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Valley People

SUNDAY'S CONTROLLED BURN behind Jack’s Valley Store went off without going out of control, which CalFire's burns have a tendency to do. This burn was practice for our volunteers under the careful direction of Chief Colin Wilson. An abandoned house was torched so the volunteers could hone their structure fire fighting skills.

BOOKS! Bargain book sale! $3.00 per bag at the Lending Library Saturday, April 27th from 2 to 4 pm. Enjoy the Wildflower Show in June Hall and then fill your bag with great books. Many new books are available for check-out at the Library as well. The Library will be closed Saturday, May 4th for the Beer Festival.

AV YOUTH SOCCER sign-ups for the Fall season happen a bunch of times in Ukiah at the Alex Rorabaugh Center (South Ukiah) beginning this Friday and Saturday then again on Saturday the 27th. Locally, you've got a youth soccer sign-up on Sunday, May 5th at the Elementary School, 10am until 2pm. Info with Glad at 707 684-0792 or Liz at 895-3010

BEEN ADMONISHED many times over the years that elementary school is not capitalized.

LITTLE GUY FOOTBALL'S cheerleaders will be selling hot dogs with all the fixings in front of AV Market on Sunday, April 21 from 12 — 3 pm. And by the way, donations to this most worthwhile youth sports program can be mailed to Box 3, Boonville. Checks made out to, I think, AV Youth Football.

ANNE BENNETT, encountered Saturday afternoon landscaping the area in front of her spiffy new Boonville building called Tindall's Market, pointed out the first of two public benches she and her husband, Aaron Weintraub, were installing along with the landscaping, the whole of it a most welcome community enhancement.

IF ONLY ANNE and Aaron could somehow get possession of Ricard's nearby shambles, but Ricard seems content simply to sit on the property, daring us all to abate him. And why he hasn't been abated remains a mystery to me. Our Community Services District Board has appealed to  the County in the hope that even that sluggish entity just might roll on Ricard. Nope, the County says Ricard's kindling pile doesn't meet hazard standards. The property awaits only a match, and when it goes up let's hope it doesn't take out Pearl Thomasson's adjacent antique store and half of the Haehl Street neighborhood with it. This ongoing fire and safety hazard would not be tolerated by any other community in the County, but somehow it's inflicted on us. Ricard himself lives in the gated, meticulously maintained splendor of Little River and also owns a couple of Mendocino structures, a fastidious little community that does not tolerate unmaintained abandoned buildings.

TWO DOORS DOWN, Ms. Bennett says she learned from that young Boonville old timer, Shorty Adams, there was once a Mercury dealer. "Shorty came by yesterday and said he knew the person that bought the first Mercury from that dealer in 1951 for $2400." Hmmm. I think I remember Shorty himself behind the wheel of a classic Merc back in '72 or so.

AND YOU'RE GETTING to be an old timer if you remember when the Anderson Valley Health Center was located in the Ricard complex, as was a bar, a feed store, a health food business, and a laundromat. Next door we had the First National Bank of Cloverdale and, in the other direction, at the Mannix Building, present-day site of the Bennett-Weintraub development, we enjoyed the basic amenity of a drug store.

INSIDE TINDALL'S MARKET at All That Good Stuff's sunny new site, the unfailingly charming Claudia Espinoza presiding, a mini-mob of Saturday shoppers browsed and bought. Boomsville was booming all weekend.

DON'T MISS the gigantico sale at Anderson Valley Farm Supply, Saturday, April 27th, complete with raffle. Lots of every outdoor thing imaginable and then some.

NEED FOR SPEED has finished filming in Mendocino County as of Saturday. A large crew was on the Ukiah-Boonville Road from about 9am until late afternoon. The story line seems pretty simple, as does the film's target audience. It's based on a video game about a guy driving really, really fast from one end of the country to the other. Mendocino County is the other. The movie concludes with a race from Ukiah to Point Arena.

THE NEXT TIME HOLLYWOOD comes calling, maybe Mendocino County can work up a deal that says the crew has to at least eat a meal a day in local restaurants. For this epic, DreamWorks dragged almost everything they needed up from LA, including a large mobile dining room they parked inside the Boonville Fairgrounds. The crew ate there rather than at Boonville's array of fine dining opportunities, which of course include Libby's in Philo and Dave's Deli at the Deepend. A few locals got hired to stand at the end of driveways to make sure locals didn't careen onto the filming, and the company rented some chain motel rooms in Ukiah. But other than those meager expenditures all we got out of the deal were some annoyingly inconvenient traffic delays. And please don't say we'll get lots of tourists when everyone sees how purty Mendo is when they see our ravishing vistas in the movie. Twelve-year-old boys and the learning disabled aren't likely to head north when they leave the theater.

GENE HERR will have a comprehensive report next week on Monday night's meeting to discuss the proposed Exclusive Ambulance Operating Area. From our informal opinion samples Boonville is heavily opposed to becoming part of an outside ambulance service.

THE FRANCHISE TAKEOVER of Mendocino County's outback volunteer ambulance services seems dead on arrival. The deal is pegged to an assumption that present volunteers would keep on volunteering for a private, for-profit ambulance service. That-there is yer basic false assumption, we assume.

THAT PHILO two-year-old poisoned by a combination of methamphetamine and alcohol has not been returned to his mother. He remains in foster care. There have been several hearings on the matter and criminal charges have been brought. As is often true of child endangerment cases, both grandmothers are responsible persons. The child may wind up with one or the other. It was grandma who noticed that the toddler was sick, and it was grandma who hustled him over the hill for emergency care.

THE COUNTY'S CPS services, rightly maligned for years as ranging from marginally competent to lethally incompetent, are now in the much more capable hands of a new boss named Cynthia Silva. From all reports, Ms. Silva is smart and humane, and it's been some time since CPS was led by a person similarly endowed.

IN OTHER SORDID affairs involving children, the drug and guns raid on a Haehl Street (Boonville) home two weeks ago resulted in four children taken into protective custody by CPS, all four of them, we understand, now being temporarily cared for by a local family of samaritans.

THE MAJOR HERE, reporting from the AV School Bond Oversight Committee: Last Wednesday evening the Oversight Committee listened to a lengthy presentation from Miguel Rodriguez of Caldwell Flores, the Emeryville-based school bond financial consulting outfit which is arranging to borrow the $15.25 million to upgrade and modernize the local elementary school and high school. So far Rodriguez has arranged to borrow about $6.5 million. More will be borrowed when Caldwell-Flores calculates that the $60 per $100,000 of assessed value can finance the additional borrowing. Most of the first $6.5 million has been spent on remodeling and upgrading of the elementary school classrooms plus some refurbishment of the high school gym locker room area. About $2.2 million of the $6.5 million was spent on solarizing the elementary school. We will spare you the “bond math” as Mr. Rodriguez described it, but suffice it to say that when the dust settles, a lot more money will be spent on interest than is spent on school remodeling and modernization.

MOST PEOPLE, including me, didn't realize that when they voted to approve the $15.25 million bond issue a few years ago, they were actually voting to assess themselves well over $30 million, give or take, depending on the actual interest rates for the various bonds which will generate the principal of $15.25 million. The way the system works is that schools must pay a loan shark, er, lenders, investors and banks, in the range of twice the amount they want to borrow for the privilege of having enough money to upgrade their edu-facilities.

SOME OF THE BONDS (the first $2.2 million) are what are known as “clean and renewable energy general obligation bonds,” others (about $4.1 million) are “general obligation series B-1 bank qualified bonds,” and a small amount is via what are called Capital Appreciation Bonds. Rodriguez said several times that capital appreciation bonds are “not the devil,” as they have been portrayed in a flurry of news stories in recent months when some of them were exposed as huge ripoffs with huge balloon payments that some school districts cannot afford to pay, causing modernization plans to be significantly scaled back or discontinued unfinished. (They are the devil, actually, but that’s a story that’s already been told, not an argument with Mr. Rodriguez.)

THE BOND FINANCING methods in some districts like Willits, suffer as much from depressed home values which nose-dived in the Great Wall Street Swindle of 2008, causing the revenues produced by the $60 per $100,000 of assessed value to be significantly reduced, meaning that the school districts cannot afford to pay back the loans/bonds that they assumed they could with tax revenues.

ANDERSON VALLEY has not suffered a significant drop in assessed value — the Golden Horde influx over the past thirty years has made Valley property quite valuable — so the estimated tax revenues appear to be sufficient to pay back the bonds as scheduled, albeit at usurious rates of interest.

RODRIGUEZ also pointed out that Anderson Valley is fortunate to have scheduled their bond financing after some early Obama Administration legislation which provided for partial subsidies for the interest on the loans (i.e., bonds), significantly reducing the net interest rate for the bonds that have been sold so far, making the total amount of interest to be paid back by the school bond property tax increment substantially lower. (Never mind that taxpayers still have to pay the interest, just not via local property taxes.)

WHEN YOURS TRULY asked Rodriguez if there was any difference in the fees that Caldwell-Flores charged for the higher interest loans/bonds, Rodriguez admitted that the higher the loan amount, the higher the interest-rate, the higher their fees. As he attempted to explain why this was rational, I couldn't help smiling at the rationalizations. Rodriguez looked quizzically at me saying, “I see you’re smiling; it looks like you're not buying this.” I replied that I agreed with Ben Franklin’s dictum, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

LATER, in discussing the financing arrangements with the school district’s bond project construction manager Don Alameida, we agreed that it would be better if school budgets included a line item that legally mandated savings for modernization and remodeling which would accumulate to cover construction costs incrementally as they became necessary (administered by a board independent of the school board). But given the way school budgets are arranged these days, that's impractical to the point of impossibility, forcing taxpayers to finance such facility improvements in a way that gives at least as much money to banks and investors as it does to actual construction. (Mark Scaramella)

SNIVEL & SOB. Our phones have been on and off for months now. The phone company has no idea why. The prob, they say, isn't on their end. We've switched phones, jiggled wires, plugged and unplugged. Whole days pass without a single ring which, truth to tell, is regarded here mostly as a good thing. Other days the phone rings every few minutes. (Lots of lunatics seem to have us on auto-dial.) Callers, when they finally get through, are angry. One exclaimed, "I bet you do it on purpose?" I can't remember the last time I did anything on purpose, much less mess with the phone line. Then there's the Post Office. We do a lot of postal paperwork every week. Occasionally, we make a tiny math error, so tiny, so inconsequential that in any other context than a government context it would be overlooked. Or allowed to be corrected later. But Postmistress Colette, right here in Boonville, right here at the source of America's last newspaper, can't mail the paper out until the math is absolutely correct. The next level of the P.O. is breathing down her neck, you see, as are paperwork nazis all the way up the line. While the Post Office demands that our paperwork is perfect, the service they offer us in return ranges from imperfect to "Like, dude, we have no idea where your papers went." And we pay a lot of postage for deliveries that arrive in the Bay Area anywhere from a week to a month late, and sometimes doesn't get there at all. More distant readers get their papers about a month after they leave Boonville. I think the Pony Express got the mail clear across the country in three weeks. I've given up complaining. One anon PO drone wrote to say he wouldn't communicate at all with me if I swore at him again. I didn't swear at him the first time. I simply relayed a frustrated customer e-mail to him that contained this line, "What the bleep is up with the Post Office?" I would swear at him if he walked through our office door, and I'd be very tempted to leap for his throat, too. The nerve. As if he were the injured party here. But most of these people at the more distant levels of Post Office bureaucracy don't have names and are unreachable. None of them are responsible for anything. I imagine them in faraway lunchrooms on speakerphones. "Listen up. This might be fun. It's that Boonville guy again. See how long it takes him to go off." It's all frustrating in the extreme, but a good lesson in how precarious the lines of communication are for everyone. The internet is controlled by what? Ten mammoth corporations? We're at their mercy, too.

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