- Administrative Malpractice
- Solid Waste
- Little Dog
- Homeless Problem
- Care-a-Van Willits
- Bypass Friction
- AVUHS 1947
- Yesterday's Catch
- Kesey 1967
- Atmospheric Railway
- Two Dads
- Dogging It
- Ferlinghetti 1960
- Ultimate Buzzkill
- Sexual Life
- Crowdfunding Healthcare
- Great Injustice
- Looting People
- Bourgeois Marriage
- Dance Brigade
But Ob-Gyn Saved, For Now
by Malcolm Macdonald
By a 5-0 vote the Board of Directors of the Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) has decided to keep the obstetrics (OB) department open for the next three years. The vote was taken before a standing room only crowd in Fort Bragg's Town Hall on June 22nd. The vote was amended twice, first by Dr. Peter Glusker, to guarantee OB remain for at least three years. This has been a bargaining issue between Mendocino Coast Clinics (MCC) and the hospital. MCC has pushed for the three year guarantee from the Board and administration in return for MCC recruiting additional OB doctors to the coast. The Glusker amendment looked good to go for approval as Board members Dr. Lucas Campos and Kitty Bruning renewed their motions in favor, but MCDH Board Chair Steve Lund added phraseology to the effect of, “as long as is financially viable,” essentially undercutting the three year guarantee.
Before the vote the MCDH Board listened to a unanimously voiced community give impassioned reasons for keeping the OB Department open. Dr. Glusker was the only board member who seemed prepared to speak to the issue without reluctance. His statement captures, or alludes to, much of the problem as a whole, “The administration’s proposal to close OB is a very bad idea. Our geographic location makes the availability of OB care just as critical as the emergency room or surgical care. There are careful studies showing increased maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, as well as decreased economic performance in hospitals that close OB...
“It would be medically, ethically and economically extremely irresponsible to close OB, in my opinion. It is also inappropriate in my opinion to make OB an economic scapegoat for the hospital's economic condition. Our economics continue to be very critical, not only related to OB, but to a variety of complex local factors including excessive Registry personnel throughout the hospital (replacing many nurses who train here but leave because of unpleasant workplace conditions), unusually and inordinately high employee union benefits, perpetual guaranteed income for independent contractors, and excessive debt load. There are also national economic factors affecting small rural hospitals.
“OB is critical to the survival of the District for medical, ethical and economic reasons. Closing OB would be more than suicidal. A parcel tax is also critical to the survival of the District, but is not adequate by itself. We need better administration with a more transparent analysis of all departments of the hospital, including the release of financial information which to date remains unavailable. We need better working conditions so that nurses will stay instead of moving to Lake and Marin counties and the bay area. We need a balanced budget, not one that continues to keep us in debt. Finally, we need a long term financial plan for the replacement and/or repair of our seismically deficient physical plant.”
It was Chief Executive Officer Bob Edwards who initially ran out the idea to close OB almost a year and a half ago at a hospital committee meeting. Much recent blame was thrust upon board member Dr. Kevin Miller for chairing a committee looking into the viability of the OB Department and for apparently insisting on an up or down OB vote being placed on the MCDH Board of Directors' agenda. Dr. Miller has appeared to be “carrying the water” for CEO Edwards on the OB issue. In fact the first words out of Miller's mouth at the June 22nd meeting were, “A vote of confidence to our administration.”
Miller and Campos are new to the area. That newness probably seemed appealing to voters in last November's election, many of whom were no doubt tired of the same old, same old leadership on the MCDH Board, leadership that had taken the hospital into a bankruptcy that lasted from October, 2012 through to the spring of 2015. Unfortunately, as newbies at the hospital Miller and Campos appear to be heavily influenced by the leaders they see and speak with most often, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon.
The clear and present problem is that Edwards and Sturgeon are not the kind of people you want to listen to, not unless you want to be perpetually misled. Along with making the OB Department a scapegoat for the hospital's economic woes, let us count the ways these two have led the hospital, its employees, and the taxpayers astray.
In the fall of 2016 Mendocino Coast District Hospital's Chief Financial Officer (Sturgeon) downplayed the seriousness of billing and coding errors made by the newly contracted Emergency Room (ER) provider (EmCare) in official report after report to the hospital's Board of Directors and its Finance Committee. In addition, both the CFO and CEO Edwards ignored internal warnings to add employees to sort out the billing and coding mess.
That information dates from a March 8th AVA article ("Coast Hospital: Déjà Vu Again"). More details can be re-read from a March 1, 2017 AVA piece as well ("Coast Hospital Falls Behind"). No one from, the CEO or CFO to the MCDH Board, has ever denied this. They just go blithely along, hoping the public in general will not notice.
Fourth quarter (Oct.-Dec.) 2016 professional fees, from Medicare, were not paid to two North Coast Family Health Center (NCFHC) physicians in anything resembling a timely fashion. Reports are that this was an ongoing problem as of mid-March, 2017. The CFO did not report this problem in anything resembling a timely fashion to the Board or the Finance Committee of MCDH.
Let us go on: Rural Health Clinic (RHC) claims from NCFHC, approximately fifty days worth, dating from mid-November, 2016, into Jan., 2017, were not billed for at least as late as mid-March.
That's from a March 22nd AVA article ("Ongoing Trouble at Coast Hospital"). Also from that article: In the autumn of 2016, NextGen (a provider of electronic health record sytems) refused to release updated ICD-10 codes to the hospital, alleging that MCDH had not sent out its invoice to NextGen. CFO Sturgeon did not report this to the board or the finance committee in any sort of timely manner. Quite the opposite. At a Jan. 4, 2017 Finance Committee meeting Mr. Sturgeon stated that issues associated with the clinic's (NCFHC) billing had been fixed or would be fixed by the end of January. Yet the issue of professional fees cited above still existed at least two and a half months later. There has been no denial or refutation of these points either. Yet Board members like Campos and Miller still support their administrators.
Then there is the issue of workplace harassment. Late in 2016, MCDH's Chief Human Resources Officer Ellen Hardin filed a harassment complaint against Sturgeon. Hardin was placed on administrative leave, which, in and of itself, seems strange, since natural inclination would say the accused would be the one placed on leave, pending investigation.
Keep in mind Hardin's harassment claim may have included CEO Edwards as well. Another employee who had filed her own harassment charges againt both Edwards and Sturgeon, later felt the need to file additional harassment charges against Board Chair Lund and Board member Miller for behavior aimed at intimidating the employee into dropping her original charges against the CFO and CEO. By the time that employee attempted to file paperwork associated with the harassment of Lund and Miller, Hardin's chief assistant in the Human Resources Department at MCDH had been fired by Edwards. The reason: Edwards suspected Hardin's assistant of leaking information about the Hardin case. Full disclosure time: Hardin's assistant didn't leak anything to this writer (I wouldn't know her if I bumped into her on the street) and to the best of my research and knowledge Hardin's assistant did no such thing with anyone else in the world of the press.
By this spring paranoia had set in with CEO Edwards, not only had he fired Hardin's assistant, but he moved out of the traditional CEO office because the room was not sound proof enough for his liking. His new office is in an extreme corner of the hospital building, with no name plate on the door, nothing to indicate who resides therein.
Back to that hospital employee with harassment charges to file against board chair Lund and board member Miller. Without Hardin or her chief assistant around, the next person down the totem pole in Human Resources appeared to not know what to do with harassment paperwork aimed at two board members, so who did that HR person go to for direction?
Sit down and buckle in, it's going to be hard to swallow this, but it was Wade Sturgeon. Apparently CFO Sturgeon has some background in HR as well, so (Holy Orwellian Truths!) he was/is apparently handling much of the decision-making, even in the most sensitive human resources matters at the hospital. Two different individuals, familiar with the inner workings at MCDH have, separately, verified this.
From the beginning of Ellen Hardin's harassment charges against Sturgeon, CEO Edwards has supported his CFO every step of the way. Remember it was Hardin who was placed on leave, not the accused harasser, Sturgeon. When information about some of this got into the press (chiefly at the AVA) Edwards fired Hardin's main assistant. The long time Quality Risk Manager, who questioned Edwards and Sturgeon's ethics while siding with Hardin left for a job in the Bay Area or she most likely would have been fired. At some point Edwards learned that the Chief of Patient Care Services, Terry Murphy, was friendly with Hardin, so Murphy was the next to be placed on administrative leave by the CEO, pending an investigation. “Pending an investigation,” were Edwards's exact words. Keep that concept in mind.
Meanwhile, under the pretext of a performance review of Sturgeon, the MCDH Board, with Lund doing the speaking at the conclusion of a March 16th closed sesssion, told the two or three members of the public present that the board would be conducting further interviews with hospital staff before rendering a final judgment concerning the CFO. Put simply, there were no further interviews conducted.
On June 13th, the board held another closed session on Sturgeon's performance. After about forty minutes, Lund read a prepared vote of confidence statement regarding Sturgeon. The most obvious question regarding that closed session, if there was supposed to be more discussion about Sturgeon's work before an up or down vote on his continuation as CFO, why did Lund read his confirmation of Sturgeon's job performance from a paper prepared ahead of the start of the closed session?
Additionally, Lund's statement included, “After careful deliberation of this matter, including a thorough, confidential investigation conducted by an outside, independent law firm...” The outside investigation was concluded early in 2017, yet there were performance review hearings concerning Sturgeon that continued into March as well as the June 13th meeting. How could the investigation be categorized as “thorough” if further meetings were needed months later?
Another problem: Lund's statement claimed that this early 2017 investigation was thoroughly independent. However, the law firm alluded to in his statement was completely paid for by MCDH. No law firm nor investigators hired by Ms. Hardin were consulted by the MCDH Board.
Much of Sturgeon's performance review was predicated on the investigation into harassment charges made by Ellen Hardin. However a letter was sent by CEO Edwards to Ms. Hardin just two days after the March 16th closed session performance review. The letter essentially asked Hardin to sign off on an employment termination. This just two days after the hospital board promised further interviews regarding Sturgeon's performance. In plain language the majority of the hospital board promised one thing then the CEO completely undermined that promise two days later. The majority of the board has done nothing to control, let alone rebuke, Edwards's actions. Dr. Glusker remains the only exception to the MCDH Board's blind ethical eye.
On June 14th, one day after the MCDH Board of Directors voted four to one (Glusker dissenting) to retain Sturgeon in his CFO position, Edwards fired Chief of Patient Services, Terry Murphy.
Ms. Hardin, her assistant, the Quality Risk Manager, Ms. Murphy, and at least one other woman have been fired directly or forced from their jobs in the last six months by Edwards. One has to wonder if this particular CEO has a problem with assertive women professionals?
Bottom line: It certainly appears that unethical administrators are running MCDH, with a majority of its board of directors either complicit in covering up a variety of disreputable actions or too blinded by some sort of misplaced sense of loyalty to take proper action.
For months this writer has asked, in front of the MCDH Board, questions that have not only gone unanswered, but have simply been ignored even when submitted to them in writing. Questions as simple as the cost of hiring the law firm to investigate in the Hardin-Sturgeon harassment case. There's a litany of more troubling questions that readers can peruse past articles for.
Currently, CFO Sturgeon failed to notify the board or the finance committee about Medi-Cal Reconciliation payments that the hospital will have to make to the tune of $75,000 per month for more than two years. Sturgeon would have been notified about this in the last month of 2015. He didn't inform the hospital board or its finance committee about the situation until this June, 2017. These payments are in regard to Medi-Cal billing in 2013 and 2015. Sturgeon still has not notified the hospital board or its finance committee concerning payments due back to Medi-Cal for 2014 and 2016. Those amounts are approximately $550,000 and $375,000.
There are even more serious financial questions regarding Sturgeon's actions or inactions as CFO, but we'll leave those details for a later piece. One has to wonder what it will take to open the eyes of some of the current MCDH Board of Directors?
In some ways the uproar about the OB Department has provided a smokescreen for the shenanigans of Edwards and Sturgeon. In that light we'll conclude with the words of retired board member, Dr. Kathryn Rohr, who apparently is still watching closely:
“When will they listen?
“It was inspiring to watch the community’s enthusiastic support for the obstetrical service at our hospital. It was gut wrenching to watch the District Board remain brain dead in response. How many times must so many speakers so eloquently express the reasons why obstetrics is a critical service in a remote rural hospital only to watch the Board pass a resolution that in reality accomplishes nothing? A last minute modification of a straightforward motion by Board President Lund reduced the evening’s effort to ashes.
“Who continues to put this matter on the agenda? Who continues to expend resources proving why they CAN’T save the department instead of making a decent effort to determine how they CAN save it. We live in a republic where we expect our elected representatives to respond to the desires of the electorate. When those representatives refuse to listen, there is a process to replace them. It should be abundantly clear that the only true solution is to RECALL those members of the Board who refuse to listen to our community. Until we have a Board dedicated to removing a feckless, incompetent administration and providing the needed services, no amount of taxes will solve the current problems. Until then it will be like giving another bottle of booze to an unreformed alcoholic and telling him to use it wisely.”
As this piece was about to be submitted word arrived that another department manager at the hospital has left MCDH after accusing Edwards and Sturgeon of harassment. Whether the harassment charge was made in a formal complaint is not known at this point. A person familiar with the situation at the hospital described the departed as, “A very good manager.” Another individual with long time experience at MCDH stated, “[This manager] was a huge victim of Wade [Sturgeon]. [The] emails Wade sends are Nasty!”
SUPERVISOR MCCOWEN asked if there was a large piece of green rug in the river at the confluence of the Navarro near Philo.
Dave Severn immediately ran to the river where he found that it wasn't carpet but, one might say, the green luminescent bio-dreck caused by a combination of low flows and chemical run-off.
Supervisor McCowen sent along his thanks for Severn's prompt investigation and added a gratuitous plug for MSWMA (Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority), which neither manages solid waste nor has authority, being another of the endless alphabet soup of local agencies that function mainly to provide good paying jobs for the people who run them:
"Thanks to Dave Severn for a quick and comprehensive response. I got a call from a Fish and Wildlife warden who had gotten a call from a local citizen, who was described to me as a retired biologist, reporting the non existent shag carpet. I'm glad it was a false alarm but its a bit of a concern that a biologist mistook an algae bloom for a shag carpet! I had already contacted Louisa Morris, General Manager of MSWMA, to arrange for cleanup, but wanted to get an idea of the access. When I spoke to Louisa she immediately agreed that MSWMA could handle it, and without knowing the access conditions, she said they would deal with it no matter what. I know you like to take shots at MSWMA, but our creeks and roadsides would be a lot dirtier without them.
"MSWMA was formed in 1990 by the County and the cities of Ukiah, Fort Bragg and Willits and provides countywide services more efficiently and cost effectively than the individual jurisdictions could do on their own. MSWMA is funded by grants and by a surcharge on each ton of solid waste generated in the county. MSWMA was instrumental in starting local recycling programs and specializes in household hazardous waste collection, including the Hazmobile which holds regular collections around the county. MSWMA also obtains state grants to fund free tire recycling events countywide.
"And getting back to the algae masquerading as shag carpet, if there had been a carpet in the creek, MSWMA would have removed it and disposed of it at no additional charge. Since 1992 MSWMA has taken on the task of cleaning up illegal roadside dumps, including several locations off Mountain View Road and many others around the county where thoughtless people have not just illegally dumped garbage, furniture, and appliances, but have gone out of their way to dump it down steep hillsides, sometimes winding up in the creek. In many cases, if MSWMA were not cleaning up illegal dump sites they would not be getting cleaned up at all. MSWMA also participates in most of the organized cleanups that take place around the county, either by sending a crew, picking up the trash, paying for disposal or all of the above.
"Finally, MSWMA provides independent analysis and oversight of many of the solid waste franchise contracts that local jurisdictions have with private companies that have been granted monopolies in the areas in which they operate. In most cases, without MSWMA, there would be no effective counterbalance to the private companies who naturally seek to increase their profits at the expense of the ratepayers.
"PS: You probably know that Morris has now given notice (for the second time) and MSWMA is in search of a new General Manager."
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Skrank, or whatever he's called, could use some instruction in basic hygiene. Every time I see him he's rolling around in the dirt! I thought cats were supposed to be clean. This guy's a real grubber.”
HOMELESS HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE
Ukiah Planning Commission Discusses Whether Camping Ordinance Is Working
by Justine Frederiksen
Every night in Ukiah, people head down to the creeks and river looking for camp sites under bridges and other hidden spaces.
And while most of them are looking for a place to spend the night, at least two of them are there to clean up after the campers.
“I do this because I grew up here and I remember when these places were pristine and we could play at the river as kids,” said John McCowen, who represents the city on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors during the day, then spends his evenings voluntarily picking up piles of needles, human waste, batteries and other toxic trash in the Ukiah Valley’s sensitive watershed.
The man who helps him in this effort asked to remain anonymous, but both shared stories recently of encountering people with either wanton disregard for the environment, or a seemingly honest ignorance of the damage they were inflicting.
“One man admitted he and his girlfriend were defecating in the river and then burning the toilet paper and thinking that was OK,” McCowen said, and his friend recalled finding evidence of burned shopping carts and countless other examples of hazardous substances left behind.
Another Ukiah resident keenly aware of the damage campers are doing to the city’s waterways is Mike Whetzel, chairman of the Ukiah Planning Commission.
Whetzel said he sees so many people camping in the two creeks near his house that he assumed the city did not have a law prohibiting the activity and asked Planning Director Craig Schlatter to investigate.
When Schlatter told the Planning Commission at its last meeting June 14 that the city has an ordinance banning camping that it updated as recently as 2014, Whetzel wondered whether the law “has enough teeth, or is not being enforced, because we’re still getting truckloads of garbage in the creeks every summer.
“Even around the airport they’ve created encampments all over,” he continued.
“I can certainly look into code enforcement and talk to the police department to see what their sense is and give you another report,” Schlatter said.
“You’re just kicking the can down the road,” said Commissioner Christopher Watt of trying to enforce a camping ordinance, which he said, “there is no practical application for. A camping ordinance isn’t going to solve the problem, and I think the police department realizes that.”
"I don’t know why we have so many homeless people in Ukiah,” said Commissioner Linda Sanders, agreeing that when officers approach campers and ask them to move, most just find another place to go, “because they need to sleep. It seems like the police have their hands tied.”
“Homelessness is really a challenge, because we are balancing someone’s human rights with the community’s expectations,” Ukiah Police Chief Chris Dewey told the Ukiah City Council last month, echoing the sentiment that strict enforcement of the camping ordinance is not the answer. “We want to make sure the community is safe, but also not violate an individual’s human rights.”
To find new ways to approach the problem and lessen its impacts, Dewey said he is having his Innovation Team, launched in conjunction with City Manager Sage Sangiacomo, focus on the homeless and transient population.
“Capt. Justin Wyatt volunteered to head that effort,” said Dewey, explaining that Wyatt is communicating with many other departments in nearby counties and across the state to find out what is working and how Ukiah might improve its approach.
“We are finding that the communities that are the most successful focus on trying to get people into services, and only using enforcement as a last resort,” he said. “As we move forward we’re tying to create relationships with the county, faith-based groups and other organizations in the community to explore new methods we can use.”
Dewey said he hoped soon to be able to present the City Council with evidence of the “impacts transients and homeless are having on the city and the surrounding county, then present ways we might be able to adjust our existing ordinances and use those tools to help our officers do a better job.
“This is a very complicated issue, and there won’t be one solution. There will be a host of solutions to solve the problem,” Dewey said.
WILLITS, BYPASS, an on-line comment:
If you consider the emission savings created from bypassing the town, this could be ranked the most environmentally friendly project since the creation of the freeway and most likely carbon neutral in our lifetime. The amount of petroleum that will no longer be consumed by 100s of thousands of vehicles starting, stopping and idling through the town of Willits yearly will be astronomical. Trace these carbon savings all the way down the production line to the extraction of the petroleum. This bypass was not only benificial for the region but the the Planet. We should use this project as an example of how effeciency can change the world we live in for a better future.
THERE ARE BYPASS DIEHARDS out there who are so defensive about the Willits fiasco that they are still trying to prove The Major wrong about his bypass predictions from four years ago now that the monstrosity is built, albeit with the predicted cost overruns and schedule delays. For example, a Ukiah reader writes: “By the way, I believe the Maj provided extensive pre-construction analysis that the bypass, if built, would sink and tilt of its own weight. I would think last winter would have been sufficient. Please ask the Maj to explain why the bypass appears to have maintained an even keel.”
THE MAJOR REPLIES:
Let’s begin with an old Air Force anecdote. (Bear with me, I’ll get back to the bypass.)
In the late 1930s the US Army Air Force was so thrilled with the dependable B-17 Flying Fortress bomber (that later decimated Germany) that some top officials thought they could make an even larger long-range bomber by simply doubling the dimensions of the B-17 to make what became known years later as the XB-19. It seemed like a good idea at the time, although engineers at Douglas Aircraft were skeptical. Eventually, two experimental XB-19s were built.
The giant planes flew ok, if lumbering and slow. There were operational problems such as how big the crew had to be and whether large crews could hold up for long-distance flights of a full day each way. Conventional wisdom has it that the project was scrapped in the late 40s when the XB-19 was declared “obsolete.” Which it was. But, according to Frank Evans, a retired long-serving Kelly Field (San Antonio) depot maintenance executive I knew in the 1970s, that wasn’t the real reason the project was abandoned.
According to Evans (who I knew when we were both in the USAF Logistics division of the Air Force Plant Rep Office at McDonnell-Douglas) you can’t just double the dimensions and expect everything to be the same. There are many other hard-to-predict structural and logistics considerations.
Evans said that while he was a young civilian bureaucrat in San Antonio in the late 40s, they flew in one of the two XB-19s to check out what kind of jacks they’d need to raise the aircraft for tire changing and heavy maintenance. Upon landing they taxi-ed the plane to the end of an old runway to park it overnight because it was so big that it couldn’t be easily parked anywhere else. The next morning when they went out to start working on the gigantic plane, it had sunk into the tarmac all the way to its fuselage.
It turned out that doubling the size of the tires while more than doubling the weight of the aircraft — the B-17 maxxed out at about 65,000 pounds but the double-dimensioned B-19 weighed more than 165,000 pounds — meant that the footprint of the special double-sized tires just wasn’t big enough to spread the enormous increase in weight, including much more fuel and larger bombs. The net concentration of increased weight on the tires and on the tarmac was too much and the plane sank. Once the surface of the runway started to crack, and the plane became unbalanced, it wasn’t long before the runway structure was weakened and gave way.
This incident caused the depot engineers to point out additional problems with the oversized behemoth the manufacturer had never thought of. Very few airports and air base runways were wide enough to handle the wingspan, and conventional support equipment specially designed for large planes wasn’t big enough to handle the XB-19 and most runways were inadequate, hangars too small. The monster plane was very hard to maneuver on the ground and took a very long time to fill it with fuel, making it vulnerable to lightning during bad weather and to enemy bombers because it couldn’t be easily hidden. Etc and etc.
In the 1950s, the next generation of giant long-range bomber was not the B-19, but the B-52. A look at the B-52 landing gear shows that the engineers realized that they needed a lot more tires to spread the weight (and lower the ESWL) and, basically, an entire new design, not just an inflated old one.
What’s that got to do with the Willits Bypass? My prediction — one of several I made in 2013 which still hold up by the way — https://www.theava.com/archives/20392 — was NOT that the bypass would sink in one wet winter, but that over time the heavy truck traffic would cause it to sink incrementally, depending on the amount and weight of traffic (which is still light, by the way).
I also wrote at that time that a private concrete engineer from Sacramento who was here in Anderson Valley to go over the plans for the new Philo-Greenwood Bridge over the Navarro had said that in general, pylons like the ones holding up the Bypass viaduct, are held up by “friction” if they are not mounted on some kind of underlying bedrock.
So one wet winter doesn’t mean anything, even if it gets the ground under the pylons a little damp. The pylons are several hundred feet in the ground under the bypass, most of which isn’t exposed to heavy rain. But the unstable geology of the sedimentary fill of Little Lake Valley, into which those pylons are inserted, is still there, and the extent to which “friction” will hold up the viaduct remains problematic. If I’m right (and I hope I’m not), the first signs of a problem (short of an earthquake) would be buckling and cracking in the elevated part of the bypass, especially if one pylon sinks faster than another.
But given Caltrans’ record of covering up their problems, they’re not likely to fess up about the problem when it develops.
WHEN SCHOOL TRUSTEES WERE TRUSTWORTHY
Norm Clow Writes:
AVUHS Finances 70 years ago
Thought you might find these pages from the 1947 HS annual interesting:
And here’s the student body for which that $23,000 was spent:
(Donald Pardini, standing left end, 2nd row; Wes Smoot, standing, left end, 3rd row; Floyd Johnson (I believe) left end, 4th row; Bernice Gaskin Clow, seated, 6th from right, Donna Strickland Pardini, 5th from right)
PS. Hope all is well back in AVland. I’m enjoying re-reading the Fort Bragg fire series. I might send some comments, since I knew some of the (non-arsonist) players, and my friends Bob & Joanna Santos owned the Old Coast Hotel, which Dunham tried to get his mitts into and which almost burned the night the Piedmont went down cross the street.
CATCH OF THE DAY, June 25, 2017
LILIAN CHANEY, Ukiah. Controlled substance without prescription, more than an ounce of pot, suspended license, probation revocation.
ROBERT COOK, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
JENNIFER DEGROOT, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
DAVID DURYEE, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, paraphernalia.
KANDY EWING, Willits. Pot possession & transport for sale, conspiracy.
SEAN FLINTON, Fort Bragg. Disorder conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
CHRIS HUDDLESTON, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, failure to appear.
MICHAEL NEWBOLDS, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia.
DARROLD PEELER, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
DESIREA RODARTE, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
YVONNE SMITH, Ukiah. DUI, no license.
RAYMOND TYLER SR., Willits. Pot possession & transport for sale, conspiracy.
RODOLFO VEGA-CARRILLO, Willits. Protective order violation.
SELAH WAKEFIELD, Willits. Domestic battery.
RUTH WOOD, Yuba City/Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
JUNE 24, 1967: Writer Ken Kesey started a sentence yesterday — six months in jail, a fine of $5000 and three years probation for possession of marijuana. The 31-year-old author of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" told Redwood City Superior Court Judge Frank W. Rose that he had decided to abandon his appeal to higher courts and serve his sentence. The colorful novelist, who appeared in court in red and white striped trousers and long suede jacket, was convicted last year of possession of marijuana after a raid on his La Honda home on April 23, 1965. Kesey arrived at the court in his psychedelic painted bus, accompanied by a delegation of family that included his three children, Zane, 5, Shannon, 6, and Jed, 3. As the husky writer made his farewell appearance before being led off to serve his jail term, he was asked what sort of future he saw for himself and his friends. "We’re are all preparing for the big earthquake," he replied cryptically. Another marijuana charge against Kesey is still pending in San Francisco.
MEET THE 89-YEAR-OLD REINVENTING THE TRAIN IN HIS BACKYARD
by Alex Davies
On a clear sunny day at a vineyard in the Northern California town of Ukiah, a most unusual train chugs through a field of barely budding syrah grapes. Well, it doesn't chug so much as whoosh, because this train—actually, a one-sixth scale train—doesn't rely upon a diesel engine or electricity to get around. It uses vacuum power and heavy duty magnets.
The 89-year-old man who built it believes it could change how the world moves.
That man is Max Schlienger, an accomplished engineer who owns the vineyard and leads his family-run company, Flight Rail Corp. Its sole product, the Vectorr system, uses a propulsion method like no other: Between the rails lies a PVC pipe, 12 inches in diameter, connected to a pump that can draw all of the air out of the pipe or fill it. Within the pipe you'll find something Schlienger calls a thrust carriage, which is connected to the train with powerful magnets. This carriage is about the size and shape of a large watermelon and moves back and forth through the pipe under vacuum power, bringing the train with it.
This weird but clever product works something like the vaunted hyperloop, but rather than shooting a pod full of people through a tube it shoots a carriage through a tube. And, like the people behind hyperloop, Schlienger remains convinced that it represents the future of transportation. "We’ll get someone, somewhere, to say we want to do it,” Schlienger says. “And we’ll put all our energy into it.”
Max Schlienger stands well over six feet tall, with a rod-straight back, a nice head of white hair, and bright blue eyes. He still drives his GMC pickup, and during a drive across his vineyard pointed out the varietals he raises: cabernet, sauvignon blanc, merlot, syrah. In a good year, he harvests 500 tons, selling them to wineries.
After enlisting in the Navy at 17 at the tail end of World War II and serving on a submarine tender, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native spent several decades as an engineer, specializing in metallurgy, high-strength magnets, and nuclear waste management. He holds 24 patents for things like a "rotatable plasma torch," a "system for feeding toxic waste drums into a treatment chamber," and, of course, a "magnetically coupled transportation module." After selling his metallurgy company in the 1990s, Schlienger started raising grapes. Why not, he figured. He had the room, and it would be an interesting change after a career working in labs and factories.
But Schlienger is no Diocletian, quietly tending to his farm after a lifetime of hard work. Grapes are a sideline. What he really wants to do is bring the Flight Rail train to life.
Back to life, actually.
The Atmospheric Railway
Schlienger is reprising an idea railway engineers in England and France floated in the 1820s and ’30s, when people called it the "atmospheric railway." If you could separate the locomotive and its fuel from the rest of the train, you'd make the train lighter and the system more efficient. The system worked a lot like the Flight Rail, but instead of magnets a piston connected the thrust carriage and the train. The engineers lined the slot with leather to maintain the seal, and coated the leather with tallow to protect it from the elements.
The problem is, the tallow attracted rats. For this and other reasons, the atmospheric railway didn't work all that well, and never caught on. “Had they had the high-strength magnets that we have today, they probably would have done the same thing we’re doing now,” Schlienger says.
Schlienger grew up loving model trains, but never imagined a career on the tracks. Then, one day about 20 years ago, he says, he thought of using vacuum power to move a train—without any idea people had tried it before. (His son discovered the old atmospheric railway in a book of failed inventions, which somehow discouraged nobody involved.) He's been working on it ever since. But unlike every media-trained startup founder, he doesn’t cite a definitive “a-ha” moment that showed him the way. He simply found the idea interesting. As problems arose, he'd ponder them, solve them, and move on, building one model after another to test his theories.
About two years ago, Schlienger figured he was well enough along to build a one-sixth scale system to really shake down his idea. He built the train (which could fit one prone person, but isn't meant to) to demonstrate the benefits of moving the power source from the train to the track. The Flight Rail easily scales a 10 percent grade, far steeper than conventional trains can handle. It runs quietly, eschews ugly overhead power lines, and can use renewable energy to drive the pumps that create the vacuum. (For now, Schlienger uses a diesel generator.)
Schlienger images Flight Rail lines running along highway medians, or anywhere else you might want to move people or stuff. He leaves those details to others. For now, he simply wants to prove there's a better way of powering trains. “Everyone else is tied into the standard gauge railroad trains that we have today,” he says. “I think that’s a stagnation point in the way people think.”
The Practical Fight
Schlienger looks nothing like your typical tech visionary, and Ukiah shares little in common with Silicon Valley. But he shares the Silicon Valley ethos that says if there's a better solution, use it. It's the same kind of thinking that prompted investors to pump billions into hyperloop and got Musk jabbering about his traffic-killing maze of tunnels. It’s why the dream of supersonic commercial air travel persists, and people keep pushing the idea of flying cars.
But those visions are all built on a certain amount of blindness to reality. Hyperloop may be as fast and efficient as its proponents say, but that doesn’t make it practical. Musk’s tunnels could end gridlock, but he'll never get the permits and permission needed to pull it off. Cracking the speed of sound isn't hard, but making it commercially viable is. And flying cars can't take flight without navigating a regulatory labyrinth.
Schlienger and his family realize the Flight Rail faces many challenges. Yet he persists, running his prototype a few times a week to sort out the control system. The next step is building a full-size prototype. That requires a huge investment, and answers to the intractable issues that come with any huge infrastructure project: right of way issues, environmental reviews, local political battles, funding.
Yet Schlienger remains confident. When his father died in 1993, Schlienger says, “He told me to just keep going on it.” Still, he knows he must rely upon his sons to carry the project forward, to justify the years of time and millions of dollars spent so far. “I think it will be worth it,” he says. “It may not happen in my lifetime, but it will be worth it.”
Spoken like a true disruptor.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Audra Favor: I can’t imagine eating a dog and not thinking anything of it.
John Russell: You even been hungry, lady? Not just ready for supper. Hungry enough so that your belly swells?
Audra Favor: I wouldn’t care how hungry I got. I know I wouldn’t eat one of those camp dogs.
John Russell: You’d eat it. You’d fight for the bones, too.
Audra Favor: Have you ever eaten a dog, Mr. Russell?
John Russell: Eaten one and lived like one.
Audra Favor: Dear me.
TRAIN—ZEPHYR—CHICAGO TO SAN FRANCISCO, APRIL 8, 1960
West from Chicago, contemplating the landscape. Yellow barns, yellow houses, purple hills, lavender trees, gold cornfields in late sunlight, windmills, silos, mows, white houses with green roofs, telephone lines, brown banks of earth, creosoted railroad ties, all the animals already put away for the night, dusk falling, white fences, more corn, more trees, white bones of trees by a river, filigree against the sky, standing in water up to their knees, branches like bones of arms reflected, gray sky now, brick houses, brown leaves, gray unpainted barns, day going now, now one lone bird, blown away… . Red ball of sun thrown down.
Crossed the Mississippi at Burlington, Iowa—Last light still in sky—glints in far windows, neons coming on, fillingstations lighted, dingdong red train light suspended & swinging at crossing … in center of wooded city… . The sad unalterable loneliness of houses on hillsides lost among trees, lights white in them… . Cemeteries going by, lonely too … somehow not so lonely as the living… . Black trees now, on small hills … night, night. Dark ponds and pools.
Later, nothing but night, under the Vista Dome, alone, peering out… . Nothing but moon, stars, night flashing by gooking with suitcases along Charles Sheeler platforms—no sound through the glass—walking, sacks and satchels in hand, lost in night of America… . Thomas Wolfe’s, Whitman’s, Kerouac’s, yours, Ferlinghetti’s America… . Indian land I hitchhiked through a long time ago… . The whole of the ancient Indian continent now occupied by “Americans.”
— Lawrence Ferlinghetti
POT INDUSTRY DEALS WITH ULTIMATE BUZZKILL: SELF REGULATION
A new organization hopes to create universal standards for the fledgling legal marijuana industry.
IF STRICT MONOGAMY is the height of all virtue, then the palm must go to the tapeworm, which has a complete set of male and female sexual organs in each of its 50-200 proglottides, or sections, and spends its whole life copulating in all its sections with itself. Confining ourselves to mammals, however, we find all forms of sexual life — promiscuity, indications of group marriage, polygyny, monogamy. Polyandry alone is lacking — it took human beings to achieve that.
— Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State
COLIN KAEPERNICK, PHILANDO CASTILE, AND THE LOST WISDOM OF ROGER GOODELL’S FATHER
by Dave Zirin
“I have come to see that our legal and political institutions are dangerously unresponsive and unyielding to the impassioned grievances of our own people” —Senator Charles Goodell
When Philando Castile’s killer, Officer Jeronimo Yanez, was found not guilty on Friday—despite the fact that Castile’s murder was livestreamed on Facebook—shock immediately spread from the streets to social media. Some celebrities in the world of sports and entertainment used their expansive platforms to spread the (rather self-evident) message that a great injustice had occurred. They decried the fact that a man had been killed solely because of a police officer’s reaction to the color of his skin, and there would be no penalty for that killing.
But one athlete expressed something more serious, more radical, and more fitting for a political moment where, to quote Naomi Klein’s new book, No Is Not Enough.
That athlete was exiled free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. First he expressed his sympathies, writing, “My heart aches for Philando’s family.”
Then he sent another message: “A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!”
Beneath those words, he posted a photo of two eerily similar badges: one, from the 19th century, reads runaway slave patrol and the other, from the 21st century, reads police officer.
It was a bracing statement that spoke to our effort to understand how the courts seem to have decided that cops have a license to kill if their victim is black. It was also a reminder that political expressions like this are precisely why Kaepernick is still without a job. NFL owners are set on punishing him for his anthem protests, his Know Your Rights Camps that teach young people “how to navigate oppression,” and his social-media postings. He wants us to confront the gap between what this country purports to stand for and the lived experiences of black Americans.
For NFL owners, agitating for the dignity of black life—unlike spousal abuse, drunk driving, or even murder—is unacceptable. Quarterbacks with one-tenth of Kaepernick’s résumé have been invited to training camps, while he and his spectacular 2016 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio remain at home. It’s a blackballing, and to deny this is to deny the existence of the nose on your face. It’s having someone spit in your eye and tell you it’s raining.
Despite this, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rejected on Friday the idea that any kind of blackballing was taking place. He called the NFL “a meritocracy,” saying, “If they see an opportunity to get better as a football team, they’re going to do it. They’re going to do whatever it takes to make their football team better. So, those are football decisions. They’re made all the time. I believe that if a football team feels that Colin Kaepernick, or any other player, is going to improve that team, they’re going to do it.”
This is absurd and utterly at odds with the facts. It is also Roger Goodell performing his central job: being “a flak-catcher,” the face to get punched, when his 31 bosses behave in repugnant fashion. It would be so much better if Goodell would stand up to them and tell the world the truth: that Kaepernick is being punished for his politics. It would be so much better if he had half the backbone of his father, Senator Charles Goodell.
Charles Goodell was a Republican senator from New York, appointed after Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968. Charles Goodell was something alien to today’s Washington, DC: a Republican of conscience. He made President Richard Nixon’s enemies list by becoming the first person to propose legislation that would cut off all funds for the war in Vietnam. After being driven from office by the Republican establishment, he wrote a remarkable 1973 book called Political Prisoners in America. The book is about the importance of defending dissenters as an essential part of American democracy. Charles Goodell wrote, “I have come to see that our legal and political institutions are dangerously unresponsive and unyielding to the impassioned grievances of our own people…. When words of appeal fall upon a seemingly inert system, words give way to action.” He passionately argued that squelching dissent is an autocratic act, at odds with democratic norms. He also wrote that the actions of people in power resistant to dissent are insecure in their own ideas, and their inability to see the world through the eyes of others is a sign not of strength but weakness.
These words of Charles Goodell from 44 years ago could have been written today to describe the situation with the NFL, Colin Kaepernick, and Goodell’s son. They also speak to the the importance of defending radical athletes with giant platforms in an era when Philando Castile’s killer could somehow be found not guilty. Roger Goodell doesn’t have to agree with Kaepernick, but he could be defending Kaepernick’s right to not be exiled and prevented from making a living. If the NFL commissioner disagrees with me, I know a book he could read that might change his mind.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY #2
It would be great if Cal Fire, and the USFS, would hire firefighters who've had non-violent felonies in their past. I find it strange that those same individuals are allowed to work on fires, and in some cases risk their lives, while they're incarcerated. But out of prison, after they've paid their debt, they don't stand a snowball's chance of getting hired. And most of those applying have already been trained by those same agencies that won't talk to them once they're out of prison. You can't throw people away because they've ran afoul of controlled-substance laws through their own addictions. The Billionaire-class has figured out how to make money of the misery of prison, so now they'd love nothing better than to pass "One-Strike-You're-Out" laws, that will keep those people pumping profits into the hands of the prison industry. There's so many fixes for our problems both large and small. But when you don't give a damn about people, then the only thing that gets done is the looting of the public funds. And doesn't that just happen with lightning speed?
THE DECAY, putrescence, and filth of bourgeois marriage with its difficult dissolution, its license for the husband and bondage for the wife, and its disgustingly false sex morality and relations. Petty housework crushes, strangles, stultifies and degrades, chains her to the kitchen and the nursery, and she wastes her labor on barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-wracking, stultifying and crushing drudgery."
VLAD'S SOLUTIONS: collective kitchens, laundries, repair shops, créches (day care centers), kindergartens.
SUMMER FEAST DOS RIOS
Known widely throughout Northern California, Dance Brigade is presenting its fourth annual Summer Feast, an outdoor dance theater extravaganza in rural Dos Rios, California. This year the performance will include dance, music, and a 100 gallon tank of water. Featuring over twenty artists from the Bay Area, plus local dancers from Laytonville, the magical afternoon of outdoor performance will consist of breath-taking modern dance, pulsating American Rhythm Tap mixed with Mexican Zapateado, and gorgeous site-specific work that takes advantage of having the rolling Mendocino hills as its backdrop.
A Magical Afternoon Of Dance, Music, Drumming, And Poetry; featuring work by Dance Brigade, La Mezcla, Nina Wise, Sarah Bush Dance Project, and Ramon Ramos Alayo, Laytonville Workshop Dancers.
When: Sunday, July 2, 2017 * Show 5:00pm, Gates 3:30pm
Where: Dos Rios Road, Dos Rios (between the towns of Covelo and Laytonville)
Tickets: $20-$30 sliding scale in advance; $30 at the gate; $10 youth 12 years and younger; No one turned away for lack of funds
Advance tickets available: ONLINE brownpapertickets.com; PHONE 1-800-838-3006; IN-PERSON Mazahar Bouitique (Willits)
For more information: www.dancemission.com * 415-826-4441