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Valley People (Jan. 18, 2017)

STEVE SPARKS WRITES: “Big news! If all goes according to plan, The Buckhorn will soon have new owners and will be re-opening in a month or two. The recently arrived Jean and Tom Condon, a US Army Reserve Master Sergeant just back from eight months in Kuwait, who recently retired from the New York City Fire Department after 30 years service and moved to the Valley with wife Jean, are deep into negotiations to purchase the liquor license and sign a lease with landlord Gary Island. Tom and Jean previously owned a bar in Manhattan for a time and now their daughter Jordana and her boyfriend Chris, who arrived together in the Valley almost a year ago, and have been working at The Buckhorn and Lauren’s Restaurant for much of that time, will also be heavily involved in the operation. The plan is to present a similar pub-dining experience as the previous Buckhorn but perhaps to broaden the appeal and provide a taste of all aspects of AV along with seasonal menu changes. The community will no doubt welcome this re-addition to the Valley dining and social scene and we wish them every success.”


“Good News!” write Val Hanelt and Kathleen McKenna. “We have finalized both planning grants. The $500k Clean Water (aka Sewer) Grant was funded in October and the $500K Drinking Water Grant just came through at the very end of December.

“The State has assigned Francine Fua as our Project Manager for both projects. David Coleman is the Brelje and Race (B&R) engineer managing the Clean Water project and Jack Locey is the B&R engineer for the Clean Water project. They have a two year time frame to finish planning unless we need to extend for some reason.

“The billing system is in place and Joy Andrews, our CSD Manager, is processing claims and bills. When the engineers are ready to present findings that we can discuss we will plan a Boonville Planner meeting. We anticipate having the first one in the Spring and will invite all, Sheri Miller from the State Water Resources Control Board (the local permitting agency) as well as Mendocino officials.

“Nothing else to report at this time… We will let you know any developments and give you plenty of advance notice of the meeting. We probably will be meeting on a Thursday evening.”

AV HOUSING FORUM. Affordable Housing Makes a Healthy Community. Please join us for a community conversation on housing in Anderson Valley. This moderated discussion will identify ways in which community members can positively impact the availability of local housing. Thursday, February 9, 2016, 6pm at the Grange in Philo. Property owner, renters, employers, business owners, employees, volunteers, parents, teachers, realtors and everyone else are invited. We want to hear from you. (English to Spanish translation available.) For more information contact the AV Housing Association, 895-3525 or email

SHORT of a federal housing program, or simply a revival of post-World War Two mortgage programs where employed people could get low interest housing loans coupled to a federal and/or private construction program, under-housed outback communities like ours are engaged in wishful thinking. Even a local focus on, say, County investment in housing rather than the stock market or, the goddess forbid, a local ordnance requiring the wine industry to build housing proportionate to its labor force, is never even mentioned because, well, because the wine industry owns our elected officials and our elected officials are not noted for creative economic thinking, although most of them fancy themselves “progressive,” and add that much abused term to your collection of words without meaning.

ANDERSON VALLEY RENTERS are unimaginably gouged as it is, with many people living in structures that would normally be condemned as unfit for human habitation.

THERE ARE, HOWEVER, hugely fortunate persons resident here, full and part-time, not all of them illiberal. Maybe if a presentable delegation were organized to approach their majesties with a viable housing plan that would return their excellencies a modest return on their ensuing investment in shelter for their fellow community members, we might get some place other endless well-meaning confabs.

A RESEARCHER-PAL found the following account of an ancient Boonville scandal. We doubt any of the principals are still alive, and apologies to their descendants if any of them see this. But it happened, and happened in much more chaste and modest times than these:

Principal West, Esther Phelps

I WAS FRAMED, SOBS SCHOOL PRINCIPAL Herman West, Convicted on Charge of Girl Student, Worries About His Wife. The Oakland tribune June 19, 1935. "The police framed me and ruined me." Sobbing in his jail-cell, Herman West, 46-year-old principal of the Boonville High School, made that accusation today after his conviction on misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of Esther Phelps, his 17-year-old pupil. "I did nothing wrong to the girl." he cried, "but the officers planted evidence and finished my career. Oh, it must be awful for my wife." He was found guilty last night by a jury of seven men and five women. The jury was discharged after it failed to agree on two additional felony charges alleging statutory offenses against the girl. Foreman Charles K. King said the jurors stood 7 to 5 for conviction on the felony charges.

REFERS TO NOTE The evidence which West charged officers with planting was a penciled notation, "First kiss in Sacramento," which was presented as purportedly being in West's writing and referring to Miss Phelps. Prosecution attorneys will decide whether West will be tried again on the more serious charges. Miss Phelps accused West of making criminal advances against her when they stayed in adjoining rooms at a hotel here [San Francisco] during a visit last April. The case was given the jury shortly before 1 p. m. yesterday after a trial of three weeks. The conviction on the delinquency charge was returned shortly after 6 o'clock last night, at the same time that the jury first reported itself deadlocked on the felony charge. It was discharged by Superior Judge I. L. Harris near midnight when the jurors remained deadlocked. As the misdemeanor verdict was read, West's young wife, who has been in court with him and their two children during the trial, threw her arms around his neck and cried: "It's all right, dear, it's all right."

SENTENCE DUE SATURDAY. Judge Harris will sentence West on the delinquency count Saturday. At that time he will hear applications for bail on other charges. It was believed generally that they would be dropped eventually by the prosecution. West was alleged to have accompanied the girl here on a school business trip and to have rented adjoining hotel rooms for himself and the pupil. According to the girl he persuaded her to spend part of one night with him in bed. Her story, whispered as she held her head in apparent, shame, told of kisses on other school trips and of advances of money the principal allegedly made her. West denied all the charges. He said that the girl was seeking "revenge" because he had forbidden her to see a young man of her acquaintance during the visit to San Francisco.


To the Mendocino County Building Department.

A while back I discovered in a document in the Building Department file for Blackbird Farm that two separate yurts used to house children were cited for code violations. So I called Building and talked with Randy and then later, in person, I talked with Vanny [last name?], both of whom said canvas yurts are not suitable for housing — no plumbing, no electric, no heating — the "only permitted use for yurts is storage."

I subsequently contacted Code Enforcement, getting a response from Lisa Washburn assuring me that she was working with the Blackbird owners toward "compliance." I felt that certainly the children housed in the yurts would be moved out. She also said hard shell yurts were permittable for "residence."

The yurts that I saw at Blackbird Farm were canvas, and I have been told by Blackbird-employed "interns" that the yurts used for the children since 2013 are made of canvas with a lath support frame. These are not hard-shell structures. This includes the yurt two winters ago that was completely destroyed by a huge fallen tree and then quickly rebuilt. If it had not been on the one night out of 11 that no children were sleeping in it "deaths would have occurred."

I have been told that the four vanloads of children brought in today, Monday, January 9th, are being housed in the same yurts and are snug with gas heat. I feel this is not only a violation of building code known by Building and Planning from the first use permit application in 2013 but also extremely dangerous. Our local schools are closed because of the storm and Blackbird Farm is putting children in yurts in the middle of the woods where even loggers won't go in a storm?

I am complaining about this apparent violation of code and lack of oversight by the County that lets it happen in the first place and to continue through a dangerous storm.

I feel that Child Protective Services should be involved as well as Building and Planning.

I feel that, like the Ghost Ship in Oakland, if anything bad happens the County will and should be held accountable.

–David Severn, Ray’s Road, Philo

AS IT HAPPENS, the intrepid Mr. Severn and yours truly did a drive-through at Blackbird in last week’s tropical-quality downpour. Setting out from Severn's house on Ray’s Road, we drove across the bridge over the raging Navarro River, trespassed up the hill through the Orgasm Center (formerly Shenoa), trespassed through my friend Marshall Newman's place (forgive me my misdemeanor, Marshall), and on up to Blackbird for the boldest trespass of all where Severn has been declared persona non grata, and I await my sanction.

THE ROAD up was just about impassable — an uphill four-wheel drive trek of about two miles with almost no turnouts, and the turnouts that were available were hog wallows that would hopelessly ensnare any driver foolish enough to try them.

BLITHELY pressing Blackbird’s driveway entry gate button like we belonged there — neither Severn nor the editor having the slightest regard for private property — we did a rolling surveillance of the Blackbird site, a former upscale dude ranch and, in its humble beginnings, a working farm and the birthplace of the late Charmian Blattner, the longest-running columnist in the Redwood Empire in her capacity as writer for the Anderson Valley Advertiser over several decades.

DESPITE a reported four vanloads of "at risk" teenagers arriving the previous day, there was no sign of any kind of life, at risk or otherwise. We noted the dormitory yurts precariously placed in groves of swaying redwoods even as trees fell all over Mendocino County and Northern California in the storms of that week. We drove on through Blackbird and a heavy rain to the much longer exit and entry road that begins on the Philo-Greenwood Road. The road off the Philo-Greenwood Road in and out of Blackbird is marginally better than the road in and out of Blackbird from Rays Road, Philo. It's ludicrous to think that either road could accommodate any more traffic than they do now, let alone 292 more "transient" visitors.

THE ELECTION JUST PAST, with its overlong ballot, contained Prop 58, which repealed the English-only instruction mandated in 1998 by Prop 227. The back and forth on the issue is the work of political demagogues with zero knowledge of how language might best be taught. The expert opinion we read said English-only is the way to go. (BTW, the ava got a whole lotta requests for our recommendations from people who didn't want to read all the initiatives, meaning we had many more votes than the one we're allotted.)

THE MIGHTY AVA recommended a NO vote on 58 because we think it's obvious that the mastery of English, the lingua franca of much of the world and absolutely necessary for any hope of reasonable success in our own frazzled country, however you might define success, that the language of instruction, K-12, is essential, and by mastery I don't mean the Spanglish most Mexican kids graduate with from Mendocino County high schools.

I HAD NO IDEA what Prop 58 meant for the Boonville schools — a roughly 80% Spanish-speaking student body — so I asked our superintendent, Michelle Hutchins, who stepped in here after years of edu-sloth heavy on the intellectual fuzzy-warm, as is the fashion in the public schools these days, especially the Mendocino County schools. Ms. Hutchins is smart and pleasant, qualities I wouldn't say prevail in the Emerald Triangle schools, at least in my experience, although I admit I tend to bring out the worst in edu-admin circles.

TAKE IT AWAY, MICHELLE: "Prop 58 legitimizes practices that have existed in AVUSD since before my arrival. Pre-K through second grade provides primary language instruction in Spanish or English, depending on the language spoken in the home.

"The new law now allows parents the ability to chose which program they would like their child taught in. We are attempting a Spanish immersion program this school year in science funded by a grant to grades 2 & 3.

"The elementary school has a part-time Spanish teacher working with the upper grades to continue the Spanish instruction. We are exploring how to maximize on the bilingual nature of our school population with the challenge of being a small school district.

"Bilingual teachers are hard to hire and many of our teachers with these skills are close to retirement, which makes sustainability of these programs not only challenging but concerning.

"That being said, it is a unique opportunity to grow up with another culture and language, so the cultivation of bilingual opportunities will continue to be explored.”

ENSURING A FISH-FREE NAVARRO: A workshop series will take place at the VIP room at Scharffenberger Cellars (8501 Highway 128, Philo) Tuesday, Feb. 7, Tuesday, Feb. 14 and Tuesday, Feb. 21, all from 1 to 3 p.m. Enrollment is now open for the 2017 Fish Friendly Farming Certification Program. (Including Anderson Valley and Yorkville Highlands) For more information about Fish Friendly Farming certification, contact the California Land Stewardship Institute: (707) 253-1226 extension 1 or Fish Friendly Farming.

PLEASE let us know the next time you see a mature salmon or steelhead in any Anderson Valley stream, all of which, prior to the chemically dependent, industrial wine industry, were lush with fish.


Alexis & Adam Lyon, 4 kids

Looking in Anderson Valley

3 bedroom, but will work with 2 bedroom.

Needed ASAP


MARTIN LUTHER KING, A REMINISCE: San Francisco has never been the liberal city it’s advertised as, and it certainly wasn’t liberal in the early 1960s when my brother and I affiliated with CORE, the Congress On Racial Equality. The first demonstrations in the city that I participated in as a barely comprehending member of the protesting crowd, which I recall as never more than three to four hundred fresh-faced innocents, were met with walls of hostility from the public and authorities alike. The newspapers said the sit-in at the Palace Hotel on Market and the other demos on Van Ness, then called Auto Row, were “communist inspired.” Which they were, kind of, because what was left of the Communist Party, USA, was still active in the Bay Area, and communists were always, as they say, the vanguard. Most of the young white demonstrators were from SF State (me) and Cal Berkeley (smarter than me.) I remember Chinese restaurants not allowing black people to eat at their establishments. And I remember the yobbo celebrations in San Francisco bars when King was murdered. By ’67, the people I’d known and met in these first oppositional stirrings had segued into opposition to the Vietnam War. For me, all the civil turmoil was part of the greater intellectual ferment of the period when everyone I knew was reading the same writers, going to the same movies, listening to the same music. Later, this cultural-political nexus became known as “The Movement” which, by the middle seventies, was moving steadily backwards and is now long dead. But there are millions of genuinely loyal and affectionate cross-racial relations that sure as hell didn’t exist prior to MLK. There have been latter day stirrings of opposition, though, as the economy shrinks for most people. Occupy, I think, was a start and at least focused on the core issue — money — rather than who gets to use which bathroom, a very big issue these days in the “progressive” Bay Area. Trump is likely to re-ignite The Movement, or at least a focused opposition, because he’s inherited an economic situation he’s certain to make worse. And he’s triple the personal provocation Nixon and LBJ were. Way back in the days when the Congress On Racial Equality agitated not so much for racial equality as equal opportunity, it wouldn’t have surprised any of us foot soldiers that we’d be Trumped, that the national impetus was always towards disaster.

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