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Mendocino County Today: Tuesday, Jan 6, 2015

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JUST IN: The Fort Bragg City Council will conduct a public hearing on Monday, January 12, 2015 at 6 PM at the John Diederich Center, 208 Dana Street, to solicit public input regarding the acquisition and rehabilitation of a property for use as transitional housing and for a homeless and mental health services center. The former Old Coast Hotel at 101 North Franklin Street has been proposed for this activity. Previously, a property at 300 North Harrison Street was proposed for this use, but that project location was rejected. The City of Fort Bragg has been awarded a $1.2 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to acquire and rehabilitate a facility for transitional housing and homeless/mental services on behalf of the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center. The owners of the Old Coast Hotel property have signed an Option to Purchase Agreement, giving the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center exclusive option to purchase the property at a substantial discount from the original listing price. Plans for the facility include transitional housing units, vocational training programs, mental health services and administrative offices.

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DOUG LOSAK, Interim County Counsel for Mendocino County, seems stuck on a hamster wheel of pointlessness, with the current spat with Citizen O'Brien only the most recent example. Two years ago, just two weeks after being appointed Interim County Counsel for the first time, Losak was pulled over for speeding with an unregistered gun and a bag of marijuana stuffed under the front seat. That episode earned Losak the sobriquet of The Midnight Rambler.

LOSAK RESIGNED from the Interim position in semi-disgrace (as half the County laughed, the other half pretended to be aghast), but managed to keep his high paid County job. Still, driving around in the middle of the night with dope and a gun is, even in Mendocino County, considered just a tad unseemly for a County Counsel. But Losak was inevitably promoted to "Acting" County Counsel when his replacement quickly proved to be a bust and abruptly resigned following a performance review. Losak struggled from the beginning to advise the Supes on basics like how many votes it takes to pass a motion. But things went smoothly enough until Losak was named "Interim" County Counsel. No one, by the way, from the County has ever explained the difference between acting and interim except interim pays a lot more.

THE SUPES TRIED to sneak through a 30% raise for Losak on the Consent Calendar, which is usually reserved for non-controversial items. Sheriff Allman immediately said it was an insult to his deputies to consider any raise for Losak. District Attorney Eyster told the Supes in detail that Losak was not a very good lawyer and that calling him "interim" was a way around their own policies that limited raises for "acting" appointments to no more than 5%. In the end, Losak was given a 10% raise, which was still a huge slap in the face to all county employees who manage to show up for work every day without getting booked into the jail between shifts.

BOARD CHAIR JOHN PINCHES, in a departure from his usual common sense approach to the public's business, came out strongly in favor of the Losak raise, claiming that Losak was doing an "extraordinary" job for the County. Pinches didn't provide any evidence of Losak's extraordinariness but neither did any of us know which supervisors besides Pinches were in such staunch support of the Midnight Rambler. The public's business is always kinda opaque around here, much of it being done in "closed session."

AND HOW HAS LOSAK done since his raise and extraordinary job performance? When Library Advisory Board member Jonathan Middlebrook made a Public Records Act request for the resume of a consultant hired for the library, Losak said the records were protected as a personnel matter. Middlebrook sued, at which point Losak said the County never had the records. After months of jousting back and forth the County settled the lawsuit by producing the records it said it didn't have and paying Middlebrook $2,000 for attorney fees.

CITIZEN DENNIS O'BRIEN initially sued the County claiming a Sheriff's Deputy threatened to arrest a petition signature gatherer at Raley's and that O'Brien was denied his First Amendment right to sign the petition. Sheriff Allman and Deputy County Counsel Terry Gross signed off on an agreement that said the Sheriff would adopt a training manual on the topic and that each side would pay its own attorney fees. (A training manual? How about a simple directive: "Boys, and you're all boys in this here department, Americans have the right to circulate and sign petitions in public places.")

THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT also said the Board of Supes had to approve it. Meanwhile, O'Brien signed the agreement and dismissed his original lawsuit. O'Brien has been trying ever since to find out if the Supes voted to approve the agreement. And if so, what was the vote? Interim County Counsel Losak wrote a letter on Dec. 16 saying the Supes approved the settlement agreement, but in court on Dec 19 Losak claimed the Supes never vote on such matters but only "give direction to staff."

JUDGE RICHARD HENDERSON ruled against the County's effort to get the lawsuit tossed out, instead setting it for a Mandatory Settlement Conference on Feb. 25 while urging the parties to resolve the matter in the interim. O'Brien has neatly summed up the issue: "Judge Rules Supervisors Must Disclose Vote - But Did They Vote?" Second District Supervisor John McCowen, quoted in the Ukiah Daily Journal, says the Supes "never saw or voted on the settlement agreement" and if they had, he "would be the first to insist that the vote be made public."

INSTEAD of keeping his clients, the County of Mendocino, off the front page, Losak has managed to become the story on an on-going basis. And he has cost the County money in the process. First, by protecting what he said were non-existent documents only to produce them after the County was sued. And now by saying the Supes approved an agreement that at least one of the Supes says they never saw.

DENNIS O'BRIEN'S ongoing Brown Act struggles are of major importance to all of us. He's going for transparency, that public agencies do their business in public. For a long time now the supervisors, to name the most egregious offenders, along with every school board in the County, do a lot of stuff in closed session. We, Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, have a right to know which supervisor votes which way on these matters. Pour it on, Dennis!

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GAS PRICES per gallon in the Mendo Area as of January 5, 2015

Fort Bragg: $2.29 - $2.51.

Cloverdale: $2.49 - $2.69.

Ukiah: $2.42 - $2.66

Willits: $2.47 - $2.59.

San Francisco: $2.53 - $2.95

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HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: The beautifully remodeled and just re-opened Yorkville Market, managed by a most delightful young woman named Lisa Walsh Hale of the Judson Hale Winery family. The enterprise is part market, part tasting room, and just getting underway, seriously underway — Ms. Walsh opens at 6am with perfect coffee and an array of fresh pastries, making Yorkville the perfect early morning stop for all of us on the road before the dawn has cracked. When I stopped in last Tuesday, the place was humming. None other than the mayor of Yorkville himself, Larry Carr Sr., had popped in for a cuppa. It's been a long time since Yorkville had a center, and now it has one that had me temporarily disoriented. “Where am I?” The Yorkville Market is that nice.

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Dear Mr. Anderson,

In line with Mr. O'Brien's insistence on knowing what decisions were made that "gave direction to staff" by elected officials, I am delighted to report that our diligent pursuit of cognitive sonance (discovery of practices conducted by a very powerful "dependent" special district, operated by County staff with no structural accountability whatsoever) led to the finding that our Board of Supervisors and both City Councils have been uninvolved in making decisions that result in "direction of staff" for 9 years following development of a Joint Powers Authority Agreement among them.

Our Commission avoided telling the truth about how the JPAA-formed organization actually works, because they insisted that the organization does not "direct staff." Why are they so incredibly sensitive about this matter, can you please explain?

(If they haven't provided the appropriate direction, and the program is administered incorrectly -- resulting in fines and penalties to the municipalities -- will they be able to blame "staff" more easily, if they haven't performed their "duties of care" to provide that direction? Bureaucratic CYA? Doesn't that put the "staff" in a pretty tricky position?)

Betsy Cawn

The Essential Public Information Center

Upper Lake, CA; 707-275-9376;

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Help Keep our College - Sign up for a Class this Spring.

Mendocino College will be at the Fort Bragg campus on January 12

Mendocino College will offer registration, financial aid, and counseling at the Fort Bragg campus on Monday, January 12, from 10-3 (closed for lunch 12-1)

Mendocino College can't afford to advertise or put administrators over here until they get the property, along with the State revenue that goes with it (which College of the Redwoods still receives). Everything they do now — coming over to register us, financial aid — is done on top of people's full-time jobs over the hill. If we want a college, we have to help spread the word. Sign up for a course. Get a high school student to sign up. Let's make this work.

Norma Watkins

PS. The bus schedule over the hill now goes by the Willits Campus for anyone interested in those courses.

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Join the 2015 Planning Team for the Relay For Life of Ukiah Kick-Off on January 13th at Slam Dunk Pizza. Drop in anytime from 5:30-8:00pm to sign up your team, ask questions, sign up your survivor, meet the planning team, or just see what changes are in store for the 2015 season. Come in your favorite sports gear to win a prize. Thank you for your continued support in promoting this meaningful event to Fight Cancer.

— Katrina Cavender

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As a teacher in a public southern university for thirty years, I saw many changes among the two races. Yes, there is ongoing separatism; black students gathered in the back of the classrooms and whites in the front. They tend to eat and date separately. But, there is a common culture growing among the two races – common language, music, food, family attitudes, religion (or non-religion), learning, etc. Unfortunately, the cultural attitudes forming and being promoted are all degraded and primitive. The commonality is laziness, profligacy and a rejection of personal responsibility; a glorification of self-centeredness and anti-community. This common culture is resulting in an ignorant and greedy generation with less overt racism on either side but nothing that resembles a coherent society.

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Thanksgiving weekend in 1990, I spent two hours at the loneliest place in the world for an obscure novelist — the book-signing table at a Waldenbooks in a suburban New Jersey mall.

I sat at the table smiling like a game show host. Store patrons scurried past me, doing all they could to avoid eye contact. I kept smiling. I straightened out my pile of free bookmarks for the umpteenth time, though so far none had been taken. I played with my pen. Authors at signings like this get good at playing with their pens. I pushed it to and fro. I curled my upper lip around the pen and made it into a makeshift mustache. I clipped it to my lower lip, pinching said lip in an almost masochistic way, and was able to click the pen open by moving my jaw and pressing it against my nose. You can’t teach that skill, by the way. Practice. At one point, I took out a second pen, rolled up a spitball, and then let the two pens play hockey against each other. The Rollerball beat the Sharpie in overtime.

During the first hour of my signing, a grand total of four people approached me. Two asked me where the bathroom was. The third explained his conspiracy theory linking the J.F.K. assassination with the decision by General Mills to add Crunch Berries to Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal. The fourth asked me if we had a copy of the new Stephen King.

I kept smiling. Four copies of my brand-spanking-new first novel — Waldenbooks knew not to order too many — stood limply on the shelf behind me. I missed the Barcalounger in my den. I longed for home and hearth, for stuffing my face with leftover turkey, for half-watching football games in which I had no rooting interest. Instead I slow-baked under the fluorescent Waldenbooks lights, the Early Hipster booksellers glaring at me as though I was some kind of pedantic squatter. I had become the literary equivalent of a poster child — “you could buy his book or you could turn the page …”

Time didn’t just pass slowly. It seemed to be moonwalking backward.

Then, with maybe 15 minutes left before I could scrape up the scraps of my dignity and head home, an old man shuffled toward me. He wiped his nose with what I hoped was a beige hankie. His eyes were runny. Odds were this was going to be a where’s-the-bathroom question, but this guy had all the makings of another conspiracy theorist.

The old man’s gaze drifted over my shoulder. “What’s that like?”

“Excuse me?”

“That’s your novel, right?”

He gestured at the four books on the shelf behind me.

“Right,” I said.

He shook his head in awe. “That’s my dream, man. Seeing my book on a shelf in a bookstore.” He lowered his gaze and met my eye. “So what’s that like?”

I paused, letting the question sink in, but before I could reply, the old man lifted his eyes back to the bookshelf, smiled, and shook his head again. “Lucky,” he said, before turning and walking away.

He didn’t buy a book. He didn’t have to.

— Harlan Coben

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CATCH OF THE DAY, January 5, 2015

Barber, Hurtado, Ortega, Palmer
Barber, Hurtado, Ortega, Palmer

ZACHARIAH BARBER, Ukiah. Dirk/dagger, possession of drug paraphernalia.

ALEX HURTADO, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.

CARLOS ORTEGA, Ukiah. Domestic battery.

TED PALMER, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

Price, Rodriguez, Smith-Harjo, Williams
Price, Rodriguez, Smith-Harjo, Williams

JOEL PRICE, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation, resisting arrest.

JAIME RODRIGUEZ, Ukiah. Burglary, receiving stolen property.

CAMEO SMITH-HARJO, Ukiah. Burglary, receiving stolen property.

JULIAN WILLIAMS, Ukiah. Grand Theft.

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While it is true that in ancient Europe and well into the 18th century (obvious examples come from France), deliberate lewdness was not inconsistent with flashes of comedy or vigorous satire or even the verve of a fine poet in a wanton mood, it is also true that in modern times the term "pornography" connotes mediocrity, commercialism, and certain strict rules of narration. Obscenity must be mated with banality because every kind of aesthetic enjoyment has to be entirely replaced by simple sexual stimulation which demands the traditional word for direct action on the patient. Old rigid rules must be followed by the pornographer in order to have his patient feel the same security of satisfaction as, for example, fans of detective stories feel — stories where, if you do not watch out, the real murderer may turn out to be, to the fans disgust, artistic originality. (Who for instance would want a detective story without a single bit of dialog in it?) Thus, in pornographic novels, action is to be limited to the copulation of clichés. Style, structure, imagery should never distract the reader from his tepid lust. The novel must consist of an alternation of sexual scenes. The passages in between must be reduced to sutures of sense, logical bridges of the simplest design, brief expositions and explanations which the reader will probably skip but must know they exist in order not to feel cheated (a mentality stemming from the routine of "true" fairytales in childhood). Moreover, the sexual scenes in the book must follow a crescendo line with new variations, new combinations, new sexes, and a steady increase in the number of participants (in de Sade play they call a gardener in), and therefore the end of the book must be more replete with lewd lore than the first chapters.

Certain techniques in the beginning of Lolita (Humbert's Journal, for example), lead some of my first readers into assuming that this was going to be a lewd book. They expected the rising succession of erotic scenes; when they stopped, the readers stopped too, and felt bored and let down. This, I suspect, is one of the reasons why not all the four firms that read the first manuscript read it to the end. Whether they found it pornographic or not did not interest me. Their refusal to buy the book was based not on my treatment of the theme, but the theme itself, for there are at least three themes which are utterly taboo as far as most American publishers are concerned. The two others are: the Negro-White marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren; and the total atheist who has a happy and useful life and dies in his sleep at the age of 106.

Some of the initial reactions to the manuscript were very amusing. One reader suggested that his publishing firm might consider publication if I turned my Lolita into a 12-year-old lad who had been seduced by Humbert, a farmer, in a barn, amidst gaunt and arid surroundings, all this set forth in short, strong, "realistic" sentences. ("He acts crazy. We all act crazy, I guess. I guess God acts crazy." Etc.) Although everybody should know that I detest symbols and allegories (which is due partly to my old feud with Freudian voodooism and partly to my loathing of generalizations devised by literary mythists and sociologists), an otherwise intelligent reader who flipped through the first part described Lolita as "Old Europe debauching Young America," while another flipper saw in it "Young America debauching Old Europe." One publisher whose advisers got so bored with Humbert they never got beyond page 188, had the naivete to write me that part 2 was too long. Another publisher on the other hand regretted that there were no good people in the book. And one said that if he printed Lolita he and I would both go to jail.

— Vladimir Nabokov

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by James Kunstler

For the moment, while the racial grievances of 2014 have chilled on the polar vortex, and no unarmed black teens have been shot by cops for a couple of weeks, it might be a good time to continue that honest discussion about race that the media nabobs — such as Charles Blow and Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times and Don Lemon of CNN — demand when some incendiary event goes down and tensions across the country become unbearable. That demand, of course, is a political booby-trap because any discussion not founded on the presumption of white malice is instantly deemed inadmissible and “racist” — which is just cheap demagogic despotism designed to shut down the very discussion they asked for. So that is exactly what I expect in response to this essay.

I bring these matters up because it seems to me that the long, arduous, costly battle for “civil rights” which began in my childhood a half century ago is beginning to look like a lost cause. The movies and TV are full of black / white buddy stories, and commercial images of a shared American experience as if there really was a common culture that blacks and whites felt an equal investment in. These stories and images are largely wishful, though I believe the dream of a common culture that would nurture all types of people in America stood at the heart of civil rights idealism of the sort represented by Martin Luther King and the white public figures who marched in solidarity with him.

Something went terribly wrong in the early going, and I don’t think there has ever been an honest discussion about it by American social thought leaders of any race, though I have raised the point more than once in passing. It was the paradoxical rise of black separatist politics at the exact historical moment of civil rights triumph when the two landmark civil rights bills were passed: the Public Accommodations Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Black separatism had been around since the late 19th century as a counterpoint to the earlier post-slavery idea represented by Booker T. Washington, which proposed that black earnestness would eventually be recognized by white America and rewarded, at least with economic participation. That idea was opposed by less patient, younger figures such as W.E.B Du Bois and Marcus Garvey who promoted what was then called “Pan-Africanism.” But the debate was superseded by the crises of the Great Depression and Second World War. By the early 1960s, black separatism had revived, personified first by Malcolm X (assassinated by rival Black Muslims, 1965), and the disillusioned former Freedom Rider Stokely Carmichael, who coined the slogan “black power,” and then by scores of public players and followers.

What I think happened is that the sudden prospect of true legal equality produced deep anxiety across black America, so that opting out provided a comfortable alternative. I saw it play out at my college in 1970 when the “militant” black students organization demanded a separate black student union. In the face of the civil rights acts passed only a few years earlier, this should have been regarded as a sort of outrage, but pusillanimous college administrators caved in and bought a house for that purpose. And of course the same thing happened all over the country, so that a new form of separate-but-equal was reestablished by popular demand.

That blunder by academic leaders set a tragic tone for the forty years that followed. To rationalize the new separate-but-equal ethos, these people of liberal good intentions constructed an elaborate ideology of “multiculturalism” and “diversity” that had the tragic unintended consequence of obliterating the foundational idea of a common culture that had animated the struggle Dr. King gave his life to, as well the basic notion of what it meant to be an American.

A common culture did exist in America before the 1960s, at least in terms of manners, standards of decent behavior, and even language. It was what allowed people of good will in the 20th century to believe in “one nation indivisible.” Hence, the question America needs to ask itself: do we have enough moral focus to revive the idea that a common culture actually matters? If not, expect unending strife.

(Note: Kunstler’s 2015 Forecast is available now at this link: Forecast 2015 — Life in the Breakdown Lane.)

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  1. Kathleen Gagnon January 6, 2015

    Your headline needs’s January 6th….2015! Happy New Year to all at the AVA! Thanks for a great, informative newspaper.

    • AVA News Service Post author | January 6, 2015

      Quite right. Thank you !

  2. Bill Pilgrim January 6, 2015

    RE: Kunstler. While he focuses on the legal/civil rights “equality” and their ramifications, he’s completely overlooked (or not understood) the institutionalized economic inequality and discrimination that has NEVER changed. From bank red-lining to blatant employment discrimination, black citizens have never been allowed to ride the bus of economic mobility.
    Sure, man, you can vote. But you can’t work here or live in this neighborhood.

  3. Harvey Reading January 6, 2015

    “A common culture did exist in America before the 1960s …”

    A “culture” of zombie-ism, complete with total conformity, not to mention fear, of nuclear annihilation, of being blacklisted, of being considered different.

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