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WINDS are expected to remain elevated into the afternoon. Heavy rain is expected through today which will bring flooding. Periods of additional rain and snow are expected later in the week with another system possible by late in the weekend. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): A rainy 55F on the coast this Wednesday morning, I have .49" collected so far. Not much wind yet. Today will be a good day to stay home if possible as big rain amounts (although less are forecast than yesterday) & strong winds are expected all day. Rain is forecast thru Tuesday with Sunday expected to be the rainiest day with showers the other days.
APPROACHING STORM (yesterday afternoon)…
BIG FLOOD ON NAVARRO RIVER WED. NIGHT, 128 will close
According to weather and river forecasts as of this writing, the Navarro River is forecast to have a crest of 27.2 ft Wednesday night into Thursday. The official flood stage is 23 ft.. That means Hwy. 128 will be about 4 ft. underwater in the area around 5 mi. inland and up to about 9 mi. inland.
This is not some piddling little 4 in. over the pavement at the low spot just east of the Navarro River Bridge. This will be the first serious high water flood event of this rainy season.
Caltrans will close 128 sometime Wednesday night until at least Thursday afternoon, and possibly until Friday.
A flood of this magnitude leaves plenty of mud, sand and woody debris in the roadway, so it takes a while to clean it up and open for traffic again.
This is my opinion based on official weather and hydrologic forecasts.
At this moment, 10 PM Tuesday evening, the rain has yet to begin. But you'll know it's serious by early Wednesday morning when heavy downpours are forecast for around 6 AM to 5 PM, peaking at .3 in. per hour from 2 PM to 3 PM.
Local flooding is likely, so Wednesday is NOT a good day to travel in Mendocino County. It's likely there will be power outages due to high winds and rain Wednesday.
Here are some forecast sites for reference:
Wunderground forecast for Little River https://www.wunderground.com/forecast/us/ca/little-river/KCALITTL10
Navarro River Hydrograph forecast chart https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=eka&gage=nvrc1
CalTrans road information https://roads.dot.ca.gov/?roadnumber=128
Today I gave notice of my retirement as rainfall reporter to the Mendocino Beacon and the Advocate-News, after more than 30 years. Those papers are nothing like they used to be, after the corporate raiders who bought all the local weeklies closed local editorial offices and laid off reporters and editors. For the past year I've been emailing my rain records to a staffer in Lake County. I'm also cutting back on my Navarro River and sandbar observations due to my wife's illness.
Stay safe, warm and dry. Be prepared for some heavy weather.
FIRE DEPARTMENT BREAKTHROUGH?
Measure P First Round Contracts, updates
After abandoning the “Evergreen Contract” as unworkable on Jan 17, the County provided a new draft Measure P contract template on Jan 24. It’s a FY 2022-23 contract designed to allocate the $1,240,888 collected in the final quarter that year. While not perfect, we’ve accepted this contract template with the goal to get these monies distributed as quickly as possible. Fire Safe Council has agreed to a similar contract for their 10% share of Measure P funding.
Next, the County will be sending individualized contracts to each Fire Agency for signatures/approvals. These contracts are pretty generic and are similar Prop 172 versions. After enough signed copies are returned to the County for processing, funding should occur rather quickly.
The official close out of the County’s 2022-23 books was completed this past weekend. This is important for both the County and for agencies with funds in the County treasury. It’s also important for confirming the balance of TOT [Bed Tax] funds available for distribution (and the Chiefs’ 25% holdback). Once the TOT amount is firmed up, contracts for undistributed 2022-23 TOT true-up funds can be generated/updated, then routed for signatures/approvals, and similarly processed. There’s already a precedent for these contracts so this won’t be new territory. Getting Measure P funding going was first priority. The undistributed TOT dollars are fewer and this wasn’t the top priority.
Also, with the 2022-23 books now closed, attention can be turned to contracts for 2023-24 revenues and verifying dollars received so far from Proposition 172, TOT and Measure P.
All good news ...
Mark Scaramella comments: We’ll believe it when we see the check here in Anderson Valley. Not until then.
AT HOME WITH ANNE SIRI (Philo)
OUTSIDE AUDITOR IDENTIFIES ANOMALIES IN MENDOCINO COUNTY’S FINANCES and Calls for Strengthened Oversight
by Sarah Reith
The county’s outside auditor presented his company’s findings to the Board of Supervisors this week and recommended rigorous additional training and protocols to ensure that accounting practices are in compliance with government auditing standards. The findings of the audit for fiscal year 21/22 include a variety of over and understatements, accounts not properly tracked, and a lack of internal controls that expose public funds to the possibility of fraud.…
MENDOCINO COAST HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION FACING FINANCIAL CHALLENGES
The Mendocino Coast Healthcare Foundation (MCHFoundation) has a history of over 40 years serving the Mendocino Coast community by raising funds to meet local healthcare needs. Most recently, that has involved offering scholarships to young people who are pursuing careers in nursing and other health professions. During our long history, we have worked hard to be transparent with the community we serve.
MCHFoundation came out of the pandemic in relatively good shape financially, which was a win since many of our fundraisers had to be canceled or held virtually. In 2023, we were excited to return to in person events and held a four-day Winesong fundraiser to celebrate. Unfortunately, we experienced significant, unexpected cost overruns along with lower-than-predicted pledges. We also have experienced delays in being reimbursed for a large grant, and this significant funding has yet to be received. These factors, along with other unexpected expenses associated with the needed renovation of our office building has put our organization in a cash flow deficit. As a result, the MCHF Board of Directors has decided to reduce our staff. This saddens us greatly, as our staff have done a wonderful job and we are taking this opportunity to publicly thank each of them for their service.
We remain committed to this community and to fundraising to fill local healthcare needs. We plan to maintain and continue the scholarship program which has been very successful and has awarded dozens of scholarships to local students since it began four years ago. We remain committed to honoring the scholarships awarded to date. We also plan to continue to hold many of our regular fundraisers.
We will continue to keep you, our community and our donors, informed as to our progress. We intend to learn from this situation and grow from the experience. We are working hard to maintain your continued trust and support.
For More Information Contact: Terry Ramos, President, email@example.com
MENDOCINO COAST HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION LAYOFFS
by Malcolm Macdonald
The Mendocino Coast Healthcare Foundation (MCHF) has issued a press release. For our purposes we can dispense with most of the sugarcoated forty year history fluff to the middle of the second paragraph, which states, “Unfortunately, we experienced significant, unexpected cost overruns along with lower-than-predicted pledges. We also have experienced delays in being reimbursed for a large grant, and this significant funding has yet to be received. These factors, along with other unexpected expenses associated with the needed renovation of our office building has put our organization in a cash flow deficit. As a result, the MCHF Board of Directors has decided to reduce our staff.”
A clearer perspective might be obtained from the social media post of one of MCHF's staffers. “Mendocino Coast Healthcare Foundation laid off all employees yesterday without notice, couldn't even fulfill the current payroll period, and left us with nothing except pay to yesterday. Even that was a snafu to get the checks done and I still don't have mine. If you donate money to them you should think twice. It's disgraceful and the board should be ashamed that they didn't do their due diligence in overseeing the Executive Director and her shams.”
In reaction to the post, another MCHF staff member stated, “I don't have mine either. This whole fiasco is such a SHAME.”
A few hours later, in reaction to reading the press release, the original social media poster wrote, “Smoke and mirrors! Excuses for what was REALLY bad leadership for years and lack of oversight from the Board, overspending and paying very expensive contractors and consultants. Let's be clear, 'reduce our staff' was really laying off everyone mid-pay period with no notice and only paid to that day. Couldn't even finish out the week's pay and no severance. Do not support this – it's misleading.” It is slightly unclear if the last part is referring to the press release, the Foundation itself, or both.
Speculation as to whether the layoffs included MCHF's executive director was answered in a text from said executive director, “I'm finishing a transition plan then I'm out.”
The press release from MCHF referenced “delays in being reimbursed for a large grant.” In a text follow up, the executive director, stated “… our USDA grant award didn't come through. A big hit as its work we already paid for in staffing and supplies etc.”
Late in the afternoon of January 30th I questioned the new MCHF board president (as of January 1) about the amount of money that was late in coming from USDA. The answer: $199,000.
Just less than $200,000 is a nice chunk of change for most citizens; however, for a fundraising organization that has been seen as something like a potential savior for anything from procuring new ambulances to helping in some sort of rebuild at the hospital itself, it may seem alarming that the lack of $200,000 more or less shut this organization down.
These financial woes for the Coast Healthcare Foundation come at a time when the Mendocino Coast Health Care District (MCHCD) is at a financial crossroads itself. Let's back up and remind ourselves that the healthcare district is what the taxpaying citizens of the coast support with our tax dollars. Our healthcare district owns the land the hospital rests upon, but, since July 2020, the hospital itself is run by Adventist Health. Day to day healthcare decisions are made by Adventist Health employees.
The healthcare district (MCHCD) faces some crucial decisions. The state legislature, in their wisdom, after the 1992 earthquake in southern California, created safety regulations that will make it mandatory for hospitals to meet certain seismic standards by the year 2030 or face potential closure. Almost all of the more than fifty year old coast hospital fails to meet those 2030 seismic standards. Hence, the current troika that rules the five member Mendocino Coast Health Care District (MCHCD) Board of Directors has been hell bent for leather in a race to put forward a bond to raise $20 million to retrofit the coast hospital to meet those seismic standards.
Ready for a twist in the story? In November I asked an Adventist Health official familiar with their statewide plans what AH was going to do with their hospitals that do not meet the 2030 seismic standards. (They possess some that already do meet the standards.) The response was that AH will not be retrofitting those hospitals. It would cost Adventist Health somewhere between $700 million to a billion dollars to do so. The official pointed out that other hospitals and hospital systems, like Sutter or Dignity Health, would be faced with similar or even larger costs. A study that is now four to five years old estimated the total cost of seismically retrofitting all of California hospitals at anywhere between tens of billions of dollars up to $150 billion dollars.
The strategy, instead, is for the hospital systems to lobby the state legislature to push back the 2030 regulations, change or eliminate them for single story (generally safer in an earthquake) or rural hospitals, or more or less eliminate the regulations. The coast hospital is both a rural and single story hospital.
The news that Adventist Health did not plan to retrofit the hospitals it owns was pretty much shocking news to the trio that rules the MCHCD Board. They were gung ho for a $20 million bond issue to be on the ballot in November 2024. They paid several thousands for a research company, EMC, to conduct a survey of potential voters, about the possibility of passing a bond issue to raise the twenty million.
Meanwhile, the Mendocino Coast Health Care District, which is responsible for the potential seismic retrofit (not Adventist Health who leases the use of the hospital) currently has about $10 million total in its bank accounts. The district also has approximately $3.8 million in long term debt to repay, around $2.875 million of that is a consequence of refinancing 2016 bonds.
One idea floating around is to go the route of ignoring the seismic retrofit, like the other hospitals, and, instead, float a bond for at least twice the $20 million in order to construct a new operating theater (OR) and an urgent care facility. The new operating room would please Adventist Health because it could accommodate multiple orthopedic surgeries in a given day. Orthopedics is a consistent major money maker for hospitals. An urgent care should be more pleasing to the public than the current AH “immediate care” which actually requires an appointment to be seen. Urgent care would also be far less expensive to the average patient than going to the Emergency Room (ER).
Quite the conundrum, a healthcare foundation that can't afford its own staff, a healthcare district that possesses only $10 million, a ruling troika on that district's board trying to rush to a November bond vote in an attempt to raise $20 million from taxpayers for a retrofit that may or may not be required in 2030, a district board uncertain of anything beyond that, only slightly vague wishes for a forty or fifty million dollar plan that might build a new OR and urgent care.
And, ready for your final twist of the scalpel? Adventist Health has given no indication that it will be chipping in at all for the retrofit, for new buildings, for anything of a substantial nature beyond the day to day costs of running the hospital.
Did you stay through the credits to make sure there were no more surprises? Remember the article on the question of the “ends justifying the means” in regard to the healthcare district spending months hammering out a job description for an executive director last year, only to have newcomer, board appointee, Paul Garza, seek out Regional Government Services (RGS) to provide more or less the same service as an executive director for the price of $111,000 for six and a half months when the executive director position would have cost the district's taxpayers $65,000 over the same time frame? I know that was a long question! We're getting to the punch line though. The person who originally applied for the executive director post in late September 2023 then magically turned into the more costly “agency administrator” under RGS is Kathy Wylie. Want to guess who was overseeing Mendocino Coast Healthcare Foundation's (MCHF) finances in 2023 as their board treasurer? If you didn't answer Kathy Wylie I know someone who has some swamp land to sell you.
GASKA FOR FIRST DISTRICT SUPERVISOR
Why I support Adam Gaska for 1st District Supervisor, Mendocino County, California:
Adam Gaska was introduced to me in 2023, when I was working for Mendocino County’s Public Health department as their Senior Public Health Analyst, aka Epidemiologist. As a candidate, he was interested in learning everything he could about County government and how the departments operate, and this impressed me very much. Adam’s maturity and intelligence stands out among the candidates, as does his ability to quickly master the issues. Since declaring his candidacy, Adam has engaged with county staff, union members, business owners, teachers, emergency responders, and others to learn about their work, their challenges, and solutions to problems. Adam’s depth of knowledge about the water situation in Northern California is impressive. He’s not afraid to express an unpopular idea if it’s grounded in fact. Even more importantly, he has the smarts to know what he doesn’t know, and he figures out where to learn the answers to questions.
As a native of Mendocino County, first a son, now a father, husband, farmer, and concerned community member, Adam has shown his commitment to volunteering and helping our community. He’s not using the position of County Supervisor as a stepping-stone to higher office, like Madeline [Cline] and Trevor [Mockel]; he’s here for the long run and wants to make a difference for our families.
Adam’s a pragmatist, with real concrete ideas about how to improve the economy, make County government more transparent with less bureaucracy, and to support the people who do the work to help our most vulnerable. He will get the services and funding this community deserves, and make sure revenues are being collected. He’s tough and smart and I know he will make a great Supervisor.
Madeline Cline, age 26, says she has a “wealth of experience.” Really? She’s 26 years old, how much experience can she possibly have? A fellowship in Sacramento and the backing of Big Business doesn’t add up to much. Adam has been working for the community longer than she’s been alive. Trevor Mocktel is a nice guy, but we need people on the Board of Supervisor’s who are tough and won’t waffle like this current set.
I admire Carrie Shattuck’s chutzpah, but I can’t endorse someone who doesn’t believe in science.
I sincerely hope that Bernie Norvell and Jacob Brown both get elected, because we need them desperately.
I urge you to vote for Adam Gaska for 1st District Supervisor as the most qualified candidate.
Julie Beardsley, MPH
Scaramella: “Why does Mendocino County need a 16-bed Psychiatric Health Facility at a cost of well over $20 million?”
Because like others I know, they want to treat out of county mentally ill patients in order to bring in more revenue while looking like they really care about their own. It will do nothing to solve the local issues and deliver needed services for Mendo’s addicted and/or mentally ill. Lake County says “bring it on.”
Good enough reason to reject and rescind the Whitmore Lane facility plan. We don’t need it, can’t afford it, can’t staff it, and don’t want the released patients added to those troubled and subsidized mental health patients already here. Mendocino obviously spends too much money on this needy, disruptive population.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Tuesday, January 30, 2024
NICHOLAS BRITTON, Covelo. Controlled substance for sale.
RICHARD CONDON JR., Ukiah. Failure to appear.
ERIC GARCIA, Redwood Valley. Burglary.
LEAH HALEY, Willits. DUI.
ANTHONY HOAGLIN, Ukiah. Domestic battery, kidnapping, false imprisonment, protective order violation, failure to appear.
KENNETH JENKINS, Fort Bragg. Attempted murder.
BENJAMIN KEATOR, Willits. Controlled substance, county parole violation.
MICHAEL PARKER, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
DAMON REICHARDT, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-under influence.
FILO SANTOS, Covelo. DUI, no license.
PETER TING, Willits. DUI while on court probation with priors, suspended license for DUI.
CESLEY WILLIAMS, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JUSTIN WILLIAMSON, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-under influence.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Taylor Swift and Eminem – the dream team!
I bet Taylor Swift could really win the Presidential election without even having to cheat – that is how fucking stupid this country has become.
EMINEM CONFRONTS NINER FANS SUNDAY
I am tough
I’m so tough
that I feel weak
like a sunrise
fragile and full of
color before a light
different from seasons
shows me another
weird red warning
me off today
i am tough
all of this really matters
— Quincy Steele
BLIND WILLIE McTELL (1898-1959) was from Thomson, Georgia and had a stunning and fluid approach, with a clear tenor voice, singing and playing blues, rags and gospel songs on the 12 String guitar.
Starting in 1927, he made records for a half dozen labels, under the names Blind Sammie, Georgia Bill, Hot Shot Willie, Blind Willie, Barrelhouse Sammy, Pig & Whistle Red, Blind Doogie, Red Hot Willie Glaze, Red Hot Willie, and Eddie McTier, but no matter the name everybody recognized Blind Willie McTell's distinctive style.
His most well known song is "Stateboro Blues." He made a pile of rags like "Georgia Rag" and "Wabash Rag," and haunting bottleneck songs such as "Cross The River of Jordan."
He recorded and performed into the 1950s but never lived to be "rediscovered."
IN A NATION of frightened dullards there is a sorry shortage of outlaws, and those few who make the grade are always welcome.
— Hunter S. Thompson
HUFFMAN’S UPSIDE DOWN PRIORITIES
To the Editor:
I just read Congressman’s Huffman update to constituents. Not a word about foreign policy. Not a word about the thousands of murdered children in Gaza. I’ve concluded the following.
Wind power in Humboldt County CA is more important than condemning Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.
Speaker Mike Johnson’s religious beliefs are more important than stopping billions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Israel’s war machine.
Social Security refunds are more important than Israel’s arsenal of 400 nuclear warheads.
House Republicans, however nettlesome, are more important than Israel’s policy of deliberate ambiguity and opacity about the Sampson Option — Israel’s plan to end all life on Earth if Israel is ever in danger of losing a war. Israel’s right to exist trumps everything, even extinction.
Israel warned us: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to anger." (General Moshe Dayan)
Israel warned us: "Our armed forces are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under." (David Hirst in The Gun and the Olive Branch)
Israel warned us: "If you force us yet again to descend from the face of the Earth to the depths of the Earth, let the Earth roll toward the Nothingness." (Israeli poet and Holocaust survivor Itamar Yaoz-Kest)
“UNRWA is Hamas. The hospitals are Hamas. The ambulances are Hamas. The journalists are Hamas. The schools are Hamas. South Africa is Hamas. People tweeting unfavorable things about Israel are Hamas. Basically everyone Israel and its supporters want killed is Hamas.”
– Caitlin Johnstone
Got out, fellow said, "hey!" walked toward me, we shook hands, he slipped me 2 red tickets for free car washes, "find you later," I told him, walked on through to the waiting area with my wife, and we sat on the outside bench.
Black fellow with a limp came up, said, "Hey, man , how’s it going?"
I answered, "Fine, bro, you makin’ it?"
"No problem," he said, then walked off to dry down a Caddy.
"These people know you?" my wife asked.
"how come they talk to you?"
"they like me, people have always liked me, it’s my cross."
Then our car was finished, fellow flipped his rag at at me, we got up, got to the car, I slipped him a buck, we got in, I started the engine, the foreman walked up, big guy with dark shades, huge guy, he smiled back, a big one, "good to see you, man!"
I smiled back, "thanks, but it’s your party, man!"
I pulled out into traffic, "they know you," said my wife.
"Sure," I said, "I’ve been there."
— Charles Bukowski
THE RESERVE of trust, patience, and deference, among non-zombies in the USA, is now ZERO.”
— Jacob Dreizin
MOST OF US BORN HERE in Florida were always taught to worship growth, or tolerate it unquestioningly. Growth meant prosperity, which was defined in terms of swimming pools and waterfront lots and putting one’s kids through college. So when the first frost-bitten lemmings arrived with their checkbooks, all the locals raced out and got real-estate licenses; everybody wanted in on the ground floor. The greed was so thick you had to scrape it off your shoes.
The only thing that ever stood between the developers and autocracy was the cursed wilderness. Where there was water, we drained it. Where there were trees, we sawed them down. The scrub we simply burned. The bulldozer was God’s machine, so we fed it. Malignantly, progress gnawed its way inland from both coasts, stampeding nature.
Today the Florida most of you know—and created, in fact—is a suburban tundra purged of all primeval wonder save for the sacred solar orb. For all you care, this could be Scottsdale, Arizona, with beaches.
Let me fill you in on what’s been going on the last few years: the Everglades have begun to dry up and die; the fresh water supply is being poisoned with unpotable toxic scum; up near Orlando they actually tried to straighten a bloody river; in Miami the beachfront hotels are pumping raw sewage into the Gulf Stream; statewide there is a murder every six hours; the panther is nearly extinct; grotesque three-headed nuclear trout are being caught in Biscayne Bay; and Dade County’s gone totally Republican.
— Carl Hiaasen, ‘Tourist Season’
by Francis FitzGibbon
Trudi Warner, a climate protester, has been charged by the attorney general with contempt of court for displaying a placard outside a court building where other protesters were on trial. The placard said: “Jurors: you have an absolute right to acquit a defendant according to your conscience.” She is said to have deliberately done something that “interferes or creates a real risk of interference with the administration of justice.” Last September, dozens of silent protests took place outside other courts, with similar placards (though some replaced “conscience” with “convictions,” which is a whole other matter).
On one view, a placard in the street in front of a court building, visible to members of the public who may or may not be jurors, could hardly amount to an interference with anything; it might even give useful information – especially if a decision to acquit based on conscience really is a right that jurors have.
The legal origin of the theory comes at the latest from Bushell’s Case in 1670. Edward Bushell was the foreman of a jury which refused to convict the radical Quakers William Penn and James Meade of preaching to a “tumultuous assembly.” The jury agreed about the preaching, which the defendants admitted, but not about the tumultuous assembly. The judge, commanding that they convict, locked the jurors up without food or water for two nights when they defied him. On the third day, they found Penn and Meade not guilty. The judge fined all twelve jurors. Nine paid up, but Bushell and two others refused, preferring time in Newgate prison to complying with an unjust penalty.
Bushell applied for habeas corpus to a higher court. He survived Newgate prison for ten more weeks until Chief Justice Vaughan released him, ruling that jurors could only be punished if they acted improperly, not for a verdict that was unwelcome to the judge or against the evidence.
A century later, in 1784, William Shipley, the dean of St. Asaph in North Wales, was prosecuted for seditious libel. He had published a philosophical “Dialogue between a Gentleman and a Farmer,” which claimed that “every state or nation was only a great club.” Hence, laws should be made only with the consent of the club’s members, representation should be open to all, and tyrants could be removed by force. As with Penn and Meade, the jury wanted to give a mixed decision: they found that Shipley was the publisher but the content was not seditious libel, intending to acquit him. The trial judge took it as a guilty verdict. The case went before Lord Mansfield on appeal. He ruled that “it is the duty of the judge, in all cases of general justice, to tell the jury how to do right; though they have it in their power to do wrong, which is a matter entirely between God and their own consciences.”
Jurors today, as in 1670 and 1784, take an oath on a holy book to “give a true verdict according to the evidence” (many religions are accommodated these days, as is a non-religious affirmation). But there are probably fewer jurors now who believe that breaking the oath will lead to divine punishment – a once potent threat to godly jurors. Today’s threat is secular. Jurors are warned that if they look for information about the case, or about the law or the lawyers, which they do not receive as evidence in the courtroom, they can be prosecuted and sent to jail.
Lawyers’ professional rules forbid their telling juries that they can acquit even if they think the defendant has no defense known to law. Defendants who represent themselves (sometimes said to have a fool for a lawyer) traditionally get more leeway. Juries still acquit people whose actions they support, even if they are guilty in law. It may not matter much whether they do so by right, or because, in Lord Mansfield’s words, they just have the power. As Lord Devlin said in 1991:
“Juries are in the front line. They see the impact of the law on its subjects and they have to decide when to use its weapons. They exercise the discretion of the man on the spot … Put into constitutional terms, the jury is invested with a dispensing power to be used when their respect for law is overridden by the conviction that to punish would be unjust.”
That description of conscience-based acquittals rebuts the charge that they are perverse, because they are a part of the jury’s proper constitutional function – if an unwelcome one to those in power. When capital punishment was the penalty for murder, it may have deterred killings but it is also thought to have deterred jurors from convicting.
The jury’s deliberations are secret: it is an offense to disclose them. We never know how they reach a verdict. They are trusted (rightly, in the view of most people who have taken part in jury trials) to follow the judge’s directions of law. A group of twelve randomly selected individuals is large enough to accommodate a representative range of views and life experience, but small enough for reasoned debate. In particular, juries are trusted to convict only if they are sure that the defendant is guilty: “Nothing less will do,” they are always told.
But what if they use their constitutional “power to do wrong” to find someone guilty whom they are not sure about? Cases involving allegations of sexual offenses against children, for example, generate powerful emotions. Judges warn juries not to allow themselves to be influenced by any emotional reaction to the case, any sympathy for anyone involved, or any fixed ideas or preconceptions. That may not always be an easy thing to do. In a highly emotive case, with an unprepossessing defendant, conscience or conviction might impel the jury to find him guilty if they think he is a menace, even if they are not sure that he committed the offense.
If the “power to do wrong” means the power to ignore the law as explained by the judge, then logically it does not apply only to “perverse” acquittals. In the corollary of Lord Devlin’s opinion, a jury might think that a failure to convict and punish a defendant whom they were almost but not quite sure about was as unjust as not acquitting a legally guilty defendant whom they could not in good conscience convict. Perhaps this merely shows that justice according to the law and justice according to the people who become jurors are not always coextensive.
This is not an argument against using members of the public to decide serious criminal cases, or in favor of a lower standard of proof. Rather, we need to recognize that by entrusting these decisions to juries, we may be relying on their own sense of justice where they think the law fails to satisfy it.
Trudi Warner, acting from her own conscience as a dedicated climate protester, may or may not be found guilty of contempt of court. The administration of justice may or may not find that the ghost of the message given long ago by Chief Justice Vaughan and Lord Mansfield interferes with it. It will not be a jury but a judge who decides, by applying the law, whether they agree with it or not. Judges do not get the freedom of conscience afforded to juries.
(London Review of Books)
MATTOLE RIVER SALMON-WELCOMING CELEBRATION, 2023
by Bill Hatch
To begin my story near the end … we were on a beach at the northern border of the Lost Coast of Humboldt County in northwest California on a Saturday afternoon in mid-November, standing beside the mouth of the 60-mile-long Mattole River, near the town of Petrolia, home of CounterPunch. We bystanders, about 25 whites and Indians, were standing outside a ring of small rocks about 40 feet in diameter. Inside the rocks, 16 dancers from the Bear River Band, the men bare to the waist in the wind and rain, elk capes decorated with shells on their backs, the women in long, full skirts, colorful blouses and vests, some wearing patterned basket caps, and two or three children shaking clappers, danced and sang songs of healing to the beat of a drum and clappers in the third Mattole River Salmon-Welcoming Ceremony. This is the restoration of a ceremony Indians from this band had not performed since 1912. Barry Brenard, one of the lead dancers and cultural coordinator for the Band, described this dance as a ”high dance–to the Creator on behalf of all living beings,” to distinguish it from a more local, tribal ceremony.
The wind whistled, the surf rolled loudly, the rain was in my face. Like a few others in the audience, I was trying to do the simple shuffle dance myself on my rebuilt hip, stopping and starting in the wet sand. The weather, the surf and the gulls confused my senses until all I heard was the steady drumbeat, like a community heart, creating our human rhythm on a sand spit in a stormy afternoon. Then, above the drum and the sound of the wind and surf, I heard a woman’s voice, keening as she sang her song in the circle.
Then time stopped and I was a quarter mile out to sea under the protection of the omniscient Great Spirit.
I only mention my experience because I believe it’s a testament to the real power of this ceremony that still eases the spirits of native people up to Alaska waiting and praying for the all-important, mysterious salmon to return. It is also good for the spirit of white people who struggle daily in environmental conflicts in this region.
I had recently retired from 20 years of environmental activism elsewhere. When I heard about the Mattole ceremony, I eagerly took the long drive. The last hour was through forests of old growth redwoods and fir, with occasional maples bright yellow in autumn, through sparsely populated valleys, past occasional hoop-house skeletons, until I arrived in Petrolia, near the river mouth.
There I learned that resumption of the Mattole River salmon-welcoming ceremony was answering two local needs: the need of the river-restoration community for some restoration of their spirits; and the need of the tribe to restore a traditional ritual widely practiced by other Pacific Coast tribes near and far.
Heavy logging over several decades caused erosion that will put sediment in the river for an estimated 10,000 years, according to the president of the board of the Mattole Salmon Group, Michael Evenson. “These things happen in catastrophic episodes after major sustained storms. They don’t always appear the first winters.”
Ironically, “‘Mattole’ means clear water,’” he added. From a hill above the estuary, he pointed out a small, clear creek that entered the river and made a line where it hit the river’s silt.
There are so many variables in the lives of anadromous fish, which are born in freshwater, go to sea, and after three or four years return to where they were born to lay and fertilize eggs and die, that it is a real challenge to see what factors are causing the decline in fish numbers. But silt, global warming, and drought appear to have major impacts. The Mattole hit its target of 4,000 for Chinook in the 2017-2018 water year after a wet season, but the years since have been disappointing despite the decades of work on the habitat of the river and its tributary creeks. The Coho-salmon redd (nest) count has dwindled to almost nothing, but snorkelers using another form of counting in 2022 were pleasantly encouraged, according to the Mattole Watershed News, Summer/Fall 2023:
“Each summer, the Mattole Salmon Group conducts snorkel surveys focusing on coho salmon rearing habitat. Given the unlikelihood of witnessing an adult coho salmon in the Mattole, these surveys are the best source of population data for coho salmon. In the summer of 2022, divers observed 3,052 coho juveniles. From this information we can estimate the number of successful redds (nests), and therefore spawning pairs of coho salmon. Based on the number of juvenile coho observed, we estimate that up to 25 coho salmon females spawned successfully in the Mattole in the winter of 2021-22, an encouraging change from observations in 2017 and 2019 where it appeared there were only one or two successful coho redds. While coho salmon numbers remain exceptionally low, in the last three summers juvenile numbers have been 2-5 times greater than the previous generation… Based on the population estimate formula used by CDFW, the 2022-23 return of Chinook salmon was 932. This will be the fifth consecutive year that the Chinook population estimate was below 1,500 individuals, however, it is a slight bump up from the winter of 2021-22 which estimated 416 individuals.”
The work of the Mattole Salmon Group and the Mattole Restoration Council has been supported by CalFire, the California Wildlife Conservation Board, the Conservation Fund, and numerous other charitable foundations. Yet, working with anadromous fish is a frustrating business, which is why native nations of the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska, heavily dependent on salmon for food, have held ceremonies for many centuries to pray for, honor and welcome the return of the salmon to the rivers and creeks where the fish were born and the people lived.
Evenson, president of the board of MSG, felt that spirits were flagging in 2021. It was Covid times and a drought year. “Restoration has a spiritual dimension, too,” he said. He and his partner, Ellen Taylor, a frequent CounterPunch contributor, approached the Bear River Band with the idea of renewing a Mattole River salmon-welcoming ceremony. Tribal director Hank Brenard was enthusiastic and soon tribal members were preparing for the first ceremony in more than a century. With help from Taylor and Evenson, they bought elk skins, Dentalia shells for necklaces, pine nuts from Owens Valley, the girls began sewing dresses for the dance, they went to other tribes to learn salmon songs, and found elders who taught them songs about water, acorns, and healing. They prepared fans of eagle feathers. By the time the river had breached the sand bar that blocks it in the summer and early fall, they were ready.
The ceremony I attended included a practice on Saturday, the full ceremony on Sunday, and a feast of salmon smoked in the campground. People built fires and an expert from Petrolia, who told me he’d learned the technique from a tribe farther north, fitted salmon filets to redwood sticks he’d made and stuck them in the ground near the fires.
While the ceremony was performed at the mouth of the river, the salmon filets smoked, and the result was very delicious, along with many potluck salads and other dishes. A wonderful feast followed the dances, everybody was catching up, exchanging information and news, laughing, Indians and whites together, relaxed in parkas, beanies and weatherbeaten cowboy hats. Children played. Mothers, daughters, and grandmothers brought and arranged the potluck tables. The dancers changed their clothes. Old folks sat on rocks and pickup tailgates. An Indian baby bundled in a car seat on a picnic table stared out at the scene with complete passivity. Folks lingered close to the salmon sticks and lined up with plates for a share, served out of the back of a pickup. This ceremony pleased everybody and strangers were welcome that day into those tightknit, isolated, communities. I chatted with a journalist from Japan while a Hispanic couple sitting on a rock nearby discussed the ceremony in rapid-fire Spanish.
I talked to several of the dancers after their performance. They told me the titles of some of their songs: Water, Two Bears, one Bear, Salmon, Healing, One Big Foot, and a Healing or Light song. Quincy Donald, the young man who sang the Water Song, summed up the meaning of the dance: “Everything is a circle; We are giving back to the earth for what it is giving us. We are welcoming the salmon back for all the people, not just the tribes. We feel we did our job. Others around us agree. The essence is that everything is a circle.”
It is important for those of us who do environmental work to learn how Nature responds to our good effort, for which our law courts, politics, economics, science and technology have no concepts. We should seek out and cultivate ceremonies that celebrate this circle of spirit into which our work has drawn us.
(Thanks, Bear River Band and the Mattole Salmon Group, for a terrific ceremony. … Bill Hatch lives in the Central Valley in California. He is a member of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade of San Francisco. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)