On Thursday February 2nd the Unity Club held its annual invitational luncheon featuring a person of local importance. This year the invitee was Anne Molgaard, the new Assistant Director of the Mendocino Health and Human Services Agency. A popular previous visitor was Sheriff Tom Allman.
But we were disappointed to hear that Ms. Molgaard had cancelled at the last minute and was sending a replacement speaker. The young man called upon to pinch hit was Alan Flora, Assistant Chief Executive Officer under County CEO Carmel Angelo. Alan made a vivid first impression. He is extremely tall and thin, and he wore a blue suit with blue dress shoes. And he has a boyish head of very tousled hair. Intrigued we waited with bated breath to hear what he had to say.
Val Muchowski made the introduction and attempted to keep us from eating him alive. He did his best to describe his responsibilities, which mainly lie in preparing the county budget. Much to our delight this budgeter was far from a dry number cruncher. As the son of hog farmers from Flora (his family name) Indiana he seemed to understand the rural experience very well. He explained the nuts and bolts of his job while graciously answering any questions we put to him on subjects including Blackbird Farm, the Sheriff’s budget, and the county planning process. He impressed us as being a good and not at all defensive listener. In answering our questions he took the time to thoughtfully respond. The expectation that as an official he might give us predigested and bland answers was upended.
David Severn patiently asked important questions about the Blackbird Farm projected permit increase from 37 to 294 guests and the safety of the housing accommodations for youth at the Farm. Dave gave Mr. Flora a brief recap of his efforts to find who is responsible for the safety of the children visiting the Farm.
Apparently Ms. Molgaard was not able to answer this question to Mr. Severn’s satisfaction. Beverly Dutra reminded all of us that here in Anderson Valley notorious child abusers including Charles Manson, Tree Frog Johnson, Charles Ng and Jim Jones have operated. This history makes our vigilance especially critical. In 1989 Ray Hall, long-time Head Planner for Mendocino County, told the Dutras that Anderson Valley at one time had the largest number of board and care facilities for youth in the State of California. Beverly provided Mr. Flora with a list of historic names to take back to his office.
Also of great concern is the road into Blackbird Farm. Valerie Hanelt, Chair of our local Community Services District, spoke of a recent trip down the road in question, which is one lane with sheer drops and inadequate turnouts. Apparently according to Cal Fire the law states that half a mile is the longest distance allowable without a turnout and the Black Bird Road is 11 times this distance. The concern is that our local ambulance and fire emergency volunteers crews could be called into danger attempting to aide youth or some of the 294 potential guests the new permit would allow. Mr. Flora told us that he worked previously as a planner and recommended that our best bet to address our concerns is in the planning and permitting process. But the child safety issue cannot be addressed very quickly in this way.
In closing the opportunity to speak to a real budget preparer was too good to miss. A plea was made to include more competitive wages for the Sheriff’s Office. Specifically Anderson Valley wants a second deputy back, and we want our one current Deputy here in the Valley full time. Mr. Flora listened careful to the history of our plight and seemed sympathetic.
At the end of the program Valerie Hanelt presented Mr. Flora with a Unity Club Garden Section propagated Stubblefield Rose. He seemed very appreciative and promised to give it to his wife who takes care of the roses in their life together.
Thank you Mr. Flora for your respectful attitude, clear non-evasive answers and your time. Good luck with your upcoming Budget.