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Friday, July 19, 2024
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Letter to the Editor: The Measure B Committee Is Being Pressured to Fund the New Mendocino County Jail

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Welcome to our letters to the editor/opinion section. To submit yours for consideration, please send to matthewplafever@gmail.com. Please consider including an image to be used–either a photograph of you or something applicable to the letter. However, an image is not necessary for publication.

Remember opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of MendoFever nor have we checked the letters for accuracy.


Dear Editor,

I was present at the October 17th BOS meeting and watched how the board handled item 4D, the Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) recommendation to move forward working with Ford Street Project’s Substance Use Services Request for Proposal to financially support the Ukiah Recovery Expansion Project. Ford Street has already secured $3 million for the first phase of the $7.1 million project and is looking for $4.1 million to complete the project.

Instead of deciding to approve or deny the request from BHRS and the Mental Health Treatment Act Citizens’ Oversight Committee, aka the Measure B Committee, some of the supervisors attacked Ford Street’s director, Jackie Williams, over a lack of a budget, questioned the cost estimate of the project, and the funding requested. Then the BOS promoted their own proposal to use the Measure B funds to help fund a behavioral health wing of the new jail expansion. County Counsel is researching whether Measure B funds can even be used to fund the jail.

I understand that we need a new jail. Our old jail has outlived its engineered lifespan and a new jail is necessary for the health and safety of inmates and officers. The estimated construction cost of the new jail has increased beyond the original $26 million estimate but the $25 million funding commitment from the State has not. The County will ultimately pay the difference unless additional funding is secured. I don’t dispute any of this.

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What I dispute is the process. Measure B was passed to fund mental health services including building new facilities. The Measure B committee is supposed to oversee the funds generated from our taxes, vet project proposals, and bring projects deemed worthy of funding to the board for final approval. During the BOS meeting, it looked as though the board was looking to usurp the role of the Measure B committee. This doesn’t sit well with me.

I watched the Measure B committee meeting today and saw the effort to work around the process codified in the Mental Health Treatment Act continue. There was a request for Support from the Measure B Committee for construction of the Behavioral Health Wing of the Mendocino County Jail on the agenda. Agenda items are supposed to be within the purview of the board or committee. There is no proposal before the committee to use Measure B funds to fund a portion of the new jail. The request for support was more than a symbolic gesture. It was an attempt to pressure the Measure B committee to fund a portion of the cost of the new jail without going through the proper procedures set forth to secure funding for projects. Regardless of the merits of the project, it should follow the same process that Ford Street has and that process should not be unduly undermined by the BOS which effectively circumvents the responsibility and authority of the Measure B committee. I want to thank committee members Shannon Riley and Sherrie Ebyam for asserting the duty of the committee to follow due process.

In our democracy, there are reasons we have checks and balances. They ensure fairness, reduce mistakes, and decrease the risk of the consolidation of power. The merit of Ford street’s project should continue to be vetted through the Measure B committee. If the jail project wants to seek funding, it should bring a proposal to the Measure B committee. The BOS should be patient and not interfere or intervene on behalf of other projects before they go through the Measure B committee.

Adam Gaska
Candidate for 1st District Supervisor


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9 COMMENTS

  1. Hats off to Ms Riley, she’s been a Measure B committee member from the start and has never been afraid of speaking the truth. Especially when Ms Angelo was on the committee. Glad to hear she is still there and still holding firm.

  2. What a crock of ? so tired of these games. If the county needs money for a new jail then try and raise it by putting it on the ballot like measure B or ask for a hike in property taxes…so sick of voters approving certain measures and politicians trying to grab out of those cookie jars without due process. So grateful my time in this beautiful county is just days away. The incompetence and corruption truly amaze…

  3. The BOS is afraid the costs of delaying the new jail any longer may put the county in further jeopardy, financially, however you look at it. The prior BOS sat on their hands after receiving the initial grant in 17′. As a new potential BOS member, this is just a few things you will encounter where prior poor judgement/planning will force hard decisions onto new BOS members. No one likes Jails and it is politically undesirable. Would the funds be better used in another project other than the new jail is really the question? If the delay goes on, the new jail costs set the county even more behind to where they would be obligated to return the grant and maintain an outdated jail. No easy answers.

    • That is why I bring it up. I am not against using Measure B money to fund the jail. The jail is a part of the system that deals with people who have mental health issues or deal with substance abuse. If that is the plan, I would prefer it to be transparent to the public that is the intention of the board. I would also like the proposal to include a plan on how the jail fits into the continuum of care. What is the plan to staff the jail with mental health and substance abuse professionals? What services are or will be available to people when they are released from jail to support them? What is the ongoing operational costs for staffing?

      The optics aren’t good. It was often said Measure B funds would not be used for the jail, they would be used for catching people upstream and prevent them from going to jail. The reality is, more than a few people end up in jail because of mental health/substance abuse issues. We have an outdated jail that has outlived its lifespan and needs replacement. We have state grant moneys to help pay for a new jail but costs are increasing while the level of financial support is not. Public safety is the primary mandate for the County and the jail is a part of that. We should probably use some Measure B funds for the jail. There are going to be people that will feel lied to, betrayed if this happens. The process to make those decisions should be open, honest and transparent otherwise it feeds into the public’s distrust of government.

      I think that we have some options. Maybe the County can borrow the money from the Measure B funds and pay them back, with interest. Then the Measure B facilities fund isn’t depleted and there would be funds available in the future for another capital improvement project.

      • Like my title says, “Too many holes in the ship” – I would approach this on which holes get priority. Not all holes are equally concerning. A jail, to me, is fundamental for any civilization. It’s like as fundamental as a court house or sheriff/police/fire dept. The Prior BOS did the future BOS no favors by delaying its construction and the tax payers will suffer in the end for this delay.

        The financials of the county books need a reckoning. Once the State Special Audit is revealed to the public and the dust settles then people can unwind the knots which is this county’s finances. The BOS needs to stay on top of the elected heads and/or make a finance dept to audit the financials more regularly. The elected heads are the ones the BOS has least influence over and they can sometimes act like they are above the law as we saw in the most recent embezzlement charge.

        Measure B is a victim of this dysfunction and any new program/service this community tries to implement in the future will be under threat by the current dynamic and leadership model.

    • Oh lord a new jail has been so overdue and shame on you all for picking and choosing there is more moisture mold and disintegrating interior that before you guys get done explaining and pointing fingers the damn thing is probably going to fall in on itself Jesus you all know it’s condition and still justifying who’s to say what justice is around here how we treat people is not right and Jesus is watching always know that GROW UP AND GET HUMBLE ADMIT AND COMMIT AND GET IT DONE PLEASE AND THANK YOU JUST A LOCAL THAT KNOWS. GODBLESS GLORY AND PRAISE TO THE LORD FOR LOVING HIS PEOPLE AND MAKING THE WAY HALLELUJAH AMEN!

      • Amends wonderful use of run on, punctual-less sentence structures, and, less not forget, ALL CAPs to make a convincing argument that Jesus is monitoring everything we do. When I was a kid there was another person called Santa Claus that did the same exact thing for naughty and nice kids. As a mature adult, I realized we can make decisions to better our finite lives like budgeting, educating, accepting responsibility for failure and success. Recognizing failure isn’t finger ? or arrogance. It is an opportunity to course correct from the prior direction. Mendo needs course correction not more of the same legacy decision making of its past. This is called constructive criticism and not GROW UP AND GET HUMBLE as you eloquently put it.

  4. A 5-2-2 vote is hardly a ringing endorsement. The jail is a new unbudgeted cost for Measure B and once the gates open to using B funds for it, it will be hard to contain the damage from this new money pit. My prediction is Mendocino will never get a Puff. Never get enhanced Drug/Alcohol services. Franky with the track record of the board and administration, they may not even get the new jail built. They fail to consistently set priorities and see them through. From crisis to crisis is all they know. And as Lee Kemper warned, it’s all they will ever do.

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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
Editor's Note: Whenever an article's byline reads "MendoFever Staff", the contents of that article were not composed by any of our reporters. Types of writing that will be attributed to "MendoFever Staff" include press releases, letters to the editor, op-eds, obituaries— essentially writing that is not produced by a reporter.

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