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Letters (April 1, 2024)

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A Shock But Not Totally Unexpected…

I came late to the front page headline of the week before last's AVA announcing that the country's “last newspaper” will subsequently be online. That's still a bit of a shock since I always anticipate the great pleasure of holding and reading the real paper as opposed to doing so on line and I consequently waited until I go to town to pick it up at the COOP or Mendo Books. But I guess on line is what it will have to be.

I've been reading, as well as writing for the AVA since well before I moved up here from the City where I used to buy it at City Lights or somewhere on 24th Street and while I long since abandoned the paper edition of the NY Times and every version of the Chronicle, the pleasure of reading the AVA which kept getting better in recent years, was undiminished. In recent months and years — when you reach a certain age you can't be sure which is which — I seem to have personal connections to so many of the characters that appear in my old pal Hinckle's pieces and those of Freddie Gardner and Jonah Raskin, as well as your own, that I have had to suppress my urge to write my own experiences with the likes of Jane Fonda, for example, for whom I have few complimentary words to say.

May I suggest, after the paper is exclusively on line, you take a trip to New Zealand and finish off your chase of Michael Sweeney who might just suffer a cardiac arrest on seeing you at his front door. I guess one might say at this point a cardiac arrest is better than no arrest at all.


Jeff Blankfort


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Here is how to improve Planning and Building. 1.) Planning and Building (PBS) staff should approach application review with the mindset “How can we get this application approved” instead of “What can I find wrong with this application.” 2.) Applications should be triaged by their complexity. Assign a minimum review time for applications based on the complexity of the project. 3.) PBS staff need to be actively managed. Supervisors should review staff workload and the assigned applications that are under review. Supervisors should engage staff to be assured that the review deadlines established in number 2 above can be met. If not, offer assistance or transfer the work load to another staff member that is not so busy. 4.) Assign work for individual staff members that takes advantage of their strengths. Praise staff for doing a good job. Counsel staff that are merely warming a desk chair and not working at their full potential. 5.) The recent fee increases of 100% to 500% increases are a deterrent to development. The county is millions in debt. The best way to get out of debt is to facilitate development. Reasonable fees, timely review of applications, a collaborate approach where the regulators (PBS) and the applicants are on the same team. Development increases revenue by having folks employed, in turn they pay rent, car payments. involve their kids in sports and other beneficial programs. The contractors buy building materials, hire architects and engineers, and build homes, commercial buildings and infrastructure that generate property tax. 6.) Create a comprehensive Policy and Procedure Manual that is available to staff AND the public. 7.) Reinstate the “One Stop Shop” where one day per week an Admin staff member, a planner, a building plans examiner and a representative from Environmental Health can collectively review and approve in one day: simple applications for photovoltaic systems, Ag Exempt structures, decks, garages, carports, and simple single family dwelling additions and Class K projects. If these basic management and customer service suggestions were implemented, it would go a long way to improving Planning and Building customer service and operational efficiency.

Scott Ward

Redwood Valley

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You joke about your wife being “long suffering.” That is funny, but I’ll bet you a dollar it is just not true. I’ll bet you $2 that she loves you very much and enjoys her time with you. I like you very much also.

I’ve been beat up by law enforcement mulitple times and yours is the only newspaper that has been wiling to dhare my sife of the story. I have great resprct for you and wish you well.

Your friend,

James Joseph “Oaky Joe” Munson


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When I was Program Manager of the Environmental Health Land Use team (wells and septics), John and I would occasionally find ourselves alone together in the men’s restroom, an oddly conducive location for meaningful discussions. At that time HHSA management (my boss) did not allow us to speak to the Board, so this was my one chance to be heard. John was a great listener, and a sense of trust grew between us. He was interested in the problems my staff faced, and when one of his constituents was having problems, the three of us would meet to resolve the issues. I don’t think that any other Supe at that time knew who I was.

David Jensen

Fort Bragg

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I just finished reading a column by Jim Newton about the California GOP and mentioning Steve Garvey (“California needs a competitive GOP”). In the column, Newton says that Garvey was “a better than average ballplayer.” For your information, the following is a list of Garvey’s accolades: 10-time major league all-star and four-time Gold Glove winner. He holds the record for the highest career fielding percentage by a first baseman and is the only player in the history of baseball to have an errorless season at first base. Maybe better than average was a poor choice of words?

Michael Hoevel


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Received the final issue today with the inevitable announcement. We all knew it was coming at some point, but I'm sorry to find the day has arrived. There will be an unfilled void at the breakfast table now. I'm a devotee of print, so will not be following the on-line publication. I still have Harpers, The Baffler, and Jacobin to read, but Harpers has declined markedly since Lapham left the editor's desk, and Jacobin and The Baffler are quarterlies. And a great magazine still makes a poor substitute for the regular heartbeat of a good newspaper with its “marching columns of grey.” The AVA was a good newspaper.

But history is a function of the past, and we're gifted with the present. Trusting that you'll be carrying on a while yet, may you each manage to harvest some measure of joy from your fresh and ongoing endeavors.


Long time subscriber and reader

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Dear Sheriff Kendall,

I very much enjoy and appreciate your presence in the AVA’s “pages,” and on-line, as well as on your Facebook page. Over here in Lake County, we cannot even get an email address for our Sheriff, and reaching anyone “live” requires calling the “non-emergency” dispatch number or leaving a voice-mail message on any of the other numbers that “answer.” Most of the time, we have to file an online “report” using a system created by Lexis-Nexis (and, since is costs big bucks to use that source, we have no way of knowing what actual citable statutes created the language in the reporting system categories.

In order to report a threatening email, for example, I found no category for that (“harassment” is a category deemed to be “not a crime” — where actual economic costs might be incurred by either submitting the emailer’s “ransom” or paying for complete operating system software protection or removal of malware at the root operating system level. No, I will not pay extortionate rates for Norton or McAffee, either, and just a simple cost inquiry initiated a bombardment of fake invoices and fraudulent “cancellation” notices.

Most importantly, to me, the Office of Emergency Services and the Operational Area Council exclude non-governmental organizations that form the backbone of our Community Organizations Active in Disasters (except for the Red Cross, and even that organization is only quasi-non-governmental — with its Congressional funding out of our pockets).

Fortunately, Lake County is small enough that it’s pretty easy to get to know a lot of people, and a lot of people are truly caring and bright and personally “invested” in the health and well-being of its citizens, even the “unhoused” and “mentally Ill.”

Following the daily reports of dysfunctionality in your central government and the near abuse of volunteer firefighters, and your openness and engagement are simply refreshing and go a long way toward establishing the credibility of your agency.

Officials over in Lake County bemoan the fact that the lake makes it hard to get to some parts of the county, but given the geography and extent of Mendocino’s terrain I’d say you’ve got the worst between the two, plus lots of locals in far flung shangri-las like Leggett and Point Arena who get “involved” and share the community policing load when they can. (Dear Covelo, poor Covelo, a world apart.)

Mil gracias from this side of the Cow.

Betsy Cawn

Upper Lake

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If only barely, and GAILY!

In the Spring of 1996 I was 31 and in danger of being crushed by the AIDS Crisis all around me. Perhaps the last straw was walking up the suburban block I grew up on (since 1969) and having one of the Moms see me and trot out to inform that the older of her 2 boys- now adultified as “John”- was gone. His heart had stopped @ the age of 32 or 33.

She didn’t mention AIDS, she didn’t need to.

I ran off to a Radical Faerie Sanctuary (Nacottah/Oysterville WA.) I’d read about in the August RFD Magazine. Rural Forward Delivery or Radical Faerie Digest, take your pick. The “Country Journal for Gay Men Everywhere.” Although I was flat broke and asking strangers to tie my shoes, the facilitator, Jim Crow, admitted me and allowed me to stay for a while. The connections I made here enabled me to move on to Seattle and later, Lopez Island. RFD still kicking it out! Also, and more cheekily, no pun intended, the Spring 2024 issue of the much younger BUTT Magazine glossy zine is out!!

David Svehla

San Francisco

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To the Editor:

I love Johnny Pinches.

Back when I served on four different county grand juries during the decade of roughly 2005-2015, I spent a lot of time in the county office building on Low Gap. As a grand juror, it was often my responsibility to monitor the Board of Supervisors. I went to their meetings, summarized them, and reported back to the grand jury. Consequently, I got to know the individual Supervisors quite well, Johnny Pinches chief among them.

After a while, Johnny started to take me out to lunch. We became friends. Sometimes, we would jump into his big old truck and take a ride somewhere.

Once I asked, “Hey, Johnny, we seem to have water resources with the Eel River, South Fork, the Russian River and Gualala River. Also, Lake Pillsbury, Lake Mendocino, Howard Lake, Mill Creek Lake, Hammerhorn Lake, and all. So where does all our water go? Why does Mendocino County declare drought emergencies every summer?”

Johnny replied, “Let’s find out!”

And just like that, we drove to the Sonoma County Water Agency on Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa, and I got what Johnny used to call an “education.”

He was the best.

Another thing. Johnny Pinches saw County CEO Carmel Angelo for who she really was.

Johnny foresaw the disaster County CEO Carmel Angelo was creating by consolidating her power by taking over county departments, like she did with general services, risk management and IT, or privatizing departments, like she did with mental health.

“Boss” Angelo further consolidated power by taking over the responsibilities of Clerk of the Board. She started developing the agenda for BOS meetings and, in time, locked them out of that process.

She hoarded financial information or otherwise completely withheld it from the BOS. She controlled the budget process. In every way possible, the BOS was marginalized by Angelo, including, at the very end of Supervisor John McCowen’s tenure, locking him out of his office and falsely accusing him of stealing county property.

We now know Angelo hid the county’s structural deficit. Also, we will soon be in the midst of a water crisis with recent PG&E decisions that took our county by surprised and unprepared. Our county’s wildfire response will be no better than it was for the last wildfire. Our unfunded pension liability is ballooning. Our county’s clunky computer system and non-existent financial reporting by department continues without end, keeping the BOS in the dark, as always.

In short, Mendocino County is in a survival mode. Johnny Pinches saw it all coming.

John Sakowicz


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Original List, Age 22

1. Handsome 2. Charming 3. Financially successful 4. A caring listener 5. Witty 6. In good shape 7. Dresses with style 8. Appreciates the finer things 9. Full of thoughtful surprises 10. An imaginative, romatic lover. 

What I Want In A Man, Revised List (age 32)

1. Nice looking (prefer hair on his head) 2. Opens car doors, holds chair 3. Has enough money for a nice dinner 4. Listens more than talks 5. Laughs at all my jokes 6. Carries bags of groceries with ease 7. Owns at least one tie 8. Appreciates a good home cooked meal 9. Remembers birthdays and anniversaries 10. Seeks romance at least once a week

What I Want In A Man, Revised List (age 42)

1. Not too ugly (bald head OK) 2. Doesn't drive off until 1am in the car 3. Works steady — splurges on dinner out occasionally 4. Nods head when I am talking 5. Usually remembers punch lines of jokes 6. Is in good enough shape to rearrange the furniture 7. Wears a shirt that covers his stomach 8. Knows not to buy champagne with screw-top lids 9. Remembers to put toilet seat down 10. Shaves most weekends.

What I Want In A Man, Revised List (age 52)

1. Keeps hair in nose and ears trimmed 2. Doesn't belch or scratch in public 3. Doesn't borrow money too often 4. Doesn't nod off to sleep when I'm venting 5. Doesn't re-tell the same joke too many times 6. Is in good enough shape to get off couch on weekends 7. Usually wears matching socks and fresh underwear 8. Appreciates a good TV dinner 9. Remembers my name on occasion 10. Shaves some weekends

What I Want In A Man, Revised List (age 62)

1. Doesn't scare small children 2. Remembers where bathroom is 3. Doesn't require much money for upkeep 4. Only snores lightly when asleep 5. Remembers why he's laughing 6. Is in good enough shape to stand up by himself 7. Usually wears clothes 8. Likes soft foods 9. Remembers where he left his teeth 10. Remembers that it’s the weekend

What I Want In A Man, Revised List (age 72)

1. Breathing 2. Doesn't miss the toilet

Deborah Byron

Fayetteville, Arkansas

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Dear Editor,

I will sorely miss the print edition of the AVA. I love folding the paper in half verticcally and reading the latest outpourings of your raper-like wit. 

Before you go, please do an article on the hsitory of the old Talmage mental hospital. I’ll bet Mike Geniella could do a good story on it. It would serve as an excellent oportunity to recerate a residential treatment facility for the seriously mentally ill and addicted for the northern California and Mendocino street people. 

The Talmage site could still be a perfect place to invest the recent Proposition 1 monies and would greatly reduce the dollars spent on all the homeless, sick and addicted folks constantly clogging up our jails and courts and taking so much police time. 

Use eminent domain to take back the “City of 10,000 Buddhas” and return the facility to its original purpose!

Thank you for all your words of courage and honesty.

Jon Forsyth


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Craig Stehr Replies: Rather unlikely that the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas will revert to a mental health facility again. As Bruce Anderson has reported, the Pure Land Buddhist sect purchased it for a pittance, and it is now a major spiritual center complete with schools, retreat facilities which attract the faithful from as far away as Koala Lampur, and a hardcore monastic group. Eminent domain, by the way, is increasingly ineffective due to lawsuits that the U.S. government has lost attempting to steal homeowners property, mostly by energy companies, under the ridiculous assertion that it is necessary for “national defense.” The State of California had a pre-sale opportunity to revitalize the property in Talmage, and declined for the usual obvious reasons, which are 1. Nobody really cares about the mentally ill because it is an expense and, aside from an increase of jobs, is mostly an unproductive situation, and 2. Mental illness is considered a private (id est “family”) affair, even though homeless mentally ill are not living with a nuclear or any other type of family. It all fits seamlessly into the American experiment with freedom and democracy, and will require an act of congress to be changed, which of course, cannot happen. Shelters are a temporary solution, though inadequate, but at least the suffering won’t be eaten by wildlife. Thanks for listening, and enjoy the day.

Craig Louis Stehr

c/o Building Bridges Homeless Resource Center

1045 South State Street, Ukiah, CA 95482


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I hope your surgical procedure went well. Naturally, I am disappointed to hear that you are suspending the print edition of the AVA, but I understand why you have to do it. I am just glad it lasted as long as it did. Every week I look forward to its arrival. You and the Major are doing an excellent job of putting out a weekly extravaganza of articles that I like to read. My first stop is Off The Record for rants, recommendations and information. Thanks to you and your writers for a marvelous reading experience.

Jim Rhoads

San Francisco

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If the Post Office, the CourtHouse and the Palace would happen to be restored and made a centerpiece of the community then Ukiah might have a chance at being something other than a strip mall. The other thing that Ukiah might want to consider is paving streets other than the one that leads to Costco. The sprawling struggling strip mall City Of Ukiah should not be allowed to allow the destruction of an Historical landmark. The Palace should be restored, re-built, and renewed. Talbot should be recognized as the proprietor of a small place on a side street and given little attention. If it is restored drug addicts will not stay there – they will not be able to afford it. I would think that folks riding or walking on the Redwood Trail will be staying there. They would be eating in Ukiah’s fine restaurants, spending money on their bikes, buying wine and more.

Tom McFadden 


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To the Editor: 

Can anyone in Ukiah or this area tell me why I should pay to vote for our town being the strongest? 

The company running the contest says it’s an advocate and online stories bases its model on Urban3 which is an actual consulting company. No real service or goods, is given in return, which is a charity. A visit by two reps and the award. But a charity usually does something for a group. Like Animal Shelters or Fire victims or Homeless in area. 

So if not enough people donate and vote the town will not receive PR or other prestigious PR media by this company, about being the Strongest Town? 

Local Media urging others to become members needs to be very clear about the disadvantages, of losing the title. Nothing for our area, for all those, that did donate. Seems more like a contest to see how much the town citizens are wanting an award, through paying for one, going against other towns. But this is just my opinion. 

Catherine Lair


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Thank you for pointing out the effect of lots of money poured into political campaigns. You are so correct in saying the deep pockets of the wine-industry bought that 1st District Supervisor seat. The Farm Bureau and Carre Brown endorsed her because Joe Hurlbutt (on the Bureau) is her uncle, and Carre Brown a relative. Why did people vote for an inexperienced kid? Well, you couldn’t open a social media page without seeing Cline’s picture. Some people said she seemed well-spoken, and after all, she said she had experience. Some folks told me they voted for her because they thought a female would be a good choice. Naive reasons all. Call me a curmudgeon, but I predict she will be a total waste of space on the Board at a time when the County is close to bankruptcy, is drastically cutting services for the public, and at the same time raising fees for everything they can. She is unqualified, has no idea what she’s doing, or she wouldn’t have had the narcissistic gall to run for that position. Just my two cents. That said, I hope I am proven wrong because our little community deserves better.

Julie Beardsley:


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A lot of people seem to want to believe that there’s some kind of conspiracy or collusion happening regarding the Palace. The sad truth is that this historic landmark has been neglected by private property owners—for decades—to nearly the point of no return. The City of Ukiah doesn’t own this building; we never have. However, when a private property deteriorates to the point that it becomes a public health and safety hazard, we have to get involved.

A year ago, City Staff and the City Council strongly believed that the Palace was being in the process of being sold to a buyer who had the resources and experience to bring the project to fruition. When that deal didn’t close, it became clear that there was not an eminent project and a) additional pressure needed to be applied to the owner, and b) we needed to inspect the building to evaluate the extent of the deterioration. 

The results of that inspection (9/29/23) were alarming and have been well documented, as well as confirmed by other people who have since seen the inside of the building. Regardless of the fact that the building was again in escrow with a new buyer and regardless of any other circumstances, it was deemed necessary to issue a Notice of Violation to the property owner to force remediation of the situation immediately. That remediation could be stabilization, demolition, or a combination thereof, and the pathway will be determined by the owner. None of those pathways can be completed overnight, so scaffolding and fencing were required. That’s where we are. The prospective buyers have a plan and are actively working through it; those plans are constrained by other agencies’ timelines that they cannot control. We expect to know more soon. 

Shannon Riley, Deputy City Manager


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Dear Editor,

Our two-party national system has begun another presidential campaigns. One thing these parties share: each party has a candidate whose been president for a four-year term. Trump from 2917-2020; Biden from 2020- 2024.

What is known about each candidate? Mr. Biden sought to become president almost from Jan. 3, 1973, when he first set foot in the US Senate. He tried several times but failed to get his party’s nomination each time. As he was running in 2020, the nation struggled to cope with an unprecedented viral epidemic which killed over 1 million Americans. His administration spent billions to restructure the infrastructure, lower the price of Insulin from $35 to $15, and to aid Ukraine and Israel.

Donald Trump is being sued in different cases, after promulgating the “Big Lie,” that he won the election of 2020. He lost a sexual abuse case leaving him liable to the woman for $84 million. We should be ready for more of his usual bombast, misinformation, and kissing-up to enemy dictators. It’s a maga-menaciter or a statesman.

Frank Baumgardner III

Santa Rosa

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Dear Editor,

Congress has a teenage mentality. They support what is popular and not necessarily what is right or smart.

For example, they voted to take out funding for the United Nations UNRWA agency because some of those aid workers joined with Hamas on October 7th.

Some very nice but misguided Americans joined the rioters in D.C. on January 6th, but Congress didn’t cut off funding to the cities and towns they came from. Our politicians respond only to what direction the wind is blowing. They should be more concerned about whether the wind is bringing rain for crops.

Congress is like a cheerleader who dumps her prom date because he says hi to a girl she hates. Better to consider the bigger picture than to act out of jealous rage.

Kimball Shinkoskey

Woods Cross, Utah

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