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Off the Record (July 5, 2017)

BE THERE! Where? An exhibit of Virginia Sharkey's paintings opens this Thursday at the Partners Gallery, 335 N. Franklin, Fort Bragg. Runs through July. The kid can paint! You won't be disappointed.

CONFIRMING ancient suspicions, “The Mendocino County 2016-17 Grand Jury finds that the Mendocino Coast Recreation and Parks District (MCRPD) has been and continues to be financially irresponsible. MCRPD is currently and habitually delinquent on their capital lease and outstanding loans. MCRPD was over seven months late in completing the 2015-16 annual audit and is currently in Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Because of the large debt and the absence of a long-term plan for repayment, the Grand Jury finds that these conditions raise substantial doubt about MCRPD's ability to continue as a viable entity. The C.V. Starr Center, an aquatic and community center, was initially planned with insufficient funding for ongoing operations and capital improvements. The $14 million project increased to a $27 million facility over the construction period. The City of Fort Bragg provided bailout funding to enable operations. The financial problems were unnecessarily compounded by the purchase of 580 +/- acres, a field of unrealized dreams. That property located on Highway 20 was intended to be developed as a golf course at some later date but the project failed to materialize. In addition, MCRPD is not being fiduciarily responsible in the use of Teeter (property tax) funds. MCRPD receives Teeter funds based on four coastal school district boundaries, yet the funds are not reallocated proportionately to the outlying coastal communities.”

DAN AND FRAN KELLER just got out of prison where they'd been locked up for 21 years. Their crime? Satanist child abuse at their Texas day care center where there was no Satan or child abuse. Innocent people all over the country suffered from this uniquely evil libel. Of course the Satanist hysteria once had Mendocino County in its grip. I say of 'course’ because, despite its see-through veneer of sophistication, credulity might just be a little more prevalent here than it is most places. I wrote a long series of stories about the Satanist hysteria as it raged.

THE MIGHTY AVA, cough-cough, was on the non-existent phenomenon from its sordid beginnings in Fort Bragg where it was breathed into life by a County social worker named Pam Hudson. It centered on the daycare center on Airport Road run by the Orr Sisters, a pair of hardworking Bay Area transplants maligned by Fort Bragg hysterics from the day they opened their doors. The Orrs were not defended by Coast Lib because, you see, they were the wrong kind of women — working class Catholics who opposed abortion, the kind of women out of sync with the prevailing political catechism.

TO ME, author of a very long piece on the Orrs, which we've re-posted on our website, it wasn't only the failure of Coast Lib to speak out about a latter day witch hunt in their community, it was the total abdication by local authority, especially the Superior Court who tacitly endorsed the Satanist hysteria by signing over the young daughter of one of the Orr sisters to, of all places, Trinity School, Ukiah. The child, about 8 as I recall, went straight from her persecuted but loving mother to an institution for older “disturbed youth.”  To save the little girl from Beelzebub the County of Mendo placed her directly with juvenile rapists and thugs in a place run by incompetents and cho-mos. What judge could possibly sign off on something like this?

A MENDOCINO COUNTY JUDGE with his finger permanently to the political winds, that's who. The entire official apparat of the county was intimidated by the lunatics, several of them employed by the county, making these objectively crazy charges. The Sheriff's Department even sent an officer — then-sergeant Gary Hudson — to Satanist seminars so local law enforcement could keep up with the devil’s work among Mendocino County pre-schoolers.

ANYWAY, interested persons are invited to read the entire depressing saga posted in special collection section of our website at

A READER WRITES: "In my day, during the summers, my family spent July and August in a small, shabby colony on a lake in Upstate New York. My father had one of the first boats, a beautiful, small, wooden wonder, powered by a small engine...35hp? The boat and engine were big enough to pull a water skier. My dad took the utmost care of the boat I remember trips to Throgs Neck in New York, where the boat was moored in the winter, and my dad and brother and me cleaning and painting and repairing. The engine was always lifted after use, and my dad used the hot water that ran out for cleaning himself or fishing gear. There was no music....we were concentrating on the boat and the water and the very few other boats on the lake There were no inboards, no flashy bs.

By the last season on my beloved lake, the big inboards appeared and of course, if people spent all their money on a big boat, they were going to show them off. Then the boats boasted music speakers, and people who didn’t know or care to partake in regulations, polite water manners, etc. The lake became a cesspool, loaded with algae, by the way, and was not fit for human recreation for many years.

When I see and hear ginormous boats with sound systems that cause deafness, I know some yoyo is at the wheel, and someone is not paying attention. Simple recreation is now Hulk Hoganized to ridiculousness. Welcome to the now.

Needless to say, I avoid lakes big enough for motorized boats. Scratch off another enjoyable repast in mother nature because of oafish louts who consider only their own entertainment. With the accent on entertain, as opposed to being part of or taking pleasure from.”

LAKE MENDOCINO has long been besieged by motorized oafs, many of them drunk, zooming up and down its placid waters. People who ought to know better laughed when Ukiah City Councilman proposed a ban on jet skis at the Lake, but by then the idea that a lake was synonymous with tranquility had been lost. And now we learn that several campgrounds at Lake Mendo will close because there isn’t enough staff to keep the “undesirables” off unsuspecting families who might want to enjoy them.

OMAR FIGUEROA, ace attorney and a familiar sight in the courtrooms of Mendocino County is also, in the words of the Sonoma County Bohemian, “the author of the new hardcover instant classic, Cannabis Codes of California….. Cannabis Codes isn't a novel, but it does have a built-in plot-line that lays out the law at various junctures in California's social and political history. Figueroa gives a brief upfront history of cannabis in the state and the various moments where legislators weighed in on some aspect or another of the industry. For example, the 1996 landmark medical-use act is reprinted in its entirety, along with relevant penal codes, fish and wildlife code, health and safety, taxation—et al; and when Gov. Schwarzenegger decriminalized possession of small quantities in 2010, while adding some tough-on-crime language to the state penal code on the back-end. Who'll find this book of use? Anyone who wants to get into the cannabis business, or anyone who's gotten into the business and gotten in trouble for it—and anyone in between whose profession intersects with this rolling and fascinating experiment in cannabis freedom, California style. Cannabis Codes of California is available on (Tom Gogola)

A READER WRITES: “The best option for the Willits bypass was the Western route. This would have connected the bypass to Highway 20 and Brooktrails, and avoided the wetlands and ag issues. Environmental mitigation would have been little or none. According to a retired Willits city planner, CalTrans manipulated the cost of the Western route to make it too expensive to be a viable option. Government agencies do these sort of things, we all know that. Why CalTrans did this is a mystery. Another key part of this mess was the lack of input from the city of Willits. Willits, for whatever reasons, never weighed in on what option was preferred. They could have, but didn't. They will pay the price, too. “

ED NOTE: Supervisor John Pinches lobbied for the rail route through the Little Lake Valley as the likeliest, least expensive path for the Bypass. We thought so, too, but…

INTERESTING story in last Thursday’s UDJ by Ashley Tressel about prostitution in, gasp! Mendocino County. As evidence that commercial sex is available right here in our rustic paradise, Ms. T. pointed to a sordid website called Backpage where nine female bawds out of Ukiah were advertising their charms.

PROSTITUTION once enjoyed semi-respectability in the county. Why there’s even a plaque on a Ukiah sidewalk eternally commemorating the delights offered by an establishment called Madge’s. “Madgin’ to Uke” is a Boontling phrase that meant the local boys were headed over the hill to Ukiah for a weekend of libido relief. Every community of any size in the county offered a house of joy. The late supervisor, Joe Scaramella, told a story where, as a boy, he retrieved a parrot for a working girl who, in gratitude, rewarded him with a gold coin. Uncoerced commercial sex should at least be tolerated, I’d say, and probably still the only way to revive Ukiah’s long slide into civic decay.

THE SEVEN SAMURAI, the magnificent seven trimmigrants accused of murder and robbery in the death of Laytonville pot pharmer Jeffery Settler, were back in court last Tuesday.

Wuester, Fitzgerald, Mohamed, Kane
Gaestel (pre-arrest), Gaestel (after arrest), Blank, Wells

BACKGROUND (from the original Sheriff’s Office report of the murder):

On November 11, 2016 at 3:39 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies were summoned to a report that a man had been murdered on a remote property located in the 49000 block of North Highway 101 in Laytonville. The property was a rural parcel approximately 5 miles from Highway 101, on a dirt road that traveled in a westerly direction. Deputies responded to the scene confirming there was a male adult who was obviously deceased as a result of what appeared to be a violent assault. Mendocino County Sheriff’s Detectives were summoned to the scene, along with Investigators from the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office and Criminalists from the California Department of Justice. During the investigation it was determined the deceased male adult, Jeffrey Quinn Settler, 35, of Laytonville, was operating a commercial marijuana growing operation on the property. In the early morning hours of 11-11-2016 (Thursday), multiple subjects who had been recently employed by Settler as marijuana trimmers returned to the property in the middle of the night with the intent to commit robbery of processed marijuana. The investigation has revealed the subjects knew the marijuana was stored in the same structure where Settler slept and the subjects violently assaulted him during the robbery, causing his death. The subjects were believed to have fled the property in at least two vehicles and were believed to have stolen over 100 pounds of processed marijuana. … Sheriff’s Detectives have obtained a murder/robbery felony arrest warrant for Zachary Wuester, who was identified as being one of the subjects involved in this case. Sheriff’s Detectives have also identified Frederick Gaestel, Gary Blank III, Gary Lynn Fitzgerald and Amanda Weist as being participants in the robbery/murder. … The investigation has shown no evidence or inference that the marijuana growing operation was for medical purposes and Sheriff’s Detectives believe it was solely for the purpose of commercial gain.

AMANDA WEIST was later dropped as a suspect leaving suspects: Michael Kane, Gary Blank, Zach Wuester, Gary Fitzgerald, Fred Gaestel, Jesse Wells, and Abdirahman Said (“Richie”) Mohamed charged for the murder.

They filed into the jury box and their seven lawyers all came in shortly thereafter. The lawyers had spent the morning at the Sheriff's evidence locker viewing some of the crime scene memorabilia the homicide detectives had collected.

Each lawyer had a brief — and by the looks on their faces — depressing conference with their clients.  Then the court convened, Judge Jeanine Nadel presiding. The lawyers set a date for a pre-preliminary hearing for July 28th at 9:00. Nobody seemed to be in any hurry. An undisclosed courthouse source tells the AVA that Mike Kane is "the heavy," the guy who did the stabbing in what was apparently a psychotic frenzy. The others, Blank, Wuester, Fitzgerald, Gaestel, Wells, and Mohamed have all given statements to the homicide detectives to the effect, "Like, dude, it wasn't us. It was him." The reason offered for the delay was "We're still waiting on the forensics, Your Honor."

At first we thought the defense strategy would be that each defendant would point the finger at one or more of the others, then let the judge/jury figure it out. But lately we’ve heard that the defense strategy will be to 1: blame Kane, and/or 2. Blame the victim Jeffrey Settler for being some kind of bad guy. — Bruce McEwen

FRAGMENTS from a failing mind: I'd say Trump has a couple more months before he's officially declared nuts and placed permanently behind locked gates at Golfa Largo or whatever his Liberace-like palace in Florida is called. His successor, the quiet psycho Pence, is far more dangerous simply because he seems more or less normal, at least for a Republican. Better, I say, the psycho we know than the one we don't. Of course the Democrats offer only a softer, unisex version of the Trump Gang and, personality-for-personality, are even more repulsive.  I can't think of a single person in national or state government I'd trust to deliver pizzas. Who are these people? What terrible sins have we committed to deserve them?

TRUMP is right about the media, however, in his basic perception that they are a bunch of shameless clowns. But who doesn’t know that? But he proves he’s out of it when he reacts to their constant criticism of him and reacts so childishly most of us wonder if he’s isn’t an emotional ten-year-old. I’d never even heard of Morning Joe before Trump went off on him, but then I don’t watch any tv news. The media running first in my contempt is NPR. The mere mention of Scott Simon, Cokie Roberts, the Brookings Institute and so on propels me into Trump-like internal rages.

NOTED A 35-foot trailer for rent in Albion for $775 a month and, presumably first and last month's rent. For one person. Power? Water? Sewer/Septic? Maybe, but at $775, even without utilities, given its rustic locale, this 35-footer would be considered a good deal in the Anderson Valley. Here, whole families live in comparable, or even smaller spaces.

A BAY AREA capitalist has offered to buy a thousand tiny houses and lease them back to San Francisco and Oakland for a thousand a month to house the homeless. San Francisco was hesitant because the ingenious structures would probably be manufactured in China and, natch, SF and Oakland, with their self-advertised commitment to the working people of America, wouldn't want shelter built by virtual slave labor.

NO REASON tiny houses couldn't be manufactured here in the US, purchased by Mendocino County and/or the municipalities of the county, and rented directly to the homeless, at least that part of the homeless population who are trying.

BUT THERE IS a reason no housing for the house-less will be found in Mendocino County, and it is that immovable blob of highly paid city managers, the county's innumerable helping professionals, elected officials, the non-profits — our very own rural deep state. They present an ongoing obstacle to any social policy remotely regarded as "progressive." It was The Blob that defeated Sheriff Allman's proposed in-county psych center, and they’ll oppose it again although they don’t dare do it publicly.

WHEN THE MENDOCINO COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS met in early June in Ukiah, Ukiah City Councilman and MCOG Commissioner Steve Scalmanini asked: "Regarding the Mendocino Transit Authority’s (MTA’s) continuation of Route 65 service — what is the ridership on that looking like?"

FOR THOSE who may not be familiar with this bus route, it’s MTA’s service between Fort Bragg and Santa Rosa. The bus departs Fort Bragg for the Rose City at 7am as does a second southbound carrier at 10:15am.

THE RETURN BUSES serve Windsor, Hopland, Ukiah, Redwood Valley, Willits, and on to Fort Bragg/Mendocino. The journeys are about four hours each way, twice a day, six days a week and once on Sunday. It costs $23 each way (half that for seniors and disabled). So an ordinary Fort Bragg rider would be out of pocket $46 for a day trip to Santa Rosa and back. Try it on a fixed income.

THE FARE, the schedule confusion, the general inconvenience mean the line is not heavily patronized, and the MTA is heavily subsidized out of State gas tax funds.

CARLA MEYER, General Manager, of the county’s fleet of ghost buses, did not answer the actual ridership question, choosing instead to describe why the ridership hasn't gone up: “The ridership has been consistent. I'm disappointed that there has not been more growth in the ridership. But I believe that was connected directly to all the errors in the schedules that were printed prior to the start of the new service. And that staff person is no longer with MTA and the schedules are all corrected and reprinted!. So I will have a better — I think when we get the word out there more— the schedules were just a mess, you could not make heads or tails out of them."

BUT even if the would-be rider could decode the schedules, the fares are beyond the means of MTA's riders, all of them persons of limited means. Mendocino County people make private arrangements to get from one place to another.

SCALMANINI didn’t follow up to ask about the actual ridership, choosing instead to respond: “I didn't know that. Thank you.”

THESE are the people running what Mendolanders refer to as “ghost busses” because their ridership is so low and, despite several major state operating and capital equipment subsidies, their ticket prices are so high, few people ride, few people will ever ride.

THE MTA'S board of directors is the usual collection of connecteds — that dreary, marginally competent group of publicly-employed insiders and their friends that dominate public life in Mendocino County.


  • James Mastin – Chairman — Mendocino County Appointee
  • Jim Tarbell – Vice Chairman — Mendocino County Appointee
  • Dan Gjerde – Mendocino County Appointee
  • Lindy Peters – City of Fort Bragg
  • Lloyd Cross – City of Point Arena
  • Madge Strong – City of Willits
  • Kevin Doble – City of Ukiah

HERE’S TO YOU, AL: On Monday, Aug. 19, 2002 a fully-loaded Roach Logging truck driven by Albert Dompeling went off the Albion River Bridge, landing nose down wedged into the river bank 125 feet below. Dompeling was awake the whole way, and both he and the drunk who caused the accident had to be cut out of their vehicles before they could be hauled off to the emergency room. Dompeling survived and went on driving until he retired. The CHP found that Neil Wood, drunk behind the wheel of a 1977 Toyota Celica, was at fault, having crossed the center line on the bridge and hit the truck, striking it with enough force to knock it over the side. The Albion River Bridge is the last wooden trestle bridge remaining on the coast. It was completed in 1944 by the Army Corps of Engineers.


(1) We've produced an ignorant populace. Mere suggestion and allegation equates to evidence and truth. We have people, catching only a whiff of accusation, absorbing and disseminating lies as if they know, as if they have tangible or empirical evidence. In Boston, you call these people retahhds. Look around here. Look at the claims some slob sitting in a trailer with a laptop and a WiFi signal pumps out. He thinks he’s an expert, has the whole world all figured out. This place, right here is a retahhd fest, with experts on the inner workings of Russia, faked moon landings, and LBJ’s double-life as a hitman. It’s comical, but mostly sad.

(2) It’s interesting that when photography was invented, “Westerners” used to ridicule savages and primitive peoples who were afraid of being photographed over fears their soul was being stolen… Fast forward to today and these same “Westerners” are worried (with cause) about their image being stolen. For once the savages may have been right?

(3) Obamacare may be the “law of the land” but, it is bad law. It fulfills the neocon ideology of privatized rackets to perfection. It fulfills the psychosis of the HMO Act of 1973 to perfection. Medical care, instead of being a dividend of modern progress, has become a commodity. A racket priced so high that it forces consumers into slave-like dependency on the Feds for subsidies via the IRS. Obamacare is a Republican neocon monstrosity, albeit rebranded by Obama. Nothing less than Medicare For All will work. Start off with removing the FICA income tax ceiling and redirect existing subsidies into Medicare For All. Now the program can stand-alone without requiring mandatory participation as in Obamacare. Eventually, the main funding mechanism must be a full 1% Wall Street Sales Tax (including trading on LaSalle St.). If Goldman Sachs can do thousands of flash trades a second, Great! One percent off the fucking top every g-d time! Let there be no sympathy for losses on razor-thin trades. MFA can be offered at the basic rate of $100/month per person with affordable deductibles (means tested). MFA puts medical care back under the pre-HMO ideology of the New Deal. Which asserts that public health is found under the “General Welfare” clause of the Constitution. A Public Good instead of a siege engine to extract profits for wealthy rent seekers and hedge fund hyenas.

(4) Actually, the past dozen years have been kind to me and I have been enjoying my retirement. The Bush tax cuts increased my net spendable income but did little or nothing for the millions of Americans who voted for their religious prejudices and against their economic best interests. The old mill towns of Ohio are now more famous for opioid addiction than for their steel production. Remember when the words Armco Steel Middletown, Ohio were stamped on just about every drinking fountain around?

(5) I would argue that crime is actually a rational life choice in the current social environment. The rich are every bit as criminal as anyone else out there, they’ve just (wisely) bought the pols off to legalize their bullshit. We now (and have for some time) live in the professional criminal economy.

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