WHAT A DIFFERENCE a year makes. Last year, heavy rains pounded down on an already saturated Mendo most of January and February, flooding areas of Hopland, filling Lake Mendocino past its maximum capacity. A year later, people are talking drought.
IN THE USUAL judicial capitulation to big biz we expect from Mendo judges, Judge Henderson, headed out the door to lush retirement, ruled in favor of a community-destroying Dollar General store for rural Redwood Valley where the community is already well-served by privately-owned mom and pop groceries.
MENDO COLLEGE put an end to its perennially struggling football program after a series of farcical events, including the housing of most of its Florida-derived players at outrageous rents in a condemned, unheated West Ukiah structure owned by a rapacious, excuse the redundancy, Redwood Valley doctor.
PREVIOUSLY untaxed pot farmers sued the County, claiming the marijuana business tax approved by voters imperiled oh no not them but pending pot licensing regulations.
THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT and the Ukiah PD declared that they would not assist with La Migra sweeps for undocumented persons, which in Mendocino County translates as sweeps for Mexicans. Mendocino County’s immigrant population continues to grow, and now represents about 25% of the County’s population (probably more since the census undercounts Hispanics).
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION said it would crack down on all aspects of the marijuana business. The Feds still maintain that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin and crank, and should remain a Class One narcotic. AG Sessions said, however, he did not plan to intervene in state and local legalization plans, further evidence, if any is needed, that the Trump Administration is chaotic.
THE GRISLIEST MURDER of the year occurred early in March when six young men beat and stabbed Jeffrey Quinn Settler to death in Laytonville in a pay dispute over love drug production.
THE CITY OF UKIAH discussed hiring an outside consultant to inform them on the advisability of an “upscale” hotel located on the west side of town before deciding to ask hotel companies if they thought one was advisable. None did. Ukiah clings to the fantasy that their battered, unattractive town will somehow become a tourist destination.
THE CITY OF UKIAH, led by a $400,000-a-year city manager, borrowed $4 million to develop the Costco site, as if the prosperous bulk retailer can’t afford its own site-prep.
ANTHROMORPHS AMOK. A handful of semi-deranged animal rights advocates besieged the County’s Animal Shelter with false claims of negligence. The County hired a new director, Rich Molinari, whose firm leadership has made kitty litter out of Shelter critics.
A UKIAH VALLEY groundwater agency was formed and instantly dominated by the County’s rapacious wine interests, meaning wine water will be sure to be put ahead of community interests.
DA DAVID EYSTER warned pot growers who refuse to enter the County’s labyrinthian and impossibly expensive licensing program that the County’s narco squad would be sure to come kicking at their unlicensed doors. One of first raids after licensing began was at the farm of a guy in the licensing process. Local law enforcement has for years profited from pot raids and interdictions. One way or another, license or no license, look for the present raid and interdiction policies to continue.
AMID RECURRENT RUMORS that prostitutes (of the unelected type) are readily available in Mendocino County, lectures on sex trafficking were planned by Ukiah’s Methodist Church. It is assumed the Methodists are opposed to trafficking.
BEST MOVIE of the year, by far, I, Tonya. The famous, then infamous figure skater, Tonya Harding, overcame all the social class odds and a psychotic mother to become the best skater in the world, only to be undone by her cretinous husband and his sub-cretinous friends. An admirable person in every respect, this moving re-creation of her life is absolutely brilliant. For this viewer, it was exhilarating to see this criminally insulted woman finally get her side of the story told.
THE MIDNIGHT FIRES that tore through Redwood and Potter valleys in early October, killed nine people, destroyed 300 homes, burned 32,100 acres. Sheriff Tom Allman did an outstanding job coordinating emergency services and keeping fire victims and the general public fully informed of this Biblical-quality catastrophe. Emergency services, many of them volunteers, did their work with faultless aplomb and commitment.
MUCH PUBLIC TIME all year was devoted to rambling discussions of all facets of marijuana as the Supervisors devised a totally unworkable licensing scheme, the upshot of which will be to drive small-scale farmers out of business as corporate ops move in.
AN ASSISTANT COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR, Alan Flora, gets the year's Trotsky Award for disappearing from public view after being summarily fired by the County's autocratic boss, Carmel Angelo and her five-person doo-wop chorus of Supervisors. No reason for Flora's summary dismissal was issued, and no mention of him has been made since.
FRUSTRATED by the seemingly inexorable increase in street people, many of them deranged, drunk, on drugs or all three, Mendocino County overwhelmingly voted in favor of Measure B, an in-County mental health facility. Methamphetamine continues as an in-County scourge and the primary driver of violent crime.
DOCTOR PETER KEEGAN of Ukiah died of cancer before he could be tried for the bludgeoning murder of his wife, Susan seven years earlier.
SPECIAL US-FIRST RECOGNITION is due the Superior Court of Mendocino County whose 9 judges — proportionately more than any county in the state — tacitly support a new County Courthouse no one but them wants or needs.
COSTCO is a year away from opening a branch in Ukiah. Work has begun on the site at Ukiah big box row just west of Highway 101. On the plus side, CostCo pays good wages; on the negative side it is certain to drive one or more existing Ukiah markets out of business.
ONE OF THE ODDEST alleged crimes of 2017 saw two officers of the Ukiah Gun Club arrested and charged with gun violations, and both are apparently rivals for the affections of the same gun clubbing woman, who was was also arrested but for fraud.
UNLAMENTED POLITICAL DEPARTURES: Georgeanne Croskey, appointed to fill the seat vacated by the mentally ill Tom Woodhouse, is leaving the area and her position; Linda 'Dump Truck' Thompson, Public Defender, is retiring, as are Supervisors Hamburg and Brown. Cowboy John Pinches has announced he will again seek the 3rd District Supervisor's seat, a seat he has held twice before. He will be opposed by a blandly uninformed teacher from Willits named John Haschak and Laytonville's perennial recreational candidate, Pam Elizondo, pioneer pot farmer. John Sakowicz, perhaps best known for his thwarted efforts to get fiscal candor out of semi-public radio KZYX, will vie for the 1st District Supe's seat vacated by Carre Brown. And Albion-Little River Fire Chief Ted Williams is the early front-runner to replace Hamburg as Fifth District Supervisor.
DON'T FETCH, ROVER! A pipe bomb was found on the roof of Dirty Dog Day Care.
ORPHAN ANNIES of the year have to be the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors who voted themselves huge raises, from $61,200 a year to $85,500 annually. CEO Carmel Angelo, den mother, congratulated the Supervisors on their courage in boosting their pay! Angelo, and several comparably undeserving department heads also got large pay increases, although Mendocino County is technically bankrupt, owing more in obligations to retired personnel than the County can ever expect to pay. Annual retirement fund short falls are made up from the General Fund, hence the current state of County roads and other depleted services. County government increasingly serves only itself.
DUPES OF THE YEAR: The nearly 800 people who have filed for legal pot cultivation or sales permits.
LATE TO THE POT PARTY AWARD: Jane Futcher for finally realizing, after years of support, that the County’s pot permit process was a non-starter, writing in this paper in July: “Why We Dropped Out”
FREE AMMO FOR LIFE to Janet Krigian, the 62-year old Laytonville woman who fought off three Bay Area thugs during an unsuccessful November home invasion.
BREAKING LOCAL OFFICIALDOM’S silence on the issue, DA Eyster went on the record against a new County Courthouse.
COAST REPORTER of the year: Rex Gressett.
MENDO’S MOST indispensible source for breaking news — MendocinoSportsPlus.
OLDEST YOUNG reporters on the Northcoast — the Mendocino Voice.
SHE’S STILL MISSING: Asha Kreimer, the young Australian woman who walked out of the excellent Rollerville Cafe (between Point Arena and Manchester) two years ago and hasn’t been seen since.
MOST PROMISING New Supervisorial Candidate: Ted Williams of Albion.
MOST PROMISING Old Supervisorial Candidate: John Pinches of Laytonville.
BIGGEST ONGOING SCAM: The County’s promotional apparatus, which spends over $1 million a year claiming they bring tourists to the County when sales tax records show their activity has no effect whatsoever on tourism.
TESTIMONY OF THE YEAR: Peter Hoyle of the Drug Task Force:
Hoyle: “People who use and sell methamphetamine are not going to say ‘meth’ on the phone; so they’ll have a code for it. When they call up and say – as they do here -- and say they need some ‘shit,’ they’re not asking for feces…”
Deputy Public Defender Jonathan Opet: “Objection.”
Judge Ann Moorman: “Overruled.”
Hoyle: “In my experience, they’re not asking for feces, but drugs – I’ve seen it [‘shit’] used for methamphetamine and heroin and other hard drugs, but never for feces – and never for anything else, but hard drugs.”
(Reported by America’s best courtroom reporter, Bruce McEwen)
LEFT HAND, RIGHT HAND AWARD. Supes turn down Sheriff’s request for an infrequently required but vital rescue Snow Cat, as they simultaneously required the County’s fire departments to specify to the penny what they’re doing with the Prop 172 money they’d been illegally denied for years and while they also hand out huge sums without question to: the Arts Council, Promotional Scammers, Mental Health, etc. without blinking an eye.
BOOBS TO BOOBS: Sherry Glaser’s bare-breasted “Breasts Not Busts” pot protest before the Supervisors was a local first.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY STATS FOR 2017
33 Jury Trials in 2017: 21 Guilty, 7 Not Guilty, 5 mistrials (one of which resulted in a plea deal several months later which the DA counted as a “win”) – giving a trial conviction rate of 22/33, or two-thirds.
3 prosecuted personally by Eyster.
1 Murder trial (Caleb Silver, mistrial set for retrial in the spring).
Only 1 Domestic abuse case (Guilty).
ANDERSON VALLEY SPECIFICALLY
FANTASY turning into partial reality: a Boonville water and sewer system was awarded $1 million by the State Water Board and is now in the planning stages.
THE PHILO SPEED LIMIT was raised in the face of unanimous opposition from the AV community and the Board of Supervisors.
LOCAL RANCHER Sam Prather was jobbed out of eight acres of land by an alliance of ethically elastic lawyers and a newbie pot grower.
AV UNIFIED SCHOOLS seemed to settle down with the appointment of a new school board and the departure of two administrators and the hiring of local girl Tracy Anderson as Elementary School principal.
DEPUTY OF THE YEAR (Oak Leaf Cluster): Craig Walker easily handled what crime occurred in Anderson Valley while covering shifts in Ukiah as well, one of which involved a tussle with a tweaker which put the deputy on light duty for most of the year.
THE RETAILER operating in The Valley’s most challenging neighborhood, Dave Evans of the Navarro Store.
MOST EXCITING meal of the year goes to its host, Fritz Ohm of Rancho Navarro. As Ohm was sitting down to dinner at his place with Willie Martinez, Michael Saner walked up and shot Martinez to death.
MOST POPULAR new local proprietors, the Condon family of Buckhorn Saloon.