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A young man from Ukiah accused of rape is skipping another jury trial and pleads out instead. 24 year old Zachary Barajas was supposed to be in court next Monday for the retrial related to the rape of a minor. In July of 2019 Barajas was found guilty by a jury of one count, but they could not reach a unanimous verdict on a separate count of forcible rape of a separate minor. So instead of a retrial, he admitted criminal responsibility for 2 other felonies, including unlawful sexual intercourse with a separate female. To be done with the whole case, he’ll have to accept a prison sentence of about 12 years. Since these are violent felonies, he can only skim 15% off for good behavior. He’ll be formally sentenced in May.

The Mendocino County Water Resiliency Task Force is working with the State Water Resources Control Board regarding the threat of serious drought in the Upper Russian River.  The Task Force working on the issue includes representatives from the City of Ukiah, Russian River Flood Control & Water Conservation Improvement District, Mendocino County Farm Bureau, Upper Russian River Water Agency, Resource Conservation District, County Water Agency, and others.   The state can now impose restrictions, but has not said yet. But the State Water Board has said without immediate rain that brings up storage levels in local reservoirs, they could look at some regulations in coming months to protect water rights and to make sure there are adequate flows for salmon.  

An online town hall with representatives from Mendocino County and the cannabis community along with the Cannabis Business Association on Phase 3 of the county’s recreational legal cannabis industry. Mendo Voice was on hand and their publisher was the moderator. 2 county supervisors and the new Cannabis Program Manager were there along with the Board Chair of Mendocino Cannabis Alliance and a cannabis lawyer. They discussed the permitting process, how they will be regulated and reviewed based on noise, air quality and aesthetics.  As part of the next phase, the new Cannabis Program Manager said there should be a list for law enforcement of all businesses.

As the recall effort heats up, it’s starting to look a lot like the 2003 recall of Gray Davis, when dozens of people tried to win the former Governor’s job. Another Republican has entered the field of candidates, former Congressman Doug Ose (Oh-see) announced yesterday he’ll try to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom. Newsom has announced he thinks former Pres. Trump’s followers are behind the recall against him. Plus he started a PAC to raise money to fight to keep his job. Ose is the third well-known Republican to enter the race, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox, who ran against Newsom and lost in a landslide in 2018. When Arnold Schwarzenegger won, there were 135 on the ballot.

After the ongoing Ghost Ship trials have come to an end, the City of Oakland reports being on the hook for nearly $13.5 million in legal fees. The fire at the old warehouse filled to the brim with art killed 36 people. The master tenant Derick Almena had been in jail but got out due to the pandemic. He was sentenced to 12 years, but it’s home confinement and with time served, it looks like he won’t be in prison. Besides the city paying out millions to defend itself against the fire civil lawsuit, $33 million was agreed to as a settlement with the victims families and a seriously injured survivor. Almena lives in Lake County and is serving his home confinement there.

The largest school district in Northern Calif. is heading back to in person learning. Next Tuesday thousands of families head back, but it’s only 30% of Elk Grove’s 60,000 students who are returning this spring. A School District spokesperson says it’s different for each campus, some have 60% returning to campus. They’re starting it all with a staggered schedule. Students in Pre-K to third grade first with hybrid learning. So teachers will tend to both in person and online younger students. Elk Grove is in the Sacramento region and was the first school district to close a year ago.

A fundraiser has begun for the Fort Bragg auto shop owner and his employees who lost the building to a fire. Gordon’s Automotive burned last weekend. The community is raising money on GoFundMe and as of yesterday had almost $11,000. The campaign was started by a Fort Bragg High School teacher.  Firefighters say they’re not sure how the fire started. The fire chief said it was so intense, they may not know the ignition point, but are considering an electrical issue high up in the rafters in one corner of the building. There were no injuries in the Sunday fire.

The Congressional Art Competition is accepting entries from high schoolers. The art eventually gets showcased in the US Capitol. And there’s a winner for each congressional district who gets a free trip to Washington D.C. They’re accepting digital submissions this year due to the pandemic. The deadline to enter is April 23rd. Congressman Jared Huffman announced the competition is open for digital submissions and there’s a new submission process to go with it. The artwork that wins is hung for a year and the winner is entered into a contest for a scholarship to attend Savannah College of Art and Design too. They’re accepting paintings, drawings, collages, prints, mixed media, computer generated art and photography.

Lake County has officially entered the Red Tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Yesterday, the Public Health Officer announced the county has gotten out of the Purple Tier and all changes go into effect today. Mendocino and Sonoma entered on Sunday. There were no counties in the state that moved to a more restrictive tier. 11 counties remain the purple tier, 42 in red, four in orange and one in the yellow, or “minimal,” tier. As of yesterday Lake County announced a total of 3,224 confirmed cases  and 43 deaths. The case rate is reported to be the lowest since the first part of October. The county’s public health office reports the county won’t be able to go to the even less restrictive orange tier until at least April 6th.

The tiers of who can get their vaccine in Calif. have opened up some, but there are still limited supplies. So previously eligible residents could run into obstacles until supply meets demand. The homeless, transit workers and the largest category, those 16 to 64 with high risks or disease including diabetes, kidney or lung disease, women who are pregnant or those with Down syndrome. That adds up to 6 million more eligible for a total of 17 to 19 million — or about half the state. It also comes at time when counties begin moving to less restrictive tiers in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy in Calif. Sutter Health is prioritizing second doses, Kaiser is vaccinating members and non-members, and county health departments working with giant vaccination sites and pharmacies are doing shots too.

Schools bringing kids back for in person learning are preparing for another epidemic, serious mental health conditions. Since the COVID19 pandemic began we’ve been hearing about students who are felling lonely, but are also experiencing serious mental health crises, like fear, upheaval and grief. Some because they’ve lost friends or family members and many families have at least one jobless parent. A report by the Center for Reinventing Public Education says kids visiting mental health professionals spiked dramatically the past year. And the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says 1 in 4 young adults say they’ve considered suicide because of the pandemic.

A new campaign is being considered in Ukiah to protect Monarch butterflies. The Daily Journal reports cities and communities are taking a so-called, “Mayor’s Monarch Pledge”. They’re agreeing to commit to create habitat for the Monarch butterfly and pollinators, and to teach residents about them. The Ukiah City Council is considering the pledge at their meeting tonight. On the agenda it says the butterflies contribute to the health of our planet. And the paper reports the city’s mayor is working with a group of environmentalists and naturalists on the idea too. The meeting’s at 6 p.m. online. You can watch on the city’s website.

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