The PD Mess

It’s always distressing when the County administrators can’t accomplish a simple function. Like hiring staff.  Every time they blow it, they cost you and me money since someone always sues.

I am not familiar with the Public Defender’s office in this County but I worked for years in HR and labor relations for the State and Federal governments. The current controversy re: the newly hired PD is a question:  does he actually qualify for the position?  From what I understand, he has multiple years of qualifying  experience  in other counties but has been out of the field  for the past couple of years. Does the law actually require him to have the qualifying experience immediately before his hire? If so, he would be knocked out of contention because of his recent past working in Florida.  Nine of his subordinates have complained to the BOS and one attorney has filed a suit alleging he does not qualify.  The Times-Standard carried a good summary by Manny Araujo on March 29.

I don’t know if there is case law on this point but in the Federal arena, specs like that are carefully defined. Generally, if you have qualified for a position, that’s it. You don’t have to go back and prove yourself again.  If it were otherwise, employees would be reluctant to change jobs, which is unhealthy in any organization.

However, “in all the circumstances”  including the fact that none of us know what the politics were behind this hire,  and that nine of the deputies have basically cast a “no confidence” vote re: the Supervisors’  selection.  I’m inclined  to think the whole process should be done over.  

What a mess.


The RCEA is Going to Save Us MONEY

According to the letter I got from PG&E, the new community aggregation scheme will knock 2.7% from my bill. I’ll take it.

They send me notices each month that we use more electricity than our neighbors. For a typical 3/2 in Cutten my bill (on balanced payment) is  $157 so I’ll be saving $4 a month. I’ll take it, I’ll take it.  

How rare is it for a government entity to SAVE you money!   Congratulations and thanks to the community reps who have worked so hard on this.  


REVISITED: The Trouble With Belgium

(This was published in November 2015. I thought it was worth revisiting in view of the  last  few day’s events. I love Belgium and wish I were there right now. So sad.)

As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, and we snuggle beside our cozy home fires behind the Redwood Curtain, it’s apparent that the world is at war again, maybe for the rest of my lifetime.  Everyone is mourning what has happened in Paris.   I’ve been there,  too, but my connection is to Belgium and I hate watching the news these days.

In 1994 I spent a couple of weeks in Belgium, a country which a lot of Americans miss when they visit Europe.  Their loss. You cannot find a greater concentration of history, culture, museums, art, belfries, windmills, canals and just overall loveliness,  keeping in mind that it’s a small country and Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp and Bruges are separated by only a short train ride. And the food! All this in a country where practically everyone speaks English.

It’s puzzling to me that more Americans haven’t visited Belgium.  Brussels is the capital of Europe, of NATO of course, and the European Community or Union or whatever they’re calling it these days.  The hotels are full of diplomats who make charming breakfast companions even if they can’t resist making a point or two about the textile tariffs they were sent there to discuss.  But Belgium is also a tortured country,  cobbled together in the post-Napoleonic era with an existential split between the  French-speaking  Walloons in the south and the Flemish population in the North. Brussels is the capital of everything bad in Europe –  arms dealing, drugs, pornography.  It’s all there.

Even in 1994 there were millions of Muslims in Belgium.  I stopped in at a little cafeteria in Antwerp and when the proprietors learned I was American, they practically jumped over the counter.   “WE are Kurds! We LOFF America!  We LOFF George BOOSH!” they told me over and over, referring to the complexities of the Kurdish situation as summarized HERE.  I stayed a couple of hours while they had me try everything on their menu. I made a halfhearted attempt to tell them that not everyone in America loved George Bush but I didn’t make much headway.  They wanted me to go home with them to drink coffee.  I’m sorry I didn’t go.  It would be great to have their perspective on what’s happening now.

I saw a lot of Muslims on that trip.  The neighborhood in Oslo where the Munch “Scream” was stolen from its museum- once, or was it twice?- is a Muslim enclave, large and dreary and gray. My companions on the train to Stockholm were Iranians, and great company.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to Belgium but I’m missing it terribly as I write this. And I never even got to Waterloo!  May the New Year bring us sufficient peace on earth to allow us to travel safely again. 


How Low Can the GOP Go?

If you live long enough, and have a big family, eventually you’re connected to someone famous, however distantly. My cousin, the law professor, spent three days at a seminar in Rome with Antonin Scalia and is wistful about his recent passing.  Personally, I had no use for the man but obviously his influence was huge and his passing momentous. 

Now it appears that the execrable Mitch McConnell and the band of cretins who are currently running the Republican Party are perfectly willing to bring the government grinding to a halt rather than allow our President to fill a vacancy as prescribed in the Constitution.  The collapse of the Republican Party, decimated by Tea Party defections and drifting without any purpose except obstruction, is NOT good news for Democrats. An intelligent and conscientious opposition is crucial to any party. 

Remember not too long ago when Republicans and Democrats actually GOVERNED together?  The GOP/Tea Party has never accepted the legitimacy of this President because he is Black, and I have heard some of you express this. You know who you are. Will the GOP continue down the path of darkness and Know-Nothingism aka Trumpism?? Say tuned.


The Cost Of Living IS Too Damn High

You’ve certainly heard by now that Social Security recipients, including SSI recipients, aren’t getting a cost-of-living increase this year, a fairly rare occurrence.  Apparently the way they calculate the cost of living gives great weight to the cost of gasoline,  which hasn’t risen much in the last couple of years while everything else has skyrocketed.

All I know is that at Winco, a lot of the stuff I buy has increased by at least 50% from a couple of years ago.  Broccoli used to be $.99 a pound, now it’s often $1.99. Tuna used to be $.59, now it’s $.89. It all adds up.

My cousin,  also a retiree, shared with me the following statistics from EPI. Bloomberg and the USDL.:

Since 1978, the cost of college tuition has increased by 1,120%.

Medical care has increased by 601%

Food has increased by 244%

Shelter has gone up by 380%.

MEANWHILE the pay of typical workers rose by just 10%

The pay of minimum wage workers fell by 5.5%

And the pay of average CEO’s increased by 937%.

No wonder everyone’s feeling squeezed, whether on a “fixed income”  or not. I really feel for the many folks who have no other income and hope that Sen Elizabeth Warren’s bill or some other fix will be appllied, and soon.  For those who, like me, have other sources of income, it’s just an annoyance  but it cannot be denied that increased discrepancies between income and expenses force more people into homelessness. The rent IS too damn high.


Hazards of Landlording-here’s one you never thought of

We’ve been offline for a couple of weeks, during which we experienced a lot of what all of you have- the cellphone outage. out-of-town visitors, more visitors, family reunions, and gaining five pounds from all the eating out. We’ll catch up little by little but I wanted to tell you first about a lesson learned re: the US Postal Service.  This lesson may save you some grief.

I have a 3 BR/2 BA house and for several years I have rented out the extra bedroom and bath.  On the same day that we had visitors from New Jersey,  one tenant moved out and another moved in.  Meanwhile my friend from LA , with whom I was planning a road trip to British Columbia, also showed up and realized he’d left his passport in LA. He got a friend to fetch his passport and mail it to my place using certified mail.  I use a PO box for 90% of my mail so I didn’t notice we weren’t getting any mail in the mailbox.

After a few days his passport hadn’t shown up so he accosted the mail carrier, who told him that he hadn’t delivered any mail to us for a few days because the house was vacant. Vacant!  Never mind the cars in the driveway and parked in front! Never mind the well-tended and watered planter box next to the mail box! Never mind that there were three adults and a dog living here the week this happened! Never mind that the house has not been vacant for even a day since I bought it in 1993! He thought the house was vacant.

Why?  Because he saw the forwarding order from the tenant who moved out and concluded that the house was empty. He apologized profusely for his error but by that time the passport had been sent to some kind of postal clearing house in Sacramento. We called the post office on Clark and they advised us to wait a few days. We did and nothing happened. To make a long story short, we went down there twice and enlisted the help of a supervisor named Eley,  The passport finally showed up this past Saturday, after being lost in the bowels of the USPS for almost three weeks. The stress on both of us was extreme.

The USPS is like any other organization- only as strong as its weakest link. Every supervisor we talked to at the USPS said the carrier “needed to be talked to”. How ’bout he should be retrained??  The lesson learned is that certified mail, which costs $3 and change, is useless.  If you have something valuable to send, send it REGISTERED which costs $12 but at least they can locate it. Registered mail is signed for at each stage of its journey, much tighter tracking.  I notice that Fed Ex has a small package option for $8.  I suspect that when Fed Ex loses something, they find it pretty quickly. Again, they have a signature for each transfer.

Next time, Fed Ex for sure. And folks, don’t bother with certified.  It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.  If you have any stories about lost mail and the USPS we’d love to hear them.



It didn’t make any of the local papers but Eureka businessman Don Davenport stood up at the July 21 meeting of the Eureka City Council and made an impassioned plea for more parking in Henderson Center.  Mr Davenport and I have had our differences in the past, but on this subject he’s absolutely right.  Last Monday I tried to meet a  friend who volunteers at the Cancer Society and drove around for fifteen minutes trying to find parking.  I finally resorted to the Rite-Aid lot, where I squeezed into a space that was already occupied by a scooter. Pathetic!

I asked everyone I could buttonhole what the problem was and no one knew. Here’s a wild guess: there’s not enough parking in Henderson Center!!  And with two new restaurants (Zöe and Diver Bar& Grill)  slated to open in the next few weeks, the situation in Henderson Center is only going to get worse.

It’s no better downtown. I routinely drive around Old Town looking for parking and go elsewhere when I can’t find it.  And I have a disabled placard! That means I’m not just looking for marked disabled parking, but ANY parking because I can use the placard in any marked space. I still end up driving elsewhere because there’s not enough parking.

What are our city officials doing about this problem? Making it worse!  Mr. Rob Holmlund, the city’s Community Development Director, has drawn a bead on the few available spaces and would like to see some of them set aside for “parklets”. Thank God the current proposal is only for four such spaces and we’ll all be curious to see if the property owners and merchants in Old Town really benefit from clearing space in front of their businesses. Considering the large population of homeless and poorly-housed folks within a block or two of the proposed “parklets”,  will it really be shoppers who fill the spaces?  We’ll see.

I believe Mr Holmlund’s well-intentioned proposal would be more suitable for Los Altos than for Eureka. 

Ditto for his similarly well-intentioned desire to preserve the neighborhood markets of yesteryear. Yes, neighborhood markets are a great convenience but most of them are just getting by. I miss Songer’s and Cannam’s too but nostalgia won’t pay the bills.  I wish Handee Market and the others all the best,  and hope they survive but if they survive it won’t be because of city planning.  It will be because they’re filling a need. And they have nearby parking.




Aldaron Laird at the Harbor Working Group

Environmental Planner Aldaron Laird presented the Harbor Commission’s study on sea  level rise and climate change at their lunch today.  For those of you who enjoy getting bad news, it was a delightful occasion.

Mr Laird’s presentation was gripping, if you care about the Bay. We are looking at a 3-foot sea level rise by 2070 and if I were you I wouldn’t be buying any property in King Salmon. (Someone better tell the HGTV folks who were pimping King Salmon as a place for a Beachfront Bargain Hunt.)  King Salmon and Jacobs Avenue are the areas most at risk for inundation;  Fields Landing is somewhat more protected. Take a look at the maps in the study that show the inundation zones.  Hwy 101 will be covered by water and the Bay will eventually merge with the Mad River. 

Global warming isn’t the problem here.  We would experience at least a foot sea level rise from ground-levels sinking, a natural phenomenon.

It’s not just the inundated buildings that will be a problem; all our local utilities are underground and our wastewater treatment facilities are at sea level. Fixing all this will be enormously expensive and competition for funds will be intense.

BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS!  Thanks to Mr Laird , our local Adaptation activists and the many agencies who collaborated on the study, we are ‘way ahead of the rest of the State in our planning and are serving as a resource for others as they catch up. 

We do, indeed, live in interesting times.


October Economic Index Is In

This month’s Index reflects an economy in the doldrums.  Although the Composite Index increased 1.2 points this month, it is down 2.2 points from this time last year. Retail and Employment are up, Home Sales, Hospitality  and Lumber showed declines. Again our thanks to Dr. Eschker and his hardworking team.