Marin County

It’s been a particularly good week to live in Marin, where the news was mostly positive, rather than in certain other parts of California, where the news too often was grim. Consider the following:

1. On Thursday, a 36-year-man, who had been teaching at O.B. Whaley Elementary School in San Jose, was found guilty on five counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with five second-grade girls between 2010 and 2012. The victims, who were 7 to 8 years old, testified teacher Craig Chandler had taken them to a locked room during recess, blindfolded them, and then made them perform oral sex on him. Chandler now faces 75 years to life in prison.

2. On Friday, a 33-year-old Catholic priest from Sacramento, the Rev. Uriel Ojeda, was sentenced to eight years in prison for molesting a 13-year-old girl while he was an overnight guest in her parents’ house.

3. Also on Friday, Los Angeles Police arrested Scott Hounsell, who until June 15 was the executive director of the Los Angeles County Republican Party. Hounsell is charged with sexting a 16-year-old girl. Ironically, the GOP leader in May had publicly snickered, “Is it just me, or does every Weiner headline for the NY Mayor’s race seem like an intentional dirty pun?” (At least none of the females Democratic candidate Anthony Weiner has been sexting is underage.)

Tragic underestimate. (AP Photo/The Bakersfield Californian, by Autumn Parry)

4. At 6 a.m. Saturday, the demolition of an old PG&E power plant in Bakersfield sent shards of metal flying more than 1,000 feet. The shrapnel cut off a 43-year-old Bakersfield man’s leg and caused major injuries to his other leg. Another two people, who suffered lesser injuries, as well as two cars were likewise struck in a Lowe’s parking lot. The 1,000-foot safety zone was too small for blowing up a steel structure, an outside demolition expert later told The Bakersfield Californian. “Cleveland Wrecking Co. of Covina was the prime contractor,” the newspaper reported. “Subcontractor Alpha Demolition hired Demtech Inc. to take down the structures.”

5. At 8 p.m. Saturday, a 38-year-old motorist drove down the paved boardwalk at Venice Beach at high speed and deliberately struck 17 people (click here for video). A 32-year-old Italian tourist on her honeymoon died while 16 other people received injuries ranging from minor to major. The driver, Nathan Campbell, drove off but turned himself in to Santa Monica police two hours later. His motive remains unknown.

6. On Monday, a 30-year-old sheriff’s deputy from Orange County will be arraigned for allegedly pepper spraying a 19 year old’s pizza after another officer stopped the teen for a traffic violation. “[Deputy Juan] Tavera is accused of spotting a pizza on the back seat of the victim’s car and then pepper spraying it without the teen noticing,” The Los Angeles Times reported. “Later at home, the victim shared the pizza with four friends, leading all five to experience physical discomfort.” The incident occurred last September, and the sheriff’s office spent the last 10 months investigating the alleged assault.

Gayer newsThese two headlines ran on successive pages in Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle, on the last page of the B section and on the first page of the C section. Was it the “rose-colored view” provided by local dykes that got Marin County Republicans to support marriage equality?

San Francisco standup comic Marilyn Pittman, who performs a risque show called “Ask a Lesbian” (click here for video), visited Mitchell cabin in June, treating Lynn and me, as well as our friends, to a sampling of her brash humor.

In some sketches, Marilyn describes herself as a “dyke,” so I sent her a copy of these headlines. Unfortunately, the “Dykes” refers to Sonny Dykes, the new head football coach at UC Berkeley.

All the same, it was a very good week for the struggle against homophobia. From the GOP in Marin County, to Vatican City, to California’s Central Valley farmlands, tolerance of differing sexual orientations is growing.

While being interviewed by the press a week ago, Pope Francis remarked, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Later that day, The Bakersfield Californian did a spot check of Catholics leaving mass at St. Francis of Assisi near the city and found the people it interviewed overwhelming in agreement with the pope.

“God created us as equals, and as Catholics we believe in welcoming anyone into our church, so it’s excellent to hear that he wasn’t afraid to say it verbally for the whole world to hear,” said one of the people interviewed, Lupe Galindo, 66.

So that’s a roundup of California news — good, bad, and off color — during the past week. In closing I’ll return to the aforementioned comic, Marilyn Pittman, because a couple of her sketches remind me of the old limerick: “A gay in a bar in Khartoum/ Asked a lesbian up to his room./ But they argued all night/ Over who had the right/ To do what/ And with which/ And to whom.”

How a sewer district came to run a park is one of those idiosyncratic West Marin stories.

Tomales Community Services District was created in 1998 to take over the town’s sewer system from North Marin Water District. At the time, Tomales already had a park, which had opened in 1982. However, after state government inspected the park’s playground equipment and found it unsafe, the district with grants and volunteer labor by townspeople took on making ambitious improvements, including — appropriately — creating the town’s first public restrooms.

Development and maintenance of the park continue to be financed by a variety of grants and fundraisers, with one of the fundraisers held this past Sunday: the third annual Party in the Park.

Giving particular importance to the fundraiser was the Dean Witter Foundation of San Francisco, which had agreed to match dollar for dollar all the money raised up to $10,000.

Having fun selling Tomales Community Park wine glasses, as well as tickets for oysters and drinks.

Among the musical groups entertaining the crowd was the Gary Foster Trio from Sebastopol. Foster (center) also happens to be the organist for Tomales Presbyterian Church. He delighted the crowd by singing rhythm and blues such as What’d I Say, rock ‘n’ roll such as Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, and country music such as Route 66. But what dazzled many of us was his unexpectedly breaking out of this repertoire to sing a bit of grand opera, giving a masterful performance of La donna è mobile from Verdi’s Rigoletto.

Hoop dancing to most of the music (except Verdi’s) were young people led by Lilea Duran (center in red and black). Lilea teaches adult classes and performs throughout the Bay Area with her company Sunglow Hoop Dance. She also takes part in Vegetable Circus whose mission is to get kids excited about eating their vegetables and staying active in fun, creative ways. Working with schools, youth groups, and other community organizations, Vegetable Circus teaches the kids circus arts like hula hooping. Photo by Lynn Axelrod

Tomales Regional History Center raised funds by selling raffle tickets for a quilt. Alex Mitchell (center), president of the center’s board of directors, is seen here manning the ticket booth.

Sounding like he was auctioning livestock, Sam Dolcini with help from Deborah Parrish raised money by auctioning such prizes as two nights at Donna and Marc Clavauds’ Marinette Cottage in Tomales and a day at Dillon Beach for 20 people.

Among the prizes auctioned was this oil painting by Kathryn LeMieux of a cottage in the Tomales Bay hamlet of Hamlet. During the days of the North Pacific Coast narrow-gauge railway line (1875-1930), Hamlet was a whistlestop with its own post office, restaurant, oyster beds, and cannery. Notwithstanding the rail line’s closing, the homes, oyster beds, and restaurant remained in use.

Sadly, the historic village was acquired by the National Park Service in 1987, thus preventing any commercial or residential use of Hamlet’s buildings. Unoccupied, they were easy prey for burglars who stole furnishings. Hamlet had always been in the line of storms on the bay, and the Park Service made no effort to maintain the old buildings. Some collapsed, and in 2003, the Park Service took a bulldozer to those that remained.

Another prize Dolcini auctioned was this model of a Victorian home, which Barbara Taddei of Tomales created over four years working off and on. Liz Miller of Dillon Beach made the winning bid of $350. Photo by Lynn Axelrod

Tomales Volunteer Fire Department used the party as an occasion to recruit new members. The firefighters reminded me they will hold their own fundraiser, a “country breakfast” from 7:30 a.m. to noon Sunday, July 21, at Tomales Town Hall.

At a popular booth selling books, my partner Lynn found a book she’d always wanted to read, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman. The author is perhaps best known for The Guns of August, a history of the beginning of World War I.

And what festival in West Marin would be complete without face painting? Youngsters chose designs that ranged from cats to ghosts to super heroes. For some kids, getting their face painted was a highlight of the jovial afternoon.

By my lights, Tomales with a population of only 200 has a disproportionate amount of fun. The community services district website observes, “Tomales is the town that West Marin forgot, and we like it that way. A few times a year the park comes alive with activity, but most of the time the pace is pleasantly slow, the dogs friendly, and good food close at hand.”

“The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth,” wrote the French existentialist Albert Camus. As an existentialist myself, I’ve long believed that if this were a rationally ordered world, it would be much different.

This is true not only in the human world but in the animal world as well. The results can be good or bad — or just ridiculous. Let’s take a look.

Although roof rats sometimes eat birds’ eggs, they can — counter-intuitively — get along with adult birds. Here a scrub jay and a roof rat eat birdseed side by side on my picnic table.

The small, beady eyes of roof rats may make them look malicious, but this little junco feels safe enough to keep on pecking only inches away from one.

In fact, adult birds — such as this towhee — and roof rats are almost indifferent to each other when they both happen upon the same birdseed buffet.

The rats and birds not only share the same scatterings of seeds, they drink from the same birdbath. Because animals have no sense of absurdity, these arrangements no doubt seem perfectly natural to them.

Harder to understand are everyday absurdities in the human world.

Is it: ‘Speed up or be cited’? Or: ‘Slow down or be cited’?

This ambiguous road sign is beside Highway 1 a mile and a half north of Tomales Bay Oyster Company in Marshall. In recent years, signs announcing the ending of various speed limits have been sprouting up along the state highway and county roads in West Marin. Unfortunately, they don’t always say what speed limit is beginning.

It makes sense that the 55 mph limit along the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road ends here at Platform Bridge. As the word STOP painted on the pavement makes clear, motorists are approaching a stop sign.

The question is: what’s the speed limit on the other side of the stop sign?

To stay on the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, westbound motorists after stopping turn right and cross Platform Bridge; in slightly over a tenth of a mile, they eventually come to a 50 mph speed-limit sign. But what if they continue straight on Platform Bridge Road? They find no speed-limit signs whatsoever. Are unstated speed limits “radar enforced”?

In contrast to the paucity of speed-limit information at Platform Bridge, there’s an over abundance of it a couple of miles east at Four Corners. (Four Corners is the T-intersection where Nicasio Valley Road ends at the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road. A ranch road provides the third and fourth corners.)

Most of us would assume that one, if not two, of the three speed-limit signs above is superfluous, especially when they’re all so close together. The excess is basically a distraction from the deer-crossing sign.

Which gets me back to my original assertion: if this were a rationally ordered world, it would be much different.

The Marin County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association held its annual barbecue Sunday at Stafford Lake. There were no reports of rowdy deputies crashing cars or getting in fights with each other. It wasn’t always like that.

A just-released book, Resident Deputy Sheriff In Wild and Wooly West Marin: 1964 to 1969 … and then some!, describes heroism, humor, and scandals within the Marin County Sheriff’s Office four decades ago.

Numerous well-known residents of West Marin play roles in the book: retired Judge Dave Baty of Inverness Park, retired Sheriff’s Sgt. Russ Hunt of Point Reyes Station, the late Sheriff’s Capt. Art Disterheft of Olema (for whom the Public Safety Building in Point Reyes Station is named), and others.

Sheriff’s Capt. Art Disterheft (left) and Sgt. Weldon Travis in Inverness Park during the Storm and Floods of  1982. Portrait copyright Art Rogers/Point Reyes

Written by a retired sheriff’s sergeant, the book provides — among other things — an insider’s look at the sheriff’s office during the 1958-to-1978 tenure of Sheriff Louis Mountanos who, according to the author, “had ties to La Cosa Nostra.”

Weldon Travis, the author, knows West Marin well. He moved to Woodacre after high school, attended the College of Marin, and in the 1960s became a deputy in the county sheriff’s office.

While still a young officer, Travis was made a resident deputy in West Marin, meaning he was patrolling the area where he lived.

Along with accounts of heroism, tragedy, and official wrongdoing, his book includes numerous anecdotes that are humorous in the understated vein of Sheriff’s Calls. But unlike them, he often names names:

“I had a civil paper to serve on George [Gallagher of Nicasio], nothing serious, and went to his house… His wife told me he and a bunch of his friends were deer hunting a few miles away in the canyons along Wilson Hill.

“George was getting along in years, so he was sitting down near the base of a canyon as some of the younger guys were hopefully driving the deer toward the older ones….

“I spotted George’s International jeep and figured I’d find him, hopefully without messing up the hunt. I stayed in the open and moved slowly — didn’t want to get shot by accident.

“Pretty soon I heard a big one come crashing down through the oaks and madrones, then the nearby crack of a rifle. I moved that way and found George sprawled on the hillside between some big rocks. The big ol’ buck had knocked him ass over teakettle downhill.

“George looked up at me with kind of a dazed expression on his face, and in that high voice of his asked, ‘Weldon, how did you get here so quick?’ I just grinned at him.”

Retired Sheriff’s Sgt. Weldon Travis at the Pinecone Diner Saturday.

Another of his stories tells of a naked man high on drugs trying to have sex with a patrol car’s red light as a new deputy from Nicasio, Joe Dentoni, drove around Point Reyes Station.

Still another story tells of stopping a motorist in the San Geronimo Valley “late one summer evening.” Seeing the man’s car wandering around its lane at varying speeds, Travis assumed he was dealing with someone “who was either really sleepy or intoxicated.”

However, when Travis turned on his siren, “up popped a blonde, long-haired woman, sitting bolt upright in the front passenger seat.” After talking with the two and running a warrant check, Travis writes, “I sped off, leaving them to recompose themselves at roadside.”

Some of Travis’ stories are grim. A “cat lady,” who had been dead for several days, was found at home in Woodacre. “The cats didn’t have any food except her.” Travis helped the coroner put her in a body bag although “her forearm skin slipped off as I pulled her off the bed.”

More emotionally wrenching for Travis was arriving at a Lucas Valley Road home just as a resident committed suicide with a gunshot “into his mouth and brain.”

After the coroner had come and gone, Travis “gathered up the blood-soaked quilts, blankets, sheets and pillows and threw them in the trunk of the patrol car.

“The new widow and I got some Clorox from under the sink and got down on our hands and knees together and scrubbed and scrubbed….

“At home, I washed all of that stuff three times, but it was useless. It all went to the dump. My emotions and some of my sanity took a dump too.”

Travis describes the suicide of a fellow officer, as well as his own alcoholism, marital infidelities and indiscretions.

“Why do I share this?” he asks at one point. “So you might understand what we who serve you do. We pay a price, but that’s okay — our choice. And that’s why we drink, have failed relationships, and commit suicide after our usefulness to our society seemingly has been utilized.”

Travis also marvels at the heroic strength of some of the public with whom deputies deal.

In a section titled Abbott’s Lagoon Drifter, the author tells of “two, young lady-friends” who calmly reported that an armed, would-be rapist had accosted them at Abbott’s Lagoon in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

One of the young women had learned martial arts while attending UCLA, and together they took the drifter’s gun away and violently beat him. With help from the public and a marijuana-hunting helicopter, deputies a day later found the man and arrested him.

“He pled guilty and, in view of his extensive rap sheet from across the Midwest, went to prison for a long time,” Travis wrote, adding, “Good community effort!”

Ironically, Travis himself doesn’t tell the story for which he is best known although his book includes an epilogue of news clippings that tell it for him.

In the 1950s while Travis was a “starving student at the College of Marin,” he was hired to pose naked for a photographer who said the pictures would be used in art classes.

Around 1966, after Travis was working for the sheriff’s office, pirated copies of the photos began circulating in the soft-core porn world. Soon they were showing up in gay men’s magazines such as Tomorrow’s Man, Fair Fellows, and Times Square Stud.

Someone (Travis believes it was an organized-crime figure whose toes he had stepped on) brought the photos to the attention of Sheriff Mountanos, who fired him.

“The indiscreet photos would cause the public to lose confidence in him,” the sheriff claimed. The claim, however, was met with a chorus of outrage from members of the public who noted what a good deputy Travis was.

Several people wrote letters to the Marin Independent Journal, saying that nothing about posing nude for an art class disqualified Travis to later work as a deputy.

With Judge Baty defending him, Travis took his firing to the county personnel commission, who reinstated him on a 4-to-1 vote.

The late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen at the time wrote that Mountanos had “made himself look fairly ridiculous” and noted that future President Herbert Hoover had helped pay his way through Stanford University by “posing in the raw for art students.”

Weldon Travis and his wife whom he refers to as “Serene Irene, the Bawdy House Queen.”

Travis, now 74, lives in the town of Rough and Ready, Nevada County, where he is married to an 80-year-old “artist, former beauty queen, and model” named Irene.

Once known as a somewhat-hippie deputy, Travis is now a full-fledged-hippie political conservative — sporting long hair, a ring in his ear, and Indian jewelry. How did that change come about?

Irene said they consider themselves “compassionate conservatives… socially liberal and economically conservative.” Above all, the former sheriff’s sergeant is overtly skeptical about the workings of government. Perhaps from seeing them at close range.

Resident Deputy Sheriff is available at Point Reyes Books for $22 hardback and $12 softcover. Non-West Marin residents can find it in some East Marin bookstores and online.

The gross value of Marin County agricultural production last year totaled well over $70 million, up almost 25 percent from 2010. So says Agricultural Commissioner Stacy Carlsen in his just-released annual report on livestock and agricultural crops.

Gross profits, of course, are not the same as net profits. On the other hand, the total gross was no doubt higher than $70 million because not every farmer and rancher responded to the county survey.

Holsteins by Tomales Bay. Photo by William Quirt courtesy of Marin County UC Cooperative Extension, Farm Advisor

Milk is the long-standing premier commodity for Marin, and this year accounts for 44.7 percent of the crop report’s total value,” wrote Carlsen.

“The average market-milk price for 2011 was higher than 2010, contributing to an 18 percent increase in the overall milk value of $4,835,000,” the agricultural commissioner added.

On the other hand, “2011 was the third year milk values were not at least 50 percent of Marin County’s total agricultural-production value; the only other years were 2009 and 2010.

Commissioner Carlsen’s chart of the sources of Marin’s 2011 agricultural income. “Miscellaneous” includes goats, hogs, and rabbits.

Field crop values for 2011 increased by $4,082,157, representing a 74.1 percent increase when compared to 2010. The increase was a result of increased pasture values and greater survey participation,” Carlsen noted.

“It is postulated that the 74.1 percent increase in value is a correction to 2010’s 38 percent decrease.” Also contributing to the increase were livestock producers who bought more feed at higher prices.

Silage harvested awaiting collection. Photo by William Quirt courtesy of Marin County UC Cooperative Extension, Farm Advisor

While the gross production value of hay was down by a measly $9,816 from 2010, the value of silage grew by a whopping $223,671.

Production of oysters, as well as clams and mussels, increased 9.3 percent or $398,566 “as production in the industry as a whole expanded, following a 10-year tend….

“Marin is California’s second-largest shellfish producer, and growers are gearing up to expand [further]… while the oyster industry elsewhere in the nation and in the state is struggling.”

Wine grape value dropped 16.7 percent to $883,312 last year because fewer grapes were harvested.

Nursery products have maintained a fairly constant total value over the past three years: $1,000,401 in 2009; $991,983 in 2010; and $1,004,764 in 2011.

Fruits and vegetables enjoyed a comfortable increase in production value last year, totaling $2,687,630 compared with $2,488,000 in 2010.

Free-range chickens. Photo by William Quirt courtesy of Marin County UC Cooperative Extension, Farm Advisor

Poultry last year brought in $253,888 compared with $278,833 in 2010, but the comparison is somewhat deceptive because the 2010 total included eggs along with fryers.

Sheep and lambs accounted for $1,084,479 of Marin’s agricultural value last year. There were fewer sheep and lambs grazing in Marin in 2011. The total number of animals was 10,912, down from 15,326 in 2010, and they produced less income: $1,084,479, down from $1,523,155 in 2010.

Sheep grazing in Point Reyes Station.

With fewer sheep around, Marin County’s production of wool correspondingly dropped, but the price of wool increased, resulting in a slight rise ($857) in production value.

Lest invasive pests damage Marin’s agriculture, the county does its best to control them biologically.

The county is attacking gorse (the yellow, prickly plant found around Tomales and elsewhere) with gorse mites and seed weevils. Bull thistle is being attacked with bull thistle gall flies.

Seed-head weevils, gall flies, hairy weevils, and peacock flies are being used against yellow star thistles. Italian thistles and purple star thistles are being targeted with seed weevils, and the list goes on.

Some 1,623 quarantine inspections of plants from infected states were carried out in the county last year. This was done by monitoring plant shipments “at Federal Express, UPS, nurseries, ethnic markets, and aquatic supply stores,” the agricultural commissioner wrote. Some “77 gypsy-moth inspections of household goods from infested states” were also conducted.

An additional 1,276 checks for glassy-winged sharpshooters were conducted on plant material from infected California counties. (Sharpshooters are insects that feed on grape vines, oleanders, citrus trees, almonds, and various other plants.) “One rejection of plant material was made, and the plants were inspected and released,” the agricultural commissioner reported.

In looking for evidence of exotic pests such as the Mediterranean fruit fly and Oriental fruit fly, Japanese beetles, light-brown apple moths, gypsy moths, European grape vine moths, and others, the county also serviced 1,172 traps.

Sudden Oak Death continues to infest Marin County. The disease is “caused by the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum,” commissioner Carlsen reported.

“Increased infestations have been detected in West Marin. Tree mortality in wildland and urban/wildland interface areas causes dramatic changes in the landscape, affecting ecosystems, increasing fire and safety hazards, and decreasing property values.”

Bay trees, like oaks, play host to the pathogen, but bays are not killed by it and merely spread it to oaks.

“The phosphonate product Agri-Fos continues to be the only registered product for control of P. ramorum on oaks,” Carlsen wrote. “It works best as a preventative by simulating the tree’s natural defense system to prevent the disease from infecting the tree.”

Graph from agricultural report

The agricultural report was reviewed by county supervisors last week and adopted. It will now be sent to the state Department of Food and Agriculture and then distributed.

County Supervisor Steve Kinsey Sunday afternoon sat down with West Marin Citizen reporter Lynn Axelrod and me on the bleachers of Nicasio Square’s ballfield and at my request described his grueling schedule. As Kinsey related:

• He began Sunday morning dealing with correspondence from Supervisor Susan Adams and the county administrator.

• At noon he met in Bolinas with part of his “campaign team.”

• From 1:30 to 2:15 p.m. Kinsey met with the East Shore Planning Group in Marshall to discuss pending changes to the Coastal Plan.

• At 2:45 p.m. he was interviewed by Lynn and me.

• From 5 to 7 p.m. he would be at a campaign fundraiser in the San Geronimo Valley.

Supervisor Kinsey at the Will Lafranchi Ballfield in Nicasio Square.

Kinsey said that although campaigning makes his tight schedule even tighter, he generally needs to work nonstop anyway. A county website says that besides his being the president of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, Kinsey is an appointed member of 28 public commissions and committees.

He is the chairman or president of 13 of them. Kinsey said he gets so many “leadership positions” because “I work hard.” The committees and commissions range from the California Coastal Commission, to the Marin County Open Space District, where he is president of the board of directors, to the Marin County Transit District, where he is also president of the board.

Among his other responsibilities, Kinsey is chairman of the county Flood Control District, serves on the Labor Relations Committee, and is chairman of the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee.

Not only does he attend endless public meetings, he appears in many parades and other public events in his district. He spends time helping nonprofits like the Dance Palace raise funds. He goes to funerals and memorial services. He takes part in dedicating public facilities.

Would he describe what all this requires? Kinsey responded by reading his schedule from the past week.


• 8 a.m. Transit District meeting.

• 10 a.m. Meeting with the general manager of the transit district.

• 11 a.m. Meeting with Marshall dairyman Albert Straus, who is interested in moving the dairy’s processing facility from Petaluma back to West Marin.

• Noon. Meeting with county staff regarding the Coastal Commission.

• 1 p.m. Meeting with the county grand jury regarding the county budget. The supervisors’ budget hearings were about to begin.

• 2 p.m. County Transit Authority meeting.

4:30 to 6 p.m. A campaign fundraiser.

• 7:30 p.m. An air quality meeting in the San Geronimo Valley regarding woodsmoke.


• Kinsey flies to Ventura County for a three-day Coastal Commission meeting.


• 8:30 p.m. Gets back home and writes a guest editorial for The Marin Independent Journal.


• Early morning meeting in Bolinas to discuss configuring two parcels of land so they can’t be subdivided and will permanently remain in open space.

• 11:15 a.m. to noon. Interviewed on KWMR.

• 1 to 3 p.m. Attended a funeral in Novato for Chuck Bennett.

• 3:30 p.m. Went to his office in Civic Center, which he had been away from for five days because of the Coastal Commission meeting.

• 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Attended a campaign committee meeting.

I personally couldn’t handle a job like his, I said. “It’s not a job,” Kinsey joked. “It’s a lifestyle.” He added, “I haven’t had a big, fat vacation [in 16 years].” How does his wife Jean feel about his crushing schedule? “After my first two terms in office,” he laughed, “she said she’d never vote for me again. But she’s adjusted and gives me the room [to do what the office requires].”

One of the main requirements, Kinsey noted, is dealing with the 60 to 100 email messages he receives daily. The supervisor said he writes replies to all messages from his constituents, so he must spend one to two hours a day handling email.

Kinsey, 59, of Forest Knolls has lived in West Marin for 35 years although his biography on county website says 22. It also says that Kinsey’s 27-year-old son Breeze is 15.

Kinsey’s Fourth Supervisorial District includes, along with West Marin, western Novato, part of San Rafael, part of Larkspur (including San Quentin Village), part of Mill Valley, and all of Corte Madera. His opponent Diane Furst is vice mayor of Corte Madera, where she is in her first term on the city council. Furst has lived in Marin County for eight years.

Kinsey’s main criticism of Furst is that she lives in East Marin and lacks his familiarity with West Marin issues. If she were to be elected, West Marin would have no representation on the Board of Superviors, he stressed. It would also lose its representation on the Coastal Commission.

He added that his knowledge of West Marin issues, as well as other issues that county government deals with, has in large part been acquired during his 16 years in office.

In describing how connected he feels “to this place,” Kinsey said, “I’ve never been interested in higher — or as [the late State Senator] Peter Behr called it, ‘farther’ — office.”

Kinsey had taken part in a number of civic groups before first running for the Board of Supervisors in 1996, the county website reports. For example, he had been chairman of the Marin Conservation League Water Committee from 1989 to 1996 and received two awards from the League in 1992.

His original decision to run for the Board of Supervisors was not made quickly. “I wore a ponytail for years so people wouldn’t ask me to run for office,” he said with a chuckle. Yet here he is after four terms in office, clean-cut and running for a fifth.

If he is reelected, Kinsey told The Independent Journal, his goals will include county “pension reform, county workforce organization, reorganizing wastewater management, reduction of the county’s carbon footprint, improvements in transit and trail networks, and expansion of renewable energy and agriculture.”

Agriculture in West Marin faces many challenges. In the Point Reyes National Seashore, a mushrooming herd of tule elk is the most recent, reporter Axelrod noted. I asked how committed Kinsey is to keeping the ranches in the park operating. “One hundred percent,” the supervisor emphatically replied.

Kinsey himself faces some challenges going into the June 5 election. Although 85 percent of his supervisorial district lies in West Marin, where many of his most-active supporters live, 70 percent of the district’s voters live in East Marin. At the moment, organizing support over the hill is a focus of his campaign.

Water sheets down Seeger Dam as Nicasio Reservoir overflows.

A week after Nicasio Reservoir overflowed March 13, county supervisors declared an agricultural emergency because of drought conditions afflicting Marin ranches. The supervisors’ resolution declaring the emergency is the first step toward getting federal aid for ranchers.

Marin County Agricultural Commissioner Stacey Carlsen told the supervisors rainfall at many dairy and livestock ranches has been 31 percent of normal. The low rainfall combined with unseasonably warm weather, strong winds, and frosty mornings has dried out grass and inhibited new growth, the agricultural  commissioner explained.

The forage losses in pastures and rangelands are roughly 50 percent, he estimated. This has forced ranchers to reduce herd sizes and to buy supplemental feed far earlier in the year than usual, Carlsen said. The cost of feed is continuing to rise, the agricultural commissioner noted, and this is having a severe impact on Marin ranches. This county’s ranches, he said, are already operating with narrow margins.

Nicasio Reservoir water rushes down the spillway below Seeger Dam and flows into nearby Papermill Creek.

Notwithstanding the drought affecting ranches, the big water districts in West Marin report they’re doing just fine, thank you very much. Already this month, West Marin has received almost 15 inches of rain. As of a week ago, Marin Municipal Water District’s seven reservoirs stood at 94 percent of capacity compared with 91 percent at this date in an average year.

Even before this weekend’s rainstorms, Libby Pischel, spokeswoman for Marin Municipal, told me, “We are not expecting any rationing [this year].” The MMWD system serves homes and businesses in the San Geronimo Valley and in most of East Marin south of Novato.

Novato-based North Marin Water District operates a satellite system serving Point Reyes Station, Inverness Park, and Olema. It gets its water for the system from wells beside Papermill Creek upstream from the Coast Guard housing site in Point Reyes Station. Most of the water feeding the wells originates in two MMWD reservoirs: Nicasio Reservoir seasonally and Lake Lagunitas year round. A small amount originates in San Geronimo Creek.

North Marin General Manager Chris DeGabriele on Friday told me, “We are not expecting any water restrictions next summer in West Marin.”

Despite there being plenty of water to satisfy homes and businesses in three small towns, as well as fish in the creeks, there is not nearly enough to irrigate hundreds of square miles of ranchland — even if there were pipelines for doing so. Hence the agricultural emergency.

This being Christmastime, I won’t devote too much space to the evil machinations of the Marin Independent Journal’s circulation department. As I reported last week:

On Oct. 22, I was leaving the San Anselmo Safeway with a cart full of bread when an Independent Journal vendor just outside the door stopped me, saying I could get half a year of the paper free of charge if I merely paid for the Sunday editions.

That came to $32.65, so I paid the vendor in cash and got a receipt. He said my IJs would start being delivered to my house in about a week. But none ever arrived, so on Nov. 6, I emailed the IJ’s circulation department to complain and asked that it look into the problem.

When I received no answer to my email, I wrote the IJ again on Nov. 11, saying I was cancelling my subscription and wanted my money back. If the paper didn’t send the money immediately, I warned, I would take the IJ to small claims court. A few days after that email, a woman in circulation called to say I should have been receiving my subscription. Would I like to start it now?

I replied that the whole experience had soured me on the IJ and that I merely wanted my money refunded. She said she’d have a check sent to me.

Another three weeks have now passed without my refund. As it happened a week ago, I was again coming out of Safeway with bags of bread and found the same vendor selling subscriptions just outside the door. “I don’t want to hassle you,” I told him, “but this seems like a scam.”


As for me, the “torture” has not ended.


I then retold my tale of woe, and he said my mistake had been in dealing with the IJ by email rather than by phone. Even if the IJ’s phone rings in another state, whoever answers can take care of my problem, he said.

In fact, the one time I got any response from the IJ was when a woman in circulation phoned me after I threatened by email to take the paper to small claims court.

As it happened, a middle-aged woman who was coming out of Safeway just behind me overheard our conversation and exclaimed, “The same thing just happened to me.” She hadn’t received any refund either.

Last week Marin County Planning Commissioner Wade Holland posted a comment on this blog: “Actually, Dave, there’s a bit more to your IJ subscription experience than meets the eye. As you may be aware, the IJ has pretty much discontinued distribution in West Marin — probably why your subscription never started.

“If you also get the Chronicle, you can get the IJ delivered together with the Chronicle. But you can no longer get home delivery of the IJ alone; you can only get it as a “supplement” to the Chron.

“Moreover, there are no longer any newsstand sales of the IJ anywhere in West Marin. All the boxes have been removed, and there are no copies available at grocery stores or other retail outlets. They really should start calling it the ‘East Marin Independent Journal.’”

Commissioner Holland’s description of the evolution of IJ circulation in West Marin seems on target, but in my case, I’ve had a subscription to the the Chronicle for years, so that doesn’t get the IJ off the hook. The vendor promised to look into the problem for me, but so far that hasn’t helped either.

Anyone who wants to give the IJ a nice Christmas present might send the paper’s management a copy of A Christmas Carol starring Ebenezer Scrooge.

Landscape painter Thomas Wood held a two-day show in his Nicasio studio last weekend. Although many of us are familiar with his art, the chance to see so much of it displayed together in his small studio was a special treat.

The artist with (left to right at bottom) Rock Creek Canyon, Eastern Sierra and Eastern Sierra, September. Above them is a painting of Limantour Estero.

Wood has taken part in more than 65 group shows and more than 45 solo shows. Works by Wood and Point Reyes Station photographer Art Rogers were shown together at West Marin galleries in 2008 and 2009. A year ago he held a one-man show in Toby’s Feed Barn Gallery, and every year he takes part in the Ranches and Rolling Hills art show that benefits the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

Other shows have benefited Marin Conservation League, the Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary. From 1998 to 2003, his 20-foot triptych Tomales Bay was on display in the Point Reyes Station Library. In 2000, one of his paintings was selected for the State Senate Art Collection. But in what may be his most unexpected recognition, from 2005 to 2008 his painting California Hills was on display at the US embassy in the Central American country of Belize.

At left: Okanagan Lake, B.C. (top) and Port of Olympia, WA (bottom).

Wood’s only painting on display that did not depict a landscape was the maritime painting at lower left, and even it was tranquil as a landscape — certainly not the Wreck of the Hesperus. (By the way, although many people think Wreck of the Hesperus was a painting, it was originally a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.)

“Born in San Francisco, Wood spent childhood summers at the family ranch (settled by his great-grandfather in the 1870s) in the Carmel Valley, where he painted the golden hills and brushy canyons in the California light, beginning his lifelong love of painting and reverence for nature,” his website notes.

“He attended the University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco State University, earning an advance degree in English. He taught writing and literature in New York and California before deciding in the 1980s to pursue a professional career as an artist.”

A third-generation artist, “he is the son of artists Mireille and Phil Wood and the grandson of the California plein air painter and muralist Gottardo Piazzoni,” the website adds.

Although Wood’s paintings were priced at $800 and up, they were selling well last weekend despite the current recession. “My work invites contemplation of nature’s truths, beauty, and relevance to our lives,” said Wood, and obviously a number of West Marin’s art collectors agreed.

Dr. Corey Goodman of Marshall (left), who uncovered the National Park Service’s using bogus data to discredit Drakes Bay Oyster Company (owned by the Lunny family of Inverness), questions Pete McCloskey, a retired congressman (center), and Paul Berkowitz, a retired ranger and criminal investigator for the Park Service. Behind them and serving as moderator was Laura Watt, an assistant professor of Environmental Studies at Sonoma State.

During a symposium Sunday afternoon in the West Marin School gym, McCloskey and Berkowitz discussed “corruption” at the top levels of the National Park Service (NPS). Low-level rangers, they agreed, were more likely to be honest.

Berkowitz, who for 33 years was a ranger and criminal investigator for NPS, has written a book, The Case of the Indian Trader, which focuses on a particularly egregious example of corruption that occurred at the Hubbell Trading post on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. The book, however, also describes many other cases of criminal behavior by NPS staff — such as child molesting, theft of government funds, and shredding crime reports on people in NPS’s favor.

More than 115 West Marin residents showed up for the symposium, forcing organizers to put out extra chairs.

McCloskey, who spent 15 years in the House of Representatives, noted that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is chaired by Darrell Issa (R-San Diego County), will begin an investigation on Nov. 7 of Point Reyes National Seashore officials. “The alleged misconduct is serious and could result in the loss of the Lunny family’s business,” Issa wrote Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar. “Time is of the essence, as the family’s reservation of use expires next year.

“In light of a damaging draft Environmental Impact Statement released on Sept. 3, 2011, it is imperative that a thorough, objective review of whether NPS’s conclusions are based on flawed science occurs immediately.”

Among those summoned to testify before the committee are: Gavin Frost of the Solicitor’s Office (he has already turned up skulduggery within the Nation Seashore administration); Don Neubacher (former superintendent of the park); Jon Jarvis (NPS director, as well as the previous director of the Pacific West Region of NPS); Dr. Marcia McNutt (adviser to the NPS; Sarah Allen (former science adviser to the National Seashore); Dr. Ben Becker (NPS scientist); and Cicely Muldoon (current superintendent of the National Seashore).

McCloskey, 84, had been a colonel in the Marine Corps and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts for outstanding service during the Korean War. The former congressman had also been a lawyer in Redwood City, a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, and a lecturer on legal ethics at the Stanford and Santa Clara law schools. He warned that any NPS official who doesn’t testify with total honestly will be charged with perjury.

Berkowtz had taken over an NPS investigation that had been triggered by Western National Parks Association allegations against Billy Malone, who operated Hubbell Trading Post. The allegations were based only on faulty intuition, but WNPA wanted Berkowtz to find something, anything, for which the trader could be prosecuted.

Berkowitz instead found that the NPS was hiding exculpatory evidence, had lied to get a search warrant, and then had seized much of Malone’s private property although the warrant did not provide for this. The case had been going on for a few years and had become expensive. WNPA, which was well over $1 million in debt, hoped to sell Malone’s personal property to pay off its debts.

The investigator said the Army’s cavalry originally kept order in national parks, which explains rangers’ uniforms. In 1916, however, the Park Service was created as a “civilian version of the military. It was disciplined, regimented, and had a rigid application of standards.” Over time, however, the Park Service abandoned critical components of military conduct, so that there’s now “an enormous variance of management competence.”

In 1976, the law that established the Park Service was strengthened, Berkowitz said, giving NPS authority to investigate all federal-law violations in national parks. He concluded by saying he loves national parks and would never want to harm them. However, he added, NPS leaders’ corruption must be stopped.


The annual pancake breakfast was held Sunday morning in the Point Reyes Station firehouse. The event is always a fundraiser for the West Marin Disaster Council and the Inverness Volunteer Fire Department.

Having fun at the pancake breakfast was Rich Clarke of Marshall, a member of the West Marin Disaster Council.

Approximately 325 people attended the pancake breakfast, and a firefighter told me the crowd was the largest in years. He credited sunny weather for bringing out so many West Marin residents.


West Marin Commons sponsored a Halloween barn dance in Toby’s Feed Barn Friday evening. Band members (from left): Brian Lamoreaux on guitar, Sue Walters on bass, Ingrid Noyes on accordion, and Erik Hoffman on fiddle. Because the feed barn is unheated and the band sits next to an open door, there will be no more barn dances this season. It’s becoming too cold for the musicians.

However line dances, square dances, and even waltzes kept the dancers warm.

Angel mother Denise Spenard of Marshall and devil daughter Maia, 8, had a jolly time wearing Halloween costumes to the barn dance.

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