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Off the Record (Sep 23, 2015)

CLIPPIES are collecting signatures in shopping areas around the County to qualify a June 2016 ballot measure that would prevent timber companies from hack-and-squirt tree thinning. The initiative already has a broad base of support, especially among firefighters. Poisoned trees left standing until they collapse a year or two later (if they do collapse) constitute a double fire hazard because they burn rapidly and emit the nasty chemicals used to kill them. The Mendocino Redwood Company maintains hundreds of acres of these upright, highly flammable tree corpses, greatly alarming not only firefighters but residents of the communities bordering the forests.


THE PROPOSED ORDINANCE is called “Shall the People of Mendocino County Declare Intentionally Killed and Left Standing Trees a Public Nuisance?” Poisoned trees left standing for more than 90 days and that are more than 16 feet tall and within at least 3,200 feet of critical infrastructures such as roads, driveways, fire lanes, significant water sources and telecommunication structures, would be declared a public nuisance under the Mendocino County Public Health, Safety and Welfare code.

FORESTS FOREVER, a San Francisco-based environmental group, is gathering the signatures, of which only about 2,500 are needed by January 1st to qualify the initiative for the ballot. The full text of the petition, and a list of places where the petitions can be found is at

ACCORDING to a Mendocino logger who attended a bidder’s conference for a recent Mendocino Redwoods “exemption cut,” MRC expects logging crews to bid low on these drought/fire break logging jobs and then make up the difference by cutting down larger trees than are allowed and selling them to MRC’s mill. Technically, no trees over 24-inches in diameter are supposed to be cut. But when several of the bidders asked what would happen if they cut a larger tree, the MRC rep told them the logger would assume all risk of citation from CDF/CalFire, which, our source said, was accompanied by a wink which was interpreted to mean that nobody really expects CDF to go back out to the job and measure the stumps. Or perhaps to simply claim that the former tree was dead anyway. These exemption cuts are a recent phenomenon under a new rule from the Board of Forestry to deal with fire danger in the drought and they are thus exempted from ordinary environmental factors which would accompany a standard Timber Harvest Plan and are minimally reviewed and we are not aware of any opportunity for public comment. We have emailed CalFire to ask about this particular exemption cut but, perhaps because they’re pretty busy these days, they have not replied.


MRC has a section on their website where they track media articles pertaining to them:

Until now they’ve been fairly open-minded about including material critical of their practices. But today I noticed a posting that not only was three weeks late in going up, but was also heavily edited (without letting the reader know):

Compare to original (and complete) article:

A READER WONDERED: "Did you get the big, expensive ad that MRC is running in all the papers around here?"

OF COURSE NOT. We don't get corporate ads because we don't have a horoscope and Dear Abby.

APPARENTLY under threat of a lawsuit because it wasn't up to handicap specs (too steep), the County ripped out the ramp at Main & Kasten that eased access up and down a very tall curb — two or three feet to the street. The County then built a barricade and closed the sidewalk on Main Street so peds have to jaywalk to continue west on Main, and handicapped people had to go way up Kasten and back just to cross the street. The County had also planned to grind off crosswalk markings. The barricade had been named Howard's Folly for County transportation chief Howard Dashiell. Mendocino Village is, of course, famously sensitive to the smallest revisions, and this one by the County has the whole town in an uproar.

MR. DASHIELL of the County's Public Works Department promptly offered a long and quite reasonable explanation for doing what he did, concluding, "I will work with the building owner or any applicant on a solution that meets current standards..."

RAMPED: NICK WILSON, WRITING ON MCN REPORTED: “On Saturday a temporary wooden ramp and sidewalk was installed at Kasten and Main, replacing one parking space on Kasten. A plywood platform and ramp with handrails connect smoothly to the curb on Kasten St. under the flying staircase, with the ramp sloping back toward Main St. parallel to the curb. Signs and yellow caution tape guide pedestrians back to the east end of the crosswalk at Main St. The slope of the ramp is gentle, and it seems well designed and built. It's possibly as near to compliance with ADA as possible for a quick one-day solution. A meeting has been set for next Friday at 3 PM at St. Anthony's Hall to work out a permanent solution. When I watched and made a time-lapse video from across Main St. late this afternoon, it looked like most people were following the marked route. This is certainly an improvement over the situation from Monday through Friday, when people were crossing Kasten in mid-block, creating a dangerous situation. I posted to YouTube a 50 sec. time-lapse video that shows 25 min. of real time about 4 pm Saturday, 9/19/2015. Here's the link YouTube:

MORE CABLE CUTS. Although the severed line at Hopland two weeks ago appears to have been the work of tweekers looking for copper in no-copper lines, there are people deliberately sabbing communication lines. There were two more in the Bay Area this week, bringing the number of attacks on data lines in California since July 2014 to 16, the FBI said on Wednesday. The FBI is investigating what AT&T said were fiber cuts at two different manholes in Livermore, just southeast of San Francisco late Monday. Internet service in the region was curtailed until crews repaired the damage Wednesday morning. AT&T said it is offering a $250,000 reward to capture whoever is responsible for sabotaging a part of the area's Internet infrastructure. The authorities suspect that the vandals, who operate at night, may be posing as telecom workers. All the while, the sabotage continues unabated. The affected lines are about as thick as a finger and are covered with flexible conduit. They often carry Internet, television and phone calls. The cuts have been performed in areas where there are no security cameras.

THE MOTHER of all communication cable cuts across Mendo County before diving into the Pacific at Manchester. This baby links, or did until recently, US with Japan and points east.

THE HEADLINE in the Sunday Chron read: 15 Under-The-Radar California Beach Towns To Visit Now, by Christine Delsol.

FEELING no particular urgency to jump into the Silver Bullet — my '98 Honda Civic —and hit the road, but as a stone sucker for 'Best Of' lists, I scanned this baby on the assumption Fort Bragg would be at the top of the list. Fort Bragg wasn't even on the list, but Point Arena was. And that was it for Mendocino County.

BUT FOR people-free beaches, muy bonita vistas, intriguing throw back harbors, rollicking bars, terrific little restaurants and lots of them, and relatively inexpensive motels, Fort Bragg, by any objective standard, is easily the best beach town going. And put up against the rest of California's beach towns amenity for amenity, and throw in Oregon's grungy beach towns too, Fort Bragg is also easily numero uno. Some of FB's motels are bold enough to call themselves hotels, as if they were mini-Fairmonts, but who's deceived? Most of them have either ocean views or pleasing vistas on the other side of the glass. If it's a small town on the ocean you want, Fort Bragg is the goods.

I BELIEVE Christine Delsol of the Chron is the daughter of the late Lou Delsol, Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools for many years. Lou was a Mendocino County native as is, I believe, his daughter. I seldom agreed on school matters with Delsol, but the old boy was always gracious. And no dummy. His successors, except for a brief interlude with one of the Kirkpatrick boys, have been a series of morons and thieves, and even one guy who used tax paid edu-equipment to make pornographic films starring underage Ukiah girls.

WHERE WERE WE? O yes. California's coolest beach towns. At the top of Ms. Delsol's list we find Crescent City, an acquired taste which I acquired years ago not long after the famous tsunami wiped the town out. As a visual, Crescent City… Well, imagine Willits plunked down on the ocean. CC has, though, a kind of post-industrial fishing post charm, with lots of old boats and buoys lying around and a beach that goes on and on and, like Fort Bragg's seaside, virtually unpeopled on even the fairest days. I had been totally beguiled by CC via two tsunami stories and went north to have a look at the place for myself, and came away liking especially the charmingly retro Curly Redwood Motel built out of a single redwood where all the rooms are large and art deco in the early fifties style. Modern motels are like sleeping drawers with zero charm and not a thing of any interest in the room, apart from the negative visuals they have hanging on their walls. I always bring my own little art kit to add a few creative touches to the seascapes and gamboling chipmunks that hang from motel walls, my tiny bit to beat back the fascist aesthetic, but fully aware no one will ever note these enhancing flourishes. It's the gesture that counts! But the unplanned mumble jumble of post tsunami Crescent City, its beach, its old light house, its sleazy casino, the weirdness of the place generally, make it a must visit.

THE TWO STORIES that made me want to see Crescent City? A half-dozen drunks were still knocking 'em down when the waters began to rise, and kept rising as the drunks sat there stewed and sea-soaked up to their chests, empty bar stools sucked out the door when the great tide withdrew. The other is the lighthouse tender who looked out the big window and saw the huge, silent bulk of the giant wave that destroyed Crescent City as it moved over and past his tower on its way to land.

SHELTER COVE, HUMCO, legitimately makes the list, and it's certainly out of the way. It's also got major abandonment issues. Planned as a gridded-out suburb on the Lost Coast, nobody but a few pot growers and isolates ever wanted to live out there. (It didn't help when a sales plane packed with real estate PR people crashed during take off.) The remoteness is good, in that Shelter Cove has always had a kind of post modern Machu Pichu vibe, with all those un-built-out lots climbing up the King Range. You stand there looking at the place wondering what kind of lunatic even conceived it as Tucson by the sea. Brooktrails, northwest of Willits, for years a real estate scam pegged to perpetual re-sales of unbuildable lots on 90-degree slopes, is similarly ill-conceived, but not to the degree of pure zaniness of conceptual Shelter Cove.

MENDO'S POINT ARENA places third on Ms. Delsol's Best Of roster. "Snagging a front-row seat for winter storm theatrics in Point Arena ( Lifelong hippies and old-timers from the town's heyday as a fishing village co-exist amicably in this southern Mendocino County town. Defined by a pier to the south and the Pacific Coast's tallest lighthouse to the north, it boasts one of the North Coast's best ocean access points, good restaurants, an outstanding bakery, an artfully restored 1929 art deco movie theater, and a wildlife preserve populated by African animals. The Point Arena Lighthouse alone is worth the trip, poised at the tip of a stark needle of land that diminishes each year under the assault of waves, wind and rain. Stay in one of the former keepers' houses, surrounded by ocean on three sides, to catch the celestial pyrotechnics when a winter storm blows in."

NOT A BAD assessment of our smallest incorporated town and, like Fort Bragg, Point Arena, a beautiful little town, presents an interesting mix of people of ordinary means.

BOLINAS? It and Stinson Beach lost their innate, semi-isolated charms by 1960. First came the hippies, then the rich hippies, then the totally undesirable super rich hippies. If you think Carmel is authentic, you'll like Bolinas.

SAN CLEMENTE. It was the bus stop to Camp Pendleton when I was in the Marines in a previous life. On a late Sunday 1957 afternoon, San Clemente remains fixed in my mind as the most desolate, depressing place in the whole world, of which at the time I'd seen nothing, but now that I've seen a little it's still the worst of the worst. Marines were treated worse than stray dogs by the swine who ran the commerce on the town's desolate main drag, and you'd stand there broke on a late Sunday afternoon until up rattled the free bus back to the base and long days of humping a mortar base plate up and down desolate hills. Nixon's last days were spent at San Clemente, which always seemed just right to me. I suppose the place has been completely transformed, but I'd detour through Nevada and Arizona to avoid seeing it again.

San Clemente, 1957
San Clemente, 1957

THE REPUBLICAN DEBATE. The constant references to Hillary and Obama as "the left" set a nice tone of total unreality. All the Republican candidates were wrong about every single thing. The "debate" was like a contest to see who could be the wrongest. It's most depressing as a kind of metaphor of how far the country has slipped. But if I were an oligarch, I'd be for Fiorina as the most dependable defender of my vaults, and the least likely to do crazy stuff, but that's only by comparison to the rest of that menagerie. Elect any one of them would be like putting a suicide bomber at the controls of the world's biggest arsenal. I'm glad I live in a small town where lots of people are already growing and eating local in anticipation of total collapse. The difference between Trump and Hillary/Biden, collapse will happen a couple of years faster with Trump.

WHAT'S WRONG with contemporary fiction. Well, listen up and I'll tell you what's wrong with it. This opening sentence from a short story called "Late" by Steven Millhauser in the current Harper's is what's wrong with it. "Because Valeria is always late, because I'd like to have dinner with her at seven, and because, if I ask her to meet me at the restaurant at seven, I might not have dinner until eight, I ask Valeria to meet me at the restaurant at six."

VALERIA never does show up, but the cutesy conceit and the boring little ironies about a terminally uptight yuppo waiting for his girl friend goes on and on. Natch she can't simply be called Valerie because writers like this guy never have girl friends named Valerie or Debbie, and never ever Crystal and god no Crystal with a "K." If Harper's hadn't run this story The New Yorker would have. They were probably bidding against each other for it.

AS UKIAH HIGH SCHOOL fights off cockroaches, in other news from the County seat our supervisors are mulling over adoption of an ordinance that would stop chain businesses and restaurants from continuing their inexorable march across Mendocino County. A public hearing on the measure is scheduled as we go to press.

UKIAH UNIFIED has paid a bug killer ten grand to get rid of the indestructible insects.

GETTING BACK to the ordinance, if adopted, it probably wouldn't spare the wonderful little Redwood Valley Market from having to compete with a Dollar Store proposed for right down the street, because any chain store with an application currently pending would be exempt and Dollar has one pending for Redwood Valley.

THE COUNTY'S Planning and Building Department would "study and prepare for the consideration of the supervisors, changes to the county general plan or zoning code with respect to the regulation of formula restaurants and formula businesses."

THE CHAIN CORP horse is long out of its Mendo barn. Every community except Point Arena and probably Covelo, has at least a chain service station and so-called mini-mart. The otherwise ultra-groovy community of Fort Bragg has a McDonald's at its south portal with a Taco Bell and a Starbucks up the street.

ACCORDING to a Friday report by Linda Williams in Friday’s Willits News, Supervisor Brown said that “The problem she was trying to communicate with Woodhouse was that when talking to employees in the workplace it was better to go through a more formal process, so that ‘staff doesn’t feel uncomfortable’.”

MS. BROWN is correct. It is “better to go through a more formal process” because that way you have a record of what was asked, what the response was, and the CEO’s position on the subject. But certainly there are background questions and clarifications that need not go through the CEO’s office, and good for Woodhouse for nosing around on his own.

BUT WITH IMPORTANT QUESTIONS like deadlines, complaints about service, a department’s position on some area of dispute, etc., Woodhouse should go through the CEO or at least cc the CEO. We have yet to see a single thing written by Supervisor Woodhouse on any County matter, not that we hear much from our other solons and nothing at all from our alleged supervisor, Dan Hamburg.

SO WE ASSUME WOODHOUSE'S “communications” are of the “informal chat” variety but so what? Making staff "feel comfortable" is not among a Supervisor’s duties. Just the opposite, as long as it’s county business.

WHY this all has to play out in a context where a formal memo has to be written from one Supervisor to another is uniquely Mendo. Why does one Supervisor feel the need to lecture another about how to ask questions of staff in a formal memo? Where does Supervisor Brown get off? Woodhouse is an elected colleague, not a subordinate. It probably has something to do with Woodhouse’s informality and soft-headedness as indicated by his odd reversal of his position on Mental Health when simply told the financial news wasn’t as bad as previously thought.

IF SUPERVISOR WOODHOUSE is serious about the operations of departments like the perennially opaque Mental Health, he should WANT to put his questions in writing and expect answers in writing, and of course the CEO should be in the loop.

A SIDE BENEFIT of such questions would be that all such communications would be part of the public record and available for public review and comment. The way Woodhouse is doing it — apparently casually chatting with staff to no particular end — does not do anybody any good.

SO YES, go through the CEO, in writing, on important matters. And if you don’t like the answer, bring it up as a specific question at a Board meeting or release it to the press. The public is a Supervisor’s best ally for things like this — if he or she chooses to use us.

A GENERALLY WELL INFORMED READER WRITES re the Woodhouse Memo Affair: "What I am hearing is that the Woodhouse tempest in a teapot is not anything like former supervisor Delbar, who clearly crossed the line into sexual impropriety and engaged in outright harassment when his overtures were rebuffed. The confidential memo about Woodhouse refers to ‘inappropriate behavior,’ which boils down to some of the employees feeling ‘uncomfortable’ in the vague kind of way that sheltered people sometimes do. And instead of saying ‘I'm sorry, but you (this conversation, whatever) are making me feel uncomfortable’ they suffer through it, whatever it is, and then report the guy. Some obvious no-nos are that you don't show up unannounced and walk into a private office and shut the door behind you. And you don't say to a younger female employee, ‘I'm your friend’ as you gently stroke their arm. Absent any sexual overtones (and there is no indication that this was the problem) this is the kind of stuff that can trigger the creep factor, especially coming from an older male in a position of power. Woodhouse comes from the private sector and probably has no clue that he is potentially crossing a line. The whole thing is way overblown, but Woodhouse gets credit for that. No one would have known about the memo without him mentioning it. Brown was trying to wise him up without making a big deal of it.”

THE IRONY of all this seems to be that there was no intention to shut Woodhouse up or prevent him from talking to employees, but in the wake of all the controversy Woodhouse seems to have become even more tentative, less sure of himself. Step out, Tom! Let the whiners snivel about "feeling" uncomfortable. You've got a job to do!

DONALD TRUMP: DUMB RICH GUY "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" was the schoolyard taunt, the implication being that rich people are smart. Otherwise, they would be poor like the rest of us, right? The smartest thing Trump did was inherit $40 million from his father. If the rise of Donald Trump has demonstrated anything, it shows that rich people can be just as dumb as everyone else. Even dumber in Trump's case, since as a rich political candidate he can hire people to do some of his thinking for him, like he does in his business deals when he hires lawyers and accountants. Paying for a relatively thin briefing book on policy issues before he declared his candidacy would have made him a more plausible candidate, though his shallow understanding of everything would have soon been exposed in those pesky one-on-one TV interviews and during press conferences. Trump demonstrated his stupidity years ago when he became a "birther," challenging the verifiable fact that Barack Obama was born in the United States. It must be a remarkably long-range conspiracy that made Obama president, since it involved planting phony birth notices in Honolulu newspapers in 1961! — Rob Anderson

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