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Off the Record (Jan. 31, 2018)


After work one day in the fall of 1997—as the first harvest of legal-for-medical-use marijuana was being harvested—I interviewed Dennis Peron in his office at the San Francisco Buyers Club and watched him run the operation. At one point the phone rang and it was a Mendocino County lawyer, David Nelson, who was representing a man named Alan Cohen.

Dennis filled me in as he discussed the situation with Nelson. He had met Cohen, an epileptic, who was facing cultivation and possession charges. “He was busted with a pound of marijuana… He had a doctor who recommended it, but the doctor died. The DA is offering a deal: misdemeanor possession of marijuana.... Nelson wants to take the deal."

Dennis: (into the phone) Your client could be the last one to go to jail for medical use of marijuana. I want the battle, but I want the battle to be with me, not with him. But he wants to fight and he’s a good man. What have you got for witnesses? There are doctors who can testify that marijuana has been studied and it does work for epilepsy and has been recommended for epilepsy. There’s a witness from the government’s program that gives people marijuana for compassionate use —there are eight people grandfathered in. They get marijuana every month from the government, in fact, they get seven and a half pounds a year, which is the standard. So the program has already established the standard... Can you get any money for witnesses?... Was he convincing? He’s written a book on this subject, you know... Why weren’t we offered diversion? I thought he should accept diversion; the misdemeanor would just go away. $1,500 didn’t sound like too much to me... I told him he’d have to clean up his act, he’d have to shave, cut his hair, put a suit on. And I told him he’s going to have to produce medical records... witness preparation... Dilantin and all that... Uh-huh... Well, bring all that stuff into the pre-trial hearing, see what they offer, see if you can get him diversion. When you get the best deal is the day before trial. This guy has never had a conviction or anything.... Wah, wah, wah! Supposition, supposition, supposition... Whatever he chooses to do is all right with me; I think he’s innocent, but, you know, I’m Dennis Peron. He’s a good man. I’ll make sure... [hangs up.] David Nelson. I told him I loved his brother’s music.

YC: Huh?

DP: Ricky. Ricky Nelson.

Dennis was very knowledgable and very funny.

(Fred Gardner)

WILLITS LIVES! A reader writes:

Re: comments about Willits “bleeding” due to the bypass, according to the City of Willits, sales tax figures for the last two measured quarters (April through September) of 2017 show Willits’ sales tax is down only 4 percent from the same period in 2016, before the bypass opened. They had budgeted a 16 percent decline, which some felt too optimistic. Yes, of course, some businesses are down much more than 4 percent, Book Juggler recently posted on FB they were down 28 percent last year, and the gyro shop saw an immediate 40 percent downturn before they shut down (also, btw, there are not “a lot” of shops that have closed since the bypass. Willits has many unoccupied storefronts, most of them from before the bypass). So the question is if plenty of businesses are significantly down, if overall decrease is only 4 percent, whose sales are way UP since the bypass?

“Sales tax revenue better than expected"

[Interim City Manager Robert] Perrault also told the council that sales tax money received by the city last year was showing to be above the initial budget projections, which should give them more revenue than originally anticipated. He said for the last two quarters measured, which went from April through September of 2017, sales tax had decreased by only around 4 percent compared to the same quarters in 2016, rather than the 16 percent initially projected by city staff. The 16 percent decline was largely predicted due to the estimated effects the bypass would have on businesses in the city. Perrault said overall they were currently seeing around $305,000 more in revenue than they had anticipated, however he did note there were some additional expenditures that would cut into this. He added there should be more clarity in the overall budget picture when he presents the mid-year report for this fiscal year, likely in February. “The bottom line is we’re projecting a better year-end position than the budget did when [initially] approved,” he said.

WE WERE AMONG the 30 persons tuned in on YouTube last week to watch the Supervisor's meeting, and among ten viewers after the pot discussion. The only true news from our County solons was the planned discontinuance of Coastal Valley EMS, with Mendo going it alone to do what Coastal does, although the pot talk took up most of the morning.

MOST PUBLIC MEETINGS at all levels of government present the writer with a basic dilemma, which is, Should I simply write up what I see and hear? Should I do a J-school job which pleases both my employer and the elected people I'm writing about? Should I assume the discussion jibes with what I perceive as the social-political realities of Mendocino County as I understand them (assuming I’m capable of understanding them)? Are the people doing the discussing reasonably plausible? Must I assume an objectively insane discussion is rational and the discussers are smart, conscientious people totally on-task — $85,000-a-year idealists? (You better, kid, if you want to keep your job.)

LAST WEEK’S POT DISCUSSION, seems to me, was further nuts. It piled more confusion on top of the County's already insanely complicated pot rules. And they’re a constant work in progress at the Mendo level, and at the State level where the rules are even more confusing (and costly). At all levels it is likely that more money will be spent on futile forms of enforcement than will be recovered in taxes and fees.

PINCH YOURSELVES, Mendo old timers. In 1970, the local pot industry looked like this. In 2018 it looks like this!

AS SUPERVISOR McCOWEN OBSERVED in a flash of belated awareness in the middle of the zoning overlay discussion, “We have to simplify this and streamline it or we’ll never get through it.”

UH, SUPERVISOR, do you know who Sisyphus was? Seen that horse that ran out of the barn last year?

THE SUPERVISORS are like a no-limit ATM. Anybody who shows up with a suit on gets whatever amount of dough he or she requests with nary a demur from the five-o’s. Yesterday, a couple of glib suits got an open-ended contract worth lots and lots to fine tune the local pot rules. The suits said, and the Supes agreed, that the suits would address "overlays," aka dope businesses in areas not zoned for it. The suits said they would be back now and then to present a plan on how to deal with the overlays, the assumption being, it seems, that the local pot business is not the anarchic enterprise that it is with all the growers, brownie bakers, honey oil producers etc. doing, as always, whatever the hell they want, with the cops taking a few of them down as the cops do now. Rules or no rules nothing will change. That the large crew of pot outlaws gives one hoot about the rules to begin with, let alone how or how not zoning applies to them, is your basic flawed assumption.

CORRINE POWELL of Ukiah, who has tried to take the County’s marijuana “working groups” seriously for months without much success, summed up a big part of the problem:

“I have listened to many hours of the board debating and talking to staff and I believe that at the meeting on the 9th as well as the meeting today you heard probably 10, 15, 20 comments from the board saying, “I thought we covered this,” and “I thought this was already resolved.” I implore the board to direct staff at this juncture to create documents that do include everything that has already been decided, because every time we review the ordinance we go back to the one that was adopted on April 4 and implemented on April 4, 2017. We are a long way from that. We have had lots of discussions but there is confusion everywhere in everybody's mind about what should have already been decided. The only way we are going to get there is if the staff does the work to go back and if it means going back and listening to tapes or whatever and resolving what we have already resolved so that we start with a perspective that allows us to think more clearly about things that are still unresolved. Things that that are unresolved are still numerous. The ordinance amendment suggestions, they are valid. But they are few. And we have a working group that has been assigned the amendments to our county legislation. If we proceed with that without including the working group process — the more we do that, the more we have wasted time in the working group. The people in the working groups have significant information to bring to the process. So I implore you, ask staff to make a consolidated document, documents, for the two various ordinances that we have. The working group on amendments does not meet until February 1. So whatever you do today may be importuning what we are doing as a working group.”


DAMON DICKENSON has been appointed interim Superintendent of Schools by the County School Board. He's one of these gray ghost types who has been around for years. Both a nice person and a Nice Person in my fleeting experience with him, and I can barely stay awake typing the news of his temporary elevation because the terms ‘school board’ and ‘County Office of Education’ are like a chloroform-soaked rag suddenly clapped over my nose. If you gave all of Mendo a snap quiz asking what the County Schools did, where it was located, its annual budget, number of personnel, only people employed by our public schools would be aware of MCOE, and most of them would not know the annual budget or number of employees. Ditto for LAFCO, MSWMA, MCOG, ad infinitum. Which is how these agencies get bigger and bigger — nobody knows what they do or cares what they do. The only time people notice that government is growing larger every year is at property tax time.

THE TEAM DOCTOR for USA Gymnastics is being described as the all-time chomo, certainly an unenviable title. But I have to wonder how he got away with it for so long with so many children, especially children presumed to be highly supervised? Where were their parents? Where were all the many people associated with training world class athletes?

TWICE when she was a kid, my daughter, on full perv alert, came straight to her parents. The first time she was about nine, and had just come home from her friend's house down the street. "Do you think Mr. Christian should be walking around naked in front of us?" No, and that's the last time you go over there. Not that she wanted a re-visit because she'd been seriously creeped out by Mr. Christian. I immediately got on the horn to Anderson Valley's legendary Deputy Squires who told me the Sheriff's Department was already on this guy's case but, so far, his wife, who worked in the local schools, and his two little girls (from his wife's previous marriage), would not cooperate with the investigation. My daughter said her friend had told her that she and her sister were so afraid of Stepdad that they climbed a tree every day after school until their mother got home to avoid being alone with him. There was talk around town of "informal resolution" of the Christian problem but nothing came of it.

THE SECOND CHOMO alert in our family occurred when Daughter was in junior high school. She said her teacher's aide had asked several girls to visit her home after school so her husband could take pictures of them in the couple's hot tub. The teacher's aide was married to Leonard Lake, subsequently revealed as a mass murderer. The aide was promptly fired.

UKIAH UNIFIED DOES THE RIGHT THING! A press release from announces, “After declaring the former Redwood Valley Elementary School property as surplus at their December meeting, Ukiah Unified school board members used their January meeting to approve the initial steps required to convert the property into much-needed housing and a community center.”

WE POSTED an item the other day called: “The Marine Corps’s A-Changin’” that described a transgendered Marine, not his altered anatomy but the fact that he/she function as a lean, mean fightin’ machine. James Marmon, the sage of Lake County, immediately commented, "Gays and transgenders have always been in the Marine Corp, nothing new here. Just ask my brother Steve Marmon !"

WHEN I was a Marine fighting the battles of Noon Chow back in '57, I don't remember anyone claiming minority sexual status. I do remember boot camp drill instructors, none of whom seemed to be Nation readers, insulting us California boys as "queers sent to sabotage my Marine Corps." Even as a dumb kid I thought that was pretty funny. Funnier yet was the same guy, totally beside himself and grasping for insults, denounced us as "syphlitic misfucks." That one still makes me laugh. And a year or so later, a frustrated sarge demanded, "You want to be Alvis (Elvis) Presley?" Elvis was just coming on, and to this guy Elvis represented a major threat to everything ol’ Sarge held near and dear. But gays and transgenders? Invisible in the Marines and, in 1957, unheard of.

FROM SUNDAY'S PRESS DEMOCRAT: "Lynda Bengtsson-Davis, a transgender Marine Corps veteran from Fort Bragg, will be seated in the House of Representatives visitors gallery Tuesday night for the biggest regular address in American politics — and her presence will be part of the politicking. Bengtsson-Davis, whose bid to re-enlist in the Air National Guard has been stalled by President Donald Trump’s attempted ban on military service for transgender individuals, is the guest of North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman at Trump’s first State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress. “I think he’s wrong,” Bengtsson-Davis said of the man she refers to as the commander-in-chief. Transgender service “goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War,” she said, referring to Deborah Sampson, a Massachusetts woman who disguised herself as a man to serve in the Continental Army for 17 months. Huffman, D-San Rafael, said he invited Bengtsson-Davis, the information technology manager for the city of Fort Bragg, to send Trump a message. “There are real people out there who are hurt by his hateful rhetoric and actions,” he said. “I wanted to serve my country like anyone else,” Bengtsson- Davis said.

PC POSTURING by Huffman, of course, and the both of them should understand the diff between a woman disguising herself as a man, and a man removing his repro apparatus to become a woman.

YOU NEVER KNOW what might set someone off. We received this letter yesterday from Karl and Darci Berger:

“To Whom It May Concern: I was doing some research and came across the excerpt from "Outlaw Ford". What interests me the most are the comments made by the writer about Bald Hill. You do realize Bald Hill is private property and there are cameras on the property. The owners of the property do not want people trespassing and will take necessary measures if uninvited guests are identified on the property. And clearly whomever it is was up there recently and ignored the "no trespassing" signs and the two locked gates. Please advise as to why your publication would be encouraging people to visit such property that has been private for many many years. Thank you....”

MALCOLM MACDONALD, author of the nifty novel, replied:

“Concerning the comment about Bald Hill: Though some of the novel OUTLAW FORD takes place in Mendocino County, the book does not mention Bald Hill. The writer may be referencing one of my articles/columns mentioning Bald Hill as the burial spot of Dutch Fred Heldt. I have been to the burial site, but many years back and after asking permission. I do not believe the writing encouraged people to trespass, simply mentioned the general location as north of Fort Bragg.”

FOR THE 6TH TIME, BARRY BONDS has not convinced enough Hall of Fame voters to make it into baseball's best of the best museum. Good, I say. I don't think any of the steroid stars should get into the Hall even with an asterisk. Bonds was a great player without resorting to chemicals, but with chemicals..? Bye, bye baby about every third at bat. Mark McGuire, by way of contrast, was an average ballplayer who zoomed to home run king on the juice. A lot of ordinary athletes in all sports were suddenly supermen. (And women)

A LOT of people say, "Well, gee, how about Mickey Mantle and those guys from the 50s and the 60s with their greenies (amphetamines)? White powders in any form don’t make you faster or stronger or help you see better. Steroids does all three, and if a baseball player's eyesight improves to where a 95-mile-an-hour fastball looks like a basketball coming at you, the guy on steroids is no longer a normal athlete. He's cheating. I think the enhanced performances of Bonds, Canseco, McGuire, and the rest of them helped wreck the game.

INSTANT MORON. Loved this passage from a PD story on the first day of recreational pot sales in Santa Rosa: "Garcia spent just under $100 on cannabis flowers, a strain called chocolope from a batch grown outside in Mendocino County, which he hoped would be energizing for a day playing his favorite video game, Battlefield 1."

STEVE WYNN? Vegas casino magnate? Sexual harasser? I can't believe it! Who's next, the Pope? Is there no end to these shocks? Every day, more disillusionment. Where will it end?

THE FBI? As politically pure as fresh fallen snow? In copious and irrefutable detail, the FBI was as politically corrupt from the day the agency was founded by the legendary closet case, J. Edgar Hoover who stayed in office all those years blackmailing other closet cases, among his many other vics. Hoover famously hounded Martin Luther King by distributing sex tapes of MLK being fruitful and multiplying. Even I, harmless liberal, doofus division, managed to acquire an FBI jacket simply based on my allegedly radical associations. Why, Ms. Poppins, would you believe that the FBI was active right here in Mendocino County in the 1990 period? Ace sleuths that they are, the feds managed to immediately eliminate Judi Bari's ex-husband from the suspect pool when Bari was blown up in Oakland with hubbykins' car bomb. Heck, the ex was only a guy with a history of cult-left violence and bombs back to 1966! Why the heck would the FBI look at him? Of course they had to close the Bari case when "no one would talk to us." Hell, cops routinely halt investigations when crooks won't talk to them. Everyone knows that.

HELLO, HISTORY? GET ME RE-WRITE! The presser began, Mendocino County hires museum curator Karen Mattson brings years of experience and a profound passion for history and community to the Mendocino County Museum curator position. … The museum was in need of serious organization and deep cleaning, according to county officials….

COUPLA THINGS HERE: First, now that I've seen Karen Mattson’s bona fides that include quite a lot hands-on museum experience, especially for a young person, her appointment as curator at the Mendocino County Museum seems reasonable.

WHAT IS NOT REASONABLE is this untrue statement in the presser announcing Ms. Mattson's appointment. Aura Whittaker, a new name to us, writing for The Willits News: “…When museum director Alison Glassey took an unexplained leave of absence in late June of last year followed by retirement, county officials began taking a closer look at museum staffing, finances and programming. Once they realized three out of five full-time positions were empty, they immediately decided the museum needed a curator first and foremost. The county had asked Glassey to hire a curator a long time ago but it never happened…"

GLASSEY was fired when the County CEO's office found that the money the County had been directing to Glassey for a curator was instead funding archivists Russ and Sylvia Bartley. Ms. Mattson is quoted by Ms. Whittaker as saying that the Museum is in very bad shape. If it is, it's not the fault of the Bartleys who kept the collections safe and orderly for years in the absence of a curator.


BLAHUT'S FAMOUS! Phone message from Michael Blahut: "You put me on the front page and the reporter didn't speak to me about it. I guess you just want to make money off me for your rag."

YOU WERE in custody, dude. An arraignment is not a press conference.

CALL From Stan Miklose of Down Home Foods, Fort Bragg: "Blahut came in and bought the last 25 papers I had of the Jan 17 edition. Can you send replacements?"

ANOTHER CALL from Blahut: "Do you have any papers left? I want to send them to my friends and family. I was on your front page."

WE LEFT some papers on the office porch for the Terror of the Drive-Thru which he apparently picked up. Dealing with him in person might be, uh, time consuming. Blahut was charged with varieties of mayhem after an odd episode at the Ukiah McDonald’s drive-through window during which Blahut apparently rammed the car in front of him driven by Coast Hospital’s Doug Shald, scaring the bejeezus out of Shald and his family. Blahut, who seemed to think he was the injured party, subsequently hosed Shald down with pepper spray and, for good measure, also gave the McDonald’s manager a shot of the blinding substance.

REMEMBER THE 'STEPPING UP INITIATIVE'? A couple of years ago the Supes voted to spend $150k on it. Someone, somehow was supposed to “step up” and reduce mentally ill people from going to jail. Mendo grabbed the money (of course) and proceeded to do a lot in-services interfacing with each other while $50k went to a consultant and $100k went to overtime for deputies who are now America’s frontline mental health The January 2018 report, however, says that “The California Summit for this national effort was held in January. Several county staff attended as well as BHAB Chair [Jan] McGourty. You can be sure they didn't attend at their expense. And sure enough, “However, subsequent efforts to take action were dropped because of County personnel issues. BHAB members have not, however, lost sight of the objective, which is to prevent mentally-ill people from being incarcerated, and have pushed to keep it current.”


KOTY HAWTHORNE’S ORDEAL began with a press release from the US Marshall Service that said Ms. Koty had run off with her children. All we knew was that she was arrested in Fort Bragg, but we wondered at the rest of the story. There had to be one. There always is.

AND DARNED if the ethers didn’t part and there she was, in prose form anyway:

“Koty Hawthorne here. Saw the article about me in your tabloid claiming I was "nabbed." Just to clarify, I was actually arrested while at the Fort Bragg courthouse after filing to see a judge to arrange protection for my children (almost 15 and 12) while I turned myself in to Puerto Rico. My children had asked me to remove them from a harmful situation in PR, and so I did what a good mother must do. They begged to not return to their father and instead to stay with my parents (their grandparents) when I finally turned myself in (with hopes to finally get peace and fair resolution to our family trauma), and so I asked to see a judge, but I was instead arrested. I spent 5 weeks in the Ukiah jail waiting to be extradited. They did not come for me. Instead, my family bought my ticket to PR and we (my lawyer) convinced the authorities to release me so I could turn myself in as planned. Upon arrival, I was again arrested and spent a few days in the jail in Puerto Rico before being released on bail. I am awaiting my day in court. My children's well being has been my only agenda and priority. Again, to clarify, I had been trying to get back to Puerto Rico (our home we love) to clear charges since we left. I worked tirelessly towards finding a way to return without putting my children's safety and happiness in jeopardy. I had been in regular contact with an array of agencies and authorities to let our intentions be known and try to get help for my children who had been suffering a situation of domestic violence that evolved into legal abuse. The system failed to protect us. I did what I had to do to protect my children and I am disappointed at how impossible it was to get the legal help we needed. I would however like to thank the individuals who provided us with support and sanctuary throughout our struggle for justice. I will not give up on my children's right to health and happiness and I pray that finally, now, we can get the help we need to live in peace.”


THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT is looking for Robert 'Rocket' Vargas Jr. It is alleged that on Friday night, 26 January), at the Company Ranch east of Fort Bragg, Vargas assaulted a young woman and her father, both of whom were seriously injured.

Apart from assaulting the father, an older man recovering from shoulder surgery, Vargas also tried to run over the man and then deliberately rammed the father's truck more than once. Vargas has two previous convictions for domestic assault. The attacks on father and daughter so alarmed law enforcement that they received a midnight protective order prohibiting Vargas from contacting either father or daughter.


I’ve read comments from what nowadays passes for Left-wing intelligentsia saying that the white picket fence 1950s never existed. So therefore, if it never existed, the gripe about the prosperity that once was and is no more cannot be valid if the prosperity never was in the first place. The unfortunate part for the historical revisionist is that guys like me remember what it was like. Dad had a job (an hourly wage earner job no less) and mom stayed home and took care of everyone. People like us were the forerunners of the much despised deplorables, the clingers to guns and religion, the folk whose aspirations to some kind of work that enables a guy to support a family without the prospect of imminent homelessness, that are now seen by the oligarchs and their clerisy in terms of “who the fuck do these people think they are?”

FOR MORE EXTENSIVE COUNTY NEWS COVERAGE, including the Mental Health Board’s recent bogus “accomplishments” report, see the AVA’s Mendocino County Today feature at our website, and this week’s on-line County Notes.

One Comment

  1. Rick Weddle February 2, 2018

    re: ‘the 50’s never happened’…
    Big surprise to me. I could have sworn we moved to Cali in ’49 for the Gold Rush post-War period. The dwindling shipyards spun off jobs like Shipyard Riggers (morphed into commercial/civilian scaffolding outfits), putting GOOD wages into working pockets. Enough so that this particular writer made a pile of it, after being raised by my Daddy, who did also. I never missed a meal. The gravy train of ww2, with the overflow of industrial appliances and influences, and further bent on eternal Mobilization, by Force-of-Course, was quite a convincing mirage, then; zillions of us, here and around the world were gulled, completely, it would seem. The ‘Love Affair With The Automobile’ holding the World tight over The Barrel, trafficking us – We, the People – to the highest bidder, and CHARGING US…that was all just a bad-smelling dream.

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