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Off the Record (Feb 25, 2015)


NOT THAT SHE'S talking about why she left, but Suzette Cook, the smart and energetic young editor briefly in charge of news for the twin ad sales sheets known as the Fort Bragg Advocate and Mendocino Beacon, wanted to energize the papers with some real reporting, but Ms. Cook's up-tempo ambitions seemed to scare the bejeezus out of the prim dowagers who've run the two papers for many years, resulting in an inevitable “personality clash.” Even if she'd survived, a steady diet of Coast politics — an enervating mush of oppressively pious liberalism only occasionally leavened by overtly psychotic public events — probably would have caused Ms. Cook to run for the door. All that as the mother corporation sells off everything while paying staff the usual corporo-pittance. The talented Ms. Cook is well outtahere.

AN UNGRAMMATICAL GARBLE from Ukiah Daily Journal publisher, Kevin McConnell, informs us of the new “combined” Hometown Shopper/Penny Saver in Lake County,  is no longer going to be sent via bulk mail, but distributed as the Penny Saver has been, by boxes, racks and stacks.

THE NEW COMBO JOB is sure to be viewed as a slap in the face to McConnell's staff who have to sell ads in the Mendocino County version of the Hometown Shopper.

IMAGINE the conversation: Ad sales rep: “Advertise in the Hometown Shopper! It goes right to everybody’s mailbox in Mendocino County!” Advertiser: “But your own company describes the Shopper as ‘an uninvited item’ that ‘jams up’ people’s mailboxes with ‘circulars’ that a Newspaper Association of America study concedes only 49 percent of recipients even open.” (Seems quite high to me, actually, that 49 percent number).

AND THIS SENTENCE, a classic in devious phrasing: “And where sometimes merely 500 to 1,500 copies might be returned (usually during bad weather)” – does that mean “most times” Penny Saver returns are significantly higher than 1,500? The claim of a 16,000 circulation for the Penny Saver is allegedly far from true, as well.

LATEST SPECULATION on the “imminent” sale of the Digital First conglomerate, owners of the UDJ, The Willits News and the Advocate/Beacon, says the sale should occur “in a matter of weeks” – this below story about the Palo Alto “Daily” (not an actual daily for some time) becoming a Friday weekly next month is interesting: especially the “delivered for free to most homes and targeted businesses in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton” as well as being included as an insert in editions of the Mercury News and San Mateo Times going to subscribers in those zip codes and other cities as well. Free home delivery of a free newspaper would seem to be an uncharacteristically large investment/expense for the current regime: but I suppose the savings on the print bill and reducing staffing to fill only 1 edition a week could create that opportunity. Turning a real newspaper into another “uninvited item” jamming up people’s mailboxes? Another column I recently read says staffing in the Mercury News newsroom is down from 400 (in 2007) to 100.

THE MAJOR assesses KZYX: "What's missing from all the local arguing about KZYX and its management salaries, their rigged elections, their fundraising and budgeting, lack of managerial transparency, staff limitations, utter lack of community outreach, their frequent lapses in judgment, failure to follow their own bylaws, and so forth, is the inferior quality of the product. Generic and highly specialized blocks of music (two hours of “celtic” music? Four hours of bluegrass? Two hours of bad rock or Grateful Dead?), large swaths of piped in NPR, repetitive shows about individuals’ hobbies, sonorous Big Think programs by pretentious locals, and a few minutes of monotonal renditions of press releases supplemented by “According to the Ukiah Daily Journal”? The UDJ can be found quite easily without KZYX.) Not one local public affairs talk show about local matters? Where’s Norm de Vall? Why was he offed? How about a local realtor talking about housing or zoning? An occasional Supervisor or County official? Coverage of a court case? A debate on a controversy in the local news like water, housing? current pot law, fucking vineyard frost fans? Nuisances in general? Mental Health Services and Facilities?… What do we get out of our "local public radio" on local public matters? Nada.

IT WOULD BE NICE if KZYX handled various internal processes better, but it would be much better if the station was even marginally in the same league as KMUD in terms of on-air production. If they were, we probably wouldn’t even be bothered much by the other stuff. Have you noticed that there never any debates or controversies about KMUD's finances or internal processes? You know why? Transparency and smart, personable people in the power slots.

THE EDITOR is also frequently asked why he "hates" KZYX. Editor? Please explain your negative self: "I don't hate KZYX. I simply think that as a public radio station it's a Potemkin enterprise, not a public radio station at all. It's really a jobs program for a handful of unpleasant unemployables who fear local discussion of local issues, and I think local discussion of local issues ought to be the be all, end all of local public radio. Why are we even discussing the obvious here? It could be a good thing but, given the way the station is organized as self-interested voting bloc, stooge board of directors, and so on, it never will be. Incidentally, having been an off and on member of KZYX's wacky family all the way back to ol' Wall Eye, I just signed up again as a member a few nights ago, being inspired to by the Tuesday night music played by Alan Kendall, which happens to coincide with the end of my weekly task, and whom I've tuned in for years simply because me and my best friend, Mr. Evan Williams, find Kendall's show most helpful in a therapeutic sense after a hard day's work. I've appreciated Kendall for years and have finally shown some cash appreciation. I also try to catch Jeff Blankfort's Wednesdays, from which I almost always learn stuff I didn't know. Other than them, I seldom tune in. I'm a print guy anyway. Kendall's the only time I zone out on tunes.

THE KEY PHRASE in Fort Bragg’s Community Development Block Grant application for the Conversion of the Coast Hotel to a Mental Health facility is 'effective services.' There's no reliable way to evaluate these alleged services and even if a few people are 'helped.' What's the definition of success? Fact is, a few tractable people are briefly enrolled in these programs while the great mass of homeless, ever increasing, continues to shuffle around public places all day doing their civic morale-destroying things. Ortner, now the private owner of most of Mendocino County's mental health "services," for which the Yuba City-based Ortner takes in upwards of $7 million annually, and Ortner's surrogates at Hospitality House don't even attempt to work with, say, Heather DeWolfe, Scott and Kelisha, The Hump, and the rest of Mendocino County's Impossibles. The true beneficiaries of Hospitality House are upper management.

CONGRATULATIONS to Steve Eberhard, the excellent photo-journalist working under the auspices of The Willits News, for being awarded the James Madison Freedom of Information Award by the Society of Professional Journalists for his coverage of the ongoing Willits Bypass fiasco. Natch, CalTrans had Steve arrested for the crime of doing his job — covering the news.

JUST WHEN THINGS seemed to calm down in Fort Bragg regarding the City Manager, the City Council and the array of issues in front of them, Mendocino Sports Plus received this info Thursday Night:

"A group has been formed with the name Citizens for Fairness (CFF) and has agreed to collect a war chest of funds and execute a representation agreement with a well known Ukiah law firm that specializes in land use issues. The group CFF plans to proceed on two fronts, one is the legal venue and the other is a recall of three of the five City Council seats. On another issue expect to see some fireworks at the Planning Commission hearing tomorrow regarding the new school parking lots. The proposed establishment of all parking for the high school to be located on the North side of Chestnut is a violation of numerous agreements forged to allow the construction of the stadium. Perhaps the two issues will culminate in the City Council recall and the removal of the City Manager so that the people of the area can be fairly represented!"

MSP will, of course, be following up this "breaking" development and provide more details as we get them. There are a LOT of unhappy people and they don't like the city and some of its councilmembers ignoring their voices.

(Courtesy, Mendocino Sports Plus)

The recallers, by the way, have hired the formidable Jared Carter of the connected Ukiah law firm to represent them.


Supervisor Tom Woodhouse's Supervisor's Report, February 16, 2014.

Supervisor Woodhouse: "I have been to quite a few meetings. I can't even count them and, it's surprising to me, I'm starting to understand the language and enjoy looking at the new people and the code words but I don't even know what the initials of some of the groups stand for, like PAPU was a great meeting. What does that stand for? I'll know next time. I'll report next time what that stands for.

Supervisor John McCowen: Planning And Prevention Unit.

Woodhouse: Boy! Good! I am so impressed with all the hard-working people and also our employees who go to these meetings and the high-powered thinking and the very deeply good intentions that they have to really make a difference and they are all searching for their purpose and how to survey people and be more meaningful and accomplish more things. It's a common theme of all these groups and the other thing they talk about is the access to the supervisors and how important it is for them when they are so grateful when there are supervisors there that you forget over the years how much your attendance at these things means to the people. It really gives them a purpose. They feel like someone is listening to them and I appreciate hearing your detailed reports about it because it respects all that energy, all those people. If there's 12 people giving up an hour and half and the drive time and the planning and disrupting their day, they are doing it for a purpose and it really gives people hope that we can really do things. So a lot of the groups have seats that need to be filled and they are going to pester each of us because I know that it comes up here regularly and see if we can fill them up and I enjoy going and I appreciate your flexibility in letting me just pop in on things I'm not even on, but there is so much to learn and they are such wonderful people and the causes that they are talking about are so serious that each one you could just say, This is it, this is the group that's most important and you could spend months or years just working with them whether they are talking about children or mental health. They are just amazing people. So we have so much potential to accomplish things here that it's very exciting for me. One person asked me what I'd done before and she said, Well you've never been in government? You've been in private business? It must be really strange for you to come here and watch this process. And it really is. All these groups are exciting to me and learning it all is a real privilege. I'm very honored to be here. I will try to specifically tell you about what each of them are talking about but just the fact that they are there and they really need our participation deeply and they come up here and have such a short time for us to listen to them, that I appreciate that you all focus on them and pay attention. They deserve that respect for all the time they put into it. So thank you very much."

TRANSLATION: Burble gurble gush mush warm fuzzy puppies love dove nuzzle bum.

A READER WRITES: “It has just been brought to my attention that all those HHSA produced puff pieces that Michael Kisslinger read on KZYX were to enhance with Ortner/HHSA, Kisslinger's wife Anne Molgaard's $98,000 position paid for by MHSA—Mental Health Services Act money for mental health patient treatment services. Thank you so much for the recent Mendocino County Today piece on HHSA. One of my callers said it sounds like collusion between County CEO Carmel, HHSA Director Stacy and Tom Pinizzotto, Ortner’s gofer and co-boss of HHSA — and YES it does. Surely, by some time next week John McCowen will get it that he's been betrayed and deceived by Carmel Angelo. Dan Gjerde gets it, Dan Hamburg will pet his service chihuahua and who knows what Tom and stonefaced Carre will do? PS. The supervisors may be interested to know that no one at County Mental Health has known how to bill for Medical/Medicare for decades, so multi-millions of dollars have been lost that could have been used for mental health patient treatment services.”


SPEAKING of the portly little hustler, Pinizzotto that is, this alarming item appeared on last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors Consent Calendar, and begins, “Agenda Title: Adoption of Resolution Approving the 2014-2015 Performance Contract Between the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and Mendocino County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) and Authorization of the HHSA Assistant Director of Health Services to Sign the Agreement on Behalf of the County… And so on in almost impenetrable bureaucratic prose for another thousand words, the gist of which is that we find the “Assistant Director of the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency, Health Services” is none other than former Ortner Management Group executive Tom Pinizzotto, the same guy who made sure that his former employer, Ortner (of Marysville in Yuba County) got the multi-million dollar Mental Health (now renamed as “Behavioral Health”) contract with Mendocino County. Pinizzotto has now positioned himself to steer all of the Mental Health Services money to his former colleagues at Ortner while he “oversees” Ortner’s performance under their $7 million-plus annual contract with Mendocino County. And this cozy arrangement sailed by the supervisors on their automatic adoption calendar.

WE HAD HOPED that with the extreme lack of clarity and obvious attempt to hide what’s going on, at least one of the Supervisors would pull this item from the automatic approval of the consent calendar to at least have it explained. But none of them did. Last Tuesday’s Board meeting approved the entire Consent Calendar without a single item being pulled for discussion or vote.

SO WE ARE LEFT with the clear impression that Mr. Pinizzotto has pulled another fast one, sneaking through more funding authority for himself and his old pals and coworkers at Ortner, and no one in an official capacity at County HQ is even interested enough to ask about it.

Ortner Management Group
Ortner Management Group

THE UKIAH LATITUDE OBSERVATORY is not what you might think it is: With the support of the Friends of the Observatory and the City of Ukiah, Martin Bradley (featured in the November 5, 2014 AVA “Mendocino Talking”) is spearheading a “pop-up museum” exhibit featuring the original telescope from Ukiah Latitude Observatory. It was just returned from a government warehouse where it had been gathering dust for the last 33 years. “This observatory wasn’t put in Mendocino County to explore distant galaxies, planets and the moon. It was a very hybrid observatory, one of only five in the world to gather information for an international study 1899 to 1982,” Bradley informs us. The astronomical telescope was used as a precision surveying instrument to measure the exact time a set of predetermined stars crossed the north-south celestial meridian over a course of a year.

TO CELEBRATE THE RETURN, Bradley extended an invitation to Dana J. Caccamise, NOAA/National Geodetic Survey’s (NGS) Pacific Southwest Region Geodetic Advisor. “I figured the least the National Geodetic Survey could offer was an explanation of what they were doing in Ukiah for 83 years before they absconded with our telescope!” Bradley says.

DANA CACCAMISE II is going to give a talk at the Ukiah Civic Center Council Chamber’s Thursday Night (2/26). “I like the guy. It’s funny, I think he was asking ‘WTF’ when he received the invitation.” Martin added.

On Saturday, the pop-up museum will have an opening exhibit at the restored Ukiah Observatory, 432 Observatory Avenue. It will be open every Friday and Saturday from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

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