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Off the Record (Dec 23, 2015)

CORRECT ME if I'm wrong, and the odds are… You look at these timber prospectuses that claim the land they're selling can yield something like 21,000 board feet per acre, but isn't that seemingly large figure derived by including all those big trees in areas that can't be logged? Spotted owl set-asides? Stream zones? Seed trees? Lots of Mendo timberland yields far less than the rosy board feet figures in the sales pitches because our forests were absolutely hammered by L-P and G-P as the big boys did a quick cash-in and ran off with the money and jobs that once sustained Mendocino County. Do the latter-day buyers of our timberlands do basic due diligence? If you own timberland that's really making you 7-10 percent return, as claimed in the sales brochures, are you going to sell it?

THAT BIG HOORAH a couple of weeks ago from the Press Democrat about how they were going to do a big revamp with more local stories? The paper looks exactly the same and reads just as lamely.

UKIAH COSTCO is still on hold while the remnants of a lawsuit opposed to the new store are sorted out. Meanwhile, nearby on West Perkins, Chipotle, Mexican food for gringos, will install a new restaurant, thereby providing significant competition for the inland area's numerous and uniformly excellent mom and pop Mexican restaurants.

CHIPOTLE will be situated at the northwest corner of East Perkins Street and Orchard Avenue. A McDonald’s is directly across the street to the east, a service station on the southeast corner. A new County Courthouse that no one wants, and few people are even aware of, will be located just up the street, rounding out an unsightly jumble of franchise operations and forlorn private homes converted to failing businesses. Add traffic jams at the busy hours and Ukiah's planners will have pulled off a perfect post-modern mess.

SHOULD LAKE COUNTY SECEDE from California to join the nascent state of Jefferson? Lake County voters might get a chance to vote on a “declaration of support” to separate from the state of California and join several Northern California and Southern Oregon counties in forming a new state. Lake's supervisors are kicking the idea around. Critics wonder how a bunch of poor counties could come up with enough money to provide basic public services if those bunch of poor counties become their own state of Jefferson.

SKY LANTERNS are worrying the Fort Bragg Police Department. The cops said a “flaming sky lantern had fallen to the ground” last Thursday, hit a tree and continued burning until it was put out. They say there’s been an increase in the launching of the lanterns and they want the public to know the oiled rice paper is highly flammable. They say potential charges are the same as someone who negligently discards a cigarette that starts a fire.

RUSSIAN SAME-SAME as the Navarro River. The mouth of the Russian River has been reopened after water backed up into its estuary, flooding the Jenner Visitor Center and nearby parking lots. The dammed water has finally broken through a natural sandbar sealing the river. Like the Navarro, the Russian River is heavily overdrawn from Ukiah south and on down through the vineyards of West Sonoma County, hence the annual closure at its mouth. (It's also used as a leach line for Santa Rosa's treated sewage water, which makes the Russian far more ecologically insulted than the Navarro.) The Sonoma County Water Agency manages the estuary. They say they were hoping to breach the sandbar early last week, but high surf made it too unsafe to do it so the river just kept rising until flooding out the Jenner Visitor Center before the battered Russian could run free to the sea.

THE ETERNAL Mendocino Town Plan Update, unanimously approved by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, has now been approved by the Coastal Commission. The update’s been a work in progress for four years, although the incomplete update prior to this latest one was more than 20 years in the making.

TWICE in the last month I've watched two different schizo guys go off into full angry rant mode on the street. One was on Gobbi near the Co-Op, the other near the library on West Perkins. They were both screaming to the skies, but at any moment I wouldn't have been surprised if they attacked a passerby of whatever age or gender. I know the unconfined mentally ill are common sights in Ukiah, Willits and Fort Bragg, and I also know that most of us have become hardened to the sight of obviously deranged persons in our public areas. They're one more sign of civic drift, one more sign that no one is in charge, that despite millions being spent at all levels of government on the "homeless," there are more dangerously unhinged people on the streets than ever. And a lot of them are loaded on dope, bad dope, thus exacerbating the demons that plague them.

ANY TOWN OF ANY SIZE now suffers the prob of walking time bombs downtown. San Francisco, of course, has long suffered from the untreated mentally ill, reinforced by free-range drunks and dope heads, roaming its downtown. Trent Rohrer, Frisco's boss at Human Services notes, "We're seeing a different crowd now. They are younger, very aggressive, borderline violent, and fueled by really, really bad drugs."

INTERESTING MCN remark that began with a search for a Coast mechanic: “Shade tree mechanic” is the key word there. That equals “no overhead to cover.” Also part quality can vary widely between part suppliers. If one is comparing parts prices, one should be sure to compare them by manufacturer as well. A brand new part may easily be four times the amount of a remanufactured unit. Knowing that is important. As a former shop owner I can tell you that just keeping tools current all by itself is an incredible expense. Not to mention the electronic jazz and the avalanche of technical stuff a tech must keep up with these days. I offer a simple example for illustration. On older models, one could change the oil and filter and call it a day. Now, the “change oil” light may have to be re-set requiring extra time, knowledge and/or tools. Some of those procedures are ridiculous. This former auto repair shop owner/operator would rarely install an owner-supplied part. The mark-up on parts is part of the business's profit and must be in place. You want even higher labor rates? Maybe this analogy might help. I ask folks that think this is an OK practice to bring some eggs, some bacon and a few slices of bread to your local restaurant and ask them to cook your breakfast using your “parts” while expecting a discount. I’m sure you can see the problem with that. It is the same with an auto repair shop. No restaurant could do that and survive and neither could a professional and reputable repair shop. It just doesn’t work that way. Cars are expensive and it takes a LOT of skill, knowledge and experience to be good at repairing them. It also takes a HUGE dedication to the field that most folks fail to see.

A FRIEND sent along an essay called Nation of Wimps, the theme being that the only real fraidy cats in the country are the presidential candidates with all their crazy talk about carpet bombing and "sealing our borders." Myself, I haven't yet encountered a single person who's even brought up terrorism other than lamenting, like everyone else, the maniacal attack in San Berdoo and the earlier ones here and there.

OF COURSE we're hardly the same people who trudged over Donner Pass a hundred and fifty years ago, but we remain a fine, fat people afraid of no one— no one, do you hear me my fellow wimps?

REALISTICALLY, terrorism is here to stay. If it isn't Muslim fanatics it's our homegrown crazy people. And there won't be any ban on automatic weapons. Ever. Really, if a homicidal maniac can shoot a classroom full of children and their teachers, and that doesn't bring an absolute ban on assault rifles the next day, there will never be one.

BUT WHAT ARE the odds that you'll be a victim of one of these episodes, you as one of 310 million people? About the same as you winning the lottery.

MEANWHILE, check the "leadership" of our doomed country. Obama gets off a few platitudes last week and flies off in a giant, ozone-depleting airplane for a two week vacation in Hawaii, stopping off in San Bernardino for a photo op with the families of the latest shoot 'em up. He might at least try to throw some gravitas at the overall situation, more dire by the day.

Lorraine Dechter
Lorraine Dechter

LORRAINE'S IT! As announced last week in a press release nearly as long and as boring as a KZYX talk show...

"The Board of Directors of Mendocino County Public Broadcasting had a marathon meeting of nearly 12 hours on Monday, December 14th to decide on a new Executive Director/General Manager. There were many qualified applicants, but with a solid consensus we voted for Lorraine Dechter, our stellar news reporter. She will be officially hired at the January 4th Board Meeting in Ukiah...." Etc.

OBVIOUSLY an inside hire, not that we wish Ms. Dechter ill.  But given the composition of the oversight board, with maybe three exceptions, the majority wouldn't knew stellar, let alone excellent, if both walked up and gave them all a double kick in the labonza. Mediocre is the name of the game in Mendo, and everywhere else for that matter. The local news under Dechter's direction is improved to a reasonable facsimile of NPR-corporate standards, so she seems to be a capable person by  lib-lab standards. The real questions: Can she fend off the nuts? Will she end the lunatic paranoia characteristic of the operation, lo, these many years, chucking its lengthy enemies list. Will she get out there among the general public to make the station visible among "straight" people, who have always viewed KZYX as irrelevant to them?

Karen Horner
Karen Horner

THE SUPES have appointed Karen Horner as the Acting Library Director for the Mendocino County Library. Ms. Horner previously served as Branch Librarian in the Tulare County library system before coming to Mendocino County. Most recently, Ms. Horner has served as the Branch Librarian for the Fort Bragg Branch of the Mendocino County Library.

THE SENSITIVITY OF SENIORS… This letter was sent to the Lions Bay School Principal's office in West Vancouver after the school had sponsored a luncheon for seniors. An elderly lady received a new radio at the lunch as a door raffle prize and was writing to say thank you. This heartwarming story is a credit to all humankind. “Dear Lions Bay School, God bless you for the beautiful radio I won at your recent Senior Citizens luncheon. I am 87 years old and live at the West Vancouver Home for the Aged. All of my family has passed away so I am all alone. I want to thank you for the kindness you have shown to a forgotten old lady. My roommate is 95 and has always had her own radio; but, she would never let me listen to it. She said it belonged to her long dead husband, and understandably, wanted to keep it safe. The other day her radio fell off the nightstand and broke into a dozen pieces. It was awful and she was in tears. She asked if she could listen to mine, and I was overjoyed that I could tell her to fuck off. Thank you for that wonderful opportunity. God bless you all. Sincerely, Edna.”


ANGELO SANGIACOMO owned more San Francisco rental units than any other landlord in the city. He died last month. His family took out a full-page obituary in the Chronicle that made the old bloodsucker seem like a philanthropist. The obit concluded with a solicitation of funds for a memorial for the great man, as if his family couldn't afford one.

A YOUNG COUPLE, close friends, moved to San Francisco in July of 2012 because the young man, a tech wizard, had gotten a job with a promising startup. I accompanied them while they looked for a place to live. Everywhere we went there were crowds of young people and their parents or grandparents waving cash and fat move-in checks if they could move in to places that went for $75 a month when I was a kid.

MY FRIENDS found one of Sangiacomo's apartments on Craigslist. The pictures made it look immaculate and sunny. We took a look. It was an ok place under major remodel in a big complex on lower Pacific Heights. The two friendly women who managed this building and a bunch of others for Sangiacomo said the place would be ready for move-in in a week. The agents were all smiles and happy talk as the rental agreement was signed. The young couple borrowed six thousand dollars to move in. The young man's job started a week from Monday.

THE YOUNG COUPLE arrived at the place with all their stuff in a U-Haul truck only to find their apartment in total tear down state, much worse than when we'd all first seen it. They couldn't move in because it was under construction.

DEAL'S OFF? NO. Sangiacomo's agents informed the young couple that the contract they'd signed was iron clad, that unless they found someone else to take it on they had to pay rent on it. The young couple quickly found a hurry-up rental way down the Peninsula. They now had two apartments. The friendly rental agents were no longer friendly, and were difficult to reach by phone, which meant constant trips to their office near California and Van Ness to try to get out of the contract for an apartment that was not livable.

THE RIPPED OFF COUPLE finally got connected with a tenants rights lawyer through the San Francisco Bar Association. "I deal with these bastards all the time," the lawyer said by way of introduction. He prepared a small claims action against Sangiacomo, complete with photo evidence of the state of the unit and also proof in writing that the young couple had been promised a livable apartment.

IT TOOK THE JUDGE about three minutes to find for the tenants. Ten days later their money was refunded. If the young couple hadn't been determined to fight what amounted to grand larceny on Sangiacomo's part, they would have gone away ripped off, which is what lots of young people probably do.

ON DECEMBER 15, 2015 the item we complained about last week proposing that the County contract with the Thomas Law Group to handle the Animal Legal Defense Fund lawsuit against the County’s plans to use the Federal Wildlife Service for predator control was “withdrawn by staff” from the Board’s agenda. We’d like to think that someone out on Low Gap Road realized that the response to the ALDF lawsuit needs to be re-thought so that it doesn’t require any expensive outside legal firms.

WITH SIX full-time legal eagles paid by the County to handle its legal work, Mendocino County should never hire outside counsel for anything. And our nine judges should never duck local cases on the dubious grounds of conflict of interest. But they do. Case in point. It was a visiting judge who declared that Ukiah should negotiate with Eladia Laines, the wacky owner of central Ukiah's decrepit Palace Hotel, as if Ukiah, as KC Meadows forcefully pointed out last week, hasn't been negotiating with Laines for the past decade. You name a sensitive in-County legal case and watch our judges run for the door, and here comes some semi-retired hack outta LA or somewhere to preside over a matter he knows nothing about and, from his remarks, has no interest in informing himself.

THE ARREST OF AN ARCATA WOMAN, Tamara O'Shea Abrams, 47, in Missouri for transportation of 180 pounds of marijuana, prompted these remarks on LCO's comment line:

  1. “Last time I was eastbound on 70 through there I had a cop come up on my tail. Dude with long hair? California plates? First he followed me in my blind spot (which I kind of don't have, since my mirrors are adjusted to prevent that, but it's still a sneaky place to be), then he pulled behind me for a few miles, then he passed me and pulled the old "exit the highway then get back on" trick, then he pulled that trick again. Dude followed us for almost an hour. Had a hard on for us. My passenger postulated that they ran my plate and found out we were from Humboldt. But I wouldn't give him the slightest reason to pull me over. Toward the end it was dark and raining, so I just followed this big rig so I couldn't be pulled over for driving "too fast for conditions". There's hills in Missouri. The big rigs slow down to about 40 going up. Cop still followed me for about 20 minutes. Not a good experience. I need to get a dash cam so the judge can decide if it was a legal stop. And no, I was not transporting any more than personal use for me and my passenger.”
  2. “I had a Mendo Sheriff follow me from 15 miles before Willits. I pulled out of the rest stop and he was just behind me. I knew he was there the whole time so I had cruise set dead on the speed limit and I even slowed down to 55 before the sign where it goes from 65 down to 55 just so he wouldn't have a reason to pull me over. He still pulled me over right at the old scale house before Willits and claimed he clocked me going 75 in a 55. When I had the lawyer ask for the dash cam video of him following me to prove I wasn’t speeding at all, they told her they couldn't locate the file. Go figure.”
  3. “It is all a matter of revenue generation under the guise of "public safety". The deck is stacked against the citizen in favor of law enforcement. Cruise control set at just below the speed limit along with always making sure there are no burned out lights on the car is about the best one can do to avoid being taken for a ride, figuratively and literally.”

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