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Letters (Dec. 21, 2016)

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Attention Child Protection Services:

From the beginning of Blackbird Farm in 2013, an unaccredited nonprofit, the 24 "students" brought in for 11 day stays have been housed in yurts - 12 boys in one, 12 girls in another. During the fall a year and a half ago on the one night between outgoing and incoming "students" that none were sleeping on site a very large tree came crashing down, totally destroying one of the yurts. An "intern" stated that had anyone been sleeping in it at the time "deaths certainly  would have occurred". The smashed yurt was quickly removed and a new one built and though it is in the middle of a bunch of unstable trees "students" have routinely been housed there since. This incident was not, and apparently did not legally need to be, reported to anybody.

The "students" are driven to the "Farm" and back out over treacherous country, often muddy dirt roads with precipitous drop-offs and blind curves by young, untrained for the purpose, "interns" that at times have been known to get lost, and because Blackbird Farm is not a school most likely don't have any of the requisite endorsements for school bus drivers. One anecdote by a past employee tells of one van full of kids rear ending another van full of kids on a blind curve. With fortune none were hurt. The roads do not meet current Cal Fire regulations for safety.

Now we find out that the canvas yurts are not permitted and not permissible for anything but storage, and for the four years that they have been in use, unvented gas heaters have been used when no heat source is allowed in a canvas structure. Gas cook tops have also been in use and electricity provided, again, in violation of County code. Who amongst us does not know that unvented gas heaters should never be used in a closed environment? And how can the operators be trusted as they routinely place young people in harm’s way?

David Severn


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Just came in from the mailbox, all covered in snow.

(It really was frost but I needed the flow

Of dramatic prose for this letter, you know.)

Christmas letters I’ve got a dozen or more.

From places I’ve dreamed of — Brazil, Singapore.

And as I perused each kind billet-doux-

I thought I should send them a sentence or two.

Ah yes, a smart doe found a hole in the fence,

But I sent her packing before she commenced

Cropping the Gravellia — although bless her heart

She got the Camilla I’d grown from a start.

I planted milkweed — saw it grow tall

Swallowtails came sailing but no Monarchs at all.

Of honey and bumbles I have plenty of bees.

Plus one smart alec hornet in my BVDs.

Now I’ve planted a lawn and gophers are there.

In fact I have gophers most everywhere.

I don’t mind the gophers as much as the moles.

I’ve got used to the moles but still hate the voles.

My cash crop was spotty – there was the mold

And the small scraggly male that somehow took hold

And courted my ladies — hid in the weeds.

Now I haven’t much money but plenty of seeds!

But the old year is waning, soon spring will draw neigh.

The fields will wind-whipple with barley and rye.

North flying geese will V up the sky

Awakening the world from its long winter’s rest.

And I’ll plant my tomatoes and hope for the best.

Sarah Perry


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What a shame that you declined to speak with members of the Board and management of the Anderson Valley Health Center to inform your comments in your December 7th issue of the paper (AVA-Valley People). Your reporting on the Health Center was done without serious investigation and is a disservice to the community.

The article is full of inaccuracies to which we respond as they appeared in the article:

1. There is regular peer review of staff which is overseen by the Board Program Improvement Committee;

2. There is no secret being kept from the Board of Directors (not 'Board of Trustees,' the AVHC is not a Trust, it is a non-profit organization) about a "boycott of the clinic by several Mexican families." The Board has been informed of that unsubstantiated information by the management, has discussed it and management has a plan to address such rumors;

3. Regardless of whether you believe that "historically considered, the Center's board of trustees is not what anyone would describe as forthcoming," the fact is that this is a new Board of Directors with eight new members who, along with the four remaining members of the previous Board, have worked very hard to listen to the community over the past two years.

After interviewing every single employee of the Health Center, we fired the previous director, rehired Dr. McGhan, put together a COMMUNITY-led search committee and hired a new executive director. Chloe Guazzone, the new director, has done an incredible job of creating staff cohesiveness, acquiring new funds to expand services, has reopened the dispensary, hired a local technology expert to address problems with the Electronic Medical Records (EMR), and has initiated a myriad of activities to improve the quality of services, including a new senior needs assessment;

4. You quote some unnamed reader who states that there are "crooked” staff members. With no proof or instance presented whatsoever, this is slanderous, malicious, and truly deceiving.

As to Dr. McGhan's complaint, the Board did in fact meet the demands of Dr. McGhan and did make an effort to continue his employment at the Health Center. The fact of the matter is that Dr McGhan declined the offer and submitted his resignation without any forewarning to the Board or management staff. The reason we understand is as he stated in his letter — to be closer to family in Oregon.

Your anonymous reader says, "if I were on the Board…" Let this be the call that we are searching for Board Members who take this civic duty seriously and who wish to take part in making fully-informed decisions at the health center. Elections will take place in January. Everyone is welcome to apply by picking up an application at the Health Center or downloading one from the website. You and your readers should know that there are twelve members of the Health Center's Board of Directors who represent a wide cross-section of the community and with whom you and anyone in the community can talk at any time. Board Members' names are on the website ( All Health Center meetings (held the last Thursday of each month at 6:00 pm in the HC Conference Room) are open to the public and there is always a space on the agenda for public input.

In the future, please investigate your stories fully. You could have talked with any Board or management team member at the Health Center, if you really wanted the community to understand the issues.

There are always at least two sides to every story and the misinformation you print is a disservice to you, your paper, the Health Center and most importantly the AV community. In an era of fake news stories and dubious political propaganda we cannot have that in our community. In addition, this kind of misleading journalism makes it even more difficult to attract serious professionals to the AVHC, a task which is of highest priority to the Board, the administration, and all those who depend on AVHC services.


AVHC Board of Directors

ED REPLY: What a shame two trustees of the twelve allegedly overseeing Health Center ops, and their lushly compensated manager, tried to meet privately with me to discuss public business. I asked you to write a letter so we can all read what you have to say, and now you have. And I saved myself an hour listening to a lot of self-serving, deceptive whining. Thank you for writing and allowing "the community" — (us and our friends) — in on the conversation. My comments, btw, were clearly my opinions which of course are my opinions, not one of my hard-hitting "fact" pieces.

1. Peer review is nothing to brag about and, in my opinion, the best way to create a work place based on fear and gossip. Why doesn't the manager simply manage? How about clear lines of authority, identifiable responsibility? Spare me the anonymous group oversight by the same bumblers who have now cost us a fine young doctor. In fact, I called Ms. G about McGhan's departure. She explained the beef over the contract. I thought I got a reasonable response from her, but when I talked to other people with direct experience of the HC they fleshed out the full picture.

2. I didn't say there were unshared secrets, although I'm sure the HC's closet is overflowing with them, but I guess it's no secret the HC spent $5,000 on a mariachi band on a celebration of themselves, and those of us looking on wonder, especially those of us who faithfully return HC begging letters with the requested cash, what kind of seriously indebted non-profit would do that. (Since posting the 5k figure, trustee Kathy Cox, asked if the 5k figure was the true cost of the band, replied "No." Asked for the true figure, she didn't reply.)

3. The last meeting I attended, the perpetually self-selecting HC board sat there staring eerily back at audience questions without answering any of them, a board performance hardly likely to encourage "community" participation. The performance of this board has managed to keep the Health Center in perpetual turmoil which, I concede, given the givens of "the community," is probably inevitable

4. Although the HC pharmacy was shutdown by the feds because, uh, the pill count was perennially off, when a commenter said "crooked" as to the general functioning of the HC, I think he meant "uneven."

5. I'll defer to Ms. Knott as an expert on fake news. As a former employee of NBC, she would know.

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Dear Mr. Anderson,

The short answer to your question is, No, your number is incorrect.

However what you want to know it seems is the following: The AVHC is obliged to reach out to our underserved and migrant population and received grant money to specifically pay for innovative efforts to publicize our services to them. As part of the outreach program at our annual AVHC Harvest Fair (this year celebrating 40 years of service to the Valley), the AVHC did hire a popular 12 member mariachi band for the evening event. They were paid $4,000.

Thank you for checking the facts with us.

Best wishes,

Heidi Knott Gundling, Philo

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This non-auslander thought the comments regarding the Anderson Valley Health Center (AVHC) posted on today's "Mendocino County Today" blog were fascinating, but not nearly as fascinating as discovering shortly thereafter that said comments had been silently withdrawn.

Reliance on the undo button was a distinctly suburban innovation. Perhaps you should add this newspaper to the list that appeared in yesterday's "Valley People" of local services that have been run off the rails by American modernization?

Assuming you still meant what you unsaid, I commend you for telling the AVHC board to take it to the public and for demanding better board governance instead of a larger board. Having just finished my first year as a local school board member, I think that's what's needed in this situation specifically and in local boards generally.

Finally, I almost thank you for praising my wife in a public forum instead of belittling me for sticking up for her.


Eric Arbanovella


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Fred Medinas passed away in November at the age of 94. As one of the really good people of Anderson Valley, his life should not go unremarked.

Fred was affectionately known as “Freddie Kilowatt,” both for his work as a PG&E service representative and for his always smiling and helpful presence. He brightened the day of everyone he met.

As an early half-hippie back-to-the-lander, I met Fred when the ancient ceramic post-and-wire installed in our 1939 mill cabin began to succumb to weather, time, and the voracity of wood rats, who collect electrical insulation (for nesting? for late night snacks?) with an industry unmatched by few other species.

Fred responded to our call about flickering lights, erratic voltage, and frequent blown fuses with a wisdom and patience learned not from any PG&E manual but from a lifetime of community. He inspected our service entrance, a rusty 60-amp box with a corroded blade cut-off, which had never heard of anything so new-fangled as a circuit breaker. “It’s just damp,” he said. “This box isn’t what you’d call weather-tight. You might think about upgrading it.” From his tool bag, he took a can of WD-40 and gave everything a good spray. “Improves conductivity,” he explained, “and it drives out the moisture.”

He checked out our house wiring, even though his PG&E working responsibility ended at the service box. He admired the ancient time-delay fuses, perhaps the personal product of Thomas Edison. “Probably couldn’t get these to trip if you crossed the mains,” he said. “Might want to replace them.” He was right. A few months later, lightning struck our TV antenna and energized every circuit in the house. Not one of those antiques even blinked.

Fred extended a welcome to the community, one he repeated many times over the years. It was especially meaningful to us because we new settlers (or drug-addled invaders, take your pick) were not extended open arms by everyone. I recall one New Year’s Eve when my friend Brian O’Riley and I visited three AV open parties and ended up in three fistfight free-for-alls. Unfortunately, Fred was not there to restore community and respect. (Thank goodness Danny Kuny was.)

Fred was one of the good souls who made the best of Anderson Valley community possible. Over the years, we have found common ground, and I think we found it more easily because folks like Fred always stood on it, planted solid. There was not a thing pretentious or preachy about Fred. He just knew that we had to get along, and he showed us how.

Bill Baker

Fort Bragg

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Synapses? Those aren't synapses you hear snapping slower by the day! (AVA, Dec. 7, Valley People). Brains are like bubble bath. In the beginning we are supplied with a full tub, but after a lifetime of thinking deep thoughts old age and decreptitude have taken their toll. (Tepitude?) All I have left is an empty tub with a scummy ring. Strictly speaking for myself. Merry Christmas, Y'all.

Gary Durheim

Cannon Beach, Oregon

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Little known by most people, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare is not the creation of President Obama. The ACA was authored by the Heritage Foundation, a rigid right-wing conservative group (and was the model for Mitt Romney's healthcare plan when he was governor of Massachusetts).

Obama did some editing, adding that children could remain on their parents' health care policies, and no one could be denied membership due to previous health issues. Current media stories say the Republican replacement will be essentially much like a Obamacare with some editing.

As with the Heritage program, Obama's similar conception and the coming replacement, they all put the operating system in the hands of the private insurance industry. We have been, and soon will be, once again sold out to a multimillion dollar pharma and insurance lobby.

Alfred Auger

San Rafael

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Dear Editor,

Hello. My name is there and Michael Nelson. You may have read about me from my wife Eros Nelson or from the arrest log at the Low Gap Lodge. The District Attorney says I hold the record of most arrests without charges in Mendocino County. I know, not something to be proud of. I know I have done my dirt. I am not new to pointing fingers. I do my very best to support my wife on whatever endeavor she pleases. Yes, I have lost my temper and sent messages to other women on the internet for consolement. Being of sober mind now I understand that was wrong. Infidelity has been a part of our marriage but through all the adversity, the age difference, substance abuse and all the people who have worked against us and our union, we are still together, still love each other, are willing to work through our differences, forgive one another for past hurts and look forward to a loving nature relationship showing each other and the world we appreciate God's blessing and honor Him in bringing us together. Right now we have the courts trying to work us apart and set us up for failure, not once taking into consideration our 180-degree turn about without encouragement.

Michael Nelson

Fort Bragg

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Dear Editor,

I just appeared in Ten Mile Justice Court hoping to adjust my probation orders to incorporate sanity. I had no luck with that as today the powers that be have no interest in fact. Still, the facts remain.

In 2013 I stopped growing pot. I had basically stopped using it. I had started drinking alcohol after a 16 year hiatus. I had isolated myself and soon I was using meth.

In a recent visit my probation officer stated the reason I was so severely punished for stealing an airplane bottle of Kahlua while intoxicated is because of my lifetime criminal record.

To my poorly informed probation officer I say:

Being a one-time media whore in the papers and radio news worldwide in the 90s is not a "criminal record." I was never busted or jailed for anything! I was in dozens of articles and on the radio with the BBC regarding cannabis.

My probation officer never did any pre-court interview with me unless you count her asking me for the names and addresses of every living relative I have through a 16 inch slot in my safety cell at Low Gap where I was unexplainably in solitary confinement for two months.

I have not been in trouble of any kind since. I have had kids, 29 and a half years. This intoxicated-stealing-the-Kahlua thing is my first night in jail since 1986.

The judge said to me the orders stand as they were "custom-designed" for me. (This whole thing smacks of retribution not desire for my recovery.)

For the record, I am deeply grateful for sobriety and the freedom from meth. It saddens me that the court would punish or hamper the success of persons surviving the scourge of drugs that our law enforcement infrastructure is helpless to curtail. However I am strong and I will remain a good example.


Eros Marshall Nelson,

Fort Bragg

Attachment 1: [Clinic Ananda letterhead; 707-744-1968. P.O. Box 400, 13270 Highway 101, Hopland, CA 95449. December 9, 2016. Re: Eros Nelson. To whom it may concern: I have evaluated Eros Nelson in my office. She has a complex medical picture with both physical and psychiatric symptoms that are managed effectively with the medical use of cannabis. She has a high tolerance and must use fairly high doses for clinical efficacy. The patient has had significant improvement in her condition with the use of medical cannabis. Respectfully submitted, Patricia Winters, MD, California Medical License #G62247

Attachment 2: Grace Community Church letterhead, "Declare his praise in the coastlands" — Isaiah 42:12. December 11, 2016. Dear Judge Brennan, Kathy Vorhees and all others concerned: Regarding: Eros Nelson: We are excited for the changes that Michael and Eros Nelson are making and look to support them in their recovery. We are offering the free use of our facility to help them raise the needed funds for her residential commitment to the Singing Trees recovery program. She plans to be entered into the program by mid-February. I can say that I am pleased with her progress in recovery so far. Respectfully, Greg Escher, Pastor.

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Hello AVA,

I’m reading; The Theory Of The Leisure Class, as I do every 5 years or so. He certainly understood the lay of the land, without being overly identified with any foregone school. He was despised by most thinkers of his day. This is all too familiar. Following is a section from the beginning of chapter X. This would go well with a photo of Trump and or many, all too many other fools in high places!

The most immediate and unequivocal expression of that archaic human nature which characterizes man in the predatory stage is the fighting propensity proper. In cases where the predatory activity is a collective one, this propensity is frequently called the martial spirit, or, latterly, patriotism. It needs no insistence to find assent to the proposition that in the counties of civilized Europe the hereditary leisure class is endowed with this martial spirit in a higher degree than the middle classes. Indeed, the leisure class claims the distinction as a matter of pride, and no doubt with some grounds. War is honorable, and warlike prowess is eminently honorific in the eyes of the generality of men; and this admiration of warlike prowess is itself the best voucher of a predatory temperament in the admirer of war. The enthusiasm for war, and the predatory temper of which it is the index, prevail in the largest measure among the upper classes, especially among the hereditary leisure class. Moreover, the ostensible serious occupation of the upper class is that of government, which, in point of origin and developmental content, is also a predatory occupation.

— Thorsten Veblen 1899, The Theory Of The Leisure Class


Marvin Blake

Elk* * *


Hello honorable "dump truck" AVA writer, Bruce McEwen.

First of all my biological father's name is Sanford 'Joel' Sternick, not Stafford.

I have been ordered through at least three or 4-plus psychologists -- not two. Just the typical operations of everyone's favorite paper.

You're trying hard to portray me as wanting to be stuck in this "surprise" 1368 motion (over and over again) mess; bail-less court system joke, OR-less discrimination machine. Anyone with a little insight into court protocol would enact any "Mars Den motion" when presented with a possible eight-month intermission at the psych ward over in Flat-land-topia mid-trial, not to mention the instant 2-3 weeks intermission just because Low Gap corrections sergeants have the sudden initiative to share one of a million negative feedback "grievances" that get trashed often enough anyways.

I almost picture you doping up on your friend's couch before you crawl into these courtrooms on all fours after your lunch break to write all of your condescending pipedream slander looking like a bad version of the hippie cave hermit and Jack Nicholson.

If Linda Thompson is in fact my lawyer, or was as claimed by you: all I know is I have never seen so much as talk to any Linda Thompson and please leave me out of your (very) personal vendettas please.

One thing I would like readers to know: when you (the AVA) have courtroom dialogue printed you have a bad habit of not only putting opinionated slander versions of the real trial but you also put much more obvious bias into the parentheses and brackets hovering next to it and that is very deceptive to a run-of-the-mill reader and you give an impression that the quotes are what the persons truthfully said.

Jewel Dyer A#20559

Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Corrections Division, 951 Low Gap Road, Ukiah, CA 95482

PS. Still waiting on all of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office deputies that are supposed to come along with all of the involuntary PTSD, depression, ADHD diagnosis that the Ukiah Daily Journal has been fast to label easily tradable among inmates and have effectively barred me from the military over.

PPS. Also my pneumonia antibiotic please, it's been two trips through Low Gap while choking up blood and mucus and being effectively told the problem is "post nasal drip," despite the phegm clearly dislodging from my sternum/lungs. Joke must be on me.

PPPS. I've been an avid follower of your paper for a while now. That is until I picked up the Flynn Washburne column and realized I was reading a Fox News election coverage story written in the most serious of Anderson Cooper 360 fanboys. What happened to garden gnomes? What happened to the magic? What happened to saving the rainforest?

Looking forward to what parts of my letter might be altered during print.

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