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Off the Record (June 24, 2015)

LOGGERS UPSET WITH MRC — Longtime local logger Jerry Philbrick alerted local news media this week to what he expected to have been a contentious meeting Wednesday morning in Ukiah with Mendocino Redwood Company. Philbrick said area loggers have been upset for some time with how MRC has been handling job bids, and they plan to air their concerns at the meeting this week. The meeting happened after press time, and no comment was available from MRC, but Philbrick said if issues are not resolved, some area logging companies are prepared to boycott MRC jobs. Mendocino Redwood Company is the county’s largest timberland owner. Philbrick is the owner of Philbrick Logging and Trucking of Fort Bragg. There will be a report in next week’s Advocate about the meeting’s results. (Fort Bragg Advocate-News)

THE BIDDING FOR THE REMCO SITE in Willits is, we'd suppose, a done deal, as deals are always done in small-town Mendocino County. The seven acres in the middle of town saw a major toxic clean-up along with a deluge of complaints from Willits citizens that they had been poisoned by the years of heavy industrial processes conducted there. Now that it's clean, assuming it is, and the price is rumored to be a mere $250,000 (the property is in a kind of receivership), the small group of families who decide things in Willits are probably going to wind up with it, although Bob Pinoli of the Skunk Train says he's not only got $2.5 mil to put into developing the parcel but also has specific plans for the parcel, which is zoned commercial/light industrial.

ONE OF THE WILLITS principals is Ed Mitchell. Mitchell was partners with Margie Handley on the Haehl Creek subdivision where the new hospital is located on property formerly owned by Handley, and where Handley is now ensconced in a free house in Mitchell's new subdivision that Mitchell gave her out of pure gratitude for his construction of his hospital-adjacent subdivision called Haehl Creek. Tom Herman, another key Willits guy did the main subdivision design for Haehl Creek and is on the Hospital Foundation with the ubiquitous Handley; Herman is also active with Little Lake Fire Department. He is doing design work for the business park proposed by the Willits group which includes Bruce Burton, mayor of Willits.

AS REPORTED in the AVA at the time, the Howard Hospital Foundation paid for the $700,000 driveway for Mitchell's Haehl Creek subdivision as the most fortunate Mitchell and his development paid nothing. And Marge Handley, the biggest wig on the hospital board got her free house. The hospital could have waited nine more years to build an access road, but the Haehl Creek subdivision needed one right away, and Mitchell got a free one almost a decade before the hospital was built next door.

THE MITCHELL-BURTON-HERMAN forces have just offered to build the new firehouse inside their proposed business park at the Remco site (at non-prevailing wages) and lease it back to the fire district, all of which will probably leave Pinoli and his $2.5 million out in the fog as his Fort Bragg headquarters.

AS IF THE PROMISE of a new firehouse wasn't sweet enough, Sheriff Allman has told the Burton-Mitchell group that he will lease space at the site for a public safety training facility using asset forfeiture money, although that money will dry up when looming pot legalization becomes reality. Mayor Burton and his friends have two sacrosanct groups —cops and firemen — in support of them.

BURTON-MITCHELL are also promising a brew-pub fronting 101 and lots of commercial space for start-up businesses, although Willits is replete with empty commercial space. Recently added to the long roster of empty storefronts in Willits is the now defunct Gaia Solar building.

A BUSINESS MODEL pegged to "build it and they will come" seems sketchy alongside a guy like Pinoli waving a couple of mil around, but the Willits crew has their political ducks quacking in unison and lined up in saluting ranks, although their plan for the property is vague, to say the least. Handley is probably in on it somewhere because the old hospital space is less than a block away, and it would be odd if she isn't in on it because she's the main person when it comes to hospitals in the North County and she's long-time close to Mayor Burton et al.

BURTON, in his capacity as mayor, has been sitting in on all those closed session meetings on REMCO for the past six months; he certainly knows the terms of the settlement because everyone else only knows what was said publicly by the city's lawyers in the city council's open session two weeks ago. At that meeting, vice-mayor Orenstein clearly favored his buddy Burton while treating Pinoli with borderline rudeness. Burton won't be able to vote on the deal so he'll need two votes to supplement Orenstein. Will councilmembers Holly Madrigal and Madge Strong go for it?

EXPANDING TO THE REMCO SITE has been a goal for the Skunk for a decade or more while the Burton-Mitchell plan feels like more Willits-wishing, but the Willits combine clearly has the inside track. The parcel would be perfect for the Skunk train with tracks already running right to it while a business park can go anywhere.

SELECTIVE EXCERPTS from Mental Health Board Chair John Wetzler’s introduction to the MHB’s annual report: “We as the Mendocino County Mental Health Board are a State mandated body. We are part and parcel of the mental health system in this County. It was intimated at our January meeting that we as a Board had no direct access to information regarding our two administrative service organizations, and that all of our questions regarding finance, policy, personnel organization and decision making would have to go through one single person, that being the Assistant Director-Health Services — Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, Tom Pinizzotto. I think I speak for the Board that this fell on deaf ears. An Advisory Board receiving all of its information from one source is a self-cancelling phrase. I'm happy to say that since January's meeting our communications with the members of the County Mental Health Program have been open and refreshing.”

PINIZZOTTO is controlling what the Mental Health Board sees. The final sentence above is an attempt to downplay the obvious problem created by having a former Ortner executive decide what information about private Mental Health Contractor Ortner that the Mental Health Board might review. “Open and refreshing” communications with County staff is pegged to not reporting. No meaningful, reviewable information regarding “finance, policy, personnel, organization and decision making” is provided. It’s truly breathtaking that the Mental Health Board puts up with this. They should all simply resign: Why review anything if you’re not getting complete and essential information to review?

MR. WETZLER ALSO REPORTS: “30% of Mendocino County's population is of Latino descent, and they are being ignored by the mental health program in this County. This is evident in an analysis of the adult system of care provided by OMG that renders mental health services to less than 1% per month of the Latino population. The MHSA does not provide funding for any of the local agencies that provide 100% of the bilingual/bicultural services.”

WOULD IT BE “INAPPROPRIATE” to say that maybe Mexicans are not so much being “ignored,” as they just don’t need or want Ortner’s “mental health services”? Or that native gringos and gringas are, generally speaking, much crazier than immigrant Mexicans? Or that most of the privatized “mental health services” in the county are not really helping anyone but Ortner?

MR. WETZLER’S MENTAL HEALTH BOARD also reports that Ortner subcontracts with the Ukiah and Fort Bragg Senior Centers to provide “Peer Counseling” and, “Once adequate funding is established, the South Coast Seniors Center will have a Peer Counseling [sic: “a peer counseling”] in Point Arena. On December 17 and again on April 15, 2015, Susan Bridge-Mount, LMFT, made presentations to the Mental Health Board regarding Peer Counseling programs and training opportunities. The Senior Peer programs are designed to provide in-home peer counseling to under-served Seniors in Willits, Ukiah and Fort Bragg. Their trained volunteers have donated over 900 hours in the past three years. [i.e., 300 hours per year, or less than one hour per day for the entire county.] They continue to encourage Seniors to become peer counselors. Point Arena is an area which needs a Peer to Peer program. They are meeting their contractual obligations.”

LET’S SEE IF WE UNDERSTAND THIS: The County/taxpayers pay Ortner “adequate funding” for Senior Centers to arrange for "trained" geezers to talk to each other about their problems for free. So who gets the “adequate funding”? This is what they call “mental health services”?

AND THIS ONE: “Many who suffer from Mental Illness also use illegal substances or use Alcohol in excess. Despite a previous mental health diagnosis, most psychiatric hospitals will not admit patients in acute stages of drug or alcohol abuse. Families frequently demand a solution and want the patient to be sent to a psychiatric hospital. When informed that the patient is not ready for treatment but, instead needs de-tox or substance abuse treatment first, many families become angry. Often, they believe that the system has let them down. Voices are raised, blaming complaints are made. This puts the ACCESS centers in an impossible situation. When overdosed, the patient is not accessible for psychiatric treatment. Because of privacy concerns, providers are unable to explain the primary issues to the public. The Service Gap involves the lack of de-tox facility. The only de-tox center in Mendocino County is the Ford Street center. They do NOT accept any insurance, require a minimum of a 3 day stay with a cost rate of $108 per day. Most of our clients do not have the funds to pay this cost. Without an affordable de-tox center in Mendocino County, treatment for mental health patients who overdose on illegal substances is non-existent. The lack of a de-tox center is a major service gap.”

EVERY DAY WE SEE the “frequent flyers” who “use illegal substances or use alcohol in excess.” They are booked into the Mendocino County Jail — aka the County’s de-facto “de-tox center” — charged with “under the influence of controlled substance” or “drunk in public.”

FORMER COUNTY SOCIAL WORKER, James Marmon, nicely sums it all up: "Not only is the County taking $3.9 million from HHSA reserves to pay for the General Fund overpayment prior to realignment, Mental Health costs are projected to be another $3.7 million over budget this year, thanks to Ortner and Redwood Children Services. That money will be taken from various HHSA department budgets and reserves. No one is talking about this because they do not want to admit that privatization of mental health services is not working. If a department funded by the General Fund was $3.7 million over budget, all hell would break loose."

PUBLIC EXPRESSION, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting. The speaker is Jonathan Middlebrook: “I ironize somewhat for the Ukiah Daily Journal, sometimes I twit you people. I'm here this morning to ask you not to make my job easy in the next few weeks. The grand jury reports are out. To some degree they look very much like last year's. They are different in that they are much more focused, particularly on the matter of library expenditures. Don't make my job easy by hiring an outside consultant to prepare your responses to the grand jury report. Particularly if that outside consultant is a specialist in, and I quote, ‘preventive education.’ Instead, would you please answer directly the grand jury's observations about the legal standing of the very strange budgeting that the grand jury has uncovered. Answer straight and you won't get irony from anybody. Otherwise it's going to be another laugh-fest. Individually I know most of you and I like you a lot. But as a group, things seem to become a little strange around the library. So I count on you this year: No outside consultants, direct responses from you, our elected representatives. Thanks very much.”

STATE RESTRICTS RUSSIAN RIVER WELL WATER. Winemakers, small farmers and rural residents near the Russian River, accustomed to reveling in Mother Nature’s bounty, were slapped with restrictions on well water use Wednesday, including a ban on lawn watering, in the latest effort by the state to cope with a fourth year of drought.

FOLLOWING is a copy of the initiative we are submitting to the voters of the City of Fort Bragg. We need to have 400 registered voters sign and we would like to have it done by this Monday. The Initiative will then be on the next ballot. Our hope is that the people of the Hospitality House will realize they will not be able to operate the program they have assembled and passed with the help of our city council at the location they have chosen, The Old Coast Hotel Bar and Grill. People wishing to sign this initiative can go to Colombi Market on Oak Street (on Sunday), Mendo Litho on Franklin (Monday) or in front of the post office (when available), and you may see some door to door. We Love Fort Bragg and will take every measure possible to keep the Old Coast Hotel from being used this purpose.

Charles Brandenburg, Concerned Citizens


Initiative Measure To Be Submitted Directly To The Voters

The City Attorney has written following title and summary of the chief purpose and points of the proposed measure:

Prohibiting Social Service Organizations In The Central Business District

This measure would add language to the Fort Bragg Municipal Code to provide that a "social service organization" is not a permitted use within the Central Business District zoning district unless such organization was established and existed at a location within the district prior to January 1, 2015.

Further, this measure would modify table 2-6 in the Fort Bragg Municipal Code regarding "Allowed Land Uses And Permit Requirements Or Commercial Zoning Districts" with respect to a "social service organization" to change that use from "Permitted Use, Zoning Clearance required," to "Use not allowed."

A social service organization is defined by the Fort Bragg Municipal Code as:

"A public or quasi-public establishment providing social or rehabilitation services, serving persons with social or personal problems requiring special services, the handicapped, and the otherwise disadvantaged. Examples of this land use include: counseling centers, welfare offices, job counseling and training centers, or vocational rehabilitation agencies. Includes organizations soliciting funds to be used directly for these and related services and establishments engaged in community improvement and neighborhood development. Does not include day care services, emergency shelters and transitional housing or "Residential Care" which are separately defined.

Signed, Brenda Jordain, City of Fort Bragg Elections Official for Samantha Zutler, City of Fort Bragg General Counsel

Date: June 2, 2015

Notice To The Public: This Petition May Be Circulated By A Paid Signature Gatherer Or A Volunteer. You Have The Right To Ask.

THE MENDOCINO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS voted Tuesday to continue its wildlife management program with the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. Lots of County residents want the tax-funded extermination of wild life discontinued. (See the letter in this week's paper from Jon Spitz of Laytonville.) Our large population of anthromorphs are particularly disturbed by the annual extermination of everything from mountain lions to foxes. Ranchers and random other sons of the soil of course claim that they lose livestock to critters unless the critters are annually thinned out.

AG COMMISSIONER Chuck Morse to Supervisor Hamburg’s question about the allegations of problems with the current “lethal” federal predator control program:

Hamburg: “Chuck, you’ve sat here and listened to a lot of testimony and some of it has been pretty negative about Wildlife Services [the federal trapper/predator control program]. They’ve talked about atrocities and mass killings of dogs and things like that. I just wondered if you had any professional response as the County’s Ag Commissioner and someone who is probably more familiar with this program than anyone else in this County except the trappers themselves.”

Morse: “There are numerous allegations out there. Um — and through the Chair, of course, um, I would hesitate to give a professional response at this time with all due respect, Supervisor. I Apologize.”

Hamburg: “Ok. Ok. Thank you.”

PREDICTABLY, Hamburg did not pursue the question. He didn't ask the Ag Commissioner why he “would hesitate.” And true to his cringing style, thanked the Ag Commissioner for not answering the question.

THE SUPES VOTED unanimously that the controversial federal trapper program didn’t need an Environmental Impact Report and Operation Lion Kill would continue as usual. The wildlife advocacy groups that brought suit saying that the program needed an EIR and actually got a settlement agreement that an EIR would be done, were disputed by County Counsel Doug Losak, as always plucking an incorrect opinion out of mid-air, declared that no EIR was needed, and the Board agreed, thus ignoring all the issues raised by critics of the program.

PARTIAL BACKGROUND about Chris ‘Dead Dog’ Brennan, the North County’s infamous federal trapper:

PET PEEVE: After Dr. Jeanine Pfeiffer told the Board of Supervisors that the wildlife management presentation they had just listened to didn’t adequately address the ecological secondary impacts of lethal predator control, a few people in the audience politely applauded. Board Chair Carre Brown bristled and admonished the three or four clappers: “Please, there is not to be clapping. If you agree with the speakers, put your hands up and wave. OK? It’s part of the rules of procedure.”

SHADES OF TWINKLING! Remember when the jive-o wing of Earth First! declared clapping “violent and disruptive,” suggesting that applause be replaced by the raising of both hands for vigorous finger movement?

IT'S ONE THING to ask the Supe's audience not to applaud, but it’s another to cite a non-existent rule. There is nothing in the Board’s “Rules of Procedure” about applauding, clapping, audience reaction or approval/disapproval, much less about putting your hand up and waving. Just another minor example of Official Mendocino County making up the rules as they go along.

SUPERVISOR TOM WOODHOUSE requested that "approval of a prudent reserve transfer from mental health services act funds in the amount of $100,000 into Health and Human Services Agency Behavioral Health and Recovery Services for fiscal year 2014 and 15" be pulled from the Board’s consent calendar. Woodhouse and Supervisor McCowen are aware that there are serious probs with Mental Health funding, not to mention strategies.

Woodhouse: "I have had great explanations from the department already. … But I cannot vote for this at this time. I'm the newest one here and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ellen [?] and Stacey [Cryer, Director of Health and Human Services] who were kind enough to give me their time yesterday to explain in exact detail item m. It involves taking $100,000 from a prudent reserve fund and not putting any money last year or really this year of $450,000 or $460,000, and planning to not put any in next year either. My concern with that is that mental health needs a lot of work. We have problems there and our employees have been very brave and we've had huge turnover in mental health because of their dissatisfaction. It's a challenging area to work in. It's not going to be easy. But it's a danger signal to me when we can't put money in our reserves in a year when we are having higher than expected income because we are going into the years in the future where we will not have that and we will desperately need this reserve. So it's not out of disrespect to anyone and all the hard work we go to in the budget...."

WOODHOUSE IS RIGHT, although it took him a while to say it. Hit the smug, self-serving bastards right between the eyes, Tom. No need to apologize for your statements of the obvious. Your predecessor, Cowboy John Pinches, won the gratitude and the respect of the entire county, (except for the Libs, of course) by keeping his Bullshit Detector fully operational at all times. You are correct: Using crucial reserve funds to cover ongoing Mental Health deficits is a bad idea.

SUPERVISOR McCOWEN and Ms. Cryer pointed out that there’s something like $2 million in reserves in Cryer's HHSA. (Nobody’s sure what the exact amount is and how such a reserve grew so large was not explained.) But McCowen and Cryer seemed satisfied with transferring the reserves without asking why this keeps happening year after year. On the surface it seems like only $100,000 out of $2 million. But as Woodhouse noted it also involves not putting much more money into reserves this year and next.

AT ONE POINT Supervisor McCowen asked, "Did those funds [that were transferred out of reserves to cover the Mental Health deficit] wind up being used to cover the deficit in mental health or were they actually expended for services?”

Cryer: “Part of the deficit in mental health is because of services, because we were overmatched again so we will be using those dollars from the prudent reserve to cover services that were provided in this fiscal year."

McCowen: "That was not necessarily clear to me based on this sentence: ‘This funds transfer will prevent disruption of services to the integrated care coordination service delivery for clients.’ I struggle to understand in English exactly what we mean by integrated care coordination service delivery.”

Cryer: "Back in 2010, 2011 we integrated the HHSA plan into the mental health budget unit, basically. We integrated them together so we had an integrated service delivery. It's very important terminology. We put it all together to make one system. We did a system transformation to integrate it altogether, so it's important terminology when we are talking to the state."

McCowen: “But then as a practical matter what that really refers to is the overall provision of mental health services by both the adult and children's?”

Cryer: "Yes."

THIS IS THE KIND OF NON-ANSWER Ms. Cryer and her staff (including the ubiquitous former Ortner executive Tom Pinizzotto who now serves as Ms. Cryer’s assistant) always give to questions around Mental Health Services: endless streams of buzzwords and bafflegab.

WOODHOUSE then repeated how much respect he had for Ms. Cryer, this time at much more length. But his, and McCowen's, original and legitimate question remained unanswered: Why is this necessary year after year? Woodhouse seems genuinely interested in finding out. Let's hope he can. No one else has been able to.

ANOTHER SATISFIED CUSTOMER — Woke up Monday morning at 4. Synthesized my reaction to the world by 6. Shot it to America's finest paper by 7. Hot off the presses Wednesday. Home from the pub 6pm Friday AVA in hand. Is the AVA staff kicking back with a hoagie and a PBR? NO, 'cause they're in the ZONE!!!!!! — Nate Collins


SATURDAY, I parked in North Beach and set out on foot, intending to do a big circle, and a big circle I did. South on Stockton, up and over the Stockton Tunnel, a west oblique through Union Square to Powell, south on Powell to the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market where at least 50 uniformed cops were standing around not far from maybe 30 Code Pink demonstrators who took turns talking to each other on a scratchy sound system. "Gentrification is bad for the people of this city," a woman said to a smattering of applause. The sky is blue, I commented to no applause. Surely the cops hadn't turned out to monitor a small group of harmless lefties and, as it turned out, they hadn't. The cops were present because some truly dangerous people, including the mayors of American cities and Hillary Clinton, had to be kept safer than safe. Maybe they were going to do a full Secret Service photo op on a cable car.

AS PER THE PAST 50 YEARS, The City is under an all-out downtown construction blitz, and it's dirtier than ever, the traffic is nuts, there are unhoused drunks, multiple substance abusers, crazy people, and panhandlers everywhere, and everywhere there's the smell of urine mixed with the faint, traditional Frisco odor of untreated sewage. Half the people look like they're about to snap while the tourists look like they're asking themselves, “I paid to get into this?” I love the place, but it's going fast. Stopped in at the California Historical Society on Mission near where the exhibit is a wonderful look back at the 1915 Exposition, technically “The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition,” of which only the shell of the Palace of Fine Arts remains. But it's a remnant that still gives us an idea of what a marvelous event it was, and how paltry our mega-events are, by comparison, in these deteriorated days.

MISSION STREET doesn't present the people panoply that Market Street does, so I walked back up to Market then east to the Ferry Building where, at Acme Bread, you can get a great sandwich and an apple turnover for five bucks, then sit outside with a ringside seat for the passing parade. My lunch bag blew away and the woman next to me told her son, a kid of 8 or 9, to fetch it for me, apparently assuming I wasn't up to the task. The kid hopped to, and I thought to myself, “Here's a woman raising a kid right.” Being of the generation presently in death mode, born during or right after World War Two, all of us, without exception, were taught, on pain of mild violence if we didn't immediately grasp the lessons, that older men were addressed as Sir and Mister. Women were Miss or Mrs. or Ma'am. Looking back, I think it was the correct child-rearing strategy because it instilled a basic awareness, a sensitivity to other people. Looking around, I don't think basic manners are a parental priority anymore.

AT JACKSON AND COLUMBUS, three young guys were moving furniture. They'd paused to look at pictures on a gizmo and were laughing hard. I asked them if I could look, explaining that I was kind of a writer and interested in what made young people laugh. The kid with the device said, “Well, sir, no offense, but I don't think you'd like it.” I walked on. Of course he was correct. It was probably something stupid and vulgar, something I would have thought hilarious when I was their age, but something he wouldn't show his grandfather and certainly wouldn't show an old guy that looked older than his grandfather. The lad had been raised right.

EVERY WEEK, San Francisco's wittiest cop, Captain Simon Silverman of the Richmond Station, writes up the neighborhood's most interesting police calls. This week's include:

Stolen Vehicle, 06-12-2015 7:00PM, Anza & 23rd Ave — The victim met two women at a bar in the Mission District and brought them back to his place where they stayed the night. Later that day, the victim noticed that his new friends, his car keys and his BMW were gone. Captain’s Note: People don’t always exercise the best judgment in matters of the heart (and other organs). However, it’s always a good idea to be careful about bringing strangers home.

Arrest: Warrant For Drugs, 06-13-2015 5:07 AM, Turk & Parker — Officers detained two suspicious people who were reportedly prowling the area and pulling on the door handles of cars. They found suspect #1 at Turk and Parker and suspect #2 at Turk and Blake. Suspect #2 gave a fake name, but suspect #1 rather helpfully told the officers suspect #2’s real name. Using this information they found that suspect #2 had a warrant for drug possession. Captain’s Note to suspect #2: This is why one should never work with amateurs.

Arrest: Possession Of Stolen Property/Unlicensed Driver, 06-13-2015 6:44 PM, MLK & Bernice Rodgers Way (inside Golden Gate Park) — Officers saw a driver doing 50 MPH in a 25 MPH zone. They stopped him and found that he had no license. They could smell the odor of marijuana coming from inside of the car but neither the driver nor his passenger had a medical marijuana recommendation in their possession. A search of the car revealed a small amount of marijuana and a purse stolen from a car in Golden Gate Park a few hours earlier. Captain’s Note: I think the passenger said it best as quoted in the police report when she yelled at the driver, “You got me a felony now!” See also my note above about working with amateurs.

One Comment

  1. Lazarus June 24, 2015

    Remco…Make Pepsi tear it down! The street says Mayor Burton ain’t got the votes to screw the Skunk…we’ll see, if he does count on a heavy sugar suit and that will queer it for another 5 years. Many locals don’t trust either… which includes me.

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