I don’t know why it didn’t dawn on me sooner to knit during Shasta County Board of Supervisors meetings to make them more tolerable. Knitting is not a new coping strategy for me. I once anxiously knit an entire hat during a kid’s surgery. And many years ago I routinely brought knitting projects to what I then naively thought were “long” Redding City Council meetings.
::wipes away tears of laughter::
Those Redding City Council meetings occurred before Shasta County’s present-day meetings; gatherings that can infamously drag on for more than eight hours. They were also prior to Shasta County being known as the laughing stock of the world after it went berserk around the time of COVID-19’s coming-out party in the spring of 2020. If you’re a regular visitor to A News Cafe, then you’ve probably read about those meetings here on ANC, so there’s no point rehashing everything here today. Suffice to say I know all about it, because I’ve monitored nearly every. single. meeting.
There’s neither enough time nor column inches today to chronicle all the trauma and drama that’s happened inside those chambers in three-and-a-half years. But to summarize:
• The pandemic triggered a mishmash of bona fide concerns about COVID-19, mixed with opportunistic so-called patriots, militia members, Christian nationalists, state-splitters, ultra-rightwing characters and anti-government-minded citizens who used liberty and freedom as excuses for bad behavior in a county where many individuals and establishments openly defied state pandemic mandates, with puny-to-no consequences.
• Things took a turn for the political when Reverge Anselmo, a grudge-holding son-of-a-billionaire, funded hard-right candidates who invaded county government.
• Former board meetings’ vanilla civility and decorum were replaced with pandemonium, bullhorns, and even death threats by hard-right players against people like Cathy Darling Allen, the county’s registrar of voters, and District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert — conservative Republican, grandmother and rancher — as well as her former colleague Leonard Moty, a Notre Dame graduate, former police chief and self-described Reagan Republican who was unjustly removed from his District 2 board seat in an Anselmo-financed lie-based recall.
• The employment bloodletting of the county’s best and brightest continues — the stampeding exodus of key county employees — everyone from rank-and-file workers, career directors and department heads to a top-notch health officer, an unjustly recalled supervisor, a former CEO who was allegedly blackmailed into jumping ship, and a 24/7 revolving door of incoming and outgoing county counsels.
• Just when it seemed things couldn’t get worse, they did, thanks to chair Patrick Jones, who rules board meetings like a cross between a deranged dictator and a Mafia boss compensating for numerous deficiencies. He routinely shows unabashed favoritism to his friends and followers and blatant disrespect to his critics. If he were a schoolkid, he’d be sent to the principal’s office and permanently expelled as a problem child.
Hence, the primary Shasta County low points that connect a sea of deformed dots into an abstract picture of unrest, turmoil and local instability that’s put Shasta County on the map of insanity that’s garnered worldwide attention — and not in a good way.
Back to knitting. I hadn’t given knitting much thought until the Oct. 3 board of supervisors meeting also attended by Cathy Darling Allen, who, no surprise, happened to be knitting. Her attendance always guarantees repeated rounds of rudeness by those who take glee in dishing up verbal abuse. By “those” we’re not just talking about audience members, but also supervisors Crye and Jones in particular, who’ve made a sport of Darling-Allen bashing.
Darling Allen is Shasta County’s No. 1 hard-right enemy, because the trio of board-majority buddies voted in January to ditch the county’s Dominion voting machines so they could hand-count ballots.
Not so fast, said State Assembly Bill 969 that banned hand-counting for municipalities with more than 1,000 registered voters, which is basically most California counties. Because Shasta County has more than 110,000 registered voters, the state forbids hand-counting here. End of discussion. Even so, Jones claims he’ll sue the state, which drew Rickert’s admonition and warning to her alt-right colleagues Tuesday.
Meanwhile, if you think the hard-righters despised Darling Allen for following the law before AB969, you can bet they hate her even more since the bill passed that made it illegal to hand-count Shasta County ballots.
She’s constantly ridiculed and mocked, not just during supervisor meetings and on social media, but during some local radio shows on KCNR, a station that makes big bank providing airtime and platforms that serve up unbridled hate speech and conspiracy theories.
For example, Poke the Hornet’s Nest host Nick Gardner recently joked about Darling Allen’s body, and said she wouldn’t win a swimsuit contest.
And on Oct. 8, Jefferson State of Mine host Terry Rapoza commiserated with a caller who goes by “Stones” (Richard Gallardo), as the men complained about Darling Allen.
Richard Gallardo: “I’m gettin’ sick and tired of this registrar. Every time she has discretion for a fair and transparent anything, she chooses the opposite of fair and transparent. I’m getting really tired of it.”
Terry Rapoza: “Well you know, there has to be a way to get ride of her. I mean period. The thing is, it’s just, just — enough is enough. I don’t know how many more things we can build up against this person.”
This public conversation, broadcast on a radio program to these men’s listeners, begs many questions about what exactly they mean when they mean when they say, “get rid of” her.
It’s noteworthy that Gallardo has a history of unstable behavior and unregulated anger issues. He was led out of board chambers after a failed citizens’ arrest of the entire board of supervisors and county staff.
He fancies himself a security guard of sorts, such as when he worked at Supervisor Crye’s first so-called town hall meeting.
Most recently he was implicated in an incident where he terrorized an elderly man in his camper.
Like Supervisor Rickert, Darling Allen has endured unimaginable verbal mistreatment for nearly four years. Both Rickert and Darling are women of faith. To cope, Rickert, a devout Catholic, prays. And she walks.
To cope, Darling Allen, a devout Christian, also prays. And she knits. Throughout even the most contentious meetings, Darling Allen sits quietly with a serene expression upon her face as she knits and knits and knits, even as insults are hurled her way, seemingly deflected by her perpetually moving needles and rapidly shrinking ball of yarn.
A lifelong knitter, Darling Allen is ahead of her time. Articles and essays everywhere from UCLA’s MindWell project and The New York Times to Happiness.com report that knitting and crocheting can reduce anxiety, release serotonin, and can help with concentration and focus. In 2021, Olympian diver Tom Daley made knitting hip again. In fact, the positive effects of needle work has been documented and coined as “medknitation” for its mental benefits.
No wonder Darling Allen has turned to knitting during the most obnoxious, combative meetings.
On Oct. 3, Darling Allen’s knitting was addressed by speaker Kim Moore at the supervisors meeting.
Inexplicably, something unexpected happened after Moore went ballistic about Darling Allen’s knitting: An organic campaign of sorts grew from a number of Darling Allen-defenders. They decided to demonstrate their support in the most quiet and crafty way of all: a board-chambers knit-in.
Despite the fact that Darling Allen wasn’t present at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, as a show of solidarity with Darling Allen, more than a dozen people appeared in the board chambers equipped to engage in all manner of needlework.
I was among the knitters.
I wasn’t alone.
In one case, nearly an entire row was occupied by men and women armed with knitting needles, crochet hooks and yarn in the same chambers where unknown numbers of people were armed with concealed weapons that many yearn to carry openly.
Those who attended Tuesday’s supervisors meeting had much to knit about.
Jenny O’Connell proved an adept multi-tasker who never dropped a stitch as she continued to knit as she waited her turn to speak.
O’Connell explained to supervisors the error in their decision to dismiss the Dominion machines.
There were a few relatively light-hearted moments, such as when a pair of sisters (and knitters) presented their book during the public comment period about how to kill a county.
Other parts of the meeting were more intense, such as when speakers directed negative comments toward specific supervisors.
Case in point, Steven Kohn took District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye to task for displaying unprofessional conduct at a public event where he approached Kohn, berated him and called him a coward.
Another especially knit-worthy moment was when Christian Gardinier educated Jones about potential consequences for breaking election laws.
Nathan Pinkney picked up where Gardinier left off about legal infractions, and schooled chair Jones about a particular Constitutional item.
The far-right board majority heard from fans and followers, too; folks who praised them for their accomplishments, and encouraged them to stand up, and keep up the great work.
But some of the most stressful, knit-brow-provoking moments involved exchanges between supervisors Crye and Rickert; notoriously contentious as Crye often behaves like a petulant brat high on Holiday Market donuts, hellbent on getting in as many digs against Rickert – the board’s voice of reason – as possible in one meeting.
Tuesday, the volley of words between Crye and Rickert came fast and furious, with Rickert not backing down when making a point, such as when she confronted Crye about how he says he’s all about local, but yet he brings in outside money from speaking engagements beyond Shasta County.
Rickert wasn’t finished. She clearly stated why it was a horrible idea for the board to sue the state over AB969.
Arguably the meeting’s most significant exchanges took place prior to the supervisors’ vote for a new health officer. It felt like deja vu all over again, a throw back to a recent board-majority rejection of the obviously most qualified candidate — epidemiologist Donnell Ewert — for a slot on the county’s Mosquito and Vector Board where Ewert should have been a shoo-in. Instead, the board majority scraped the bottom of the unlikely candidate bucket and came up with uneducated grow-store owner/Red, White and Blueprint producer Jon Knight, who said, among other things, that the Japanese have created flying syringes to vaccinate unsuspecting citizens.
Gosh, I wish I’d had my knitting for that meeting.
Somewhat related, because it’s about Knight, who now serves on an official county board, but he also created quite the social media stir when he warned citizens about an upcoming federal emergency test system, complete with Knight’s suggestion to wrap cell phones in foil.
Back to Tuesday’s knitting fest/supervisors meeting. Once again, the hard-right board selected a less-qualified candidate — Dr. James Mu — over Ramstrom — the highly qualified former health officer, fired by a majority of the previous board that included Jones, Garman and former District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh.
For the record, Supervisor Rickert and former District 1 Supervisor Joe Chimenti voted against Ramstrom’s removal.
Bonus points against Mu: Not only is he far less qualified than Ramstrom, but we the taxpayers will foot the bill for Mu’s additional training and education to bring him up to speed about what’s required to be the county’s public health czar. All that aside, Mu is also controversial because of personal stances he voiced at the peak of COVID-19 about state mandates, vaccines and masks.
Who could have predicted more than two years ago, when A News Cafe photographed a then-unknown man signing a recall petition at a “medical freedom” rally, that he’d one day be the county’s public health officer?
Redding physician Dr. Nena Perry methodically outlined several reasons why she believed Mu was the wrong choice. In addition to his personal beliefs, Perry pointed out that if it’s true he has 5,000 patients, that’s 5,000 citizens who’ll soon be without a physician, in a community where it’s increasingly difficult to find healthcare providers accepting new patients.
Benjamin Nowain got off work in time to agree with Perry and others regarding Mu as the county’s top health officer.
However, others loved the idea of Dr. Mu as the county’s top health officer, such as Moore, the woman who screeched at Darling Allen for knitting earlier this month.
Take note of this video. See how chair Jones indulges Moore, never interrupts, how he allows her to speak ad nauseam, a country mile off topic about her MTHFR gene mutation, interspersed with personal beliefs about COVID-19, deadly vaccines, and insults against the “lunatics” on the left who want to “force the jab”.
Behold, a classic example of Jones’ predictable double standards that he trots out at every board meeting, faster than galloping pigs escaping gunfire on pigpen property.
Does Jones truly wonder why so many frustrated citizens shout out in protest during meetings about the obvious inequities, only to be gaveled into submission with Jones’ threats of removal by security guards, or even arrest?
Watch, learn, and knit away in shock and awe as you observe justice, the Jones way. In the next video, compare and contrast the differences between how he treated Moore, versus how Jones curtly interrupts Baremore and demands she remain on topic (which, she was).
For some time now Baremore has been a consistently level-headed, articulate speaker at board meetings. She has relentlessly tabulated and provided updates of the number of days since Ramstrom was fired, and how many hundreds of days since the supervisors failed to hire Ramstrom’s replacement. Jones doesn’t pretend to like Baremore. He sometimes calls her “Susan” rather than Susanne, which seems petty, but hey, petty is as petty does.
Likewise, Jones’ pal Crye recently referred to Baremore from the dais and fat-shamed her as someone with an “off-the-charts” BMI, notable, Crye said, that she’d be the one pressing the supervisors for a new health officer. He didn’t name her, but he didn’t have to. Baremore is the only person at board meetings who’s repeatedly identified the number of days the county’s existed without a Ramstrom replacement.
Yet another reason Crye’s being recalled.
Brick-wall board majority transparency
After the public’s pro-and-con comments about Mu, it was the board’s turn to weigh in. District 5 Supervisor Chris Kelstrom, who rarely speaks during meetings — who admits he drinks two Red Bulls to remain awake during meetings — voted for Mu. Kelstrom congratulated Mu for being ahead of the CDC’s findings regarding face masks’ inefficacy. As expected, Jones and Crye also threw their support behind Mu.
Garman, who’s prone to flipping, depending upon who knows what, was the wildcard. When Garman said he wouldn’t vote for Mu, Crye confronted Garman, which wasn’t a total surprise, or even unfounded.
Background: One of Garman’s first major votes after he assumed Moty’s District 2 board seat was to join with supervisors Baugh and Jones to fire Ramstrom without cause. That was back when patriots like Rapoza, Gallardo and Knight were delighted with Garman, whose allegiance they assumed they’d enjoy for the duration of Garman’s term, which is up for election in 2024.
It’s because of Garman’s vote to fire Ramstrom that I deliver the same response to people giddy about Garman’s apparent turn-around that has him frequently joining Rickert’s vote:
“I have two words for you: Karen Ramstrom.”
But look at Garman now. He even wore a Recall Kevin Crye T-shirt to a board meeting.
But he also spoke first-hand of COVID’s dangers that nearly killed him and a daughter, and how he was writing letters to his family in case he died. But then, despite Garman’s near-death story, he suddenly flipped and sided with Crye’s toothless, wet-noodle, grand-standing resolution against state pandemic mandates.
Crye shredded Garman.
Rickert is consistent, so there was no surprise when she spoke against hiring Mu for the county health officer, for a few reasons. One, she said there were other candidates who had the required qualifications to be the county health officer, and two, because of how much extra money the county would need to pay to educate Mu.
Rickert gingerly broached the topic of the interview process that resulted in Mu being recommended over other candidates. Rickert said the public should know more about the candidate-selection process, and asked the CEO and county counsel for guidance.
The answer was no, because the topic could be classified as a personnel issue.
And that was that; until Sam Chimenti of KRCR broadcast a “BOMBSHELL” news clip in which he claimed that Rickert “alluded” that the overwhelming majority of the health-officer interview panel had not selected Mu.
Chimenti owes Rickert an apology for throwing her under a bus of total misinformation. Although it may not have been deliberate, Chimenti falsely attributed meanings to words that Rickert did not utter. Perhaps Chimenti made an incorrect presumptive leap because KRCR has received — as has A News Cafe — several confidential tips that claimed Jones pushed Mu through to the top, despite the majority of panelists’ recommendations for a different, more qualified candidate.
The latter point was touched upon by Rickert in a prickly exchange with Jones, who glibly pronounced the panelists’ recommendations as “meaningless”.
All that happened at Tuesday’s meeting. But if you think that board of supervisors event was a doozy, catch your breath and take a look at the Oct. 24 agenda. (Take note the meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.)
Pay particular attention to item R2, that centers around Jones’ deeply desired zone amendment that would make possible his dream of an outdoor gun range complex and gun club.
This is a good time to recall Jones’ recent wimpy, mystifying recusal in the Hawes Farm expansion agenda item, ostensibly because his “blood relative” (nephew) worked at Hawes. Weirdly, Greg Hawes claimed he’d specifically asked Jones if the nephew’s employment at Hawes Farm would cause a problem, or if it would compel Jones to recuse himself. According to Hawes, Jones assured him there’d be no problem, nor would Jones recuse himself on the Hawes vote.
Jones, who’s considered by many to be an untruthful person, reversed his statement to Hawes. Jones recused himself from the Hawes Farm vote.
Next, Crye provided an equally weak recusal, supposedly related to doing some unspecified business with Hawes. Knowing Crye, that “business” could be something as benign as taking Ninja gym kids to the Hawes’ pumpkin patch, which would be about as lame as if he recused himself from a vote about First 5 Shasta because he might be a grandfather of a preschooler one day.
Rickert, whose property abuts Hawes, and who’s a longtime agricultural partner with Hawes, and whose husband has known Hawes since their high-school days, had the only solid justification for a genuine recusal.
With three supervisors down with recusals, that left just Kelstrom and Garman on the dais. Subsequently, in a move that had county staff shaking their heads and claiming they’d never seen anything quite like what had just happened, the Hawes Farm expansion vote died for lack of a quorum, a situation that could remain that way for more than a year, or until the board makeup changes.
Riddle me this: If it’s true that Jones and Crye provided intentionally flimsy excuses to avoid the Hawes Farm project vote, then it prompts the obvious question: Why?
Could it have anything to do with the fact that patriarch Glenn Hawes is one of Reverge Anselmo’s arch enemies, because then-Supervisor Hawes spoke against Anselmo’s code violations, which ultimately triggered Anselmo’s grudge against Shasta County?
When Jones and Crye recused themselves from the Hawes Farm vote, they won themselves a potential win-win situation: A happy Anselmo might reward them by financially backing future campaigns and pet projects, and the residents couldn’t fault them for a non-vote.
Sounds crazy? Maybe.
Either way, come Tuesday, Jones must certainly recuse himself from the gun range complex/gun club vote. To not do so would be profoundly unethical.
That leaves the decision up to Kelstrom, Crye, Garman and Rickert. It’s a strong guess that Kelstrom and Crye will side with their pal Patrick. And we know that Patrick’s pigs will fly over Hawes’ property the day that Rickert supports Jones’ shooting range project.
That leaves wildcard Garman. If he votes yes with Kelstrom and Crye, then Jones wins, and Garman earns some brownie points from Rapoza and his comrades. But, if Garman votes no with Rickert, then he’s still in the far-right doghouse and the vote fails. But most of all, if the vote fails, Jones must kiss goodbye his lifelong dream of a Shangri-La utopia of pigs and guns.
Stand by. Bring knitting needles and crochet hooks. And lots and lots of yarn.