sliced away from his left arm. One motive for the killings was that Billy was out of the gang in "bad standing" and the gang wanted his gang-related tattoo physically extracted. Such tattoos are considered Hells Angel property and those in bad standing are not allowed to have them on their body.
The other three Grondalski family members were murdered because they were eyewitnesses to Billy's execution.
While her parents and brother were shot to death, testimony received during trial proceedings was that Diaz was trying to decapitate the young Grondalski daughter with his knife when Diaz's co-defendant instead shot the child because Diaz was taking too long to complete the task.
The Grondalski residence was later torched the following day by returning club members who had been reading up on the forthcoming new DNA science and its possible use to solve crimes.
The fire was intentionally set to destroy any trace evidence and incriminating DNA that might have been left behind, evidence that might later help law enforcement to identity the murderers.
The dead little girl was found by responding firemen and investigators alone in a corner of a bedroom still clutching a Matchbox toy in her grasp.
These crimes were characterized in media coverage at the time as "the worst mass murder in Mendocino County history."
Diaz's murderous co-defendant, Gerald Michael "Butch" Lester, age 75, the former Vallejo chapter president, is still alive and continues to serve a state prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole at the California State Prison Solano.
The law enforcement agencies that worked what eventually turned into a lengthy "cold case" investigation were the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, the FBI, ATF, and DEA, the Vallejo Police Department, the Fort Smith (Arkansas) Police Department, the State Fire Marshal's Office, and the California Department of Justice crime laboratory.
Special note and mention is made of the years of hard work undertaken by MCSO Lieutenant Phil Pintane and MCSO Sgt. Roy Gourley. Their tenacious investigation work ultimately identified those responsible for the four murders, as well as others who were prosecuted for helping to hide evidence.
Mendocino County's current DA, David Eyster, was the prosecutor back in the day who worked long hours over weeks and months sifting through the often conflicting evidence to determine if there was sufficient evidence available to file formal charges.
If he determined there was, he was also tasked the responsibility to develop a plan for proving a case against both Lester and Diaz beyond a reasonable doubt. Eyster developed what became known as the prosecution's "roadmap" that allowed Diaz and Lester to be arrested and, in time, successfully convicted.
In a letter of commendation issued in June 2004 by then-Attorney General Bill Lockyer to Mr. Eyster, the following observations and comments were made:
"I am writing to express my appreciation and admiration for the enormous amount of work you did in your investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the Grondalski family murders.
"You truly were a trailblazer on the most difficult and complex criminal case I have ever seen. I have no doubt that without your efforts neither Gerald Lester nor Charles Diaz would have been convicted.
"Later prosecutors who worked on this case had the distinct advantage of simply following the path that you had established.
"I genuinely hope you recognize that it was your own brilliant legal work, courage and perseverance that ultimately led to the solving of these horrible crimes and to achieving some measure of justice for the community and for the surviving family members, friends and relatives."
(Mendocino County District Attorney)
BACKGROUND: May 11, 1995 story in The Signal (Santa Clarita, CA)
MENDO MENTAL HEALTH, THE ON-LINE FEEDBACK
 “Substance Use Disorder Treatment” Does anybody with a rational mind believe this will work? Guess what, that isn’t the intention. Oh they’ll pretend, wring their hands and blubber about how much they care. The intention is to move your money into their hands. This nonsense will solve nothing, and they know it.
* * *
 Mendocino County government has a huge comprehension problem. They do whatever they want. Lie to the residents of the county about the use of their tax monies and funding. Appreciate all of the lost zombies wandering the streets in Ukiah? Thank our BOS and Mendo GOOBERMENT OFFICIALS. BOS. Something to be quite proud of! Nice work. So much dispute and dysfunction disclosed recently. This rob Peter to pay Paul action is not a new tactic or action; au contrare, but rather a big FUCK YOU EVERYONE from the BOS. Sickening.
* * *
 I don’t vote in Mendocino Co, but I do own property there. I know Tom Allman’s family and I have known him most of his life. I know how hard he has worked for mental health care and how hard that he worked to get measure B passed. I would seriously consider whatever he suggests.
* * *
 They won’t get much of a jail, for $7 million, but nobody needs mental health services more than the North Coast…
In Mendo, I would always be wary of “borrow from Peter to pay Paul” schemes, and they should try for grants, like Lake County, and then just divert the funds to playground equipment…
Lake County excels at hiring poor candidates, who then take their experience and run off to an area where they can make more money…
Mendo County Supervisors sound like the usual gang of idiots and persons with extreme conflicts-of-interests, just like in Humboldt…
Government is mostly a process of serving friends, families and big donors as well as special interests…
Everyone is building jails, and soon, they will be full…
* * *
 I don’t know how the jails will all be full? Newsom has not rescinded his state of emergency no bail let out from covid. So pretty much you do a crime you sign to promise to appear then you get let out, oh and then don’t appear. He has shut down San Quentin to make it a “rehabilitation “ center and is pushing to close down all bail bonds places. That has been on the ballot for the last couple years. So I don’t think jails will fill up fast. Just saying.
* * *
 I only know Tom to say Hi, but I have watched him almost beg for mental health care, and I agree with you. John Pinches seemed to care about finical responsibility, it would be nice to hear what he has to say also.
ORTHOPEDIC SPINE SURGEON Dr. Yoshi Katsuura Remains Available to Local Patients
Ukiah, CA - MCHC Health Centers has maintained local access to specialty care through a partnership with board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Yoshi Katsuura.
Dr. Katsuura used to live and practice medicine in Willits, but after a few years employed by a physician group, Dr. Katsuura decided to buck the trend in medicine and open a solo practice, giving him the freedom to improve access and provide tailored care to his patients.
This led to his current situation: spending two days a week in Mendocino County seeing patients at MCHC and three days a week in the Bay Area, where he grew up and where his family resides.
“I wanted to split my time between both places because this [Mendocino County] community is important to me,” he said.
Although Dr. Katsuura specializes in spine deformity and reconstruction, he treats a wide range of spinal conditions from the base of the skull to the pelvis.
He graduated with honors from medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and completed an orthopedic surgery residency at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine at Chattanooga.
He later completed two fellowships, one in spine surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery and Weill Cornell Medical College and another in adult joint replacement under the tutelage of Dr. William Bowen at Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits.
In his current work with MCHC, Dr. Katsuura cares for patients as young as age 10. MCHC CEO Rod Grainger said he is grateful for Dr. Katsuura’s dedication to Mendocino County patients, because being able to provide orthopedic consultations locally expands the type and quality of care MCHC can offer.
Although back pain is often intense and can limit mobility, Dr. Katsuura says it rarely requires surgery.
“It’s understandable that people get worried because the symptoms can seem catastrophic; however, in almost all cases, TLC and proper care can alleviate the problem,” he said. “If symptoms persist for more than 4 to 6 weeks, that’s when people should be evaluated, especially if the pain is accompanied by neurologic symptoms such as weakness.”
Dr. Katsuura warns against self-diagnosis using the internet, and has published a book to counter some of the misinformation available online titled, The Spine Encyclopedia, Everything You Wanted to Know About Back and Neck Pain but were Afraid to Ask.
“Some people think of orthopedics as simply putting broken bones back together, but orthopedics is a complicated field with a lot of nuance, even for those of us who do it all the time,” he said. “You cannot figure it out on your own. You need a guide.”
Dr. Katsuura said he enjoys the challenge of orthopedics, as well as the hands-on nature of the specialty. He notes it allows him to play to his strengths—attention to detail, a lot of focus and a certain amount of finesse, especially when dealing with the delicate structures of the spine.
In describing his philosophy toward medicine, he said he is precise, thorough, and compassionate.
“I am very straightforward with patients. I share my professional opinion and allow them to decide how to proceed,” he said.
To become one of Dr. Katsuura’s patients, people must be referred by their primary care provider.
When he is not busy taking care of patients, he enjoys spending time with his wife and their two boys, ages 2 and 5. He also enjoys exercise and artistic endeavors such as graphic design and illustration—he did all the illustrations for his book, for example.
Dr. Katsuura is pleased to be affiliated with MCHC, which uses a team-based approach to provide dental, medical, and behavioral health care to people in Ukiah, Willits, and Lakeport.
(MCHC Health Centers includes Hillside Health Center and Dora Street Health Center in Ukiah, Little Lake Health Center in Willits, and Lakeview Health Center in Lakeport. It is a community-based and patient-directed organization that provides comprehensive primary healthcare services as well as supportive services such as education and translation that promote access to healthcare.)
THE NEW BOONVILLE HOTEL
As we move into the cooler months... we hope you'll come join us for some beautiful new drinks from our bar on nights the restaurant is open.
Along with Friday and Saturday evenings 4-6, we are offering a simple bar menu, perfect for a light meal.
You should all know about our Sunday Evening Dinner Series:
Five courses highlighting the talents of our own Luis Peña. Sunday, November 26th
Minus Tide Winemaker Dinner
Join us for 4 courses paired with some of our favorite local winemakers: Brad and Miriam Sunday, December 3rd we're serving our prix fixe menu Fridays thru Mondays during the cooler months.
Perry posts the menu online Wednesday afternoons for the upcoming weekends.
Save your table
Little bits of joy for the holidays
Thursday, December 7th @ 5:30 we're hosting our annual tree lighting party to raise funds for the Anderson Valley Food Bank's Holiday Season.
Gather around the fire with cups of soup, cheese biscuits, and cookies while The Real Sarah's sing their sweet holiday carols. And a bit more good cheer ~
Boonville Hotel gift certificates are available online . we are sweetening the gift giving by adding 10% more value to each certificate purchased between Thanksgiving day and the first day of 2024. Certificates can be used for future room stays, the restaurant, offspring, Paysanne, gifts, wine retail — anything the boonville hotel has to offer.
We've been here 35 years, and are planning for another 35 ~
thank you for being part of it all. Hope to see you soon!
The Boonville Hotel and Restaurant
“It's about people, food, drink, and a well made bed”
The Boonville Hotel and Restaurant
14050 California Highway 128
PO Box 326, Boonville, CA 95415
MENDOCINO’S GREAT REGISTER OF 1894
by Katy Tahja
Want to be a voter in this county in 1894? A potential voter provided the following information: name, age, height, color of complexion, hair color, eye color, visible marks or scars on your body, occupation, country of nativity, place or residence and naturalization information if not born in the USA. Correctly named the “Great Register” the Kelley House Museum has a reproduced copy spiral bound across the top and this register is actually two feet wide so all a voters information could be listed one one line.
As an interesting aside, and the kind of thing that leaves a historian wondering — in every line in this register is the same handwriting. That means only one person ever made entires, OR, sometime in the past one person doing research meticulously hand lettered a reproduced copy. Bless whomever for legible script. Any way you look at it this is an interesting peak into county history.
First, as an example, may I introduce you to Charles Fletcher, who I chose literally because he was the biggest man listed. At age 65 and from Navarro the man was 6 feet 5.5 inches tall with a light complexion, gray hair and eyes, his occupation was ships carpenter and he was born at sea spa had no country of nativity. His home is now a part of state park property at the mouth of the Navarro River.
Next, since I am a resident of Comptche, I looked at who registered to vote from here. I found 47 men, aged 21 to 63, and half were farmers ranchers or and 13 said they were woodsmen. The biggest ethnic group was nine men born in Denmark.
Going down the list of “visible scars” on county wide voters it went from bad to worse. Some scars were minor, “left thumb amputated at first joint” or “small pox marks on face” to “left arm six inches shorter than right arm” to “partial paralysis left side”. Worse was “end of nose chopped off” or “left eye out-uses stone eye.” One man had a gunshot wound visible on his left wrist, another had a disfigured right ear.
It was the occupations that had me fascinated. I kid you not, there were over 100 different occupations listed. Along with job titles everyone would expect — farmer, rancher, woodsman, merchant — here are more unusual occupations. There were railroad conductors, hostlers, brick masons, musicians, wood carvers, cigar makers (Ukiah grew tobacco during and after the Civil War), capitalists, wholesale liquor distributors, hop pickers, wagon makers, plasterers, orchardists, band saw filers, sewing machine salesmen and shingle makers.
Also employed were expressman, furniture dealers, mail contractors, raftsmen, umbrella makers, stone cutters, soda works managers, insurance agents, road overseers, wall paper hangers, ministers of the gospel, a superintendent of the water works, justice of the peace and, best of all, a lighthouse keeper.
Looking at just 1894’s registers I realize all registers before and after show equally interesting stories if the reader has time to delve into them. At the Kelley House Museum in Mendocino we just have one year and it’s out on public display. I’d guess the voter registrar in Ukiah has stacks of them but I don’t know if theirs are available for the public to inspect.
THE JOURNEY BACK 170 YEARS BEGINS WITH A FEW STEPS
by Sarah Nathe
As a kid watching “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” I was captivated by Mr. Peabody and his Wayback Machine. Sherman set the controls to a year and place in history. He and Mr. Peabody walked into the machine and closed the door, and they were magically transported back in time. I knew this was cartoon make-believe, but I wanted my own machine. The closest I’ve ever actually come to time travel was on one of the Kelley House historic district walking tours: the guide sets the scene back to the last half of the 1800s, leads the group out the front door, and—shazam!—everyone is carried back to Mendocino’s heydays.
A small cadre of volunteers leads the tours; they have been trained in the basics of Mendocino’s history, but each has delved further into various aspects of the town’s past and its personalities.
Their love of research yields information they share with visitors and locals alike. The late Marty Simpson, Kelley House board member and history nut, originated the walking tours in 1998. Dressed as E.C. Williams, one of the early owners of the local mill, he led his groups on many merry rambles through the village. Marty also started the late-October visits to local cemeteries, during which some preeminent citizens rose from the grave to tell their stories.
Today, board member Jane Tillis leads many of the tours, with four deputies to cover the days she needs a rest. Jane has been on the walking tour circuit since 2011, so she knows her way around. One of her favorite chapters in the Mendocino saga involves the critical role artist Emmy Lou Packard played in the 1974 creation of the Headlands State Park. We’re all familiar with Emmy Lou’s beautiful wood and lino block prints, but few know about her letter-writing campaign to Governor Ronald Reagan to save the headlands from development.
On Tuesdays, Juliet Way dons one of her Victorian outfits, complete with a big hat, and flounces around town. She claims it’s the most fun she’s ever had as a volunteer, but she does admit that “It’s the only time I talk and people listen.” She particularly enjoys taking people into the Ford House to show them the wonderful wooden model of the 1890 village made by Len Peterson in 1990.
Most Thursdays, Kelley House Director Anne Semans leads the tours. She loves stories about all the colorful characters who called the town home: the artist who carved the “Father Time and the Maiden” statue at night down on the beach after working all day in the mill; the Mendocino Outlaws, four murderous men who, for a brief period from 1879 to 1880, had people all over California looking for updates on the hunt for them; or the organizers of the 1976 Mendocino Whale Wars to protest the ongoing whale hunting.
If walking around Mendocino for a couple of hours is difficult, Katy Tahja is happy to take visitors on an armchair tour, which can be scheduled with the Kelley House office. In the comfort of the front parlor, Katy tells the origin story and chronicles the efforts of the Azorean Portuguese, Finnish, and Chinese immigrants, among others, to make the town what it was. A dedicated researcher and writer, Katy also mentions the extensive “family files” in the Kelley House archives, with facts about nearly every family that lived here.
One question is asked of the tour leaders more than any other: “What’s with all the water towers?” Visitors are amazed to learn that there is no water system, only individual wells. Though the pumps run on electricity today, in the years before power came to town, water was pumped by windmills into the tanks on the over 100 water towers. Two young women from Los Angeles were horrified to hear that our water comes from the ground; “Isn’t it dirty?” one of them asked. (We won’t even mention where their water comes from.)
The universal fascination with the water towers led to creating a “Water Tower” tour that can be scheduled with the office. In addition, we offer other specialty jaunts: a “Murder, She Wrote” tour; “Pioneer Cemetery,” which is more factual than scary; and the “Haunted Mendocino” tour led by board member Rob Hawthorn, who is on a first-name basis with some spectres.
Walking tours of the historic district depart from the Kelley House regularly; for a tour schedule, visit www.kelleyhousemuseum.org. To schedule a specialty tour, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Kelley House Museum is open from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM Thursday through Monday. If you have a question for the curator, reach out to email@example.com to make an appointment.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Thursday, November 2, 2023
BRETT ADAME, Ukiah. County parole violation.
MARIA CALDERON-NUNO, Ukiah. Child endangerment, evasion, no license.
ALEGANDRO CIBRIAN-ROMERO, Ukiah. Controlled substance, probation revocation.
JOSE COLLI-BLANCO, Fort Bragg. Battery with serious injury.
KELLY COOK, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.
MATTHEW FAUST, Ukiah. Kidnapping, domestic abuse, false imprisonment.
LAWRENCE JOAQUIN, Covelo. Controlled substance, parole violation.
DANIEL KISLIUK, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation, resisting.
ARNOLD KRUGER, Ukiah. Protective order violation.
ADAM LAFLIN, Willits. Shoplifting, concealed dirk-dagger, failure to appear.
JESUS MONTES DEOCA, Ukiah. Failure to appear, offenses while on bail.
KALEE POZZI, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent, leaving scene of accident with property damage, suspended license for reckless driving.
RYAN TERZIAN, Petaluma/Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, suspended license for DUI, controlled substance, marijuana for sale, paraphernalia.
by Louise Mariana, R.N. (ret.)
My work site was three flights below ground level, taking me into the bowels of the earth. There, beginning at 6 a.m., I began my shift in the surgical suites at the world's largest Naval hospital, Balboa, in San Diego, California. I had joined the Navy Nurse Corps while a senior in college and after graduation I accepted a two year tour of duty at Balboa. In those 12 subterranean operating rooms I helped repair every human insufficiency and imperfection from brains to bowels.
Most of our patients were military recruits or the horribly maimed veterans from Vietnam. This was a teaching hospital, 2,000 beds, filled with “learning experiences” for surgical and anesthesia residents. It was 1967 when many treatments and techniques were primitive and crude compared to today's advanced refinements.
I recall one patient in the holding area awaiting his turn under the knife. He had a sudden cardiac arrest. The chief of anesthesia, Dr. John, jumped on the gurney, stradling the patient's torso while plunging a scalpel into his chest. Dr. John used all his fingers to spread the ribs, and then to my horror-struck disgust, he grabbed the heart and began squeezing it. Blood was spurting far and wide. Dr. John was loving it! He had a flair for the dramatic as I had been warned by senior nurses.
His performance confirmed that reputation. The patient died, a victim of Dr. John's theatrics. Or failed heroics, depending on your point of view.
Dr. John taught his students methods of achieving ansethesia without putting the patient under general anesthesia. Regional blocks could be performed anywhere on the body, rendering small sections insensitive to pain. I witnessed stomach surgery and breast removals accomplished without any anesthetic agents, only narcotics, oxygen and paralyzing drugs. These cases were done in this manner simply to show the residents that they could be.
Some surgical candidates are in such poor shape that anesthesia could finish them off. This was a teaching hospital, after all.
Dr. John was a tall and lanky man with a facial complexion that was gaunt and scabby. His feet were 16 inches long. He dabbed his shoes with so many layers of white polish that they were always flaking, making him look as though he was walking through snow.
Every week we received dozens of Navy and Marine recruits who amazingly all had pilonidal cysts. This type of cyst is an abnormal sac filled with hairs in the deep layers of skin, most often occurring at the end of our tailbones (the coccyx), perhaps a remnant of the times when pre-humans did have tails. I found it strange that so many recruits had pilonidial cysts. But then I realized that these were phantom cysts, an excuse for Dr. John to teach saddle blocks which numbed the buttocks, perineum and inner thighs.
The recruits had no idea they were having unnecessary surgery or that they were “teaching tools.”
Before they were positioned for the saddle blocks, Dr. John examined each patient's abdomen paying particular attention to the umbilicus. His eyes lit up with glee when he found one to his liking. Using his index finger and nail, he scraped out the belly button lint, rolled it into a taut little ball, and deposited it into a quart sized mayonnaise jar which was half full of this.
DAVID MITCHELL, WEEKLY EDITOR WHO EXPOSED A CORRUPT CULT, DIES AT 79
David Mitchell, a muckraker whose tiny California newspaper challenged the violent drug rehabilitation cult Synanon and, as a result, became one of only a handful of weeklies to win a Pulitzer Prize, died Oct. 25 at his home in Point Reyes Station, California, in Marin County. He was 79.
His wife, Lynn Axelrod Mitchell, said the cause was complications of Parkinson's disease.
A gangly, grizzled former literature teacher, Mitchell also figured in a retaliatory libel suit by Synanon, the results of which advanced the rights of investigative reporters. In 1984, the California Supreme Court ruled that in certain cases they could keep the names of confidential sources secret without forfeiting their defense in libel and other civil cases.
Mitchell's newspaper, the Point Reyes Light, was struggling financially, and the strain of keeping it afloat ultimately cost Mitchell his second marriage; his wife at the time, Catherine Mitchell, was co-publisher with him.
But the seven news articles and 13 editorials that earned the Light the Pulitzer gold medal for public service in 1979, for its "pioneering exposé of this quasi-religious corporate cult," demonstrated the potency of local journalism and drew attention to the paper for its role in a classic David-and-Goliath story.
"It is one of those romantic Ben Hecht, Ring Lardner or Horatio Alger stories," columnist James Reston wrote in The New York Times in 1979. "Young struggling couple out of Stanford University, David and Catherine Mitchell, buy little rag of a paper, defy the powerful interests in the community, and win the big prize."
It was said to have been only the fourth time since the prizes were first presented in 1917 that a weekly or one of its reporters won a Pulitzer. David Mitchell kept the medal in his office safe.
In 1980, when Mitchell published the book "The Light on Synanon: How a Country Weekly Exposed a Corporate Cult -- and Won the Pulitzer Prize," a reviewer for The Christian Science Monitor wrote that it "should be required reading for anyone who thinks a small newspaper can only serve a small purpose or that all the important news is in Washington or abroad."
"By digging in their own backyard, the Mitchells set an example for the entire world," The Monitor said.
The book inspired a CBS-TV movie, "Attack on Fear" (1984), which starred Paul Michael Glaser and Linda Kelsey as the Mitchells.
The Light, a 16-page tabloid, had a circulation of about 3,000 and, in its best year, made a profit of about $17,000. It shared space with a shoe repair shop on block-long Main Street in Point Reyes Station, a peninsular town of some 400 people situated about 40 miles north of San Francisco and perched precariously on the San Andreas Fault.
In 1973, a grand jury raised questions about fiscal improprieties and child abuse by Synanon, which had once been widely respected but had devolved into an authoritarian cult that declared itself a religion -- the Church of Synanon -- to become tax exempt. Later that year, reporters in San Francisco found that the Synanon drug rehabilitation center in Marshall, California, less than 10 miles from Point Reyes Station, was hoarding what turned out to be $60,000 worth of weapons.
Mitchell began his own investigation that same year, joined by his wife; their one reporter, John Maddeen; and Richard J. Ofshe, a sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who had studied Synanon. To them, it was a story in their own backyard that they couldn't ignore.
"It was a local story," Mitchell told The Associated Press in 1979. "If it hadn't been, we wouldn't have written about it. We don't even cover countywide news. If San Rafael, the county seat, disappeared in a tidal wave, the only mention would be if someone from West Marin happened to be over there shopping and drowned."
The Mitchells wrote articles and editorials reporting on violence, terrorism and financial improprieties at Synanon. There were accounts that its founder, Charles Dederich, had demanded that men enrolled in the program undergo vasectomies and that pregnant women have abortions, and that hundreds of married couples switch partners.
In 1980, Dederich pleaded no contest to charges that he and two members of Synanon's security force had conspired to commit murder by placing a rattlesnake in the mailbox of a lawyer who had sued the organization. Synanon disbanded in 1991.
Mitchell edited and published the Light for 27 years, from 1975 to 1981 and again from 1984 to 2005, when he retired. He then began writing a blog, "Sparsely Sage and Timely," which he continued until this June.
While he became famous for his newspaper's exposé of Synanon, he expressed even greater satisfaction in a series of articles he oversaw for two decades that sought to place the latest influx of newcomers to Marin County in the historical perspective of the waves of foreigners who had settled there since 1850.
"Probably the most important thing we've done, that I would take the most pride in, is helping the Mexican immigrants here become part of the mainstream," he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005.
David Vokes Mitchell was born Nov. 23, 1943, in San Francisco to Edith (Vokes) Mitchell, a Canadian immigrant who sold advertising for The Christian Science Monitor, and Herbert Houston Mitchell, who was vice president of a printing company.
The family moved to Berkeley when David was 3. He earned a bachelor's degree in English from Stanford University in 1965 and a master's in communications there in 1967.
After considering a career as an artist, he recalled on his blog, "To my parents' surprise, as much as my own, I ultimately left Stanford as a budding journalist."
He taught at Marvel Academy in Rye, New York, and later taught speech and literature at Leesburg High School in Leesburg, Florida, where he joined a drive to register Black voters. He went on to teach English literature and journalism at Upper Iowa University in Fayette and later to work as a reporter for newspapers in Iowa and California.
In 1975, he and Catherine Mitchell sold their house and invested about $50,000 in the Light, a community newspaper where one might find a photo of smiling children displaying their prizewinning pumpkins or a story about a firefighter retrieving a cow from a tree (don't ask).
He introduced a comic strip about an organic dairy cow with a craving for junk food, a sex-and-romance column by a 78-year-old local woman, and a Spanish-language column by a 13-year-old girl.
Realizing that he was a better journalist than businessman, Mitchell sold the paper, for the first time, in 1981, when he was 37. That same year, he and his wife, who was Catherine Casto when they married, divorced, both of them weary from the pressure of keeping the Light more or less solvent as co-publishers.
Mitchell's marriages to Linda Foor, Cynthia Clark and Ana Carolina Monterroso also ended in divorce.
In addition to his wife, Lynn, whom he married in 2018, he is survived by three stepdaughters from a previous marriage, Anika Zappa-Pinelo, Kristeli Zappa Monterroso and Shaili Zappa Monterroso; and two step-grandchildren.
After he left the Light the first time, Mitchell became a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, covering San Francisco and Central America. He reacquired the weekly in 1983, when it faced default. In 1986, Synanon dropped a libel and defamation suit against the Light and agreed to pay the Mitchells $100,000, which he invested in computers and other office equipment.
In 2005, he again sold the Light, this time to Robert I. Plotkin, a former California prosecutor, for $100,000. In his farewell column, Mitchell wrote that in his nearly three decades as publisher the paper won 109 national, regional and state journalism awards.
In the same column, he said that his goal as an editor had always been to "make sure the 'little guy' isn't crushed by the powers that be."
His staff didn't need reminding, and neither did he. A sign in the Light's office proclaimed, "It's a newspaper's duty to print the news and raise hell."
‘THE TIDE IS TURNING’: CALIF. CANNABIS FARMERS ARE FEELING OPTIMISTIC
by Lester Black
There’s something unusual in the air at Northern California’s cannabis farms: optimism.
For years, California’s legal pot farms have been devastated by the one-two punch of crashing wholesale prices and extremely expensive regulatory requirements. That’s caused hundreds of farms to go out of business, but this year’s fall harvest has brought a new sense of hopefulness.
Farms in Northern California’s Emerald Triangle, which was once home to a thriving cannabis farming economy, have sold out of pot this fall after years of struggling to sell their weed. The wholesale price of cannabis, which largely determines if farms can live or die, appears to have stabilized in California. And small farms are finding new, creative ways to stay in business.
“I feel the tide is turning in our favor at long last,” said Judi Nelson, the owner of Sol Spirit Farm in Trinity County. Nelson told SFGATE that for the first time since 2019, she recently completely sold out of her inventory.
To be clear, pot farmers aren’t expecting to go back to the booming days of a decade ago, when California’s medical marijuana market allowed farmers to easily turn a profit growing pot on even the smallest homesteads. The Emerald Triangle, a three-county region that includes Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties, is still a shadow of its former self.
But the pot farmers who remain say there are real signs the cannabis growing economy is rebounding for the first time in years.
Johnny Casali, the owner of Huckleberry Hill Farms in Humboldt County, said he’s already sold 90% of the crop he harvested last month. He grows what are known as “regenerative” cannabis crops, a signature of Northern California that involves the plants being grown outdoors as opposed to inside under artificial lights. He thinks that retailers and shoppers are finally seeking out this kind of cannabis after years of it being rejected by legal weed stores, giving him hope that his farm can survive.
“People are starting to resonate with regenerative farming, growing cannabis organically, and resonating with small farmers and our stories,” Casali told SFGate.
Locals are also seeing a slow return of farmworkers to the region, according to Kristen Stanek-Klawitter, the director of operations for Humboldt Canna Co. in Willow Creek. After legalization in 2017, many folks cleared out of the region as the cannabis business declined, she said.
“It’s crazy how much quieter our mountain road has gotten over the years, but this year we’ve seen more traffic (which means more workers on farms) on the hill than we have since 2017, which I’m taking as a good sign,” Stanek-Klawitter wrote to SFGate in an email.
There are still fewer pot farms across the Emerald Triangle than there were five years ago, but the farmers who have stuck around are increasingly finding creative ways to keep their businesses open, according to Daniel Stein, who owns Briceland Forest Farm with his wife in the small community of Briceland.
To sustain their pot farm, Stein and his family formed a cooperative company called Farm Cut with five other Northern California farms to share the costs of packaging and distribution. His farm also grows and sells produce and runs a weekly farmers market.
“It’s muted conditions from where it once was, for sure, but the economy is settling out hopefully,” Stein told SFGate. “It has narrowed the community, but the people who are here want to be here, and there’s a real beauty in that.”
Growing a diverse set of crops has long been a foundational principle for Northern California’s cannabis farms, which have their roots in hippie homesteads that grew all of their own food. Pot farms are increasingly finding that this plant diversification can be one way to survive the cutthroat legal cannabis economy.
Ruby Rose, who owns the Whitethorn Valley cannabis farm in Humboldt County with her husband, said she has started a commercial flower business to help keep the family’s farm afloat after cannabis prices dropped. She said the flower business is doing well, making her hopeful that they can continue to raise their two kids on their homestead.
“We’re optimistic, but we’re also all in. This is not a business for us. This is our lifestyle,” Rose told SFGate. “It’s really important that we make it work because this is where we want to live for the rest of our life.”
I read with interest a recent letter in the Press Democrat by Richard C. Brand regarding the SMART train and freight. A week rarely goes by that I don’t hear of an accident between a big rig and a car on a freeway. The trucks are too large, and there is a shortage of skilled drivers. It would benefit us all if freight were diverted from trucks to rails. It would mean fewer snarls on freeways, lower prices for shippers and fewer expensive repairs to highways. Yes, let’s see SMART commuter and freight service to Ukiah, along with the Great Redwood Trail.
DAN WALTERS, CALMATTERS: “A year after his budget surplus boasting, Newsom presented a 2023-24 budget that dealt with a projected $31.5 billion deficit. Since its passage in June, revenues have continued to fall below estimates, which means a continuing gap between income and outgo. Budget mavens in the governor’s Department of Finance and the Legislature are now anxiously awaiting revenue totals from this year’s much-delayed income tax filings to see whether the deficit will continue to grow. Personal and corporate income taxes account for more than 75% of the state’s general fund revenues. … The cascade of money from Washington D.C. played a major role in generating the brief surge in income and income taxes that was mistakenly extrapolated into a longer-term expansion. It also, incidentally, was a significant factor in the living cost inflation that followed.”
CALIFORNIA’S MEGA-LANDOWNERS AND WHAT THEY CONTROL
by Christian Leonard & Emma Stiefel
Who are California’s biggest landowners?
According to a Chronicle analysis relying on 13.2 million property records obtained from property data company Regrid, the state’s seven largest owners of private land share something in common: All are in the forestry or agriculture industries, ranging from long-standing logging companies to a nut tycoon.
Regrid’s property numbers, which the company calculates based on county parcel data, are from 2022, meaning they don’t reflect recent acquisitions or sales some of the businesses below have made. They’re also conservative estimates, and while the Chronicle attempted to group companies with their affiliates and subsidiaries where possible, parcels of less than 1,000 acres were not included in that grouping.
Below are descriptions of each of these mega-landowners and maps of what they control. You can learn more about who owns any property in California by exploring our map of all 13.2 million properties here.
#1: Sierra Pacific Industries
Total acres in 2022: 1.74 million
Sierra Pacific Industries isn’t just the largest private landowner in California, with about 1.74 million acres in the state as of 2022, per Regrid’s data. It’s the largest in the nation, overseeing more than 2.4 million acres of timberland in California, Oregon and Washington.
As a lumber producer, Sierra Pacific plants, manages and cuts down trees in its forests, which within California include land near Lake Shasta, Lake Tahoe and Sonora.
The company was founded in 1949 by the Emmerson family, which continues to run the business. Forbes estimates founder Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson and his family are worth $5 billion.
Though Sierra Pacific has partnered with conservation organizations like the Trust for Public Land, it has faced criticism from environmentalists for some of its logging practices, such as clear-cutting portions of its land. Sierra Pacific has maintained that it cuts a “tiny” share of existing trees, and that it plants more than it harvests.
In 2007, the company paid nearly $13 million in a settlement with California and Placer County air quality agencies over allegations that Sierra Pacific’s employees falsified pollution reports. Sierra Pacific said employees committed the violations without their managers’ knowledge, and that it reported the issues as soon as it learned of them.
#2: Mendocino Redwood Co./Humboldt Redwood Co.
Total acres in 2022: 460,000
The San Francisco family that owns the Oakland Athletics and the Gap Inc. clothing retailers is also the majority owner of a big chunk of California’s forests.
Through its investment firm Sansome Partners, the Fisher family owns a majority of Mendocino Redwood Co. and Humboldt Redwood Co., which combined own at least 460,000 acres of timberland in Mendocino, Humboldt and Sonoma counties.
While the Mendocino company was founded by the Fishers in 1998, its Humboldt sibling is actually the remnant of controversial Pacific Lumber Co., which Sansome Partners took control of after it went bankrupt in 2008.
Both Mendocino Redwood and Humboldt Redwood have drawn criticism from some environmentalists for cutting down trees. Some have also expressed concern that the company’s use of herbicides could increase fire risk and endanger workers, a charge the businesses said was false. Like other logging companies, Mendocino and Humboldt have insisted they harvest only a small percentage of their trees every year.
#3: Green Diamond Resource Co.
Total acres in 2022: 360,000
Though the Green Diamond Resource Co. wasn’t formed in California — it has its origins in a Washington-based logging business founded in 1890 — it now owns large swaths of the state’s forests in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Formally known as Simpson Resource Co., Green Diamond has at least 360,000 acres of land in California and manages more than 2 million acres across nine states.
The Reed family has run the timber company for five generations. Like most forestry companies, Green Diamond Resource Co. farms its trees for wood, which manufacturers can turn into furniture and building materials, and wood chips, which are used to make paper.
Green Diamond hasn’t drawn as many headlines as some of the other companies on this list. But some environmentalists in Humboldt County have criticized Green Diamond for cutting down trees, and protesters have occupied trees near the Strawberry Rock Redwood Trail in Trinidad to stop them from being cut down. The company says it harvests less than 2% of its land annually and replaces the trees it brings down.
#4: New Forests
Total acres in 2022: 336,000
Among the largest forestry companies in California, New Forests is unique for a couple of reasons. First, it’s relatively young, having been founded in 2005. And second, it’s based in Australia rather than the United States — though it does have a San Francisco office.
New Forests has purchased much of its at least 336,000 acres of land in California from existing lumber companies in recent years, with holdings including forests near Mount Shasta and the Oregon border.
Owned principally by two large Japanese companies, New Forests bills itself largely as an investment firm. It farms forests around the world for timber and, in California, carbon credits. The practice allows companies to earn credits by managing forests in a way that causes them to absorb more carbon dioxide. The credits can then be sold to businesses that want to release more carbon than is normally allowed.
A 2021 ProPublica and MIT Technology Review investigation found that a significant portion of carbon credits generated through New Forests projects didn’t represent actual carbon reductions. The company, which says it has a third party verify its carbon offsets are legitimate, insisted that its forest management practices have helped its clients remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
#5: Tejon Ranch Co.
Total acres in 2022: 260,000
About an hour and a half drive from Los Angeles, Tejon Ranch is the largest single piece of privately-owned land in California. The site’s 260,000 acres include farm land, a shopping center and a natural gas power plant. But most of the property remains wildland, where cattle herds graze and hunters shoot elk.
Recently, Tejon Ranch Co., which is publicly traded, has been trying to substantially increase the amount of commercial development on the land, with one project proposing more than 19,300 homes and 10 million square feet of commercial and industrial space.
Environmental groups have opposed the project, saying it would destroy habitats for the critically endangered California condor. And in March, after years of litigation, a Las Angeles County judge said the company needed to redo its environmental analysis before it could move forward with the proposal.
Tejon Ranch Co. has said it is committed to seeing the project through, and that the proposed community would implement environmentally friendly policies such as eliminating natural gas for homes and installing electric-vehicle chargers.
#6: J.G. Boswell Co.
Total acres in 2022: 206,000
At one point the biggest cotton producer in the country, J.G. Boswell Co.’s 206,000-acre farm in the San Joaquin Valley also grows tomatoes, almonds and pistachios.
The Pasadena-based company has drawn more attention for its power over water. A 2005 book by two L.A. Times journalists said the company used its political weight to turn Tulare Lake into fertile farmland. And when the lake refilled and flooded this year, a few other farmers said Boswell was diverting the natural flow of the floodwaters from its land to theirs, destroying their crops.
Boswell Co. has insisted that its building of canals and levees is a reasonable measure taken to protect its business interests, and that the redirected floodwaters were due to infrastructure projects and other landscape changes. A Kings County official also contested the claim that the company, founded in 1925, had drained Tulare Lake.
Boswell and its CEO employ many of the families in Kings County and have donated large sums of money to the city of Corcoran, where the farms are based, to help build its high school football stadium. But recently some community members have expressed concern that the company’s extraction of groundwater is contributing to a growing sinkhole under the city. Others argue that the many water users in the area, not just Boswell, are to blame. Boswell has not responded to the Chronicle’s’ requests for comment on the allegation.
#7: The Wonderful Co.
Total acres in 2022: 172,000
The empire of Stewart and Lynda Resnick, described in 2018 as the richest farmers in the United States, has its castle in California, where it owns about 172,000 acres. The couple’s holding company, Wonderful Co., produces everything from Halos mandarin oranges to POM Wonderful pomegranate juice to Fiji Water.
The company, largely based in the Central Valley, also owns Sonoma County winery Landmark Wines and Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds.
Wonderful Co.’s status as the largest agricultural company in the world, according to Forbes, has made the Resnicks worth a combined $8 billion as of 2022. It also requires a huge amount of water, with the company’s controlling interest in a Kern County aquifer allowing them to water their crops even during a statewide drought. The Resnicks have maintained that they saved the water bank by spending millions of dollars to get it running.
They’ve also pointed to their philanthropic efforts, which include pledging $750 million to a new sustainability research center at the California Institute of Technology and building charter schools.
The company has also faced controversies unrelated to water. In 2016, the Resnicks apologized after their Paso Robles winery cut down about 100 acres of oak trees, saying they’d give the property to a conservation group and plant thousands of new trees on their other properties.
ON THE TWITTER FILES WINNING THE DAO PRIZE
Twitter Files reports win the first Dao Prize, a $100,000 award for “truth-seeking journalism.”
by Matt Taibbi
Wednesday night at the National Press Club in Washington, in the past known more as the home of the increasingly incestuous White House Correspondent’s Dinner, the National Journalism Center of the Young America’s Foundation awarded me, Bari Weiss, and Michael Shellenberger the inaugural Dao Prize for Excellence in Investigative Journalism, which comes with a substantial award of $100,000. Having been accused of monetizing this story, I’ll be making an announcement soon about where my share of the financial prize will be re-directed. In the meantime, I wanted to say a few words of thanks to subscribers and colleagues.
The Twitter Files were a unique project with ongoing consequences (Rackethas a new story based on the files by Sue Schmidt that will be coming out as soon as I return from Washington). They came about because of a fluke, one-in-a-billion situation, in which an eccentric CEO decided to blow the whistle on his own newly acquired company for a variety of reasons, one of which was disappointment with the legacy press. The reporters chosen for the job, principally Bari Weiss, Michael Shellenberger and me to begin with, were all independent contributors on Substack.
Because Elon Musk’s requirement that news from the Files be broken on his Twitter (since renamed X) platform, accepting the job meant our subscribers had to make a sacrifice. It’s moreover true that because the Files required a drop-everything approach, only those of us who’d already built up enough subscriber support to afford a long research detour could consider accepting. This is a long-winded way of expressing gratitude to subscribers for hanging in and volunteering to be part of that odd experiment in burning bridges on a broad scale. It was a lot of fun to go through that with all of you.
I want to say also that there were a number of people from Racketwho put in a lot of extra work last winter and weren’t recognized for it. The site’s manager, Emily Bivens, came with me for most every trip to San Francisco and was instrumental in helping not only me but the other reporters in organizing and archiving the materials, while also contributing to the reports themselves. Emily, for instance, was the first to find a key Slack exchange, in which a marketing executive asks if it’s okay to say Twitter combats misinfo through “partnerships with outside experts,” only to have wry executive Nick Pickles reply, “Not sure we'd describe the FBI/DHS as experts, or some NGOs that aren’t academic.” That was our first glimpse into what became the key angle on the story, about Twitter’s unnatural relationship to spy agencies and not-quite-nongovernmental nongovernmental organizations.
Other Racketcontributors played important roles, for which they got little credit. Matt Orfalea, known for his acerbic, hyper-kinetic videos, worked extremely hard on several of the Twitter Files threads, including especially #21 (about the internal Twitter Files study on Russian bot activity, called “Project Osprey) but also the Christmas Eve story, “Twitter and Other Government Agencies.” Racketreaders know about the contributions of people like Andrew Lowenthal, Matt Farwell, Tom Wyatt, Techno_Fog, Aaron Mate, and Sue Schmidt, who contributed to the “Censorship-Industrial Complex“ report, but we also asked a lot of people like illustrator Daniel Medina, proofreaders Jane Burn and Anne Marie Brown, and FOIA writer UndeadFOIA, who continues to file requests on the topic, among others.
Some of the other contestants who were up for last night’s award and received calls from the likes of T. Becket Adams and Emily Jashinsky of the National Journalism Center were working on material closely related to the Twitter Files. In particular, Miranda Devine of the New York Post(whose suppressed report on Hunter Biden’s laptop prompted the first Twitter Files release) and Gabe Kaminsky of the Washington Examiner, who wrote on the state-sponsored organizations performing digital blacklisting services,did and continue to do stories that pull at the same threads as the Twitter Files reports. There’s nothing more satisfying to work on a thing until you’re cross-eyed and see other reporters (and lawyers like John Sauer, and plaintiffs like Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff, and Aaron Kheriaty, in cases like Missouri v. Biden) push things forward even more with unscrambled brains.
One thing that’s unique about Substack is that it feels like a group activity you do with your readers, as opposed to talking at them, which is what it felt like more often in legacy journalism. I thought this was a good moment to tell you all how much I enjoy doing this with you, and to point out something that goes for Publicand The Free Presssubscribers, too: we got to have an impact on something this year, which is rare for journalism in general, but especially for independent outlets like this one.
I hope it’s been fun for you, and I hope you’re all good with keeping at it. Who knows where this will all lead? As Ice Cube would say, I’m Down For Whatever. I hope you all are too, and thanks again.
* * *
Dao Prize Acceptance Speech
I was a little nervous in Washington last night, so my speech didn’t come out exactly like this, but this is the address I prepared, for acceptance of the $100,000 Dao Prize for Excellence in Investigative Journalism:
Thank you. As many of you know, it’s been a long year for those of us who worked on this story. To be recognized with such a significant award means a great deal to me and to the other recipients, Bari Weiss of The Free Press and Michael Shellenberger of Public,on whose behalf I’ll try to speak tonight.
More than two dozen reporters worked on the Twitter Files at different times, including Lee Fang, Paul Thacker, David Zweig, Aaron Maté, Matt Farwell, and many others, across the political spectrum. Journalists from left-leaning publications and reporters with conservative backgrounds both worked on this story, which was unique enough to employ pseudonymous citizen journalists like “Techno Fog” and Pulitzer Prize winner Susan Schmidt. Susan is here tonight, and has a new Twitter Files piece coming out on Twitter and Racketin the coming days.
To the National Journalism Center and the Dao Feng and Angela Foundation: I could not be more grateful that you’ve chosen to create such a significant new prize for old-school, fact-based reporting. The journalism profession has become hopelessly politicized in recent years. Editors now care more about narrative than fact, and as many of the people in this room know, there are now fairly extreme penalties for failing to toe party lines. This begins with pressures within the business to conform and continues with algorithmic targeting of advertisers of the sort that the Washington Examiner and its excellent reporter Gabe Kaminsky, who’s here tonight, reported on.
Most of these algorithmic penalties are based on a complex credentialing system, a process Google calls “surfacing authoritative content.” This basically means that if you’re not recognized by certain “authoritative” organizations, your work will not appear in features like Google News, Facebook’s news feed, the “For You” bar on Twitter, or in many institutional search engines. This has the effect of de-amplifying politically unorthodox content, from conservative sites like the Examiner or the New York Post to Consortium News or even the World Socialist Web Site. These sites are essentially consigned by algorithm to a separate set of Dewey Decimal shelves in the basement of the world’s library.
It's my hope and belief that the DAO Prize, by giving such work recognition, can help begin the process of bringing suppressed factual journalism out of the basement. It’s my hope journalists will someday look back at this moment as a turning point.
About a week ago I was interviewed about Twitter and content moderation and asked what I would do about speech, if I were put in charge of the Internet.
I made the mistake of answering, saying something like “Well, I’d start with all legal speech…” I don’t remember what I said, but it wasn’t smart.
Later I realized the correct answer: I’m not in charge of anything, and thank God! I’m just a reporter. My job is to get information and pass it on. That’s hard enough. Decisions are for voters.
I believe journalism began to lose its way when we lost touch with what it is we actually do. This was once more a trade than a profession. Reporters reflexively looked at things from the perspective of the general public, because they were the general public. They identified with cabbies, nurses, teachers, plumbers, hardware store owners, because that tended to be where they came from. They once thought people who couldn’t afford K Street lobbyists, the people who had the least representation, needed the press the most.
Those audiences tend not to want special treatment, because they’re not used to getting it. They’ll settle for the truth. You get that for us, we’ll buy your paper. That simple deal made things easy, as I learned from a young age. I’m blessed to have my father Mike here tonight. He started working at a New Jersey newspaper as a teenager. He used to say, “The story’s the boss.” We were supposed to follow facts wherever they led, publish anything true, and not care who was offended by it.
Beginning in the eighties and nineties, journalists started imagining things from a different perspective. After All The President’s Menit became a fashionable career choice. More reporters started coming from the Ivy Leagues, which in itself is not a bad thing. But a change took hold. Journalists were soon the same people, socially, as those they were charged with covering. They’d gone to school with aides to presidential candidates, intelligence analysts, and Wall Street bankers. Unlike the broader audience, these people did expect a certain kind of coverage. We started to see a string of stories from their perspective, telling us how hard it is to run a country, how hard the choices are.
“If we’re too idealistic, we won’t get elected!” was a common theme of campaign reports. Or, after 9/11, we started to see papers telling us how hard it was to fight al-Qaeda in a country that outlawed torture. The press began the process of identifying more with leaders than ordinary people.
The question I was just asked, about being in charge of the Internet was in that same vein. Don’t you see how hard it is to run these companies? What would you do if you ran the Stanford Internet Observatory, the FBI, US Cyber Command?
We don’t! Michael, Bari and I tried not to look at things from that angle, and asked the same questions any normal person would. We had different political beliefs, but it didn’t matter, because this was grunt work.
What does this email saying “flagged by DHS” mean? What’s a Foreign Influence Task Force? Why is Twitter having a weekly “Industry meeting” with the FBI? What’s “malinformation,” and how can something that’s true also be “disinformation”? What’s the Election Integrity Partnership and why are they working with the Global Engagement Center, whatever that is?
Publishing the answers to these questions for some reason offended a great many people, but it was true. We were very glad when we saw some of the other reporters here tonight, like Gabe and the Examiner, start to do deeper dives on organizations like the Global Engagement Center and its sponsorship of groups like the Global Disinformation Index.
This is how the media is supposed to work. Not long ago, if one outlet did a good story, you were happy if a competitor moved the story forward, because ultimately the public benefits from that kind of competition.
The public only loses when reporters see themselves as on the same team with the politicians and institutions they’re supposed to be covering. That situation ultimately will produce narrative policing instead of reporting.
Thank you to the National Journalism Center for sending the message that doing the job from outside the rope line, from the perspective of the general public, is still respected and appreciated. I hope this award, and the possibility of real policy changes that may ensue from legislative effort and court cases like Missouri v. Biden, will provide encouragement to future reporters who might otherwise hesitate to take on an unpopular subject. I hope we may be able to look back on this as a moment when things started to turn around for this business.
Lastly I should say that I’m so glad to be accepting this with Bari and Michael, and that all three of us owe a great deal to our subscribers, who pushed us to cover the story even though it didn’t always benefit them. With their support the three of us got to meet, and have quite an adventure together. As “so-called journalists” called as witnesses in one of the oddest congressional hearings in memory, Michael and I especially will always be part of one another’s lives. Thank you for allowing us to share this honor as well, and good luck to future recipients of the prize.
MORE WAR AID FOR ISRAEL
A divided House on Thursday passed a Republican-written bill that would tie $14.3 billion in military aid to Israel for its war with Hamas to domestic spending cuts, defying a veto threat from President Biden and bipartisan opposition in the Senate.
Republicans pushed through the measure on a mostly party-line vote of 226 to 196, a rare occurrence because aid packages for Israel normally enjoy broad bipartisan support. But the legislation, put forward by the newly elected Republican Speaker Mike Johnson, alienated Democrats because it would slash a tax enforcement initiative at the Internal Revenue Service, a part of the Inflation Reduction Act that is a key piece of Mr. Biden’s agenda.
Only a dozen Democrats voted in favor.
The measure is headed for a bipartisan bloc of opposition in the Senate, where lawmakers favor packaging aid for Israel with money to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion, as well as for other global crises. Mr. Biden has requested such a package, totaling $105 billion, and White House officials said on Tuesday that he would veto the House bill because it was limited to Israel and contained “partisan poison pill offsets.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said in a speech ahead of the House vote on Thursday that the Senate would not take up the House-passed proposal at all, and would instead craft its own bipartisan bill containing aid for Israel and Ukraine, and humanitarian aid to Gaza. The Senate could then try and force its version of the legislation on the House — and see which chamber blinks first. The resulting dispute could extend for weeks, delaying the aid.
“It still mystifies me that when the world is in crisis and we need to help Israel respond to Hamas, the G.O.P. thought it was a good idea to tie Israel aid to a hard-right proposal that will raise the deficit and is totally, totally partisan,” Mr. Schumer said.
Republicans pressed ahead anyway, arguing that the House must pass aid to Israel without delay and in a fiscally responsible manner.
President Biden later said he would veto such an appropriation, and the Senate says they won't even discuss it.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I’ve read that Hamas has installed 300 miles of tunnels under the Gaza Strip. Some as deep as 200 feet. Amazing. My state built 2-3 miles of tunnels under Boston and it cost 22 billion dollars and took 25 years from design to completion. After completion the leaks and falling ceiling have been a problem. Good ol’ USA grift and huge cost overuns. Those Hamas guys must be the best civil engineers on Earth. Israel says the only way to dislodge the terrorists is to bomb the living shit out of the place.
UKRAINE, THURSDAY 2ND NOVEMBER
Ukraine’s commander-in-chief has conceded that there have been few gains in Ukraine’s five-month long counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory.
Likening the current state of conflict to World War I, in which battles were often fought over a few miles of territory at the expense of huge numbers of men, Ukraine’s General Valery Zaluzhny said the war had reached an impasse.
“There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough,” he told The Economist magazine in an interview published Thursday.
Ukraine has repeatedly said it needs longer-range weapons, more air defenses and its own airpower to be able to fight Russia effectively. While its allies have donated massive amounts of equipment, decisions over further tranches of weaponry, such as tanks, have been tortuous affairs and supplies slow to materialize.
TECOPA (circa 1815-1904) was a Native American leader, and his name means “wildcat”. Tecopa was a leader of the Paiute tribe in the Ash Meadows and Pahrump areas of southern Nevada. In the 1840s, Tecopa and his warriors engaged in a three-day battle with the expedition led by Kit Carson and John C. Fremont at Resting Springs. Later in life, Tecopa sought to maintain peaceful relations with the white settlers in the region and was known as a peacemaker. Tecopa typically wore a vibrant red shirt with gold braid and a silk top hat. When these clothes wore out, they were replaced by local white miners as a gesture of gratitude for Tecopa's assistance in maintaining peaceful relations with the Paiute tribe. Tecopa is buried alongside his son and grandson at the Chief Tecopa Cemetery in the Pahrump Valley, Nevada. A 15-acre (61,000 m2) plot of land was deeded to Nye County and became Tecopa Park.