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Off the Record (Oct 1, 2014)

LARUE KOBRIN has died. A long-time resident of Fort Bragg perhaps best known for her many years as an instructor at the College of the Redwoods, LaRue was universally admired for her compassion and intelligence as she helped many persons with sound, practical advice on their personal difficulties. Married for many years to Fort Bragg fisherman, Frank Bender, LaRue died in her sleep at her home at 3am this morning with Frank by her side. I've never known a more devoted, harmonious couple than Frank and LaRue. Mere condolences aren't enough.

A READER WRITES: “At the last election, in June, I didn't receive any election material in the mail. Not even a ballot. As I had voted in the prior election, in person, to exchange my spoiled mail-in ballot for another ballot, I knew I was up to date. I called the Clerk's office just last Friday. After being passed from one worker to another worker, I was informed, ‘Oh, that was when we had problems, a lot of people got purged.’ She reinstated my registration with no further explanation or apology. Several other people I know got dumped with no notice or explanation. You guys ever hear about a purge in Mendocino County? How many folks got dumped? Why?”

NOPE, and we looked into it this very day with Elections, an office we've always found to be transparent. The pleasant woman who answered the phone confirmed there was no “purge” of voters that she was aware of, and there had been no complaints from voters they'd been lost in the system. This one must have been a one-off experience. In addition, if a voter’s name is for some reason not on the precinct list the voter can always submit a provisional ballot in case there’s an individual glitch such as an address change, a mail delivery problem, an error, etc.

PROTESTERS BLOCKED trucks at the north end of the Willits Bypass for two mornings last week. The CHP eventually showed up to warn the blockaders that they'd be arrested if they continued to stop work on the project. Caltrans claims that protests have cost $12 million in delays, and also claims the Bypass is 40% complete.


THE CANDIDATE SPEAKS “Education and Qualifications: I have lived here in Fort Bragg for the last 20 years and in Mendocino County for almost 40 years. Over these years I have been an educational leader as a teacher, principal and superintendent and in these roles I have consistently brought diverse groups of people together, established a clear vision and helped manage the inevitable process of change so that the future showed positive growth, while still retaining all that was most important from the past. I have learned that we can create the future of our dreams by becoming the agents of change rather than its victim. It is apparent to me that the City and the community of Fort Bragg stand at an important crossroad and the decisions we make as a City, and as a community, over the next 5 to 10 years will absolutely define our future into the next century. I believe that my veteran perspective, along with the skills I have honed in my work with school communities, including: effective listening, community building, organization and change management will be important additions to the Fort Bragg City Council. I am willing to take on this work for you with heart and dedication. Thank you for your support!” (Mark Iacuaniello, candidate for Fort Bragg City Council)

ED NOTE: I count 31 errors, not counting the conceptual ones, in this communication. Versions of this character run the public schools of Mendocino County. Needless to say, Iacuaniello is a great fave of departing County Schools chief, Paul Tichinin, the spectacular incompetent who is at last, after a final two rip-off jaunts to Washington DC and Nevada, is retiring.

TICHININ'S PAL, Iacuaniello, is now running for the Fort Bragg City Council, having been selected by the sitting Council, which is, I must say, a damning indictment of their intellectual functioning. We hope Fort Bragg voters slam-dunk Mr. I in November.

A READER HELPS MAKE OUR POINT about inland water regulation, that point being that there are so many agencies involved that the public nods off during the first paragraph of any story about how it all works: “The RRFC&WCID (and congratulations on stating the full correct name — Janet Pauli would be so proud of you!) technically does not “partially control releases” which are controlled by the Sonoma County Water Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers based on flow regimes approved by NOAA and the State Water Resources Control Board. RRFC does coordinate and provide information that is factored into the releases. This may seem like a distinction without a difference, except RRFC lacks the ability to release a single drop. And another part of the hydro-geography is that the headwaters of Lake Pillsbury are in Mendocino County, so Mendocino is the county of origin for at least a portion of the water diverted through the Potter Valley tunnel. It is also worth noting that the original and still the primary reason for being of ‘The Friends of the Eel River’ is to remove Scott Dam and Cape Horn Dam which impound Lake Pillsbury and Van Arsdale reservoir, without which there would be even less water to send down the ‘main stem’ Eel River (which would more accurately be called the ‘East Branch’). Johnny Pinches has been the foremost proponent of increased water storage (or trying to wrestle away a bigger share of Lake Mendocino) but has not been a proponent of raising Coyote Valley Dam. He has correctly identified raising Scout Lake dam, but he claims that both Willits and Redwood Valley said they were not interested. One complication is that Scout Lake is in the Eel River watershed (with every drop originating in Mendocino County) and we know how simple those cross basin transfers can be…”

WHAT IS NEEDED is a water czar, centralized authority with the power to override the many competing public agencies and the many self-interested water districts. Additionally, all the persons and businesses with riparian access to the Russian River should be metered and monitored.

PAUL ARDEN, a staffer for Congressman Jared Huffman, sent out this apparently proud press release last week:  “WASHINGTON—Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) appeared on last night’s episode of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report as part of the ongoing “Better Know A District” series. Huffman and host Stephen Colbert discussed the California redwoods, whether Star Wars’ Han Solo shot first, the landmark state law banning shark finning that Huffman co-authored as a state legislator, California’s record drought, and other topics.—-california-s-2nd—-jared-huffman

ED NOTE: Colbert’s “series” is an ongoing joke, a joke which Arden apparently doesn't get. And we've critiqued Huff's performance, and sadly conclude he's not quite quick enough for prime time comedy. His performance in office, though, is downright side-splitting.

A SMALL BUT TYPICAL EXAMPLE of Hamburg-think was tossed casually off at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting during “Supervisors Reports.” Speaking of his attendance at the Mental Health Board meeting of September 17th, Hamburg, second-term 5th District Supervisor, off-handedly praised the Mental Health Court, Hospitality House in Fort Bragg, the Mental Health Board, the agencies and contractors involved etc. etc., adding, in passing, “I know everybody doesn’t agree with this, but I think we’re in better shape today than we were before we got into these contracts and went into privatization. I know the Grand Jury doesn’t agree with that. But I think we made the right move.”

IN FACT, the Grand Jury never made any comparison of services before or after privatization. Their comments were very specific that privatization fixer-man, Tom Pinizzotto, should have removed himself from a process involving his former employer, Ortner, and that the Ortner contract left out certain categories of service. But here’s Hamburg misrepresenting the GJ's criticisms so he can dismiss them as simply a difference of opinion between the Grand Jury and himself — himself of course being self-evidently correct. Fox News couldn’t have done it better.

A HEADLINE from the Press Democrat last week: "Wine execs worry about future of industry." The wine execs' worry? That more people were drinking the many excellent local brews, and now whiskeys, instead of wine. The point of the story? The PD's daily lathering up of their primary advertisers, the wine industry.


IN RESPONSE to KC Meadows' scathing Sunday editorial in the Ukiah Daily Journal that County Schools chief, Paul Tichinin, does not need to make two lame duck jaunts on the public's dime, and that the overall County Schools travel budget is a travesty, County Schools has responded to KC this way: “KC, The total Travel and Conferences budget for MCOE for 14-15 is $228,421. See page 25 of the MCOE Budget book, which is posted on our website. General Admin’s portion of that total is $81,328 for 14-15. General Admin includes the Board of Education, and 40+ employees of the following departments: Human Resources, Superintendent, IT – Computer, Business Services, Maintenance and Operations, Psychs and Nurses. See page 51 of the MCOE budget book for detail. If you have further questions please don’t hesitate to call. Victoria Gulick Confidential Administrative Assistant Mendocino County Office of Education…”

MCOE IS CLAIMING that all of the County's “educators” are free to draw on an annual $147,093 while Tichinin and his Talmage heavy hitters draw a mere $81,328.

I WROTE to the put-upon Ms. Gulick (she has to front for these thieves) to ask her if I could get a breakdown, by name, of the people traveling on the edu-dime. I assume Tichinin apportions most of it with some going to his pals at the individual school districts of Mendocino County. But unless we know who spent how much going where, these overall budget numbers remain opaque. The real point is, these people are taking money that should go to classrooms. I'm waiting for Ms. Gulick's reply, which I doubt will be forthcoming.

BUT IT WAS FORTHCOMING, and here's what she said: "The travel budget is not broken down by employee, but by department.... We have some countywide and Region 1 grants that pay travel for individuals who are not MCOE employees. Whether or not an AVUSD employee used MCOE travel funds, without an employee name, it would be difficult to determine, since funds are tracked by MCOE department. MCOE will often reimburse districts directly. For example, if a district employee attends a conference that MCOE agrees to pay for, the employee's travel claim is paid by the district and then the district bills MCOE. Please let me know if you have other questions. Victoria Gulick, Confidential Administrative Assistant, Mendocino County Office of Education."

I WROTE BACK to Ms. Gulick. I was beginning to feel sorry for the poor woman. After all, she has to run interference for these swindlers. I asked her how much of the travel budget Tichinin himself had sucked up. That was a week ago. I don't expect an answer.

Chief Mayberry
Chief Mayberry

LAST MONTH’S RUMOR CONFIRMED: Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster announced on coast radio this morning that retired Fort Bragg Police Chief Scott Mayberry will begin work for the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office on Monday. DA Eyster's hiring decision was made public during his visits to radio stations KOZT and KUNK. Hired to work as a peace officer investigator, Mayberry will be dividing his time between inland and coastal Mendocino County, according to District Attorney Chief Investigator Kevin Bailey. Mayberry's primary office, however, will be in the Ten Mile courthouse in Fort Bragg. “In my opinion, Scott's law enforcement experience, as well as his personal and professional connections on the coast, are a perfect addition to my county-wide investigative unit,” said Eyster. “I'm pleased that Scott has chosen to accept my invitation to join our team.” With the addition of Mayberry, there will be six investigators in the DA's Investigation Unit. These investigators work with prosecutors to strengthen cases for evidentiary hearings and jury trials. Not only seeking evidence of guilt, the investigators are also vigilant in looking for evidence that may help exonerate defendants. Mayberry, a native of Fort Bragg, is a career law enforcement officer. He worked in Redding before taking charge of the Fort Bragg Police Department in 2010 and resigning a couple of months ago.

SUPERVISOR DAN GJERDE posted the following note on his facebook page on Thursday: “We may get rain, but Fort Bragg has never had much capacity to store water. That's why today's news is such great news. Fort Bragg's proposed Summers Lane pond won a space on the State water department's draft list slated for grants. Best part: Gravity-fed water storage is the cheapest form of water, and in this case the State is providing half the construction dollars. Thanks to this grant, the construction cost burden won't be added entirely to local water rates.”


ON THURSDAY, September 25, 2014 at 6:32 PM the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was contacted by hunters who wanted to report their discovery of a deceased human body near the roadway in the 50000 block of Indian Dick Road in Covelo, California. Sheriff's Deputies responded to the scene, which was determined to be part of the Mendocino National Forest. The Deputies confirmed the presence of a deceased adult male subsequently identified as Michael Leon Pina, a 52-year-old adult male. Sheriff's Detectives were summoned to the scene and are conducting a suspicious death investigation with the assistance of the Round Valley Tribal Police Department. A forensic autopsy has been scheduled for September 29, 2014 as a cause of death is not obvious to Sheriff's Detectives. Any updated information will be disseminated by press release(s) as the investigation continues. Anyone who might have information that could assist Sheriff's Detectives in their investigation is urged to contact the Sheriff's Office Tip-Line at 707-234-2100 or the Round Valley Tribal Police Department Tip-Line at 707-272-0259. (Sheriff’s Press Release)

PINA ONCE attacked AVA staffer, Mark Heimann, with an ax handle. The assault occurred in downtown Covelo. As I recall, Pina was inspired by a friend of his who claimed Heimann had captured the affections of the friend's love interest. Pina was a tough guy who seems to have run terminally afoul of someone tougher, or at least more ruthless, someone who went straight for a gun rather than an ax handle.

SHEILA DAWN TRACY WRITES: "I have been informed by KZYX Director Jane Futcher that the regularly scheduled October Board meeting has been delayed to November 3rd. The reason given was that Board members & staff are preoccupied with planning the 25th birthday celebration on October 11th as well as the fall pledge drive."

A FEW MONTHS AGO we pointed out that the wine industry had taken over Mendocino County politics, replacing the once dominant timber industry. Hardly news to County residents, and not at all an economic upgrade, going from real industry to a frivolous one based on America's dwindling discretionary income. Thirty dollar wines and wine tourism will disappear in the ongoing economic crunch as it continues to crunch.

ANYHOW, what has taken over Mendocino County can more accurately be called the Wine-Tourism Mob of which the wine industry, large as it is, is maybe half. This is an essentially interchangeable group of vintners, artists, innkeepers, chefs, executive directors, event managers, alliances, organizers, districts, coordinators, gentlemen/women farmers, marketing specialists, sommeliers, hosts, and miscellaneous sillies but a Mob that calls the County's political tune.

THE MOST RECENT demonstration of the power exerted by the booze and scented soap lobby occurred last Monday afternoon at the Board of Supervisors when they got another big hunk of tax money from the County’s supposedly tight General Fund.

THE BEEF? You don't get it?

WE THINK the wine and tourism people should fund their own advertising, just like every other private business in Mendocino County has to do.

ACCORDING to the agenda summary, the County’s Lodging and Tourism Business Improvement District will “apply the proposed three-tier assessment to 2013-14 actual lodging business gross revenues at the current 50% match which would result in an approximate 57%, or $189,000 increase in the County’s BID match obligation. Under these circumstances the 2014-15 budgeted BID match is inadequate.”

TRANSLATION: The County's wine and tourism axis, now rewarded at the rate of $365k per year, will now get  $550k or more of taxpayer money per year.

“THE KEY CHANGES are to move from a fixed 1% assessment rate to a tiered assessment rate of .5% for lodging businesses with annual gross rent less than $100,000,” continues the agenda summary, “1% for lodging businesses with annual gross rent of $100,000-$499,999 and 2% for lodging businesses with annual gross rent of $500,000 or more; clarify administrative procedures; and indicate that services will be provided by the Mendocino County Promotional Alliance.”


OF COURSE Promotional Alliance honcho Scott Schneider — a Tim Lincecum lookalike — didn’t call it a “subsidy,” preferring instead the term “an investment in tourism.”

AMONG THE GIDDIEST supporters of the hand-over was former Supervisor candidate/Mendocino B&B proprietor Wendy Roberts — She went on at such mind-numbing length to “support this wholeheartedly” that we fell asleep watching the video replay.

BUT THE SUPERVISORS also fell all over themselves giving away public money to people who should be paying for their own promotion. Supervisor Brown gushed that handing the money over was “wonderful,” and Supervisor John Pinches, who in the past openly wondered why the County was only subsidizing one industry, joked about opening his own motel in Laytonville in January after his term is up.

NOT A SINGLE QUESTION from a single supervisor on what amounts to a blank annual draw on the general fund.

THIS IS WHERE the half-mil (combined with another half-mil mostly from the big B&Bs) will go: “(A) The general promotion of hotels operating within the District; (B) The marketing of products and events that have a connection with the hotel industry operating in the District; (C) The marketing of the District to the media and travel industry in order to benefit local tourism and the hotels in the District; and (D) Any activities permitted under the Parking and Business Improvement Area Law of 1989 that are included as costs as specified in the annual report to be prepared by the Advisory Board and adopted annually by the Board of Supervisors.”

BECAUSE the wine and ocean view bathtub people are now organized as a government-certified “district” there still has to be a hearing on the handing over of the extra $200k. And the new fee structure won’t kick in until the next fiscal year, July 1, 2015. The hearing might produce a few quibbles about who gets taxed how much, who gets represented on which wine-board or cheese-committee, etc. But it’s obviously a done deal.

One Comment

  1. Eric Sunswheat October 1, 2014

    AVA: “And another part of the hydro-geography is that the headwaters of Lake Pillsbury are in Mendocino County,…”
    RESPONSE: Incorrect. Headwaters of Lake Pillsbury are in Lake County.
    “Eel River… mainstem stretches more than 200 air miles and over 800 river miles from the headwaters above Lake Pillsbury in Lake County.”
    AVA: “…so Mendocino is the county of origin for at least a portion of the water diverted through the Potter Valley tunnel.”
    RESPONSE: True statement. Potter Valley tunnel is many miles downstream from Lake Pillsbury, and a certain portion of Mendocino County does drain into the Eel, upstream of the Eel Russian River tunnel.
    CLICK ON: Supervisorial Districts 2010

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