Clearlake’s Zombie Candidates

I was planning to do a story where I picked out the City Council candidates who had something to say or had some experience standing up to the local goobertocracy. It didn’t work out that way. When the candidate list was final and the statements were filed what we got were the less-than-magnificent seven. There is no one worthy for the job. Certainly no one who deserves the City Council medical benefits that are more lavish than the much criticized Congressional perks.

Of course I have minimum requirements that exceed the legal micro standards posted for the two seats. I believe a contender should be well informed on the issues and have put in the time to be a tireless advocate for at least a couple – preferably on the right side. They should offer clearly researched alternatives and have promoted these alternatives in articles, speeches, and a well linked web site. A serious leader needs to read, write, and show up – everywhere, over and over….and on the internet. Sorry, but it is the 21st Century.

Battles have been fought here, mostly out of the gaze of our small town media. They are still being fought and will likely get nastier in the near future. Those worthy of a vote need to be prepared. When our civil liberties are under attack by a city that abuses its authority for political purposes a true leader will raise their voice. The lesser seven have been mostly silent.

We should have no patience for dilettantes who want to play at pretending to be City Councilpeople. These people would only be in the way and just delay moving Clearlake into a much postponed future. Who are these people?

Two of the candidates didn’t even submit a candidate’s statement. A third, Bruno Sabatier, has a statement but no e-mail contact. He’s the one with the oily patter who never sees any evil.

The incumbent, Joey Luiz, originally wanted to be liked by everyone until he found out that annoyed the people that counted. Now he just schmoozes up the good old boys.

Quincy Jackson appears to be running for the political equivalent of Miss America, espousing lofty sentiments while forgetting to include any boring details.

Our former second in command at the Sheriff Department, Russ Perdock, has made no effort to establish a different attitude about civil liberties from previous former officers running for Clearlake City Council. (see “Goober Rampage in Lake County”)

And finally, someone needs to explain to Michael Walton that the way pre California Map Act residential roads get paved is for residents in a neighborhood to form an assessment district for the purpose. Too bad that’s his only issue.

I guess I’ll have to provide the serious analysis of local issues all by myself. I’ll follow each issue blog with a video. If a candidate wants to make it a discussion they can contact me right after the blog. But I’m warning you, don’t show up unprepared. Its a discussion not an interview.

Goober Rampage in Lake County – 10 Years Later

Anniversaries are supposed to be festive affairs. But sometimes they are a dark reminder of a dark chapter of events. Obviously those responsible would prefer that everyone kept quiet until memories became hazy.

Lake County has 5 and 10 year local anniversaries coming up that I haven’t forgotten. They are ugly examples of what happens when a few ignorant, small minded ideologues filled with hate gain political power and use it as a club against our basic civil rights.

The dates are September 24th, 2004 and December 9th, 2009 if anyone wants to mark them on their calendar or don a black robe and carry a sign. Both these days of infamy deal with Lake County’s public access channel (TV8). I was the focus of the earlier date and fought in the second battle.

In 2003 Lake County’s public access channel limped onto the cable on the strength of a provision in the city of Clearlake’s franchise agreement. Its only funding was from a fee charged to Yuba College for their distance learning program.

There was never any intention of turning TV8 into a true PEG Channel. The only regular programming was the college classes, a community bulletin board, and the Board of Supervisors meetings. Control of Lake County’s TV8 resided in the “PEG Committee”, dominated by the city of Clearlake. The City Manager chaired the Committee which included a City Councilperson and a City employee. The public was supposedly represented on the Committee by the City Manager’s crony and a fundamentalist minister.

Only the City Manager and his crony regularly put their own programs on the access channel, using equipment squeezed out of the cable channel and editing time from the City employee. Anyone else who wanted to use the access channel had to go before this star chamber for a viewing where they would issue their verdict as to whether to air the submitted video or not. I was the first member of the public to push the matter.

I had this idea for a satirical melodrama based on a local political controversy. The City employee slipped me the cheap camera no one used and let me use the editing computer when no one was around. Still, word got out to the ruling junta about what I was doing.

At the September 24, 2004 PEG Committee meeting my video was scheduled to go on trial. Normally no one but me from the public shows up to these snoozers. But on this day the room was packed with the crony’s personal goon squad who paradoxically called themselves “Positive Image for Clearlake.” They showed up and took over the meeting, howling and hooting with the Manager smiling broadly as his crony egged them on. An insurance agent stood up and denounced me at length to thunderous applause before storming out the room, coat tails flapping.

The mob’s outbursts were punctuated by the crony repeating that he wanted to “punch me out.” The pitchfork and torch wielding geriatric goober squad included three candidates for Clearlake City Council that the crony thought appropriate to endorse in the middle of a PEG meeting.

Fortunately, Cynthia Parkhill, the local newspaper editor, came to my rescue. She had gotten wind that something weird was afoot and decided to show up. As my video, Broadsided At Basshole played, she took notes and smiled. This enraged the bible thumper on the Committee who began attacking her for being amused by my work of heresy.

The next time the crony said he wanted to punch me out I suggested a chess game instead. This only earned me a look of stark hatred from the Neanderthal.

Meanwhile, the City employee who had broadcast experience, answered questions about the arcane concept of free speech and getting sued. The codger strike force of businessmen, former policemen, and City founders began to lose steam. In the end it was just the City Manager, his crony, and the preacher who voted to ban “Broadsided At Basshole” from TV8.

Later, two of the principle goobers were over heard complaining, “And the worst part is he used OUR equipment.” Such is ruling class mentality. I kinda thought it was my equipment too.

Boogie On The Hill

By Dante DeAmicis

I got a free ticket. How could I pass it up. Hoberg’s coughed and sputtered into action after 40 years of down time with back to back concerts, nostalgically billed as “Woodstock” and “Summer of Love.” My pass was for the shorter “Summer”, trotting out “Its a Beautiful Day”, “Cold Blood”, and “Elvin Bishop.”

Sunday I had breakfast in Kelseyville and bicycled up to the show. Up and over Bottle Rock with time to have a hot chai in Cobb. Then it was up to Hoberg’s ridge top resort where I chained my bike to the parking lot guard.

Lydia Spence from Cold Blood and everyone in Bishops band belted out a show. They were worth every dollar I didn’t pay. “Day” struck me as stiff and grumpy but a “Father Time” looking guy assured me they were like that in the 60’s too.

But this isn’t a music review. Its a venue review. These are tough times and its a tough sell to get people out of their high-tech cocoons. If a venue is going to charge for music they cannot make mistakes. And Hobergs made mistakes.

The outdoor concert space was a shallow trough opening to a mulched field, hugging Highway 175 so close that auto noise was a problem for the North side of the space.

The main deal killer was the location of the stage. I could see only one reason for wedging all the action in an armpit of the Highway and the tip of the trough – sideways no less. They wanted to be able to pack the entire open area with ticket buyers even if it meant sacrificing acoustics and comfort.

It turned out there was no reason for this trade off. The thin crowd was distributed in several “camps” on the sides where the shade was. Most of the VIPers preferred to set up lawn chairs on the shady upland side of the stage rather than cook in the sun on hard benches in front of the bands. Two thirds of the cheap seaters were dug in under an oasis of seven trees at the end of the trough. Several small clusters were clinging to the shade from the highway trees, engine noise and exhaust fumes be damned.

Outdoor concerts are supposed to have a solid audience in the center of the venue. Video of the performers from a distance would show a hard core three rows of VIP fans on benches against the stage and two rows of sun resistant cheap seaters huddled behind crime scene tape. The orange shirted security patrolling the vast empty field looked like the loneliest people in the world.

Since there was plenty of extra space, management needs to relocate the stage, sacrificing some of the unused wasteland. When I told Father Time, a veteran of countless outdoor shows, that the stage was in the wrong place he already knew where it should go – backed up against the bamboo fencing on the side of the wasteland. This would turn the area between the current stage and the VIP upland into a natural amphitheater. The oasis and the highway shade strip would be retained. Lose the principal-office-bad-boy benches in front of the stage. This is dance area. Keep them on the sides if you must.

The other visual blight is the cheap orange stanchions and yellow tape separating the ticket classes. Sorry, the center of the audience should not look like a construction project or a crime scene. I recommend a line of low sawhorses that band and event posters can be slapped on. Then, before the end of the first band, have staff and security grab a sawhorse and move the class barriers forward into the unused VIP void.

Other gripes are opening day nit picking with two exceptions. I’m assuming management has been told by many people that charging full ticket price for infants is Dickensian and won’t happen again. Right?

Finally, for some reason the organizers felt that having people drop over from dehydration would add to the excitement of the day. If they want to charge $2 for a bottle of water, fine. But let people bring water in or point them to a hose. Its against the law to deny a dog access to water.

Regulation Clearlake Style

   Clearlake City Hall does not create much original content.  They administer even less.  The original City Code was a boiler plated Lake County Code.  New laws or ordinances tend to be boiler plated versions of other cities’ ordinances or “me too” copies of Lake County regs.  Therefore, large chunks of Clearlake’s working documents are not understood or agreed with by staff or council.  Some provisions lay dormant for years until an opportunity arises to use them as an ad hoc club for some unrelated purpose.

   For some reason poor little Clearlake decided they needed a massive expansion of local taxi regulation.  As a taxi driver I took a personal interest.  To start with, I wanted to know why a few struggling drivers needed a big city regulatory structure when the existing regulations were not being administered or enforced by the police department.

   Normally when a sweeping new regulatory scheme is proposed the existing companies are brought into the process.  This is because the economic effects may not be known to those creating the regulations.  There is a block of data that only the companies themselves can provide.  Unless a city or agency is completely indifferent to the harmful effects of a given regulation they should be interested in this data.  Clearlake was not.

   Since the drivers, companies, and the public were not brought in at the beginning of the process, the announcement of a first reading of new taxi regulations caught those affected by surprise.  For unknown reasons this was a very fast tracked item.  Since I was a literate driver contracting with the only functional cab company, we engaged the City.

   We got a copy of the draft ordinance and demanded a delay so we could respond.  I went line by line through this massive tome while the owner did a lengthy online search to see what city or county birthed this beast.  Margie Huit found a perfect fit for the wealthy suburb of Woodland, a city six times larger than Clearlake.  Their taxi regs were an exact duplicate of what the the City Administrator was trying to shove down our throats.  They did not even delete the absurd references to theatres and railroad stations, terms which will never be uttered in the same sentence with Clearlake.

   Margie and I then went on a road trip to study Ukiah’s taxi regs and scheduled a meeting with the City Administrator, Police Chief, and the Police Lieutenant who would be enforcing these edicts, which includes shaking down the companies and drivers for fees.

   Ukiah is Lake County ‘s nearest neighbor, has only a few more people than Clearlake, and was recently voted the most livable city in California.  We got copies of their ordinance as well as all the “to do” lists from the Police Department, then talked with staff.  Ukiah’s regulations are more extensive than Clearlake’s existing ordinance but within the realm of reason.  And unlike the cribbed-to-impress Woodland ordinance, was written in plain English.

   The owners of the other two taxi companies in town are disfunctional on several levels.  Our so-called representatives on the City Council are mere rubber stamps for the City Administrator and do not raise any issues that would expose their severe learning disabilities.  This meant Margie and I were bucking the City alone.

   I came to our meeting with my written analysis and Margie came with Ukiah’s ordinance and associated documents as an alternative. We also wanted to know why this was being rammed through since they were not even administering the old ordinance.  None of our concerns were addressed in a meaningful way, including telling us what the real agenda was.  We were nobodies, peasants, insignificant, and therefore irrelevant.

   I did prove that our police did not understand the big city boiler plate either.  One of their implementations required all taxis to be sequentially numbered and those numbers listed on each car’s annual permits.  I pointed out that as cars are taken out of service the new sequential numbers would not match up with each car’s permits.  Over time, it would be impossible for anyone to be in compliance.  This section and the railroad reference were the only changes we could get.  There is no stigma in being unreasonable but looking stupid sticks to your face.

   To delay the steamroller longer Margie had to hire a lawyer to write a couple fast and dirty letters.  It was all she could afford.  But it did force the City to send those letters and my articles to the City’s attorneys.  The City’s bottom feeders knew we couldn’t bankroll a legal battle so they called our bluff with absurdities, asserting they could copy any city’s ordinance they wanted without even knowing everything in it and without collecting any cost or market data.  So there.

   Before the final reading the Administrator thought she could weasel out of responsibility for this travesty by declaring her only motivation was to comply with DMV, PUC, and group risk sharing requirements.  So I went to my computer and checked.  She lied.  In fact, the PUC explicitly stated they do not regulate taxis.  I also spent $200 for a data set from the taxi and limo association. Throughout the struggle I wrote about ten articles of various types.

   The City Council did not care that I proved the Administrator was a liar and I was the best informed person in the room on the issue. The crushing regulations passed unanimously.  As promised, I quit a month later.

   A year went by, Margie and her drivers were hounded for fees, licenses, and a tripling of insurance requirements.  Modifications to taxis and drug tests were demanded.  Some of these fees were supposed to pay for police to administer the ordinance but they never inspected the cars or delivered the ID’s that were paid for.  It turns out the police did not know how this new “live scan” requirement in the regs worked either.  Margie was told to get a special Department of Justice number before having the drivers live scanned but it turns out that’s the police’s job.

   The other companies did not have these problems.  They waited to see if they were forced to comply.  If they were hit with enforcement provisions they said they would just go out of business.  After about eight months City Hall’s famously short attention span ran out and the threatening letters to do still more, ended.  I found out that another taxi owner has been telling new hires that Clearlake has no taxi regulation.

   This is how regulation works in Clearlake.  You pay lots of money to do business in an area that’s poor and crime ridden while getting nothing in return.  That is why Clearlake is a true city of industry…. the industry of fleecing marks.

2014 Supervisor Race (part 1) “Dollars For Tules”

“Report From the Meth Lab” produced a series of video editorials on various local topics.
Lake County Supervisor candidates were invited to respond on video. The intro for the series of four is on the “Dollars For Tules” video only.

Lake County Supervisor Race Upgrade

In Lake County the hot election to watch this year is the District 3 Supervisor race. Hot is a relative term.  In Lake County “hot” is luke warm anywhere else.

The reason local power scrambles are such snoozers is the lack of real time media events.  These could be either hosted events or spectacles produced by the candidates themselves.  We are lucky if we get an occasional recorded “talking heads” word salad.

Not only is the public bored by such orchestrated tedium, the candidates themselves can barely stand it, begging off appearances for the least excuse or no excuse at all.  My own candidate video project focused on 5 local issues.  I videotaped an editorial on each one then invited candidates to schedule a time for me to video their responses.  The final product would be stitched together into one program.  What could be easier for a candidate?…  Advance topic notice. No time conflicts. Unedited video exposure.  The result:  Out of six candidates, three didn’t answer me.  One said “catch me if you can.”  An inspiring list of two participated.

Maybe to get active interest from the public and participation from candidates we need to focus on America’s highest value – entertainment.  This means no more candidates sitting stiffly on stage while a host asks beauty pageant type questions off cards from the same group of gadflies and wanna be pundits.

How would I shake things up?  We need some right brain thinking here.  First on my list is a poetry slam where the candidates move and groove their qualifications and make the issues flow.  This could be followed by a weekly videotaped “whistle stop” bike ride tour around the District. Someone who has let their body go to Hell would probably let the County go to Hell.

Tired of candidates who haven’t done their homework?  How about a game show to test candidates’ nuts and bolts knowledge of government procedures and pressing issues.  Winner gets an endorsement with a point total.

What we don’t need is another slate of obstructionists with tunnel vision.  Make candidates reveal how three-dimensional they are with a talent show.  Or show the public they really have nothing to hide with a clothing optional hot tub discussion at Harbin.  For once, our future leaders can start out in hot water.

And for the dramatic two person races we can reasonably take the truly high road.  Have speech forensics teachers select an important single local issue for a structured “Yale Debating Society” style debate to be scored by judges according to debate rules. Candidates should have at least a month to research and prepare.

But for this election I think the only thing that can be done is to parody the characters who imposed themselves on our ravaged attention spans.

2014 Supervisor Race (part 1) “Dollars For Tules”

Video

“Report From the Meth Lab” produced a series of video editorials on various local topics.
Lake County Supervisor candidates were invited to respond on video. The intro for the series of four is on the “Dollars For Tules” video only.