THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT & PLEASE VOTE TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 2020
February 12, 2020
Dear Mendocino County Board of Supervisors:
In the Agenda Item for "Closed Session" for the Board of Supervisors meeting, on February 25, 2020, please include this letter as "correspondence received, public comment". Although the Board may not, and should not, respond on matters of a confidential nature, the public still has a right to comment. To silence the public's right to comment on any agenda item would be a violation of free speech.
My comment is the following.
During public comment at next Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, I am asking the same question that I asked during the last meeting on February 4 and for which I received no answer:
Are County funds being used to pay for the defense of County executives -- for example, County CEO, County HR Director, and County HHSA Director -- who may have broken the law or violated County policy, and who were subsequently named as respondents in a complaint or defendants in a lawsuit?
In other words, do County executives have "blanket indemnity"? And are we, the taxpayers, being asked to bear the cost of defense for County executives who may have broken the law or violated policy? Will taxpayers also end up paying for settlements?
Another way to ask the question is, does the County protect employees from suffering expenses in direct consequence for not doing their jobs?
Isn't any contract or agreement, expressed or implied, made by the County to any employee become null and void when the law is broken or County policy is violated?
I ask because, as you know, the County has significant exposure in the complaint filed by former Public Health Director Barbara Howe.
Yesterday, I learned that former Ag Commissioner Harinder Grewal has filed a similar complaint. I believe the Law Firm of Duncan James is representing Mr. Grewal.
So I ask again: How big is our exposure?
Who pays for the defense? Who pays for settlements?
Thank you for your response.
QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES TO
THE MENDOCINO COUNTY
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS 2020
Submitted by members of Climate Action Mendocino
Candidate Name: John Sakowicz
District you are running in: 1st District
1. Do you believe we are in a climate emergency? If yes, what ideas do you have about how we can respond to that in our county?
Yes. We are absolutely in an emergency. As "Exhibit 1", we should hold up our recent wildfires, especially the Mendocino Complex Fire, which was first reported on July 27, 2018, and which wasn't 100% contained until September 18.
The Mendocino Complex Fire was the largest recorded fire complex in California history. It was a large complex of two wildfires, the River Fire and Ranch Fire, which burned in Mendocino, Lake, Colusa, and Glenn Counties in the U.S. State of California, with the Ranch Fire being California's single-largest recorded wildfire. The Ranch Fire burned eight miles northeast of Ukiah, and the River Fire burned six miles north of Hopland, to the south of the larger Ranch Fire.
Both fires burned a combined total of 459,123 acres, before they were collectively 100% contained. The Ranch Fire alone burned 410,203 acres, surpassing the Thomas Fire to become the single-largest modern California wildfire.
The Ranch Fire also surpassed the size of the 315,577-acre Rush Fire, which burned across California and Nevada, as well as the Santiago Canyon Fire of 1889, which was previously believed to have been California's all-time largest wildfire.
The fires collectively destroyed 280 structures while damaging 37 others, causing at least $267 million in damages, including $56 million in insured property damage and $201 million in fire suppression costs.
How can we respond?
We can start with a Climate Change Assessment.
Using the data we collect, can do Visualizations of Climate Scenarios, including Wildfire Projections and Coastal Flooding Scenarios.
An Inventory of Climate Change Adaption Measures for Mendocino County would also be useful.
2. Do you believe that Mendocino County government has a responsibility to take effective action to address climate change on the local level? If yes, how would you propose to do that in conjunction with the Mendocino County Climate Action Advisory Committee?
Yes, we have an absolute responsibility. Taking effective action is a moral, legal, and ethical imperative.
How can the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors (BOS) do that in conjunction with the Mendocino County Climate Action Advisory Committee (CAAC)?
The BOS and the CAAC must work together in forming Climate Change Partnerships.
We must work across agencies in county and city government. We must work across the border between public sector and private sector.
We must negotiate legal and binding agreements among Climate Change Partners.
3. As a rural county we have great potential for sequestering carbon to be part of the solution to global warming. How can we get that to happen? (Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change. Forest management and agricultural practices are critical ways to do this.)
A Memoranda of Understanding on climate and forests cooperation must be immediately negotiated among The County of Mendocino and Mendocino Forest Products Company, LLC (MFP) and its sister company, Mendocino Redwood Company, LLC (MRC®).
Because MFP and MRC have a partnership with The Home Depot, Inc. for redwood and Douglas-fir lumber products, the Memoranda of Understanding should also include Home Depot.
The County needs to find a way to work with MRC. Our relationship with them is too adversarial, and will result in litigation if nothing changes.
Starting with Measure V enforcement, we need to "find a way" towards real partnership.
MRC should be a partner. They're a huge factor in carbon sequestration. MRC owns 228,800 acres (350 square miles) of timberlands in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties in California.
MRC, in turn, supplies MFP with raw materials in the form of redwood and Douglas-fir logs. MFP in turn manufactures these logs into top-quality redwood and Douglas-fir lumber products. MFP is a huge factor in our local economy.
Local environmentalists need to bear in mind that since 2000, the forestlands of MRC have been certified to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®).
MFP also maintains FSC chain-of-custody certification for its sawmill and distribution operations.
The MFP Calpella Distribution Center Chain-of-Custody Certificate may be viewed here:
The MFP Ukiah Sawmill Chain-of-Custody Certificate may be viewed here: https://www.mfp.com/sites/default/files/inline-files/FSC%20Cert_MFP_USM_2020.pdf
It serves no purpose to demonize MRC and MFP. They have met industry standards. Moreover, they a have a "right to farm" and litigation with them will be expensive and counter-productive.
Keep in mind, too, that on September 19, 2019, the California Air Resources board voted to endorse the California Tropical Forest Standard (TFS), demonstrating their global leadership on climate action.
But what does this mean locally here in Mendocino County?
It means that the State of California and its 58 counties will move in the direction of creating the economic incentives for rendering forests more valuable alive than dead.
The TFS means that California will put a new emphasis on indigenous peoples and local communities as stewards of our forestlands, particularly our state and federal forests.
In the near future, the TFS also means that California will seek to attract investment, climate finance, and multi-stakeholder partnerships to protect our privately-owned forests, too, and not just state and federal forests. In other words, just as the USDA pays farmers billions of dollars every year for "farmers not to farm" in a program of [direct subsidy] payments, the day will come when government will pay forest owners not to cut trees.
The CAAC should support these programs. Moreover, Mendocino County should work with the State of California in leading the way with a demonstration program for such financial incentives.
4. Would you support a goal of working towards net zero carbon emissions in our county?
Waste Biomass can help Mendocino County meet the net-zero goal.
California Executive Order B-55-18 was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2018. It sets a statewide goal to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible, and no later than 2045, and maintain net negative emissions thereafter.
A new report released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has determined California can achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045 at modest cost using technology that is already demonstrated and mature, including carbon capture from waste biomass utilization.
Within the report, LLNL notes that Gov. Brown's goal can be met by not only by converting waste biomass into fuels, but also by increasing the uptake of carbon in natural and working lands, and by removing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere with purpose-built machines.
5. Would you support using County staff to develop and disseminate information about personal actions that either increase or lower the carbon footprint of individual households?
Yes, but I would not add additional County staff to existing County staff working on lowering the carbon footprint of households. We do not need more bureaucracy. We need smarter, more effective bureaucracy.
That exception is that, as a member of the BOS, I would immediately act to rehire Mendocino County Public Health Director Barbara Howe.
Director Howe was recently -- and wrongly -- fired by County CEO Carmel Angelo for passing out portable generators during the recent PG&E Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) events.
Director Howe has filed a formal complaint with the County for wrongful discharge that has been supported by many local activists.
Climate change should be viewed, in part, as a public health crisis, and Director Howe is just the woman to lead the County's response to this crisis.
6. What concerns do you have about the impact on our county of the recent PG&E Public Safety Power Shutdown (PSPS) events?
The shutdowns have drawn widespread fierce backlash and criticism from residents as well as government officials, as PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission issued formal apologies.
Many residents complained of either being misinformed or not informed when shutdowns would occur, while officials such as California governor Gavin Newsom blamed the shutdowns on PG&E's "greed and mismanagement".
Here's the problem from PG&E's perspective.
One of the reasons behind PG&E's imposition of the blackouts is a legal doctrine known as inverse condemnation, which makes California utilities responsible for wildfire destruction regardless of whether the utility acted negligently or not.
California's interpretation of inverse condemnation is unique. The tenet is applied in other states, usually to government entities that damage private property when engaged in a public service.
California's courts have ruled the principle can be applied to utilities. So the utilities are held liable for damage, even if they comply with all of California's strict energy-related rules.
In addition to court cases in recent years and the evolution of case law which have made new standards of legal liability, the California State legislature and the Governor also enacted new statutory laws to modify the legal regime under which electrical utilities operate in California. Over 20 new wildfire-related laws were enacted in the 2019 legislative session, several of them affecting the electrical service providing utility companies.
7. Will you support an investigation into how our county seat of Ukiah, and perhaps our entire county, could become power resilient, so we are not impacted by PSPS events in the future?
Yes, of course.
But burying above-ground power lines is not an option -- too expensive.
Traditionally, backup power for critical facilities like hospitals has been supplied by diesel generators. But several recent disasters have shown diesel generators to be unreliable and prone to failure. The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that upwards of 50 percent of diesel generators failed at some time when Hurricane Sandy hit the New York. The same level of diesel failures has been experienced in Puerto Rico during the continuing blackout after Hurricane Maria hit the island.
I prefer Resilient Power Systems that focus on renewable energy generation and battery storage.
Battery storage combined with solar PV (solar+storage) provides a flexible and reliable system that scales easily, saves money, and doesn’t rely on fuel deliveries to generate electricity.
Solar+storage systems can be configured to “island” when the grid goes down, meaning they continue to deliver power to their host facility. But unlike diesel backup generators, which sit idle 99 percent of the time, solar+storage systems operate year-round to provide daily benefits, saving money for their owners by lowering electricity bills and, in some cases, generating revenues through the sale of capacity and ancillary services in wholesale electricity markets.
In numerous cases, solar+storage installations have shown that they can pay themselves off over just a few years, well within the lifespan of the equipment.
By comparison, diesel generators represent a sunk cost that will never deliver cost savings or revenues.
Solar+storage is not a pipe dream!
The resiliency performance of solar+storage is not just theory!
There are numerous solar+storage projects with track records to point to.
For example, in 2015, a microgrid operated by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) powered the entire community of Borrego Springs, California during planned grid maintenance, thus avoiding major service interruptions to the entire community of 2,800 customers.
If Borrego Springs can do it, then Ukiah can do it!
8. Will you support obtaining funding for and installing renewable power production and energy storage as an alternative to PSPS events?
Yes, yes. Of course.
There are several comprehensive financing solutions for renewable power projects to meet our critical strategic and funding needs.
In the private debt market, Mendocino County can seek senior secured debt financing for power and energy projects.
Other private funding could include the following: conventional energy project financing, renewable energy project financing (solar, wind, geothermal), construction and term lending, senior first lien debt (unitranche), leveraged finance, asset-based lending, reserve-based lending, capital markets and syndication support, bid support, and mergers and acquisitions financing
In the public debt market, the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, colloquially known as IBank, could provide Mendocino County with public sector debt financing.
As a former Wall Street executive with over 25 years experience, I am familiar with all of the above, and as your next 1st District Supervisor I will work aggressively to secure such financing.
9. Are you aware that the biomass pellet plant located close to two elementary schools in Calpella did not complete an EIR even though its emissions appear to impact the health of our precious children, nearby vineyards, and the patients at the Consolidated Tribal Health clinic?
Yes. It's appalling.
And we should ask what is the Mendocino County Air Quality Management District (MCAQMD) doing about it?
Where is the EIR?
For more about the MCAQMD, see: http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/aqmd/
10. Do you believe the County should be monitoring the activity of this plant more closely to protect the health of our residents? If yes, how would you propose to address this?
The BOS should petition the State of California to have MCAQMD's director take decisive action, or the State, which has jurisdiction over MCAQMD's hiring and firing of its director, should replace her.
The BOS should also replace members of MCAQMD's board with appointees who are CAAC members.
We can also consider lawsuits. As a last resort, the County can sue. There are precedents.
Two lawsuits were filed in Jefferson County, Texas against German Pellets Texas.
One lawsuit was filed Oct. 25, 2017, on behalf of Jesus Cuevas, who died while in the employ of German Pellets at its Port Arthur facility. Cuevas was operating a skid-steer loader when a large amount of material fell on him. On top of exemplary damages, his family is sought more than $1 million in actual damages.
San Antonio attorney Jerry Hernandez represented the family (cause No. A-200862).
More apropos to the biomass pellet plant located in Capella, also filed in October, 2017 was a second lawsuit against German Pellets on behalf of numerous individuals claiming they have been exposed to harmful smoke as a result of fires at the Port Arthur facility.
“The production of wood pellets for biofuels presents well-known hazards,” the suit states. “Wood pellets give off a fine dust. Without proper handling and disposal of this dust, serious dust explosions may occur."
“This case arises out of the improper manufacture and handling of wood pellets at German Pellets and the fire, explosion and months of smoke that resulted.”
The plaintiffs, who all live near the facility, are sought more than $1 million in damages.
The plaintiffs were represented by the Houston law firm Irvine & Conner (cause No. B-200859).
The BOS and County Counsel need to research these two cases and determine whether applicable case law applies to us here in Mendocino County, California.
* * * * *
Folks may not think that retirement news is a campaign issue, but it is! It is, because retirement is an economic security issue, and because I care deeply about our retired citizens, especially about our retired government workers.
Congress recently passed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (the SECURE Act). Despite its misleading name, the new law, in fact, is set to significantly reduce the value of your 401(k)s -- your IRAs (including Roth IRAs)… and even your governmental 457(b) pensions.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, “…this upends 20 years of retirement planning and sticks it to the middle class.”
HOW THE "SECURE ACT" AFFECTS ALL WORKERS
The SECURE Act significantly, and negatively, impacts the laws affecting retirement accounts.
Among other things, the SECURE Act:
* Raises the required start date for required minimum distributions (RMDs) from qualified retirement plans and traditional IRAs from age 70½ to 72 to recognize increased life expectancy for account owners; this applies to individuals who turn 70½ after December 31, 2019. (Note: Account owners may still be able to make qualified charitable distributions from their retirement accounts starting at age 70½.)
* Allows individuals to make contributions to traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) at any age; under the prior law, individuals could not make contributions after reaching age 70½.
* Requires that a beneficiary of a defined contribution plan or IRA (including, 401(k), 403(b), SEP IRA)— other than the owner’s spouse, the owner’s minor children, disabled or chronically ill individuals, and individuals less than 10 years younger than the owner—withdraw the entire balance of the account within 10 years after the owner’s death, eliminating the beneficiary’s ability to stretch the withdrawals (and the income tax liability) over his or her life expectancy; this applies to account owners who pass away after December 31, 2019.
* Permits withdrawals without penalty (capped at $5,000) for qualified birth or adoption expenses; account owners may be able to recontribute amounts withdrawn under certain circumstances.
While the SECURE Act is intended, in large part, to modernize existing retirement legislation and to encourage retirement savings, the new 10-year beneficiary withdrawal requirement (item 3 above), which precludes some beneficiaries from stretching withdrawals from inherited retirement accounts over their life expectancies, may give pause to some account owners.
THE "SECURE ACT" AND ROTH CONVERSIONS
ThE SECURE Act is bad news, and this may be especially true for those considering a Roth conversion (and paying an immediate income tax on the converted amounts)—their beneficiaries may be required to withdraw these accounts over the potentially shorter 10-year period, limiting the amount of time for the inherited Roth accounts to grow income-tax-free.
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that:
* Spouses are exempt from the 10-year requirement and will continue to be able to stretch required withdrawals over their life expectancies. (Note: It is not certain whether trusts that qualify for the estate tax marital deduction will be afforded the same exemption.)
* For older individuals (including children) who are named beneficiaries of retirement accounts, the beneficiary’s life expectancy (i.e., the length of time over which the beneficiary could withdraw the account under the prior law) may not be that much longer than the 10-year limit. For younger individuals (e.g., grandchildren) named as beneficiaries, however, the limited ability to stretch payments likely will have a bigger impact.
Consider the age of your retirement plan beneficiaries to understand the extent to which the 10-year limitation might impact your wealth plan.
* Some beneficiaries who are in low income tax brackets or who need quick access to liquidity at the time they inherit retirement accounts may plan to withdraw the funds within a short timeframe anyway.
THE "SECURE ACT" AND GOVERNMENT WORKERS
Specifically regarding governmental 457(b) plans, the SECURE changes the following:
* Salary reduction contribution limit, in general will be the lesser of applicable dollar limit ($19,500 in 2020) or 100% of participant’s includible compensation.
* Increased salary reduction limit for final 3 years before attaining normal retirement age will be the Lesser of 2 x applicable dollar limit ($39,000 in 2020) or applicable dollar limit plus sum of unused deferrals in prior years (to the extent that deferrals made were less than the applicable limits on deferrals; age 50 catch up contributions aren’t counted for this purpose).
Note: Can’t use the increased limit if using age 50 catch up contributions. Therefore, in years when an employee is eligible to take advantage of both, the employee can use the higher of the two increases to the limit.
* Salary reduction contribution limits- Age 50 catch-up contributions (for individuals who are age 50 or over at the end of the taxable year) will be increased by $6,500 (up to a total of $26,000 in 2020). Note: Same as above. Can’t use in years that a participant is taking advantage of the increased limit during the final 3 years before attaining normal retirement age.
* Timing of election to make salary reduction contribution will be before the first day of the month in which the compensation is paid or made available.
* Total contribution limits (both salary reduction and employer contributions) will be same as limit for salary reduction contributions. So, any employer contribution limits the amount of salary reduction contribution an employee can make (and vice versa).
* Correcting excess elective deferrals will require a distribution of excess (plus allocable income) as soon as administratively practicable after the plan determines that the amount is an excess deferral.
Contributions to trust are permitted (no change).
Participant loans are permitted (no change).
* Hardship distributions are permitted, only if both:
1. the distribution is required as a result of an unforeseeable emergency, for example, illness, accident, natural disaster, other extraordinary and unforeseeable circumstances arising from events beyond the participant’s (or beneficiary’s) control, and
2. the participant exhausted other sources of financing and the amount distributed is necessary to satisfy the emergency need (and tax liability arising from distribution).
Automatic Enrollment is permitted (no change)
* Taxation is upon distribution (no change).
* Distributable events include the following: Attainment of age 70, Severance from employment, Unforeseeable emergency (see above), Plan termination, Qualified Domestic Relations Order, Small account distribution ($5,000 or less), and Permissible EACA withdrawals.
* Required minimum distributions are applied under Internal Revenue Code Section 401(a)(9) (no change).
* Rollovers to other eligible retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b), and IRAs, are allowed.
* Availability of statutory period to correct plan for failure to meet applicable requirements is permitted until 1st day of the plan year beginning more than 180 days after notification by the IRS.
* Availability of IRS correction programs including the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) under Rev. Proc. 2013-12 can apply for a closing agreement with a proposal to correct failures. Proposal is evaluated according to EPCRS standards.
Recently, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe fell on December 12. I missed celebrating the day with my Latino and Latina brothers and sisters, because I was preoccupied with family matters. I was visiting my mother who was a hospice patient in Venice, Florida. My mother died on December 14. My mother's funeral was on what would have been her 90th birthday, January 9.
Since that time, I've been worried about caretaker arrangements for my father. He will be 91-years old in April, and he has his own serious health problems. More importantly, my father is lost without my mother. He is sick with grief.
My mother and father were married for 68 years, had five children, and were very much in love.
That said, Our Lady of Guadalupe Day is as particularly special for me as it is Americans of Mexican heritage. Our Lady of Guadalupe Day honors the belief that Jesus' mother, Mary, who is Mexico's patron saint, appeared to a man in Mexico City twice in 1531.
Mexican Americans make up more 10% of the U.S. population, with about 33.5 million Americans being listed as being of full or partial Mexican ancestry, according to the U.S.Census Bureau 2011.
Here in Mendocino County, 25.6% of our residents identify as Latino or Latina.
MORE ABOUT OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, also known as Virgen de Guadalupe and La Morenita, is the Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a Marian apparition and a venerated image enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The basilica is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world, and the world's third most-visited sacred site. Pope Leo XIII granted the venerated image a canonical coronation on October 12, 1895.
Miguel Sanchez, the author of the 1648 tract Imagen de la Virgen María, described Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Woman of the Apocalypse from the New Testament's Revelation 12:1, "...clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." She is described as a representation of the Immaculate Conception.
THE INDIGENOUS LADY OF GUADALUPE
The image has layers of meaning for the indigenous people of Mexico who associated her image with their polytheistic deities, which further contributed to her popularity.
Her blue-green mantle was the color reserved for the divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl.
Her belt is interpreted as a sign of pregnancy; and a cross-shaped image, symbolizing the cosmos and called nahui-ollin, is inscribed beneath the image's sash.
She was called "mother of maguey," the source of the sacred beverage pulque. Pulque was also known as "the milk of the Virgin."
The rays of light surrounding her are seen to also represent maguey spines.
MORE INDIGENOUS HERITAGE
Some believe that the Catholic Spanish transcribed or transliterated a Nahuatl name, as the site had long been an important indigenous holy and sacred spot. Others hold that the Spanish name Guadalupe is the original name, and refers to the Spanish Our Lady of Guadalupe, Extremadura, whose cult had been important in Spain in the 16th century and had been brought to the New World with the Spanish conquest.
The first theory to promote a Nahuatl origin was that of Luis Becerra Tanco. In his 1675 work Felicidad de Mexico, Becerra Tanco claimed that Juan Bernardino and Juan Diego would not have been able to understand the name Guadalupe because the "d" and "g" sounds do not exist in Nahuatl.
He proposed two Nahuatl alternative names that sound similar to "Guadalupe", Tecuatlanopeuh [tekʷat͡ɬaˈnopeʍ], which he translates as "she whose origins were in the rocky summit", and Tecuantlaxopeuh [tekʷant͡ɬaˈʃopeʍ], "she who banishes those who devoured us."
Ondina and Justo Gonzalez suggest that the name is a Spanish version of the Nahuatl term, Coātlaxopeuh [koaːt͡ɬaˈʃopeʍ], which they interpret as meaning "the one who crushes the serpent," and that it may seem to be referring to the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl. In addition, the Virgin Mary was portrayed in European art as crushing the serpent of the Garden of Eden.
According to another theory the juxtaposition of Guadalupe and a snake may indicate a nexus with the Aztec goddess of love and fertility, Tonantzin (in Nahuatl, "Our Revered Mother"), who was also known by the name Coatlícue ("The Serpent Skirt"). This appears to be borne out by the fact that this goddess already had a temple dedicated to her on the very Tepeyac Hill where Juan Diego had his vision, the same temple which had recently been destroyed at the behest of the new Spanish Catholic authorities, which was an abhorrent act of cultural genocide.
SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE
January 19, 2020
Dear Mendocino County Board of Supervisors:
At your next meeting on Tuesday, January 21, please pull Agenda Item 4m from the Consent Calendar for discussion by the Board.
Specifically, Agenda Item 4m is the "Adoption of Resolution to Develop a Crisis Residential Treatment Program on the Property Designated in the Existing California Health Facilities Financing Authority Resolution at 631 South Orchard Avenue, Ukiah, California 95482, and in Accordance with Grant Funding Issued Under the Investment in Mental Health Wellness Grant Program."
Redwood Quality Management Corporation (RQMC) and Redwood Community Services (RCS), and their subcontractors, have always had an unfair advantage in being the sole provider of the county's mental health services. This represents a legal liability for the county.
RQMC’s and RCS’s monopoly would not pass the “public scrutiny” test for political cronyism.
Nor would the county prevail, if we were sued by another contractor looking to provide mental health services.
The county has literally handed RQMC and RCS a valuable franchise without much of a competitive bidding process, nor with much oversight, including an audit, after their contracts were awarded.
Here in Mendocino County, we have created a climate of crony capitalism. RQMC and RCS thrive not as a result of risk, but rather as a return on investment amassed through a nexus between a provider business class and the political class. The county is protecting its investment in RQMC and RCS by crushing genuine competition in handing out permits, government grants, special tax breaks, or other forms of county intervention.
First, Ortner was set up to fail. After RQMC and RCS were awarded the contracts, a monopoly ensued. The competitive bidding process for other contractors outside the county ended.
It's unethical. And it's perhaps illegal.
Please see James Marmon’s comments in the AVA's "Mendocino County Today" (January 19, 2020) for additional arguments.
I’ve also been emailing Supervisor Brown today.
What are some other reasons I ask for a discussion of Agenda Item 4m by the Board?
Because RQMC and RCS seem extremely reluctant to submit to an “independent financial audit”, and that gives me serious pause.
As Supervisor Brown knows from earlier in her career being a banker, an independent financial audit is very different than the Medi-Cal billing and reimbursement audit that the state does, and very different from the Medicare billing and reimbursement audit that the feds do.
An independent audit is an examination of the financial records, accounts, business transactions, accounting practices, and internal controls of a nonprofit corporation, and all its contractors and subcontractors, by an “independent” auditor. “Independent” refers to the fact that the auditor/CPA is not an employee of the nonprofits, but instead is retained through a contract for services, and hence is “independent.”
During the independent audit, the auditor will review the organization’s financial statements to determine whether they adhere to “generally accepted accounting principles” (commonly referred to as “GAAP”). These accounting principles are created by the “Financial Accounting Standards Board,” known as “FASB.” While not law, these standards carry weight – when they are not followed, the auditors are required to note that in their report.
The co-founders and executives of RQMC and RCS -- the Schraeders -- resist any suggestion of an independent financial audit. Camille Schraeder and I have had numerous email exchanges on the subject. She is very defensive. What are RQMC and RCS hiding?
If I were Supervisor, I would make any resolution as proposed by Agenda Item-4m contingent on such an audit.
Meanwhile, homeless people -- people incapacitated or disabled by serious mental illness and/or alcohol and drug addictions -- die in our streets.
RCS does very few LPS Conservatorships. And no Laura's Law interventions.
LPS Conservatorships are established to arrange mental health treatment and placement for people who are gravely disabled and unable to provide for their food, clothing, shelter and treatment needs as a result of a mental disorder. LPS comes from the names of the California legislators who wrote the LPS Act in 1969: Lanterman, Petris, and Short.
Laura's Law is a California state law that allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment.
In his wisdom, former Supervisor Dan Hamburg was Laura's Law main local advocate following the terrible -- and avoidable -- murders committed by Aaron Bassler in 2011, following the failure of our county's mental health system.
People are asking me about a new initiative, the "California Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative (2020)".
I had a constituent who opposed the initiative ask me: "Isn't the initiative the same as rolling back Prop 13?"
And, "Why doesn't the wording of the initiative have the word 'taxes' in it?"
Another constituent asked, "Doesn't California already have the worst climate for business and job creation in the country?"
Another constituent asked me: "Won't a split-roll property tax will just increase pressure on many businesses that are already finding it hard to make ends meet?"
That said, I strongly believe closing the commercial property tax loophole is important to the state of California and to our Bay Area region. It's our opportunity to effect positive change by restoring more than $11 billion a year to our schools and vital community services without raising taxes on homeowners, renters and small businesses.
It's also a way to fund state pensions, where there's a huge unfunded pension liability at CalPERS and CalSTRS.
This initiative is simply asking for companies, like Google, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Intel, that make huge amounts of money, to pay property taxes based on fair market value—the same thing that we homeowners have to do.
Isn't that fair?
My brothers and sisters at the ACLU, Mi Familia Vota, the League of Women Voters, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Teachers Association, the Parent Teachers Association of California, SEIU, AFSCME, and many other organizations are all in favor of this initiative.
And so is the California Democratic Party.
And Former Vice President Joe Biden (D), 2020 presidential candidate; U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), 2020 presidential candidate; U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), 2020 presidential candidate; Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-Indiana), 2020 presidential candidate; U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), 2020 presidential candidate; Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro (D-Texas), candidate for president; and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California).
And so am I ! ! !
Homeless people are dying in the streets of the few cities of Mendocino County and along the linear garbage dumps that have becomes our creek beds and rivers.
Shame on us.
What's the answer?
Mendocino County should take some of its Measure B money -- $13 million and counting -- and immediately buy or rent a few double wide mobile homes, and convert them into secure psychiatric units and/or crisis stabilization units.
It's a temporary solution, I know, but it will "house" the most seriously mentally ill and dually diagnosed who are homeless this winter.
The county should also petition the courts for more Public Guardian- Conservatorships, also known as Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Public Guardian-Conservatorships, for those homeless people who, by the serious nature of their illness, cannot make responsible decisions about their own safety and well being, and, are thus, a threat to themselves.
BUSTING POT FARMS FROM SPACE
Satellite surveillance on cannabis farmers came before the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors (BOS) as an agenda item last month. A decision on the item was tabled and set for a future agenda.
But make no mistake about it: The Mendocino County BOS will approve satellite surveillance. Why? Because law enforcement and code enforcement wants it...and they get what they want.
And because it plays right into the business plan of cannabis corporate bully, Flow Kana.
Flow Kana business plan is simple: Supply the supply chain.
However, choke off Flow Kana's supply, and there is no Flow Kana.
Humboldt County already has satellite surveillance on cannabis farmers. They hired Planets Labs.
Don't believe me?
Here's their contract: https://lostcoastoutpost.com/…/Approve%2Ba%2Bsupplemental%2…
Humboldt County has raked in several millions of dollars in fines as a result of satellite surveillance.
Make no mistake: Here in Mendocino County, satellite surveillance is all about the money, too.
It's scaring the 95 per cent of cannabis farmers who are not permitted into compliance.
It's about scaring the black market into the white market.
But satellite surveillance is an insult to the U.S. Constitution. It's government spying on its own citizens. It's a constitutional rights violation. Satellite surveillance by the government on its own citizens constitutes a "warrantless" search. It is also an "unreasonable" search.
The Fourth Amendment provides for the following: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The Supreme Court has not addressed whether satellite imagery constitutes a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. However, the Court has applied the expectation of privacy test to aerial surveillance by low-flying airplanes, helicopters, or drones to conclude that no illegal search is conducted by low-flying, low-tech aerial surveillance.
However, the secrecy shrouding satellite surveillance capabilities amplifies the difference between the average individual’s subjective expectation of privacy and the real extent of their risk of observation (and incrimination) by the government by high-flying, hi-tech satellites using advanced sensor technology, and AI and analytics.
There's another issue.
If a particular type of satellite surveillance is deemed to be a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, it is permissible only if its conduct is "reasonable".
The “reasonableness” of a search is generally determined through a balancing test that weighs the degree to which the search intrudes upon an individual’s legitimate expectation of privacy and the degree to which it is necessary for the promotion of legitimate governmental interests.
Oftentimes, the reasonableness factor may be determined by the adequacy of the applicable warrant and whether the officer conducting the search complied with its terms; however, warrants are not required in each instance. In particular, warrantless searches may be reasonable if “exigent circumstances” would prevent the timely application for a warrant".
And so I ask: Does unpermitted cannabis cultivation truly meet the test of exigent circumstances?
The answer, of course, is no.
Reconnaissance satellites or intelligence satellites (commonly, although unofficially, referred to as a spy satellites) are deployed throughout the world by the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, and are used to direct military operations in the name of national security.
Examples of reconnaissance satellite missions:
High resolution photography (IMINT)
Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT)
Communications eavesdropping (SIGINT)
And so, are we soon to expect that we'll have similar satellites over our heads here in Mendocino County to direct the so-called "war on drugs" that the government is waging against its own citizens?
The answer is yes. And the reason is money...fines, permit fees, and taxes, taxes, and more taxes.
The government wants to scare black market farmers into the white market so it can tax them.
This is outrageous. And it may be criminal.
I'm trying to get the national media to report on this story.
For more about satellite surveillance by the government on its own citizens, please read this article in the Ohio Law Review:
Last month, the Board of Supervisors gave county staff direction to explore the possible creation of an Amnesty Transition Pathway that would include the following four primary components:
1. Direct the executive office to convene a regional and county forum to identify and address state barriers to successful permitting and explore economic development through regional cooperative models.
2. Direct the cannabis cultivation ad-hoc to work with staff and stakeholders and report to the BOS within 60 days with recommendations for streamlining the cultivation ordinance.
3. Direct staff to develop an equity program application that prioritizes capital assistance to legacy farmers to address environmental and building compliance issues.
4. Direct staff, the cultivation ad-hoc committee and stakeholders to develop criteria and timing for reopening permitting processing for legacy farmers.
In addition to four specific recommendations from the Board of Supervisors listed above, I support the following additional components of an Amnesty Transition Pathway.
1. Establish an on-going application submission procedure that allows legacy farmers the right to apply for a cultivation permit at any time.
2. The elimination of opt-out and sunset zones.
3. Streamline permit process so that only a ministerial permit is required.
4. Remove county regulations that are redundant with state agencies.
5. Provide an exception to the county’s tree removal prohibition to allow for compliance with the sanitary, environmental, fire, life and safety requirements mandated by state and local agencies.
The purpose of Amnesty Transition Program should be to bolster the local cannabis industry, and to keep future cannabis excise tax revenues in the local economy by providing the following:
1. services to populations and communities in Mendocino County who were adversely affected by the criminalization of cannabis
2. a framework for supportive programs designed to sustain and grow Mendocino County’s cannabis industry, including cannabis tourism, and
3. assist cannabis businesses as they work to overcome the financial and logistical challenges of coming into compliance with Prop 64 and other state law.
CANNABIS PROGRAMS I SUPPORT
Using Humboldt County as a model, I would enthusiastically support the following programs:
1. Micro-Grant Program
Aimed at providing capital assistance and business resources to Humboldt County cannabis businesses. An advisory committee will be establish to recommend projects to be funded through this program.
2. Marketing and Promotion
This initiative is designed to promote Mendocino-grown cannabis as a national and industry brand. A Request for Proposals should be issued for these services.
3. Local Equity Program
To serve those communities and individuals impacted by the war on drugs, and the implementation of which also serves as part of the qualifying criteria to receive Senate Bill 1294 funding.
A FARMER-OWNED SUPPLY CHAIN COMPANY
Besides navigating a difficult, expensive, and complex permit process, the other chief problem that cannabis farmers face is how to sell direct to the consumer.
This is also a problem for the county, because corporate supply chain companies, like Flow Kana, "export" their revenues back to Wall Street and other investors who are located outside Mendocino County.
But to support county services and pay for new labor contracts, Mendocino County must capture every penny of cannabis tax revenues.
What's the solution?
A farmer-owned supply chain company.
Once elected as Mendocino County District 1 Supervisor, I would further support our farmers with an economic development initiative to "kickstart" a supply chain company that would be collectively owned and operated by a local, non-profit, farmers co-op.
Kickstarter funds could be raised by a $10 million Industrial Development Bond (IDB) issued by the California Infrastructure Economic Development Bank (IBank) on behalf of the farmer-owned supply chain company.
IDBs provide tax-exempt financing up to $10 million for qualified manufacturing and processing companies for the construction or acquisition of facilities and equipment. IDBs allow private companies to borrow at low interest rates normally reserved for state and local governmental entities.
Other types of IBank Bond Financing include:
1. 501(c)(3) Bonds
Tax-exempt financing to eligible nonprofit public benefit corporations for the acquisition and/or improvement of facilities and capital assets. Typical borrowers include cultural, educational, charitable and recreational organizations, research institutes and other types of organizations that provide public benefits.
2. Exempt Facility Bonds
Tax-exempt financing for projects that are government-owned or consist of private improvements within publicly-owned facilities, such as private airline improvements at publicly-owned airports.
3 Public Agency Revenue Bonds (PARBs)
Bond financings for various State entities and programs.
WHY A BOND FINANCING?
WHAT A SUPPLY CHAIN COMPANY WOULD LOOK LIKE
In addition to physical facilities for warehousing, grading, processing, packaging, and distribution, a farmer-owned supply chain company would have technology for an e-trading platform supported by systems for e-payments and e-tracking.
I envision a fully electronic, compliant, transparent exchange, as well as technology for buying, selling and tracking wholesale cannabis and hemp transactions. The core function of this marketplace will be to ensure fair and orderly transactions, as well as efficient dissemination of price information, for products bought and sold on the exchange.
Digital security solutions, including camera systems, live video monitoring by trained surveillance professionals, and cloud based VMS with video analytics and storage that complies with state regulatory requirements, will be built into the system.
Finally, an analytics platform could be built into the system. It could provide powerful data insights tools to help the farmer-owned supply chain company make intelligent business decisions. With a mix of data analysis and machine learning algorithms, a platform could be developed will allow farmers not only judge their overall performance, but provide the business intelligence necessary to allow the supply chain company to grow.
Currently, there is no shortage of software providers in the legal cannabis industry that can provide seed-to-sale supply chain management and compliance tools, as well as tracking solutions for state and local governments.
Local supply chain companies are springing up all over.
See the following article in the Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/cannabis-supply-chains-coming-out-of-the-shadows-1535016610
WE CAN DO THIS
Keep in mind that, here in Mendocino County, we have a building and planning director with a long resume in Redevelopment Authority (RDA) work in the City of Anaheim. He would be an invaluable resource in building out a farmer-owned supply chain company.
When you think about it, a farmer-owned supply chain company. is very much like an RDA project.
Why do I say that? Because RDA projects were "revitalization projects" and "public improvements projects" in "redevelopment areas" that involved both public and private investments.
Sounds a lot like a farmer-owned supply chain company in economically depressed Mendocino County.
Together, we can do this!
It looks like all the layoff’s are going to be in Redwood Valley IN RESPONSE TO MARKET PRESSURES, FLOW KANA CUTS WORKFORCE BUT KEEPS ALL WHITETHORN AND LAYTONVILLE EMPLOYEES
“Today, Michael Steinmetz, CEO of Flow Kana, announced the distribution business which has formed partnerships with many Emerald Triangle farmers specializing in sun grown cannabis, would be cutting up to 20% of its workforce.
However, when reached for comment this afternoon, he assured us that no workers employed at either the Whitethorn or Laytonville facilities would be laid off.
“Sourcing and packaging and selling product hasn’t been affected at all,” he told us. But, he said, “All of the growth initiatives related to expansion in 2020 have been put on pause until the market catches up.”
John Sakowicz, Candidate 1st District Supervisor
DOES FLOW KANA SECRETLY LOBBY FOR SATELLITE SURVEILLANCE BY THE D.E.A. AND THE COUNTY ?
Recently, I've heard friends wonder about this very question as Flow Kana cuts its workforce by 20 per cent.
Here are some theories floating around.
Because Flow Kana has failed to sign up enough white market farmers for its supply chain.
Because Flow Kana wants to help law enforcement bust black market cannabis farmers.
Because Flow Kana wants to use law enforcement to frighten black market farmers and drive them into Flow Kana's greedy embrace.
"Mendocino County is now among a number of California counties that are using satellite technology to enforce cannabis code compliance including El Dorado County, which recently issued an RFP for the services. Humboldt County was the first to use satellite imagery as a means of identifying the estimated 15,000 illegal grow sites that existed in the county at the time of legalization."
"Humboldt currently uses the technology to monitor the county’s 4,000 square miles of rugged terrain for environmental issues and un-permitted cannabis cultivation. During the pilot year, county staff identified 600 illegal cultivation sites remotely and issued violation notices. Since then, the county has brought in millions of dollars in fines."
Satellite maps are not survey products, and are not officially adopted by either the Board of Supervisors or the Building and Planning Department. Likewise, satellite maps are not evidence; they only help direct operations by the Sheriff's Office and DEA.
The Emerald Counties using satellite technology say they make "a reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy of the maps and data provided, however errors and omissions may still exist."
THE LEGALITY OF SATELLITE SURVEILLANCE
FOR MORE ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
PLANET LABS AND HUMBOLDT COUNTY
DEFEATING SATELLITE SURVELLANCE
Using micro-satellite data – which goes down to a less-than five-meter ground resolution -- cops can cheaply gather visual data over huge stretches of land.
That's old news.
Here's the bad news.
Satellites are not just about visual data.
Satellites do a lot more than photograph topography, site conditions, and buildings and other structures.
Satellites are approaching real-time. With new, regularly updated images, cops can track the changing state of the land -- both permitted and un-permitted activity -- every day throughout the year.
But it’s not just photographs that these satellites can capture.
Images captured in spectral bands invisible to the human eye can reveal extra details about vegetation types and other surface characteristics.
Infrared technology captures heat signatures. Infrared can easily detect cannabis by measuring the heat and reflective indications of the vegetation mixed in with cannabis. Compared with other plants, cannabis has higher reflectivity at certain wavelengths.
Cannabis’s reflective signature can be defeated -- up to a point, but only up to a point -- by planting cannabis next to cedar or pine trees. The heat from the trees overlaps the heat from the cannabis making it harder to be detected, but with AI (artificial intelligence) and analytics, coupled with satellite data, the cops are ahead of us.
Likewise with placing pots in the ground or growing cannabis up a trellis. It's a new era with AI and analytics.
AI and analytics can even detect overall yield changes by calculating how much green plant chlorophyll was present in each of the images the satellites snapped over time.
WHAT'S THE ANSWER?
1. Simplify and streamline the permit process.
2. Zone cannabis as ag, not as commercial.
3. Create a path to amnesty for legacy growers.
4. Create a non-profit, farmer co-op that collectively owns and operates a supply chain, including physical facilities for grading, processing and packaging which are supported by an e-trading platform, and systems for e-payments and e-tracking.
5. Create "direct to consumer" marketing programs for the cannabis farmer-owned supply chain, much like farm-to-table restaurant campaigns.
6. Create equity and reparations programs for legacy farmers hurt by our nation's insane, so-called "war on drugs".
7. Give every worker in the cannabis industry the right to unionize, including government workers.
8. Bring the fatally flawed Prop 64 back to California's voters; we need a new law that's fair to small, independent farmers.
At the recent Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meeting, John spoke to the board about supporting the current strategy for cannabis including amnesty and his idea to create a farmers' co-op.
STOP THE MADNESS !!!
I was appointed to the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District (UVSD) Board of Directors in 2017 to serve out the term of a director who had resigned. It was only for less than a year.
I think I was probably appointed because it was widely assumed I would be an "activist" as a director.
Why an activist?
Because years ago, I was a member of the grand jury that issued a report that was highly critical of the City's over-billing of the District.
The District board assumed correctly. I am an activist, and I was -- and continue to be -- outraged over the City's billing practices and other abuses.
The rest is history, as they say.
UVSD hired the law firm of Duncan James, sued Ukiah, won a mediated settlement, and signed a new operating agreement.
One would have thought that the situation was remedied.
So why is UVSD still paying the law firm of Duncan James at least $50,000 a month, fees that represent at least 60 percent of UVSD's monthly expenses?
Because implementation of the new operating agreement is apparently very difficult. Throughout the litigation, there were significant issues regarding the Equivalent Sewer Service Units (ESSUs). ESSUs were at the heart of the lawsuit. Now, both parties have to start at the beginning of their dysfunctional business relationship and recalculate everything.
Why have attorney Duncan James present for those recalculations?
Because City Attorney David Rapport is present. He is there at the table with a sharp pencil and a green visor representing the City. And he is doing what good attorneys do...he is aggressively representing his client.
Hence, the UVSD feels the need to also be represented by counsel.
UVSD board member Ernie Wipf, who took my place on the board, agrees.
“The basis of the lawsuit is the ESSUs, so I kind of feel like it is important to have (an attorney) involved until this is resolved,” Ernie said to Justine Frederiksen of the Ukiah Daily Journal in an article that ran on December 19, 2018.
UVSD Chairwoman Theresa McNerlin agreed.
“I need our attorney there (for the discussions) because the city’s attorney is trying to interpret the agreement a certain way, or wanting to inject something that’s not in the agreement, and it’s our attorney who needs to point out that that’s not in the agreement," said Ms. McNerlin.
Wipf concluded, “Unfortunately, those agreements aren’t falling into place easily. There’s different opinions.”
In its December meeting, the board voted 4-1 to have Wipf be UVSD Vice Chair...a good thing, a very good thing. Frankly, I don't know anyone more qualified than Mr. Wipf to be a watchdog over the city.
Keep in mind, a watchdog is needed.
For many years, the City exploited its relationship with the district for millions of dollars. In its lawsuit, the Sanitation District claimed the City had spent those millions to cover its annual structural deficit, or was hiding those million dollars of the district’s money in its “City Sewer Capital Fund” and other accounts.
The grand jury took a look.
It took a forensic accountant hired by Duncan James to finally unravel the mess.
In September, 2018, the settlement agreement approved by the Ukiah City Council Friday had the City of Ukiah paying the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District $7.5 million to dismiss the lawsuit.
The agreement also had the City transferring $2.5 million of proceeds from the 2006 sale of bonds to upgrade the Ukiah Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant to the sanitation district.
But here's the rub.
The new operating agreement called for a considerable level of cooperation from the District and City, which is absolutely necessary to effectively run the wastewater program for our community.
And that, my friends, just isn't happening easily.
Don't believe me?
Ask former UVSD Chairman Jim Ronco.
I ran into Mr. Ronco at the County Clerk's office on Wednesday when I was filling my candidate papers for 1st District Supervisor. He told me about very recent examples of the City's dysfunctional relationship with the District...which is very unfortunate.
Quoting last year's grand jury report:
" Over $16 million has allegedly changed hands with neither side admitting any wrongdoing. The lawsuit legal and administrative bills have approached $9 million and continue to escalate. An estimated $14 million could have been saved by the ratepayers if the existing bond had been refinanced at a lower rate of interest. The refinance could not occur because the District failed to produce State required audited financial statements for 2014-2018."
"Ultimately, the $23 million (combined legal costs and interest savings) must be paid by the citizens of the City and the District via their monthly sewer bills. The City and District are already engaged in arbitration which involves the additional expense of attorneys for both sides."
Which is probably why my Sewer Basic Charge and UVSD Residential Usage jumped 50 per cent this year.
I'm left wondering: Is arbitration between the City and the District needed to stop this madness?
If elected Supervisor, I will advocate that new rates must account for the costs of the combined legal and administrative fees.
4 PM, NOVEMBER 3
Back home. I just finished campaigning on this beautiful autumn afternoon. From constituents, I received feedback on the following three important issues.
First, at the top of my list as 1st District Supervisor will be to work with my colleagues on the Board to replace County CEO Carmel Angelo.
People with whom I spoke today, especially county workers, seem to be in agreement: Ten years of Angelo's bullying is enough. Ten years of lavish compensation is enough. Her current $350,000 a year compensation package is outrageous vis-à-vis what county rank-and-file get paid. For example, IHSS providers (home health aides) get minimum wage and no benefits.
Personally, I'd very much like to see former Mendocino County Chief Deputy CEO Alan Flora return to Mendocino County as our CEO. Mr. Flora is currently the city manager over at Clearlake in Lake County. He was very competent, very accessible.
But Mr. Flora was summarily "disappeared" by Angelo for reasons unknown. Like so much in Angelo's tenure, nothing was disclosed.
The second thing I heard was our cannabis permitting program needs to be completely overhauled. Hence, I am interested in what the AVA had to report in "Mendocino County Today" (November 3) about Supervisors Gjerde and Williams proposing a "cannabis economic development program".
Towards that end, the county needs to fight the Flow Kana monopoly by kickstarting a farmers co-op that will collectively own and operate a supply-chain business that sells direct to the consumer.
I like to call that idea, "The Mendocino Mondragon Corporation"...after the highly successful federation of worker cooperatives based in the Basque region of Spain.
Also, I wish Mendocino County had something like Humboldt County's Project Trellis.
The purpose of Project Trellis is, in part, to "bolster the cannabis industry, and protect future cannabis excise tax revenues by providing services to populations and communities in Humboldt who were adversely affected by the criminalization of cannabis, to develop a framework for supportive programs designed to sustain and grow Humboldt’s cannabis industry, and to assist cannabis businesses as they work to overcome the financial and logistical challenges of coming into compliance."
Funding for Project Trellis comes from local cannabis excise tax revenues, cannabis fines and fees, and state funding via SB 1294.
The third thing I heard today from voters was that there's probably no way to reverse the $600,000-$700,000 monthly negative cash flow and the growing $210 million unfunded pension liability.
Because with 1,400 county retirees and only 1,100 county workers, MCERA is "upside down". We have what accountants and auditors euphemistically call, a "structural deficit"...meaning, it's broken and can't be fixed.
Hence, the county would do well to hire out-of-house, objective, impartial advisers to look at the advisability and feasibility of issuing pension obligation bonds.
The feasibility study should outline and analyze several alternatives or methods of achieving solvency of our county's pension system and business success. It should identify the best funding scenario(s).
I'm not one for borrowing money, but I'm left with the question: How do we keep our promises to county workers?
November 1, 2019
PG&E'S PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM: SLOANE & COMPANY
A person is defined by their enemies as much as by their friends. I’m okay with that. More than okay. And the reason is because I refuse to lie down for bullies.
I hate bullies.
Bullies like Mendocino County CEO Carmel Angelo, who makes a total compensation package of over $350,000 a year with generous benefits, while our home health workers make minimum wage with no benefits.
Bullies like Flow Kana vulture capitalist Jason Adler, whose plan for monopolizing the cannabis supply chain is reminiscent of sharecropping cotton or tobacco production in the post- Civil War South…it was the most impoverished level of the tenant farming.
And bullies like PG&E.
I refuse to lie down for PG&E. I refuse to take their wildfires and power outages without fighting back.
So I’m buying a block of PG&E stock. Why? So I can attend and be heard at PG&E’s 2020 Annual Shareholders Meeting. I will also join other shareholder activists in a protest demonstration.
Until that time, however, I’ve tried having my voice be heard in the usual manner of calling PG&E’s corporate headquarters and organizing a letter writing campaign.
This is what I’ve learned.
PG&E has a huge public relations apparatus. No surprise there. But as big and lavish as its in-house public relations department is, the serious money is spent on the professional liars and spinmeisters at Sloane & Company.
Here’s what Sloane says about themselves.
“Sloane & Company: Strategic Communications at the Intersection of Valuation and Reputation.”
Sloane puts a big emphasis on stock valuations. A big emphasis on corporate reputation and the reputations of C-level executives. But not a word about corporate customers. Their safety and well being. Their customer satisfaction.
Not a single word.
“Sloane & Company is an industry-leading strategic communications firm. We are known for our intelligence, intensity, creativity and focus on getting results. Whether the situation calls for developing and delivering the right messages to the audiences that matter or advising on high-stakes deals or crises, our goal is the same — to drive winning outcomes for our clients.”
Equally curious. Not a word about the things that really matter. Honesty. Truthfulness. Integrity. Not a single word.
I’ve also learned the contact information for the people at Sloane handling the PG&E account.
I did a little digging.
Dan Zacchei is a managing director at Sloane.
He represented Franklin Templeton, Oppenheimer Funds and other major creditors, including the PREPA Bondholder Group, in ripping off the people of Puerto Rico in Puerto Rico’s $72 billion restructuring.
Mr. Zacchei also represented the drug wholesale company, AmerisourceBergen, around opioid-related issues and litigation.
He also busted balls in Detroit representing Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, Detroit’s largest single creditor, during Detroit’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy. This included an attack on the city’s public pension system.
Meanwhile, Sarah Braunstein is a senior associate at Sloane.
She worked with the bad guys in the mortgage servicing industry who brought you the global financial crisis by helping them lowball their CFPB settlement. Ms. Braunstein also worked with the bad guys at major bank on a SEC settlement.
God help us!
Dan Zacchei and Sarah Braunstein…as Primetime Emmy Award-winner John Oliver likes to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, I present this week’s Worst People in the World.”
Let’em know how you really feel!
I know I will.
John addresses the Mendocino County BOS, October 22, 2019 about helping cannabis farmers.
MENDOCINO CANNABIS ALLIANCE TOWN HALL
RECORDED BY MCTV, OCTOBER 5, 2019