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Off the Record 3/17/2010

THE 5TH DISTRICT supervisor's race just got a lot more interesting with former supervisor Norman deVall of Elk taking out papers to run for his old seat. deVall's former colleague on the board, Dan Hamburg, is also a candidate for the 5th District seat, now officially vacated by incumbent David Colfax. Also running is the former mayor of Ukiah, Jim Mastin, and Wendy Roberts of Mendocino.

SO FAR, we see the race for the 5th as Hamburg's to lose. He'll run very strong with the people who first elected deVall. deVall himself has come into the race late, too late it seems to successfully woo his natural constituency from Hamburg who has about a year's head start on the campaign.

THE DEVALLIANS, as deVall's core supporters came to be called, had ousted supervisor Ted Galletti by falsely portraying Galletti as a hippie basher — Mendolib was just emerging from its Big Naked Pile Phase — which he wasn't, and by spreading rumors that Galletti planned huge upscale housing develoments on the Mendocino Coast, which he wasn't. The sub-theme of the deVall-Galletti election was the moronic one of Hippies vs. Rednecks. As it turned out, the hippies were more numerous than anyone had dared supposed and Galletti, a very good supervisor in the Jim Eddie mode — sensible and fiscally conservative —was unseated. deVall as a supervisor wasn't nearly as bad as his “liberal” successors Peterson and Colfax, but he was often out maneuvered by the forces of darkness. deVall also has a tendency to over-explain, losing his listeners after a sentence or two. He's very much like Hamburg on the issues, as is candidate Mastin.

BUT HAMBURG is a kind of uber-lib, a genuinely nice man who speaks in the soft, therapeutic tones of the Positive Thinker essential to political success among the fuzzy-warms dominant in the 5th. He's very smart and articulate, a good politician in the best sense who, in these crumbling times, would be a civil, clear voice on a board of supervisors that presently lacks even elementary collegiality. Having been elected to Congress, where he bowed out after one term for reasons that remain vague, Hamburg, now registered Green, knows how to run a campaign and he has the money to run one. From our estranged perspective Hamburg's bold separation from the utter corruption known as Democrats is almost reason enough to vote for him by itself. He drives the Tea Party types nuts, which is another plus. Possible negatives, though, include his devotion to herb and an odd association, which he says has ended, with Da Free John cult.

CONSERVATIVES, since Galletti, haven't been able to garner more than 40% of the vote in the oddly gerrymandered 5th, which now includes the bite of Ukiah where Hamburg and Mastin live, parts of Hopland, all of Anderson Valley and Comptche, Mendocino, and the pot plantation vastness running south from the purple hamlet of Elk to Gualala including, of course, the liberal bastion of Point Arena. It's a huge district that takes about two hours to traverse Ukiah to Gualala.  deVall and Mastin will fight for Hamburg's leftovers from a basic  liberal demographic consisting of KZYX people, the pot brigades, liberal trust funders, and self-identified environmentalists.

WE THINK WENDY ROBERTS is Hamburg's real competition  in this one, the stealth candidate. She's smart, reasonably articulate and, her fuzzy rhetoric aside, the first conservative candidate to run for the seat since Gentleman George Hollister of Comptche. Ms. Roberts sat on the Grand Jury that rightly blasted Colfax and 4th District supervisor Smith — Fort Bragg and environs are going on 20 years with no representation at the County level — for chiseling on their travel reimbursements, and she talks a lot about shoring up tourism and hands off the wine industry, which makes her one for three in our estimation, but three for three with lots of people.

BUT LOCAL ELECTIONS are patty-cake affairs. The candidates will get a few lob ball questions from the softy-wofty local media, Val Muchowski will hold a written-questions-only candidate's night or two, and that'll be it. The real campaigning, as always, will be sub rosa.

NOSTALGIC for the days when words had precise meaning?  Me too. We'll hear “progressive” thrown out there a lot this election as applied to people who are barely liberals on their best days. In San Francisco 'progressive' maintains at least a residual relationship to political reality, but not in Mendo where self-styled progressives hold down all the public jobs from the schools to the courts and even maintain their own radio station. But actual policy ranges from incompetent to retro, not that you'd know it from the rhetoric.

WITH THE EMPTIEST SUIT ever moving on from absentee mayor of San Francisco to lieutenant governor, a job slot that should have been eliminated years ago, and Jerry All Things To All People Brown assuming the Governor's office — Gee, he did such a great job in Oakland he could only rise — and with the Republicans blaming the general collapse on the Mexicans while Obama wraps up the handover of the country to the banks, why is anyone voting for either Democrats or Republicans? And who do the local Democrats think they're fooling with that phony Women's Day event last weekend in Ukiah? Those things ought to be called Some Women Welcome Day since they're strictly for the well-to-do. Mendocino County, for women and everyone else without a comfortable income, is a tough, pitiless place, as is all of America these days. The Ukiah women's day thing was just another local Democratic Party love in, as if the Democrats aren't a huge part of the problem, and every bit as culpable as the Republicans. We've got two political parties funded by the same people. How is change even possible in the present political context?

A READER WRITES: “Now wait a second Bruce 'several hours' on the Muni, that sordid cluster of compound miseries? I well recall your amusing excoriation of that organism in The Mendocino Papers; you remain, mysteriously, one of the few folks I've ever heard complain about the blunt insult to the brain delivered by the pre-recorded, infantalizing hectoring that pours forth incessantly from their speakers. Eerily, no one I've ever mentioned it to seems to mind. I reckon that in many cases there's just no internal voice, no pensiveness, to be discombobulated by such inane distractions.”

AMERICANS have become a nation of Zen masters, instinctively blotting out all unpleasantness, all information that contradicts their perceptions of realities. And given that the realities are increasingly unpleasant, well, yes, I think I will have another drink. Myself, I revel in the pure wackiness of the generic Muni experience, from the gratuitously rude drivers to the minimum of one crazy person per bus. The recorded messages are simply part of the lunatic package you sign on for when you pay your fare. Just last Sunday, I was on the 28, I think it is, that runs from Daly City to Fort Mason along Park Presidio, with lots of people getting on and off at the Golden Gate Bridge. I was headed for the Friends of the Library used book store at Fort Mason presided over by the great Byron Spooner, one of many Frisco treasures available to those of us not on expense accounts. A guy started talking to me as we hurtled through the Presidio to the bridge. He got off to a bad start. “No offense if you're a believer, but what's with people who think we're visited by extra-terrestrials?” Either way the question, especially from a stranger, was mildly insulting. I wasn't wearing a propeller beanie or a Beam Me Up badge or any other tangible mental health indicator. Did I look like a guy who subscribed to UFO newsletters? I said I wasn't conspiratorially oriented, that so far as I could tell we were not only alone in the universe but the rest of the cosmos was also keeping its distance. Beyond my new friend, I could see a man reading The New York Review of Books. I couldn't remember a more highbrow Muni excursion. My new friend, however, wasn't a nut, just lonely, just wanted to talk, I guess. As we zipped past the Palace of Fine Arts he asked, “Did you know that Robert Oppenheimer's brother started the Exploritorium?” I said I did know that but only because I'd just read a story about Oppenheimer's brother in The New York Review, the same issue of the Review our fellow traveler was immersed in. I went on. I told my new friend that during the commie hysteria of the 1950s  before he'd landed in the national sanctuary of San Francisco, Oppenheimer's brother had taught high school physics in Montana or some place where his students said he was by far the best teacher they'd ever had. He'd been driven into rural exile by the McCarthy-ite hysteria. My new friend looked disappointed. He thought he was going to tell me something but I'd told him something, piling on, as it were. I regretted my Tourette's-like one upmanship. My new friend said he was going to a crafts show in one of the hangars at Fort Mason. “This is the good stuff they exhibit here,” he said, “not a bunch of junk.” He brandished a flier illustrated by a flashy gew gaw that could have been any thing from a bejeweled pajama top to rastafarian macrame. “See what I mean?” he said. I didn't, but on the Muni you've got to be very careful with new acquaintances. A seemingly normal person can go all the way off at the slightest contradiction. I've seen it happen. Last year a smiley faced guy had said to his seatmate, “Nice day, isn't it?” only to be met with a snarled, “Fuck you, too,” from the normal-looking guy he'd sat down next to. It's generally prudent not to initiate a human interface on the bus. “See you on the Muni,” I said to my new friend as we pulled up at the end of the line at Fort Mason. I planned to trudge over the hill to Aquatic Park and on into the splendors of the human panorama at Pier 39, the absolute best show in all of the Bay Area. “Probably not,” my new friend said. “I never ride the bus. My wife has the car today. Nice chatting with you, though.”

ACCORDING to the czars of Fish World there will be a brief salmon season out of Fort Bragg beginning July 15, and longer salmon seasons off Oregon and Washington. Mendocino County's salmon have become much more problematical because Senator Feinstein et al have diverted more and more water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin river delta to create a Not Enough Water For The Fish Situation. Feinstein of course gets a lot of money from the corporate farmers who get the diverted water at give away prices. According to Bill Hatch, who keeps a disgusted eye on the Central Valley, a lot of so-called farmers then sell their cheap water to water agencies in LA for a lot more money than they could make growing radishes. Because of the relative health of the Klamath where the Oregon and Washington salmon come from there are more fish to the north of us.

REEL SHORT movie review: A Prophet is a gritty French film about a young Arab who graduates from juvenile delinquency to adult crime, soon finding himself in a very unpleasant place which Americans will recognize as not nearly as unpleasant as our prisons. The Gallic pen is bad enough, though, and we watch the young man turned into a hit man by older, more sophisticated thugs. The movie has been called “the real Godfather,” which is an accurate description of the film's verisimilitude. It's very good, the actors excellent. Heavy on the ultra-vi, however, so you won't want to take your vegan pacifist friends to see it with you. Cockburn's revelations about the making of the otherwise excellent Hurt Locker were disappointing, but the only three really good movies I saw over the past three years were Hurt Locker, the truly wonderful Bad Detective In New Orleans and this one, A Prophet.

YOU TRY TO WRITE to a judge to about this or that and a form letter comes back that says, “Sorry, this is an ex parte communication.” The idea is that the robed ones are so far above the fray, so scrupulously impartial that they couldn't possibly talk to lowly you about the overall situation of some poor unrepresented stiff who got put away for life because his incompetent attorney is protected by the Rural Legal Club, Mendo Branch. With your ex parte letter already slapping you in the face as you remove it from your post office box, you get an election flier that lists the names of every judge in the County, along with every prominent liberal and almost every attorney in the County anointing Ann Moorman as the judge's new comrade. Which translates, in the real lives of most defendants, that when they go into court they're walking straight into Palsy Walsy Land.

WHICH BRINGS US to the case of convicted home invader Glenn Sunkett. More than one legal apparatchik has said to us, “You guys are sure giving Sunkett a lot of space. He did it, and he got the sentence he deserved.” Sunkett, of course, says he didn't do it, that he was mis-identified by the witnesses, as black people often are by white victims. I haven't read the transcripts, wasn't at the trial, but mis-identification of black people is a fact of American legal life — that and the odd fact of this particular case that involved two masked men and an unmasked ringleader. Sunkett, as we see from his letters, is a smart guy. A smart guy would also have worn a mask. Sunkett also says he did not get a fair trial, that crucial witnesses for him weren't called, that his lawyer, Public Defender Linda Thompson, not only put on an incompetent defense, she barely spoke to him during preparation. I've seen Thompson's work. I'm with Sunkett. I can't even imagine being in his position and here comes Linda. The horror! The horror!

COMPOUNDING THAT HORROR, defendant Sunkett can't get rid of her. He goes before Judge Brown and Brown finds that Thompson did an adequate job. And here's where Club Palsy Walsy kicks in. Thompson and Brown work together every day. They all work together every day at the County Courthouse. It's inevitable in that context that things get real cozy, so cozy that people are dumptrucked, railroaded, ripped off, and tossed over the side because it's simpler than making your everyday pal angry by ruling against him or her. And lawyers are sloppy or unprepared or don't show up. Stuff goes on in Legal Land, Ukiah, that you couldn't get away with at your job.

LEAVING ASIDE Sunkett's guilt or innocence — during the robbery the owner of the property was hit over the head and damn near killed — Sunkett's a guy who's looking at the rest of his life in prison. The law says he can file what's called a Marsden Motion to get a new lawyer. So, Sunkett filed a Marsden Motion and lost! Judge Ron Brown said No.

I LOOKED up the law. It said that a Marsden Motion should be granted if you show during the hearing that your lawyer was not adequately representing you or there is an irreconcilable conflict. Yes and Yes in Sunkett vs. Thompson. If the motion is granted, you are entitled to another court-appointed lawyer and a continuance for whatever reasonable amount of time your new lawyer needs to get ready for trial.

IT IS AN ABUSE of discretion to force a defendant to choose between an ineffective attorney or no attorney. Sunkett couldn't get rid of his ineffective attorney and now he has no attorney. And the public can't see the testimony to judge for ourselves if he got a fair hearing.

JUDGE BROWN probably covered himself by saying something like, “I've heard all the evidence and find that Ms. Thompson is adequately representing Mr. Sunkett and that there is not an irreconcilable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.” Sunkett's only recourse at this point is the appellate court where, at least in theory, the whole show will be reviewed to see if the court abused its “discretion.”

THE APPELLATE COURTS, in my losing experience with them, are as much of a crap shoot as the local courts where you have a bunch of overpaid, politically-appointed yuppies acting as the second level of enforcers for the in-place American class system. You see them zipping around the high rent neighborhoods of the Bay Area dropping their kids off at private schools, leaving work early for tennis lessons, sending off fat checks to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. Sunkett, like every other American without resources, is undefended.

PROP 14 on the June ballot deserves a big NO vote. Candidates would all be listed on one ballot and voters, regardless of registration, would be compelled to vote for one with the top two vote-getters moving on to the general election — in other words, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown. No third party people, no alternatives to the corporate money bags.

DEPUTY DON SCOTT and his deputy dog, K9 Hondo, found Don Scoville, 47, of Honeydew taking a snooze on Stipp Lane, South Ukiah. It was about 8pm, late for an afternoon nap, early for night-night. The deputy proceeded to perform a “welfare check” on Scoville. He could be injured or even dead for all the deputy knew. As Scoville rolled his window down,  Deputy  Scott  was nearly wafted away on a fragrant emission of fresh cannabis. Subsequent explorations revealed voila 9 pounds of bud in 1 pound packages plus two methadone pills unsupported by a prescription. Scoville, belatedly aware he wasn't in Honeydew, was arrested but soon posted $30k bail.

BETTY YEE, the Northcoast’s representative on the State’s Board of Equalization, says it’ll be at least 2015 before the state’s economy and the state budget will “rebound,” if then, according to a recent interview with Ms. Yee in the Ukiah Daily Journal by K.C. Meadows. We don’t know how Ms. Yee calibrates her crystal ball, but 2015 is suspiciously precise, but at least she puts the “at least” in there to give her estimate a bit of credible wiggle room. “People who have money aren't spending it, and a lot of people don't have it,” Yee said, explaining why tax revenues are down. Ms. Yee doesn’t think the “budget cutting” the state (and the Counties) have done so far is very effective “because while state employees are cut in one place, programs are cut in a different place. There has been little or no coordination of layoffs and program cuts because layoffs have not been made as part of a bargaining discussion,” which Yee believes is essential to effective budget cutting. Yee added that California has hamstrung local communities so that it’s nearly impossible to raise money even if there’s support for it. Tax policy is upside down too: “Beyond the economic slowdown, tax policy itself is eating into the state's revenues. While the state reinstated the vehicle license fees and increased sales taxes, it lowered corporate taxes to the tune of $2 billion annually.” And she didn’t even mention taxing the people with the money. If she said that, she wouldn't have been appointed by any politician we're aware of.

ACCORDING TO the state Energy Commission, Mendocino County used about 302 megawatts of power for residential units in 2008 and about 330 in 2009. By comparison Humboldt County used 377 megawatts in 2008 and 418 in 2009. A recent article in the North Coast Journal by a couple of Humboldt State professors said that Humboldt County electricity use was probably way up because of indoor marijuana grows. Although Humboldt County’s residential electricity use is not much more than Mendo’s, HumCo’s “non-residential” electricity use is much more than Mendo’s, apparently because Mendo has no industry to speak of.

WE’VE BECOME quite familiar with our Congressman Winebottle’s major contributors since it’s pretty easy to look them up on But does not track state politicians. For that you go to Cal-Access etc. where you find that Assemblyman Wes Chesbro’s biggest contributors ($2,000 or more) are the State Labor Council, Robert Pestoni Winery (Napa), The Dentist PAC, E.J. Gallo, the Pechanga Indians, the California Supervisors Association, the Teachers Union, the Plumbers Union, Villagio Inn&Spa (in Yountville), the Emergency Medical PAC, Tomra North America Inc. (a Norway based Recycling Outfit), Southern Wine&Spirits, Waste Management Inc., Richmond Sanitary, Hewlett-Packard, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Genentech, San Francisco Bar Pilots. In the next tier (below $2,000, above $1,000) we find various doctors, operating engineers, and the Dump Truck Owners Association.

COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT of Schools Paul Tichinin is a poor choice as spokesperson for opposition to school cuts, and not only because he happens to be illiterate. The superintendent didn't know what niggardly meant, and probably still doesn't. Tichinin thought it was a racist insult, as did his fellow school administrators who signed on to T's letter protesting the word.  You don't want these cretins up front complaining about cuts to school budgets. Better to stick to little kids with placards in childish scrawls saying things like, “Don't Yew Wuv Us Anymore?” But there he was, Tichinin and several other wholly implausible school bureaucrats “demonstrating” in front of the Ukiah Courthouse last week under the rubric of a “Day Of Action” against the recently announced state education funding cuts. Note that these people not only have no idea where to “demonstrate,” but they only “demonstrate,” they never strike. The state hasn't whacked Tichinin’s annual $120k plus perks, a package that could fund two teachers and a couple of aides. But he’s out in front of the Ukiah Courthouse with a sign that reads “Cuts Hurt Kids.” Incompetents like him have brought public ed to such low esteem in the state that people no longer exert the fiscal muscle to adequately fund the schools. Tichinin, told “What we're doing here today is a, a community, teacher, student, um, Day of Action that has really been brought together by CTA, the teachers' union and administrators ACSA [unexplained acronym, probably the Association of School Assh.... er Administrators] to make everyone aware of the horrendous cuts the state has. [The state “has” cuts.] The ROP with cuts more than 20% last year and that's continuing into this year, uh, the school districts are having both declining enrollments and cuts in their, the amount of revenue they have for every child and that's [sic] may reach up to the {sic] about $300 per student again this year. The most important thing is to contact your legislator. Contact Wiggins in Sacramento, Senator Pat Wiggins [a Democrat who is certifiably non-compos mentis, but probably not much more than Tichinin himself], and contact Wes Chesbro who's our assemblyperson and both of them… a number of teachers here and administrators have repeatedly, and board members, there are school board members here as well, who are reaching out and trying to get all of the legislature aware and you can write to the governor, I'm not sure how much effect that will have but for sure the legislature.” Is that clear, class?

A READER WRITES: “On March 12, 2010, Independent Coast Observer report D. Glenn O'Hara ran an article about outgoing/retiring Point Arena School Superintendent Mark Iacuaniello being honored in Napa County as ‘Administrator of the Year’ for Mendocino County by the area’s “Schoolmasters' Club.” County Superintendent Paul Tichinin was awarded the Dr. Virgil Hollis Distinguished Service Award at the same presentation. However, the article lacked substance due to Mr. O'Hara failure to report what achievement(s) these two award winning 'superintendents' did to stand out from all the rest. In other words, what did they do differently that the others failed to do? Of course, I guess it is hard to report on such information if there’s nothing positive or newsworthy to report on!  Mr. O'Hara did mention Iacuaniello's past work history in education with his previous employer prior to Point Arena — Mendocino Unified School District where he also assumed a role of superintendent but fails to mention (as usual) that Superintendent Iacuaniello was put on permanent “administrative leave of absence” (that is what Iacuaniello calls it but most normal people would call it being terminated!). This is how Point Arena was privileged enough to get Iacuaniello as Superintendent. As one previous Point Arena school board member said, ‘If he isn't good enough for Mendocino, he is just what Point Arena needs.’ How very, very lucky we were to have had such insightful board members to hire Iacuaniello with the highest qualifications, more than all the others interviewed being 'not good enough for Mendocino'! Isn't it interesting that Mr. O'Hara could not take the time to drive 65 minutes to report the truth being introduced in Ukiah during the Murray vs Iacuaniello ‘fraudulent inducement’ (aka wrongful termination) trial but took time out of his very busy reporting schedule for the ICO for this ‘stop the presses’ newsworthy article and drove three hours to watch his ‘friend’ Mark Iacuaniello receive an award? Perhaps, they served dinner and wine at this most coveted award ceremony and Mr. O'Hara thought it was worth his drive after all! Finally, I believe the other superintendents in Mendocino County should be voicing their outrage about why they weren't nominated and, yet, someone who has left their district worse off for being there was? I just can't get my head around how this can happen! Perhaps the other district Sups have also heard the ugly rumor that Iacuaniello may just be their next boss as County School Superintendent and don't want to ruffle any feathers! One last note, the ICO also ran of this picture of twiddle de and twiddle dum with the article. Can you point out who is de and who is dum?  I will leave that up to your imagination!

THE NEW TRIAL DATE for the Aaron Vargas murder trial is April 19th in Ukiah in courtroom B. We need a lot of people to show up to protest outside the courthouse and to be present in the courtroom. Aaron will need letters addressed to the judge prior to sentencing. If you'd like to write a letter, address it to Judge Ronald Brown and email it to or mail it to Aaron’s attorney: Tom Hudson, P.O. Box 776, Albion, CA  95410. — Mindy Galliani

AN IRISH DAUGHTER had not been home for over five years. Upon her return, her Father cursed her heavily: “Where have ye been all this time, child? Why did ye not write to us, not even a line? Why didn’t’ ye call? Can ye not understand what ye put yer old Mother through?” The girl, crying, replied, “[Sniff, sniff] Dad… I became a prostitute…” “Ye what!?” he thundered. “Outta here, ye shameless harlot! Sinner! You' re a disgrace to this Catholic family!'” “OK, Dad, as ye wish. I just came back to give mum this luxurious fur coat, title deed to a ten bedroom mansion, plus a $5 million savings certificate. For me little brother, this gold Rolex. And for ye Daddy, the sparkling new Mercedes limited-edition convertible that's parked outside, plus a membership to the country club… [takes a breath] … and an invitation for ye all to spend New Years Eve on board my new yacht in the Riviera.” “Now what was it ye said ye had become?” says Dad. Girl, crying again: “[Sniff, sniff]… a prostitute, Daddy! [Sniff, sniff].” “Oh! Be Jesus! Ye scared me half to death, girl! I thought ye said a Protestant. Come here and give yer old Dad a hug.”

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