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Mendocino County Today: Monday, Mar 23, 2015

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SUPERVISOR JOHN McCOWEN told his colleagues last Tuesday that the breathtakingly unnecessary — even the local cops are against it — new County Courthouse in Ukiah is “right on track,” casually omitting his oblique interest in the enterprise as a member of the NCRA board whose Democratic Party-controlled railroad apparatus will get paid for the Ukiah Depot property. (The Democrats, post Roosevelt, run railroads like they run the country.) McCowen seems to think that killing downtown Ukiah by moving the courts a long three blocks to the east, his hometown will somehow be a net winner.

HERE'S McCOWEN: “The North Coast Railroad Authority recently held a meeting. Most of you are probably aware that the potential courthouse project is moving forward. Virtually all the hurdles have been cleared. The site has been remediated. Union Pacific has signed off on the ownership. The City of Ukiah has been instrumental for several years now persisting with the project first through their redevelopment agency and more recently by committing City general fund money for engineering services that are required in order to design and plan for bringing utilities into the side and the road and drainage infrastructure. NCRA has agreed to reimburse the city for those costs but the city is paying for them upfront and in fact was doing so prior to the approval from NCRA. The project will fulfill important objectives for the city, the courts, and the County. [False: Surely McCowen knows this isn't true.] Questions remain, is it the ideal location? Will the new courthouse be in the ideal spot in that location? But that's where it does appear to be going.”

NOT SO FAST, JOHNNY. This is yet another patented Mendo inside job. Nobody except the judges want this new courthouse which, it can't be said often enough, will accommodate only them. The new courthouse involves the phony baloney NCRA, an agency used as a jobs program for loyal Northcoast Democrats since its inception back in 1989 and various Ukiah-based bodies also dominated by lib lab Party loyalists. Is any of this in the public's interest? No, and the public was never consulted.

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SUPERVISOR McCOWEN also reported, “Supervisor [Tom] Woodhouse and I attended a presentation on the positive parenting program. I was very impressed by the work that people are doing in that arena. I will be talking to Director [Stacey] Cryer [head of the County's Health and Human Services Agency] and the CEO about what more could the County do to ensure universal availability of that program to parents. I think it's that worthwhile that everyone should have that opportunity to participate in that. I think it addresses a lot of problems that we inevitably have to deal with later on. …”

MENDOCINO COUNTY government is now telling people how to raise their kids? Quick! Hide the children. Surely this is another sign that the apocalypse is upon us.

SUPERVISOR WOODHOUSE, as always speaking live from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, instinctively agreed. Life just can't get too inane for this guy: “I will make a comment about Supervisor McCowen's report on the parenting class. [Madre dios! Just say what you have to say, for crissakes. You don't have to tell us you're going to make a comment.] One thing that jumped out at me was that they showed in their follow-up from the training that they gave people that even brief amounts of  intervention and a few sessions made a large difference even compared to 18 sessions, so it's leading them to think that people who are ready to learn maybe absorb the information. It's kind of exciting to reach more people effectively rather than having to commit so many dollars because we have to find more brief ways to reach in and help people quickly and catch and release. That was exciting! [Woodhouse then spoke for a while about how wonderful and important the County Museum in Willits is. Absolutely false. It's seldom visited, most Mendo people have no idea it even exists. If it weren't for Held Poage in Ukiah there would be no Mendocino County historical archive.] … There are wonderful people out there doing all these projects in Willits and Laytonville. … I've done senior portfolios. I don't know if you've done that. Over the years at the high schools there are kids around this time of year who don't have any teacher connections. It's so inspiring! I know it's going to be, and you go into the interview with a person picked at random and kids give you their five-year life plan and their goals and education dreams and what they accomplished and they put job resumes together. It's just so invigorating and exciting to see their dreams and they are all totally unique. Some of them are sports driven or have their careers all mapped out. It's just great to spend time around young people. There is nothing more uplifting for me, so I am going to try to get young people here and I appreciate the Boy Scouts and the Eagle Scouts stuff that you do. It's very meaningful. The labor that they put in, the lessons they learn at those ages is phenomenal! They are going to be great citizens! So thanks for everyone for doing all of those. And the Willits ranchers. I spent five hours trying not to eat a big box of doughnuts that somebody brought there. I only ate one. It was a great meeting with the RCD [Resource Conservation District] and the ranchers trying to get some history on the cattle that grazed before and now they have a patchwork quilt set up with the mitigation that's not going to work very well and they are trying to get history lines on all the plants they are trying to save and the plants they are trying to eradicate and the $50 million. They are already wanting more money for this and there is a great lesson to be learned in at all. And it's fun to get to talk to all the people. The thing that stood out for me was the patience that these ranchers have going through this 20 year process watching their lands be sold and their rights being taken away and they are still very cheerful and they want to work together and they are just great honest country people like we have in our district. We are very lucky.”

THIS GUY is either over-medicated or he's permanently one-toke-over-the-line. These remarks make no sense beyond, I guess, as a kind of mass-casualty love bomb. Brace yourself, Mendo, we have four more years of this.

THE OBVIOUS: The Mendocino County has three competent supervisors — Gjerde, Brown and McCowen. Hamburg, rhetorically, is only a stutter-step ahead of Woodhouse and, in our opinion, basically a more or less functioning crazy person. But, hell, three out of five capable persons is, all things considered, pretty good for Mendocino County, where the bar is gorilla-glued at about a foot high.

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SUPERVISOR CARRE BROWN, all the way on task and right to the point as always, reported on the preparations by grape growers along the Russian River who are finally, after years of whining at having to prepare their own plans to avoid killing fish when overpumping for frost protection. “At the last Russian River Flood Control District meeting we had a report about the ag frost water demand program and plan that they have set forth. I found that to be very interesting. There are two different plans. One is for those that draw directly from the mainstem and those that draw from the tributaries. It seems like they are getting everything organized and whole plans are being turned in and I believe that I can say that anyone who uses water for a frost event that does not have a plan in with a State Water Resources Control Board, there will be action taken against them.”

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LEAD STORY in Sunday's Press Democrat: "Well-placed bucket of water extinguishes Ukiah house fire." Wasn't a house fire. It was a routine stovetop combustion. The lady threw a container of water on it and the fire went out. End of story, but it does open up exciting new areas of reporting for the Rose City daily. Guys falling off their backyard mowers, sprinklers going on the fritz, split hoses…

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LISTEN UP, INMATES: Poor People Can Demand a Ride Home After Being Arrested

Last week the Humboldt County Grand Jury released a report pretty critical of Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey’s policies when releasing certain people from jail. California law, the Grand Jury writes, unambiguously states that when an “indigent” person is released from jail, and if that jail is over “25 airline miles” away from that person’s place of arrest, then that person has the right to demand to be transported back to his place of arrest. So if such a person is arrested by the Sheriff’s Office in Willow Creek or Garberville or Orick, say, then he has the right to demand that the Sheriff’s Office get him a ride back to Willow Creek or Garberville or Orick. The Grand Jury’s beef with Downey, it says, is that it is his office’s official policy to refuse to inform indigent arrestees that they have such a right. From the report: “Humboldt County Correctional Facility Officers do not, as of the date of this report, inform those that qualify that they have the legal right to request transportation assistance. The Humboldt County Sheriff further attests that the Humboldt County Correctional Facility will not inform those that qualify for that assistance since, in his opinion, Correctional Officers are not legally mandated to do so.”

Is Downey’s strategy, here, legal? The report says that perhaps it is, but “…a ‘normal person’ would conclude that the Sheriff was not acting in good faith by evading the issue and not informing those who qualify of their legal rights.”

(— Hank Sims, Courtesy,

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CATCH OF THE DAY, March 22, 2015

Betts, Brown, Campbell, Flores-Lopez
Betts, Brown, Campbell, Flores-Lopez

KEVIN BETTS, Willits. Under influence and possession of controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, probation revocation.

JAMES BROWN, Redwood Valley. Drunk in public.


ELIFONSO FLORES-LOPEZ, Fort Bragg. DUI, no license.

Greenfield, Hernandez-Sutherland, Hinton, Lancaster
Greenfield, Hernandez-Sutherland, Hinton, Lancaster

JOEL GREENFIELD, Redwood Valley. Elder/dependent abuse.

MIGUEL HERNANDEZ-SUTHERLAND, Ukiah. Court order violation.

HEIDI HINTON, Willits. Domestic assault, vehicle theft.

DAVID LANCASTER, Redwood Valley. Domestic battery, violation of protective order, probation revocation.

Lugo-Rueda, Miller, North, Piffero
Lugo-Rueda, Miller, North, Piffero

LUIS LUGO-RUEDA, DUI, no license.

SHANE MILLER, Ukiah. Drunk in public, resisting arrest, contempt of court.

MICHAEL NORTH, Fort Bragg. Receiving stolen property, probation revocation.

CALVIN PIFFERO, Redwood Valley. DUI.

Sanchez, Venturi, Zingg
Sanchez, Venturi, Zingg

SAMUEL SANCHEZ, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)

JOSEPH VENTURI, Ukiah. Ex-felon with firearm, probation revocation.

DYLAN ZINGG, Ukiah. Vehicle theft, evasion, suspended license.

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To the Editor:

I’d like to reply to a recent letter in the Ukiah Daily by Elizabeth Archer from Ukiah. The objection by every citizen of Mendocino County that I have talked to about the MendoVito development is not cynicism, it is knowing the difference in the dreams and reality. The difference between made up figures and real facts. It is about the fact these developers have not consulted real engineers for this project. These New Zealanders do not plan on following the protocols and the laws of this county, state, and federal government. In fact it seems to me that they are so busy scheming how to avoid these safeguards that they are creating worse environmental and social disasters than the ones they say they are trying to cure. It is not as a new idea that “scares” people, it is about how this project is totally inappropriate for this or any other rural area. This project is not needed here.

As I drove by the grand railroad depot (that has stood for so long with no trains coming to it) in Cloverdale recently, I immediately thought of the MendoVito project. Beautiful dreams and a grand scheme to change everything that went nowhere. The thought of this ill-conceived plan of MendoVito leaving a scar like that in beautiful McDowell Valley is sickening.

As for the Not In My Backyard attitude, I think it is funny how this project is not being built in New Zealand. Surely that would be way more ideal and closer for these speculators to create their dream of how to live. As for them not being developers, do I really need to use the old saying “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck”? They are trying to build a densely populated city in rural McDowell Valley. A travesty that will have terrible environmental and quality of life impact on all the citizens of Mendocino County. So they can call it anything they want, but in reality it is a gigantic, ill thought out development and they are the developers.

Sierra Higgins, Mendocino County

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Seven homeless men and two women crawled under the elevated floor of a warehouse near Santa Rosa yesterday, seeking a miserable haven against wind and rain. They found death instead. Not a cry marked the sudden quake-like collapse of the warehouse from its post foundations, dropping the entire building and its burden of 270 tons of prunes onto their bodies. The victims perished in an instant, with no chance of escape. Eight of those who perished, including the women, were Pomo Indians, a tribe familiar to the Sonoma Valley; one was a white man. All were refugees against a storm that has wracked Sonoma County since Sunday. The Indians, all of whom have been identified, were known in the section as fruit pickers and odd job laborers. The white victim was still unidentified except for a tatooed “E.H.B.” The seven men and two women, all of them itinerants, whose homes were normally in the hobo jungles, crawled under the elevated floors some few hours before it collapsed at noon.

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The inmate they had come to see was a black man with gang ties to South Central. He was young and athletic looking. He had an engaging manner and his eyes conveyed clearheaded intelligence. It was easy to imagine him in another kind of life, as a popular high school football player or a promising college student. But in this life, he had been shot at and assaulted repeatedly. He had lost friends to homicide. He had attacked people and hurt but not killed them, he said. His family's house had been "shot up." A man had beaten him, broken his gold chain, then departed with the words, "I could have killed you. No one would say anything about it."

The young man was going to be released soon. He was worried. Prison was safer than freedom for young black men in California who were much more likely to be murdered outside than in. Some gang members even described incarceration as a reprieve — a temporary break from the terror of the streets, like a soldier's leave from battle.

The young man indicated his "gang identity" was a ploy to survive. "Gotta play the role," he told Skaggs. He spoke wistfully of a gang member he knew who had escaped the life, finding a job in construction far away. He was in love with a woman and he wanted to do the same. But he had no money and he knew his prison record would make it difficult to get a job or an apartment, even a credit card.

Skaggs had long been struck by how many gang members like this young man seemed to be pretty regular guys. They were gang members in spite of their normalness. They had joined gangs as 13- or 14-year old boys. Some were forced. Others sought protection. Still others were seduced by teenage enticements: Girls. Money. Adventure. A chance to brawl and "party." By their 20s, they were sick of it. They appeared despondent, as repelled by the violence as any sane person would be. They cried a lot. Their loyalties had shifted to girlfriends and kids. But they couldn't shake their adolescent ties.

There was of course a whole complex range of people in the ghettoside world. Some men liked hurting people. Some didn't. Some men started out not liking it but became brutalized and sadistic. Maybe the mix would differ in other groups of Americans. Maybe some other racial or ethnic cohort would contain a higher ratio of regular guys, or a lower ratio of men susceptible to becoming violent. Maybe the gnawing fear of getting murdered — estimated as high as 1 in 35 by a Justice Department report in the 1990s — would influence another group of men differently.

But this was hairsplitting. Take a bunch of teenage boys from the whitest, safest suburb in America and plunk them down in a place where their friends are murdered and they are constantly attacked and threatened. Signal that no one cares, and fail to solve murders. Limit their options for escape. Then see what happens.

The young man turned on them somber, frightened eyes. He didn't want to be in prison and didn't want to die. He wanted out but couldn't find a way.

As Skaggs and Stirling went out through the prison gates an alarm sounded. A guard waved a hand toward the window to show Sterling the cause — a house sparrow trapped between the fences. Birds "just blow up" when they touch the high-voltage wire, the guard explained. They'd flutter a few moments, then perish.

Stirling stopped to watch the Sparrow trace its last desperate loops. "Poor little bird," he said, and walked on.

--Jill Leovy, Ghettoside

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The birds they sang

at the break of day

Start again

I heard them say

Don't dwell on what

has passed away

or what is yet to be.


Ah the wars they will

be fought again

The holy dove

She will be caught again

bought and sold

and bought again

the dove is never free.


Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in.


We asked for signs

the signs were sent:

the birth betrayed

the marriage spent

Yeah the widowhood

of every government --

signs for all to see.


I can't run no more

with that lawless crowd

while the killers in high places

say their prayers out loud.

But they've summoned, they've summoned up

a thundercloud

and they're going to hear from me.


You can add up the parts

but you won't have the sum

You can strike up the march,

there is no drum

Every heart, every heart

to love will come

but like a refugee.


Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in.

—Leonard Cohen

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While I am glad to see the state taking some action toward conserving water and planning for the future, I am appalled it took this long. I am also amazed the state hasn’t gone after the biggest users of water in California: the manufacturing and agricultural industries. With a significant amount of California’s water being used in those industries, even if we, as citizens, do our best to conserve water, California’s “appropriative” water rights encourage poor water-use practices. If the state wants to get serious about the drought, it needs to drastically change our current water rights.

The state should also make drip irrigation mandatory for every farm in the state. Yes, it may be expensive to start, but obviously it will be more expensive and detrimental to the state if we continue wasting massive quantities of water with poor farming practices. The drought is real, and the state needs to realize it’s not only the residents of the state who are wasting our lifeblood — it’s also big agriculture.

Carson Welte, Castro Valley

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by Dan Bacher

On March 12, the Pit River Tribe and their Native American and environmental allies optimistically left the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco following oral arguments in their long legal battle to protect the Medicine Lake Highlands from geothermal destruction and desecration.

The Pit River people, the lead defendants in the case, are fighting in court to defend the Highlands, known to them as “Saht Tit Lah." The Pit River, Wintun, Karuk, Shasta and Modoc Nations hold the Medicine Lake Highlands sacred, and have used the region for healing, religious ceremonies and tribal gatherings for thousands of years.

The Tribe and their supporters appeared at the hearing with their attorney, Deborah A. Sivas, Director of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, in the case of the Pit River Tribe vs. US Bureau of Land Management, Department of Interior, Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, & Calpine Corporation, Defendants-Appellees. The Tribe's supporters included the Native Coalition for Medicine Lake Highlands Defense, Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, Save Medicine Lake Coalition, and Medicine Lake Citizens for Quality Environment.

“The struggle to protect the sacred Medicine Lake Highlands has been a long one, but over the years, we have only learned more and more about the importance of the landscape to Native Americans and California more generally,” said Deborah Sivas, who represents the Tribe and environmental organizations in the lawsuit. “I was happy to see that the court understood our arguments that the Tribe has a deep, abiding connection to the area.”

"The judges asked really good questions and we are optimistic about the outcome,” said Morning Star Gali, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Pit River Tribe. “At one point Calpine said that nobody had the authority except for themselves to challenge the leases. This showed total disregard for the Tribe's utilization of the sacred lake and highlands for over 10,000 years."

Pit River Tribal Chairman Mickey Gemmill said, "Medicine Lake is a sacred place and it needs to be protected at all costs. We’re trying to preserve our culture and Medicine Lake is part of the beginning of our people. If we allow these corporations to come in and frack, we could lose that chance to bring back that part of our culture. So we’re asking the Calpine Corporation to step back and leave the Medicine Lake Highlands alone.”

The event began at 7 am with a sunrise prayer vigil and ceremonial gathering at Yerba Buena Gardens near the courthouse. Gorrina Gould, Ohlone leader, started the vigil with a prayer to welcome people in Yalamu territory. That was followed by a prayer and song by Caleen Sisk, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, and Radley and Louise Davis of the Pit River Tribe, according to Gali.

At around 8 am they began a "Protect Water and Sacred Sites, Defend Human Rights March" from Yerba Buena Park to the James R. Browning US Courthouse and then held a rally with speakers and a song by Radley Davis outside the courthouse. The court hearing lasted from 11:30 AM-12:30 PM and was followed by a press conference on the steps of the courthouse immediately after the hearing.

Representatives of Native Nations and environmentalist supporters went before the U.S. Court of Appeals to argue their case that the energy leases were renewed illegally by federal agencies in 1998 for industrial development on national forest lands in the Medicine Lake Highlands, a near-pristine area about 30 miles northeast of Mount Shasta that has been designated a “Native American Traditional Cultural District.”

The Native American and environmental plaintiffs assert that industrial energy development would "desecrate and pollute" the beautiful area and pose unacceptable risks to California’s largest fresh water aquifer. They said that contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other laws, the federal agencies never evaluated the threshold question of whether industrial geothermal development is even appropriate for this landscape.

“What was never considered is whether development is even appropriate for the Medicine Lake Highlands in the first place, given the area’s high benefit in holding California’s largest pure underground aquifer," said Michelle Berditschevsky, senior conservation consultant for the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center.

Berditschevsky said the panel of three Ninth Circuit judges will take the case under advisement, and a decision can be expected within three to nine months, or perhaps even longer depending on the backlog of cases.

To read her legal commentary, go to:

Medicine Lake is a small high mountain lake, located at an elevation of 6,680 feet, that lies within the Medicine Lake caldera, a depression near the summit of the Medicine Lake volcano. Medicine Lake offers boating, camping, fishing, hiking and swimming and other recreation. It is known for its abundant brook and rainbow trout that anglers pursue with an array of angling methods.

Five new geothermal power plant projects proposed by the Houston-based Calpine Corporation threaten to poison the waters of Medicine Lake, according to the Tribe and their supporters. A report by Dr. Robert Curry, a registered hydro-geologist and professor emeritus at the University of California-Santa Cruz, assessing the potential impacts of geothermal development suggests, “the processes that Calpine were trying to use, required chemicals to try and reach hot rock, as opposed to hot mud...were fairly experimental, probably inefficient, and would without doubt lead to contamination of the water supply.”

The Highlands are home to many unique plant and wildlife species that depend on clean water to survive. "Every day during the summer, bald eagles and osprey can be seen diving into Medicine Lake for fish. Deer pass through the campgrounds and occasionally an elk or black bear can be seen crossing one of the roads leading to the lake," said Gali.

“Geothermal development in the surrounding national forest would increase traffic, noise, water and air pollution and would fragment wildlife habitat, turning the remote landscape into an industrial wasteland and threatening a reliable source of pure water,” said Janie Painter, executive director of the Medicine Lake Citizens for Quality Environment, consisting of Medicine Lake cabin owners and recreationalists.

Jason George, a certified Law student in the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, noted, "It was great to see such a big turnout by tribe members at the hearing. We were gratified to represent the tribe and fight for the future of the Medicine Lake Highlands in the 9th Circuit."

As California enters its fourth year of a record drought, the Medicine Lake Highlands hold tremendous and critical value as a water supply to California's fish, wildlife and people from the summit of the caldera to the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary.

Gali pointed out how the water from the aquifer travels from Medicine Lake and the Highlands to the Fall River, Pit River, Sacramento River and then finally to the imperiled San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary. "If Calpine is given the green light, this will definitely be a big detriment to the fish and the entire fragile ecosystem,” said Gali.

Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, commented, “The tribal attorneys did a fine job today. The questions the judge asked Calpine Energy forced their hand, and were quite direct. You know, these courts really weren’t built for us, for native peoples, yet we rely on them when development and economics override Mother Earth."

“If the Pit River Nation prevails, it will be a win for everyone in California. Somewhere there must be someone who can stand up for Mother Earth. As I took photos today of the children who traveled here with parents, I was praying that this fight would not continue in their lifetime,” added Chief Sisk.

A phone call to a Calpine spokesman regarding their stance on the Tribe's legal battle to protect Medicine Lake has not been returned.

The case proceeds through the courts as Governor Jerry Brown continues to fast-track his Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the Peripheral Tunnels, considered by many to be the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history. The $67 billion plan will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, while imperiling the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

The court arguments can be found at: or

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