THE INTOXICANTS INDUSTRIES continue to employ more locals than any other form of Mendocino County enterprise. Government, including the County's far flung school systems, is the County's third largest employer. Although our many narco-entrepreneurs are prospering in a context of state confusion and federal illegality on which the narcos depend for profit, our government systems are badly run by wildly over-paid, often incompetent people who've collectively achieved a kind of Mendo entropy, meaning nothing can be improved short of firing most department heads and school superintendents, and starting all over again.
FOUR YEARS of drought has exacerbated water tensions. Both the Eel and Russian rivers are dangerously overdrawn while the dominant wine industry demands ever more of a finite resource and marijuana farmers add to shortages by stealing water, especially from the Eel and its tributaries. Water diversions and careless use of pesticides by pot growers are a problem everywhere in the County. Municipal water systems are precarious in Willits and Fort Bragg, but nothing much in long-term water saving and storage is occurring in either community. Ukiah is planning to dig two new deep-water wells, but water planning is complicated in the Ukiah Valley by seven, including the City of Ukiah's, often competing water districts.
OVER THE LONG YEAR of 2015, a new County Courthouse for the congested foot of West Perkins Street in Ukiah is proceeding outside any formal oversight process simply because our 9 Superior Court judges want it. The wacky owner of the derelict Palace Hotel in the center of Ukiah has just received another extension from a visiting judge to rehab the unrehabbable property. The Palace's rehab has been under discussion for a decade now.
ARGUABLY THE LEAST CAPABLE PERSON in the history of public education in the state, Paul Tichinin, Superintendent of Mendocino County Schools, has finally retired, but not before extorting a final pay raise from his captive board plus a pair of tax paid jaunts to distant educational confabs.
MARK SCARAMELLA of Boonville, acting in lieu of any help, let alone interest from his supervisor, sued three neighboring vineyards to get them to muffle their frost fans. Scaramella finally negotiated, on his own, a settlement with those vineyards. Court hearings on the matter saw a large turnout from the wine industry whose collective stance is that their interests trump the general welfare. According to Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Richard Henderson, the loss of wine grapes by a few vineyard owners is somehow more damaging than the lost sleep of a thousand or so residents of the Anderson Valley.
FORT BRAGG plunked down a homeless center in the middle of the struggling tourist-oriented town. The town's government, with the usual over-compensated town manager leading a surreptitious charge, approved conversion of the Old Coast Hotel to a dubious, unevaluated, scheme aimed at reclaiming persons laid low by drug and drink.
DROP-FALL DRUNKS, free range drug addicts and a minority of mentally ill persons comprise almost all Mendocino County's homeless. This population continues to grow in the County despite some $20 million a year spent allegedly caring for it. Half that money goes to a private, for profit business called the Ortner Management Group. OMG "treats" only those persons who are reimbursable by state and federal agencies, meaning it's in Ortner's interest to provide as few services as possible.
2015 BEGAN with the collapse of the Willits Bypass viaduct, or a 150-foot-long of formed-up viaduct ready for concrete. When the concrete was poured, down went the superstructure. 2015 ended with the mass slaughter of ordinary Americans and citizens of France by Mohammedan fanatics.
LAND AND REAL ESTATE prices held steady over the year. Vineyard land remains at a premium. Bare land costs forty to fifty thousand an acre to convert to vineyard. Four hundred thou will get you twenty bare acres in Anderson Valley. $600,000 will get you a doublewide trailer on a small lot.
PUBLIC RADIO MENDOCINO COUNTY, a perennial focus of County-wide unhappiness, said goodbye to long-time program manager Mary Aigner and its manager, John Coate. Lorraine Dechter has been named station manager. We predict Dechter's installation is your basic lateral managerial move and that KZYX will continue to lose memberships.
AMONG many local signs of the Apocalypse, the Sheriff's Office offers the use of video cameras to warring parents as they exchange custody of children in the Sheriff's parking lot.
USE of methamphetamine, with prescription opiates coming on strong, continues epidemic in Mendocino County.
IN SEPTEMBER of 2015, an attractive young woman named Asha Kreimer, 26, a native of Australia, went missing from a cafe near Point Arena. Her boy friend, Jamai Gayle, subsequently drove into a redwood near Navarro. He died in a Santa Rosa hospital from his injuries. Miss Kreimer remains missing.
THE LATE SUSAN KEEGAN'S killer remains unprosecuted for the fifth year since Mrs. Keegan's death by bludgeoning to her head. Dr. Peter Keegan, the only person in the home when his wife was murdered, remains the sole suspect in a case ruled homicide.
THE HISTORICALLY TROUBLED Mendocino County Animal Shelter, Ukiah, was coveted by Petaluma Animal Services Foundation, but the Supervisors voted unanimously to keep the Shelter under the shaky management of the County's Health Department.
TWO WILDFIRES DEVASTATED Lake County, but Mendocino County was again spared major summer blazes.
THE MUCH DESIRED Costco outlet in Ukiah remained mired in legal murk as the year came to an end.
NORTHCOAST CRAB was found unfit for human consumption and the ban on fishing it remained in effect as the year ended.
THE SUPERVISORS, on a 3-2 vote, refused to support a “hack-and-squirt” resolution that would have asked timber companies to voluntarily suspend the chemical destruction of unmarketable tree species. Even purely advisory measures aimed at the timber industry seem to terrify three of our supervisors — Brown, McCowen, Woodhouse.
MENDOCINO COUNTY received an A for having zero high ozone days between 2011 and 2013 in the American Lung Association’s 2015 State of the Air report. Ukiah's summer air remains highly unpleasant if not toxic.
AS ONE OF ONLY A FEW Superior Courts in California that require traffic citation fees to be paid-in-full before the fined can stand in front of a judge and dispute the allegations of a violation, our Superior Court dropped the practice.
THE GRAND JURY pointed out that the County's failure to require agricultural landowners (vineyards, mostly) to file regular reports may be leaving tax revenue on the table. The County, of course, took no steps towards remediation.
THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL appointed Assistant City manager Sage Sangiacomo to replace exiting City Manager Jane Chambers. Sangiacomo, with fringes, rakes in about $250,000 a year to "manage" a "city" of 16,000.
MENDOCINO COUNTY'S burgeoning homeless population showed a decline in 2015, according to the numbers from January’s unintentionally hilarious "Point-In-Time count," during which many "aggressive homeless people" refused to be surveyed. The total number of homeless people in the County is estimated at around 1300.
IN EARLY JUNE, and hard on the heels of the sudden appearance of thriving pot plants in a gro-bag garden adjacent to Highway 101 at Pinoleville just north of Ukiah, Sheriff Allman announced he will enforce the 9.31 ordinance, saying that the Pinoleville tribe comes under the law. The gro-garden soon disappeared.
LITTLE MIKEY McGUIRE, our state senator from Healdsburg, introduced several showbiz marijuana bills to demonstrate his "concern" about environmental damage and contradictory pot policies generally. Meanwhile, Little Mikey's state assembly colleague, a dentist and also from Healdsburg, Jim Wood, introduced a bill that would make pharmaceutical opiates crush-resistant. The drug brigades, you see, powder-ize the pills to shoot them up. We all sleep better knowing the Healdsburg double play duo is on the job for us!
THE UKIAH CITY COUNCIL has been incrementally improved by the departure of three sillies — Benj Thomas; Mary Ann Landes; Mari Rodin. And we are sorry to see Phil Baldwin's council tenure come to an end. Gratuitous observation: Certain names remind us of the recent ascendance in local politics of small round people — short, plump, busy, and faintly creepy testosterone-deficient males. Is there an undetected physiognomic political movement underway, perhaps the logical extension of unisex fashion combined with NPR wet brain?
BEST LOOKING political newcomer of 2015: Maureen Mulheren of the Ukiah City Council. And, unlike her predecessors, she's smart.
IN VAIN, Redwood Valley has fought to prevent a Dollar General store from establishing itself next door to the Savings Bank.
A SEEMINGLY ETERNAL discussion to bring broadband to Mendocino County continued to be eternally discussed, hopefully not unto death.
ALLEGED REFORMS of the state prison system has had the net local effect of decriminalizing hard drug use, and even some felonies and the felons who commit them, while at the same time releasing low-level criminals into their home communities, hence a county-wide uptick in burglaries, car break-ins and public mopery generally, a lot of it shoved into the general category of "homelessness."
THE MOTHER of all outlaw pot grows was raided in the Island Mountain area, a no man's land roughly equivalent to Asia's Golden Triangle where Trinity, Humboldt and Mendocino counties meet in deep northeastern Mendo. The largest water bladder most of us have either seen or heard of was also found. 86,578 plants were confiscated from gardens spread over 12 miles. No one has been arrested.
LOCAL DEVELOPMENTS in fine dining. The reopening of a Taco Bell in Fort Bragg saw lines out the door for two weeks. Meanwhile, Ukiah looks forward to a Chipotle restaurant. Why fake Mexican food is popular among Mendo gringos is a gourmet mystery.
A MALE ANTHROPMORPH broke into the Ukiah Animal Shelter to free some fifty dogs, most of them quickly re-sequestered. Mendocino County has a large surplus of abandoned pit bulls left behind by transient pot farmers and transient-transients who travel with this dangerous breed out of the mistaken notion the Pits can protect them.
THE BUDDHISTS bought the old Trinity School property in West Ukiah. Substituting the Great Wheel of Life for the old crucifix that hung on the wall of the school’s chapel, the Buddhists continue to be the only religious faith that continues to grow in Mendocino County. Old, old timers will remember when the property was an orphanage owned and run by an order of nuns. Among their graduates, state historian Kevin Starr.
COUNTY GOVERNMENT continued with lavish salaries for top bureaucrats little for line workers, as the County continues to hemorrhage employees who leave for better paying work in Sonoma County and points south. In another lateral personnel move, County Counsel Doug Losak left for private practice, and he's going to need plenty of private practice, as Kitty Elliot, a member of Supervisor Hamburg's cult, was appointed acting County Counsel. Losak ran private errands for Hamburg, Elliot will undoubtedly continue that corrupt practice.
IN A COUNTY where horrifying murders are unsettlingly common, Talen Clark Barton, 19, in a fiendish knife attack on the Laytonville family who'd taken him in, fatally stabbed two of his hosts and nearly killed two more.
MENDOCINO COAST residents are resisting installation of a new trash transfer station designed by reinvented Maoist maniac, Mike Sweeney, that would place the $5 million industrial facility in the endangered Pygmy Forest. (There's an existing and perfectly commodious existing transfer station at Pudding Creek.) Sweeny, of course, is Mendocino County's lead trash bureaucrat, and please join me for a chorus of..... Mendocino County! Where you are whatever you say you are, and history starts all over again every day.
FOULING the Eel River for 31 years now, Reggae on the River, an outdoor musical mob scene in, on and around the battered river as it struggles to flow through Southern Humboldt County.
OPTIMISTS OF THE YEAR, 2015. Ukiah approved eight Tesla charging stations in the center of town on the deeply flawed assumption that the few people who can afford Teslas will tourist-visit our tawdry county seat. So far as we know there are no Teslas in the County.
UKIAH, with County support, tentatively approved funding for a tiny house project for the homeless in a desolate industrial area near the railroad tracks. The proposal would place perhaps as many as fifty waterproof wooden boxes around a common shower and kitchen in which the homeless would live. By the way, there are no "wet" shelters in Mendocino County, "wet" defined here as shelters that house persons who arrive under the influence. If you're drunk on a freezing night hypothermia is likely to carry you off.
LONG OVERDUE. The Mendocino-Lake Community College District has agreed to sponsor the Mendocino Coast Campus in Fort Bragg. The inland campus of the college north of Ukiah continues as a kind of jock rehab center, with athletes recruited from all over the country to play the major sports of football and basketball. The college does, however, run a valuable nurse's training program. This is the college, you may recall, that built its top-of-the-line sports facilities before its library.
WHY WE LOVE UKIAH. In August, the Ukiah Theater began checking customer’ bags for weapons in the wake of recent movie theater shootings.
THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, without demur, and without reminding themselves that the County is broke from millions in pension obligations that can never be paid, blithely signed off on another annual budget, complete with a half-privatized (and utterly failed) mental health "system."
IN EARLY SEPTEMBER, tweekers, presumably, operating on the tweeked assumption that AT&T's fiber optic line near Hopland contained marketable copper, severed all of Mendocino County from the electronic outside world. Cell phones, internet the whole cyber-shebang was out for 24 hours everywhere in the County.
SUPERVISOR McCOWEN gets major atta boys for his after hours work cleaning up after the homeless camps in the Russian River drainage. For his efforts, McCowen had to scurry from a homeless man brandishing a club.
PACE McCOWEN, some 80 volunteers spent a Saturday picking trash out of Gibson and Doolin creeks, filling up 35 bags of trash from those two Ukiah streambeds alone.
BOTH the Russian and the Eel rivers became so toxic at the end of the summer that two dogs died from cavorting in their depleted waters.
A CONSTANT undercurrent of violent crime related to drugs plagues Mendocino County. Home invasions are common (and mostly unreported) and pot field murders are equally commonplace. Two men were arrested in connection with a shooting that killed one and injured another at trespass marijuana grow near Yorkville on Sunday morning. Gang punks continue to plague Ukiah and Fort Bragg.
SUPERIOR COURT Judge David Nelson announced he will not seek re-election to a court term as judge and will retire at the end of his term in January 2017. Two attorneys, Patrick Pekin of Fort Bragg, and Keith Faulder of Ukiah are running for a seat on the Superior Court.
A GROUP of local investors led by Ross Liberty is negotiating to acquire 65 acres of the long-abandoned Masonite plant north of Ukiah. Liberty and Company "envision," as we say in this county of visionaries and free range Madam Blavatskys, an industrial park.
HOW CAN WE MISS YOU if you won't stay gone. "Retired" MTA manager Bruce Richards is back at the helm of the heavily subsidized and lightly patronized County bus system. MTA is, of course, launching the "nationwide search for excellence" that commences whenever a County bureaucrat shuffles off to Deerwood or West Ukiah. MTA had a guy in place, Dan Baxter, who was purged for unstated reasons, hence the re-emergence of the inert Richards.
JULIENNE WATERS, 59, was arrested with 381 pounds of pot in Navajo County, Arizona. Her bail was set at $2 million for a load of the miracle drug valued at $1.2 million. Ms. Waters is the third Ukiah matron over the past five years to be nailed for transporting mega-quantities of bud.
EDWARD STARSKI of Lake County, convicted of passing himself off as a sanctioned lawyer, and despite the testimony of his mom whom he called as his primary character witness, Starski was convicted of trying to scam Mendo Mill for $4400 for a non-existent slip and fall.
SLEAZE BAG sanctioned attorney Jack Silver of the bogus environmental non-profit RiverWatch, sleazy even by the legal standards of our sleazy times, goes around suing heavily insured municipalities for alleged water quality deficiencies. "You send me thousands of dollars and I won't sue you." Most towns cough up rather than engage Silver in expensive litigation. He's presently suing Fort Bragg. Of all the crooks chronicled over 2015, including the killers, this guy is the worst of the worst.
JAIL CORRESPONDENT OF THE YEAR:
Michael Jay Overholt. An excerpt from “Willits After Dark”
“… After a few drinks we headed across the street to another bar called Diggers. After we left Diggers I was completely smashed. So Tim (I think) wanted to walk towards the Chevron. At this point I was so drunk that I blacked out. But apparently the following went down: According to what Tim told me a few days later in court, we ran into three 18- or 19-year-old kids. The kids apparently asked me to buy them some beer. So I took the money and we all proceeded to walk to the Chevron. Then I went into the gas station and bought a sandwich and I think a milk or something. When I came out the three kids asked, "Where's our beer?" To which I replied, "It's right here — in sandwich form." I proceeded to laugh in their face. Which, if that is what I really did, I was of course in the wrong. Then the three kids tried to jump me. I started fighting with them when Tim came out of the store and helped me win the fight. When I came to we were down at the north end of town and my retarded drunk ass was throwing rocks through windows. My bad. Very stupid. We made it almost all the way to Elaine's when Jake Donahue, a Willits cop, pulled us over. He said that we had committed a robbery. The kids said that when we were in the fight that Tim demanded their money and reached his hand into their pocket and stole their pack of cigarettes. The cops in fact found a pack of cigarettes into Tim's pocket. Then the kids identified us and we were sent to jail for strong-armed robbery over the cigarettes. I was charged with accessory to the robbery. The court date arrived and I still couldn't remember the details of what happened that night. To this day all I know is what Tim told me.”
CAN THIS MARRIAGE BE SAVED AWARD, 2015, to Michael France v. Ashley Tolles, as read out in court:
Michael France: “I’m gonna knock all your fucking teeth out, and my homeboy from LA will have no trouble selling you as a sex slave.”
Ashley Tolles: “Do it, motherfucker! You are a piece of shit and a coward! Come on over, motherfucker, you can sit and wait for the police… I have a door that will withstand a zombie apocalypse… I don’t give a fuck what you say, it doesn’t mean a fuck to me; go and smoke some more dope, you stupid fuck.”
HAPPY NEW YEAR. Enjoy it while you can. 2016 may be the last we recognize.