EMIL ROSSI HAS DIED. Emil was the second generation owner of Rossi Hardware, having succeeded his immigrant father as proprietor of the oldest single-family business in the Anderson Valley. He died Tuesday at age 91. A highly principled man, Emil fought for those principles in the Mendocino County courts, as a libertarian candidate for public office, in letters to the newspapers of Ukiah and Boonville. He was in many battles with local bureaucracies, and was a consistently dissenting voice at shareholder meetings of the large corporations he was invested in, rightly complaining that their executives were wildly overpaid.
IT HAD BEEN CLEAR for some time that Emil was not in good health, but he continued to work, as he had all his life, at the pace of a much younger man.
I FIRST MET Emil in 1970 at Rossi Hardware, the kind of local business nearly extinct in the country — family-owned, family-run, with solid guarantees on merchandise sold. As new people in the community, we bought everything from hose clamps to refrigerators from Rossi Hardware, and still lament the day when the Rossi family no longer sold appliances. Emil or one of his sons, Chris or Nick, would turn out on Sundays or holidays if a pump or a drier needed repair.
EARLY ON, Emil volunteered to play on our softball team along with Valley old timers, then young old timers, Angelo Pronsolino and Sam Prather.
WE ALL KNOW that Emil was a man of strong opinions. He managed his final letter-to-the-editor late in August. Before that, even when it was clear he was dying, he would make the long climb to our office in the Farrer Building, refusing our offer to pick up his letters at his store across the street. And he never complained about his health, an old school man until the end — never complain, never explain. We admired his fortitude enormously.
ON ONE of his first visits to our aerie of an office, Emil said he hadn’t been upstairs since a dance on the top floor just before he was drafted to fight in World War Two where, among other famous battles, Emil fought but survived the Battle of the Bulge. Emerged from the War with frostbitten feet and a Bronze Star. It was at that community dance that he met Jeannie, his wife of many years who died in 2001.
HIS LAST LETTER nicely summed up Emil’s intransigent views: "Editor. This letter is about the half-cent sales tax proposed to be put on the ballot in November to create a new bureaucracy for the homeless and mentally impaired people. I am certainly not against taking care of our problem people, but what concerns me a lot more is where we are headed. This is not only a Mendocino County problem, but most cities, counties and federal governments are having the same problems. Here is the scenario that has been going on for years. Since government has no competition for cost, they are a monopoly. There is absolutely no reason to be efficient and stay within their budgets. What is really needed to be put on the ballot is a measure that would make it impossible for any of these government agencies to raise any money more than they get now. No taxes. No fees. Absolutely no more money from the public..."
EMIL deserves gratitude from all of us for his successful argument that the seatbelt fine he once incurred was only partially a fine. Bail should be returned to the accused. With his usual blunt honesty, Emil readily admitted not wearing a seatbelt as he traveled from the Redwood Drive-In to his store three hundred yards down the street. "I'm here!" Emil sang out to Judge Reimenschneider, and the judge agreed that Emil had indeed appeared and promptly adjusted his fine downward. Most of us, before Emil’s instructive stand, simply paid the whole amount on the ticket, including bail, which we forfeited. As Emil explained to us later, “The state collects millions of dollars this way from people who don’t show up to get their bail back.”
HIS LETTERS, and his life, emphasized "accountability." Emil certainly was personally accountable, but he didn't see much accountability in government, and he was never alone in that opinion.
FEW PEOPLE will remember Emil’s run for Congress as a Libertarian, and fewer still will remember he got the highest vote ever in this area as a Libertarian candidate.
HE WAS ALWAYS willing to listen to argument, although you were not going to change his mind on his core beliefs about taxes, government and regulation. Emil was a man from another time, perhaps a better time, when unyielding men were more common.
“R.I.P. Mr. Rossi.” writes Greg Krouse, “Let’s remember, too, his annual contributions to the Anderson Valley Solar Grange Variety Show. Year after year he’d perform his own solo slapstick skit… sometimes witty, sometimes corny, sometimes head-scratchingly unfathomable… but always worth a chuckle or two.”
HISTORY NOTE: A caller asks, “Did you know Homer and Bill Mannix grew up in Ornbaun Valley? There's an old schoolhouse there that has their names carved in the wall.” Bill’s son, Mike Mannix, is the friendly and helpful guy at the Boonville trash transfer station. Mike’s dad, Bill Mannix, Air Force colonel, retired to the Mannix property on Redwood Ridge. Homer Mannix founded this newspaper and, for years, ran Anderson Valley as justice court judge, president of the school and CSD boards.
DAVID SEVERN has asked the Community Services District Board to host a discussion of the Blackbird Ranch’s wild request to increase its transient occupancy capacity to nearly 300 “guests.” The Ranch has been the subject of much local concern lately, especially from the Ranch’s Philo neighbors. Severn pointed out that the Blackbird Ranch proposal is to increase their capacity from the current 36 to a total of 292, nearly equals the population of the entire town of Philo. Traffic on Rays Road (a county road) would increase dramatically as would traffic on other private roads leading to the Ranch across neighboring parcels. Severn wants the CSD board to invite Blackbird Ranch owner Mr. Hall to an upcoming CSD Board meeting where locals could discuss Blackbird’s plans and why Blackbird staffers seem to be promoting their preposterously intrusive proposal only to nearby wineries. Severn pointed out that Blackbird is co-mingling of the token "educational" aspect of the operation with the resort proposal. He has noted that by requesting 292 additional berths, Blackbird strategy seems to be to ask for the moon, settle for Pluto. (Ask for 292, “compromise” at a hundred or so.)
AFTER SOME DISCUSSION about what the Community Services District’s role with regard to Blackbird may be — at a minimum there are very specific emergency services access problems — CSD board chair Valerie Hanelt told Severn that if he worked with members of the local Community Action Coalition who have previously expressed interest in the subject, the Board would put the Blackbird proposal on an upcoming agenda, hopefully before the Blackbird application is considered by the County Planning Commission in December.
LOCAL ENTREPRENEUR, Willie Housley, told the Community Services District board that he intends to set up a companion business his winery tours which he calls Non-Emergency Medical Transport. "My company would be a for-profit business model focusing on elderly, veterans, disabled persons and special needs individuals," said Housley, adding that he intended to work with the local health center, veterans, the Senior Center, Elderhome and individual patients who need medical transportation services. Housley thinks the service would be especially helpful to people with chronic conditions who need transportation to and from treatment facilities or medical appointments and who don't have other transportation options. Board members expressed support for the idea but pointed out that they have nothing to do with non-emergency medical activity or for-profit companies. Housley said he expects that some local emergency responders might sign up as drivers for his service. The board replied that that would be between him and those individuals, expressing unanimous support for his idea.
CSD board member Paul Soderman updated the board on the status of the new rainwater catchment system being installed at the Philo fire station. Five tanks have been delivered and pipes are in the ground, said Soderman, adding that a hydrant for fire trucks will be next. It looks like the system will be in place to catch this year's rain.
KELLY BOSS, PHILO, Philo’s ambidextrous pot pharmer and wine maker, failed to appear Tuesday for another installment of his seemingly endless court proceedings, which began in May of 2014 when his large scale pot pharm on Cameron Road, Elk, and his weaponized winery on the Holmes Ranch, Philo, were raided by the County's Drug Task Force. Boss's case drags on and on, and is shaping up as the longest-running pot case in County history.
ANDERSON VALLEY high school football got a schedule break last week but played a scrimmage in Covelo to keep themselves fine-tuned.
THIS FRIDAY NIGHT the Panthers take on visiting Tomales in a conference game at the Boonville Fairgrounds, kickoff at 7:30.
BTW, SPORTS FANS, we welcome any and all accounts of local sports. Quick anecdote. Used to be faculty people, coaches, random persons, blood relatives, students, whoever, wrote up ball games. No more, and we can only get to a game or two per season, if that, having attended hundreds when our own children ran the fields of play. I announced football games for several years, but time has done marched on and energy has done flagged. When I was a kid — Wait! Don’t run. I’ll be brief. Anyway, at my high school, we published a weekly paper. And we had a web press where print tech was taught, meaning lots of young people were able to find good jobs in print shops upon high school graduation. Journalism was as competitive as the sports teams. On the off chance you’re a kid reading this, here’s your opportunity. Call us. You’re hired!
MS. CONTRERAS of PG&E e-mailed us a presser having to do with storm outages. I wrote back to say that there would be far fewer outages if power poles were buried, and that I thought Boonville was already on some endlessly long waiting list to get 'er done here. She replied with a cheerily exhaustive (and exhausting) explanation of how it’s done where it’s done: “Hi AVA: A city, county or municipal agency determines the potential project location and the boundary is discussed with PG&E and other utilities in that area. The governing body of a city or county must determine after holding public hearings on the subject. Since you cover Mendocino County, I looked to see if there were any undergrounding projects (rule 20A projects) currently in the works in Mendo County cities. I didn't see any. You can view current 20A projects in the queue by downloading this: Rule 20A - Projects in the Queue (PDF, 41 KB) http://www.pge.com/includes/docs/pdfs/myhome/customerservice/energystatus/Rule20A.pdf
HISTORY NOTE: The late Joe Neilands fought PG&E all his days, fought to make it the public utility it’s supposed to be. The Neilands family owns a place on Nash Mill Road from which, on their frequent visits to the Anderson Valley, they kept and keep a close eye on events in The Valley. Joe Neilands was a professor of biochemistry at UC Berkeley who was trying to calculate the rate of grape vine aspiration, suspecting that the vines took a lot more water than the irrigation they required. He, like all other rational Valley residents, lamented the proliferation of vineyards and their problematical consequences for the natural life of this area.
CONGRESSMAN HUFFMAN touched down in Boonville Tuesday for a carefully orchestrated "public" meeting at the Boonville Hotel. Roughly 40 people showed up for the 11am coffee-and-cliches non-event. Those who had questions for the people's tribune were asked to write them on cards handed out at the door. Leading questions, of course, did not get asked.
ONE ALMOST SYMPATHIZES with public figures, especially in an area home to so many… so many people who do not understand the mannerly virtue of getting on and getting off. Unless public events are mercilessly organized, here they come, The People Who Know No Restraint. (Mendolib has always screened out questions and people they find inconvenient. Their idea of a political Q&A is this. Question: “Tell us what a swell job you’re doing and what a warm, wonderful person you are at home with your blonde, tranquilized wife, your perfect 2.2 children and Fluffy, your effete cocker spaniel.”)
FROM THE HOTEL, Huffman drove to the high school for a brief, non-PG appearance before an audience of young people briefly held captive in the gym. (Note to young ones: This guy and his political party are not your friends. You have no political friends at this time.)
DAVID SEVERN managed to get into the room with Huffman, but that's as far as he got. “I was prepared to ask a question that I wanted to preface with a statement to the effect that I was born into a working class family of Democrats in a time when Democrats stood for the little guy and Republicans supported the bosses, business and the monied class, but my question had to be brief, so I wrote, ‘How do you justify the Democrat Party supporting GOP economics?’”
SEVERN AGREED his question was more of a rhetorical one, that Huffman wouldn't be likely to agree “with my premise and my question did not get handed to him to address.”
HUFFMAN HAD APPEARED out of a back room at exactly 11:00, started talking and continued to talk without pause until exactly 12:00 when he disappeared through the same door that had produced him.
THE CONGRESSMAN called his monologue a "conversation" but, except for one stunted clarification of a single question from the group, nobody else said anything. It was all Huffman.
HUFF’S AUDIENCE was assured that all un-addressed questions would be responded to by email or phone, and if you believe that, well, you’re are also beyond de-programming.
THE CONGRESSMAN CONCEDED that Congress hasn't achieved very much lately, and later on got an ovation when he mentioned the sit down on the House floor by Dems over a gun control vote that never happened.
SEVERN said a local woman he talked with afterwards said she liked everything she heard. “Me? I got what I expected going in; smooth talk without any pertinence or insight into the real, life-threatening situation we face today that will be handed over to our children and grandchildren.”
LIGHT 'EM UP. The burn permit suspension in Mendocino County has been lifted. Cal Fire Mendocino Unit Chief Chris Rowney formally canceled the burn permit suspension on Saturday, and advises that those possessing current and valid agriculture and residential burn permits can now resume burning on permissive burn days.
AV FIRE CHIEF ANDRES AVILA WRITES: October starts out busy — During the first half of October I was out of district and the Anderson Valley Fire Department ran 27 calls over a 15 day period. These calls came in back to back and both during the day and night. The calls ranged from trees in the roadway, traffic collisions, medical aids, gas leak, coroner confirmation and more. The Anderson Valley area is privileged to have such a dedicated and skilled emergency services crew that can respond in this capacity provided by local volunteers who maintain jobs and family lives. Please, let them know your appreciation of all they do if you see them around town!