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Valley People (March 29, 2017)

IT WILL TAKE me a while to think of Mike Shapiro as the "late Mike Shapiro," because he was a friend for so many years. I first met him at a school board meeting in, I think, 1971. He was there, as I recall, to speak to a problem with the school bus schedule. As he spoke, a hostile audience muttered, "Sit down" and "Shaddup." As newcomers to the Anderson Valley, we were unwelcome participants in the local democratic process. The hostility increased as I rose to complain about the district's haircut policy. The burning issue of hair length had already been to the Supreme Court where it was ruled, "Like, really, who could possibly care?" But word hadn’t reached Boonville. Outside in the parking lot, Mike and I commiserated. "Where the hell are we?" Etc.

MIKE was always much more of a liberal than me, going on to become a stalwart in the local Democratic Party, an active supporter of semi-public radio, a reliable vote for incompetent supervisors, and so on through the Mendolib catechism.

BUT HE REMAINED a man open to all opinions, and a kindly man, too. We argued down through the years without animus on either side. I always recommended Mike to people looking for property in The Valley and, when I sold my place on Anderson Valley Way, I warned him, "Mike, there's more structural illegality on this half-acre than any property in Mendocino County." He said, "I don't see anything here that presents major problems." That was the man. He never hesitated to have a go at the insurmountable.

I SPOKE WITH HIM only two weeks ago by phone, and he sounded so good, so much like the Mike I've known all this time, that I thought he'd beat back the Reaper. And then he was gone. Right behind you, Mike. I look forward to seeing you again Upstairs on Class K Street.

AT MONDAY NIGHT'S Boonville school board meeting, the agenda said the board would emerge from closed session at 7pm. At 7:45 the board was still deep in what I am unreliably informed is the dismissal of high school principal, Keri St. Jeor, who is apparently intending to sue the district for some version of wrongful termination. The board finally appeared about ten, meaning they kept the few people interested in other agenda items waiting for three hours for the public part of the meeting. In all the years of odd school board behavior I've seen, this rude disregard for public meeting etiquette took the prize. Just surmising here, but there were two lawyers in the room, one for St. Jeor, one for the school district, hence the endless closed session and contempt for the public.

ATTENTION, FOOD BANKERS! Monday is now Packing and Distribution Day, the 3rd Monday of every month, that is, with the hours being, 3-6pm.

FREDA FOX’S family was in town over the weekend to help their matriarch celebrate her 99th. You’re a Valley old timer if you remember Freda, an RN, as our school nurse, and as a competitive tennis player well into what is assumed by most of us as “old age.”

MAPLE CREEK WINERY’S Tom Rodrigues made a noteworthy statement to the Board of Supervisors last week as the Supes finalized the County’s medical marijuana cultivation regulations.

“I'm a winery owner, a grape grower, and a ranch owner here in Mendocino County. I sit on two boards — the MWI [Mendocino Winegrowers Inc.] board that represents 570 vineyards and wineries here. I was also elected to the MCIA [Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association] board which represents the cannabis growers.

“As far as grape growing and pear growing and other agricultural products here in Mendocino County, even though I grow organically, there is a large number of our vineyard owners and growers that use herbicides, pesticides, Roundup, and a lot of negative elements that affect our environment that end up in the streams and end up in the creeks and rivers, killing fish and yet they do not have the requirements and issues that the cannabis people are having to deal with. The cannabis people are probably the most organic farmers that we have here in Mendocino County. Only 25% of our vineyard owners grow organically. Most everyone else uses massive amounts of these chemicals put up by Monsanto. My concerns are, Why do cannabis farmers have to jump through these large hoops that grape growers and pear growers don't have to? I don't want to shoot myself in the foot or my industry, but it seems to me the cannabis people are being put up against the wall a little bit harder than what we already have here in our county. There is more destruction with Roundup and herbicides and pesticides to our environment and the cannabis people don't use that. You can't put that in a cannabis farm. It would not be beneficial.

“The cannabis people are also going to be paying a higher tax. Why is it that other industries like grape farming and pears don't have to pay a 5% gross sales tax? That's kind of unheard of. I know there is some paralleling with the wine industry and the cannabis industry moving forward. The cannabis industry is looking to the wine industry for regulation and how to move things forward. But I would like to say that these people are really kind, and they love the environment. Whereas the grape farmers — a lot of them are just in it for the money. And these cannabis people are in it for the love. And the medicine does work. People are getting cured by it. Thank you.”

EVERY TIME I print a letter from Jerry Philbrick, a couple, man and woman, take turns calling me to complain. “We really don’t need to hear from him.” Philbrick is a famous Mendo guy, born and raised. A retired logger and log trucker contractor, I’ve known him for a long time. And I admire the guy’s years of support for local sports, especially youth sports. Like a lot of people with fierce opinions, Philbrick is especially annoying to the echo chamber libs around here, to whom any deviation from the soft Democratic Party platitudes of the NPR type is heresy. Anybody who can annoy them gets my total support. If I printed only opinions I agreed with, I’d be talking to myself. I’m glad Philbrick writes in when the spirit moves him.

LITTLE DOG SAYS, “A little drama here Sunday morning. My friend Cough — short, brown, curled-up tail — kinda went off his rocker this morning right in the middle of 128, barking at nothing at all but quite upset about that nothing. Cars were honking at him to get out of the way, swerving around him, stopping for him. A coupla good people came out of the Redwood Drive-in to try to talk him down. They were unsuccessful. Coupla hours later, Animal Control showed up with an attractive young woman behind the wheel of the pooch wagon. She looked all over for Cough, but I don't think she got him. Myself? I think he was on some bad dope. I know where he lives, but I ain't sayin'.”

SHORT SHOTS: The daily deluge of sales pitches and scam attempts often contain some laughs. A young man called the other day whose opening gambit was, "Negative reviews can affect your business…" Kid, I sez, you’re talking to the king of bad reviews. Bring 'em on. A long silence before, ”Have a nice day, sir. Thank you for your time."

A BEAUTIFUL SPRING has commenced in the Anderson Valley, with that special bed of wild yellow iris beginning to bloom at the Scharffenberger Winery, Philo, and a spectacular bed of tulips at the Boonville Brewery, welcoming us to America's best quality beers.

THE MORE MORBID sectors of the Anderson Valley community, me often in the lead, always hustle down to Starr Automotive to have a look at the vehicles involved in the most recent vehicular mayhem on Highway 128. CalTrans has gradually improved the road over the years with many more paved turnouts and roadbed widenings, but it can be treacherous at any speed, as us locals know. And it's truly amazing that Jan The Mail Lady has driven it six days a week for more than a quarter century without a single accident.

SPEAKING of Jan, we have to note because she’ll be amused that her thank you letter in this week’s paper arrived here partially mis-addressed. A fellow postal worker had plastered one of those “Get all that’s coming to you — please notify sender of your complete and correct address.” We also noted that Jan’s return address was “Jan in the Van,” and all these years we’ve been calling her “Jan the Mail Lady.” However she’s addressed, without people like her this country would be in a lot more trouble than it is.

PEARL THOMASSEN WONDERS: “If a car is stranded with a flat tire, 3 miles south of Boonville, with occupants inside, and the Sheriff passes by, does he have a responsibility to stop and check if he can be of assistance? Question asked because this happened to my family on Wednesday, March 22 at approximately 4:50 pm.”

MUSTA BEEN an out-of-town deputy. Our guy, Deputy Craig Walker, would have stopped, so it couldn’t have been him. Deputy Walker, incidentally, remains desk-bound in Ukiah as he recovers from knee surgery for an injury he suffered wrestling an inland bad boy.

TWO MORNINGS last week KZYX announced that the station was in "emergency" mode. I called hoping the emergency would be defined. The station manager asked me to "hold off" writing anything about it. He said an explanation would be forthcoming. It never forthcame. We heard from other sources, plural, that someone's house had burned. We called area fire departments. They had no record of recent house fires. Life went on.

SO, A COUPLA local guys agree for the one guy to transport a big load of marijuana back east somewhere where Mendo dope brings big prices. The load is large enough and lucrative enough for its grower to expect it will pay off his mortgage. But the transport guy returns to the Anderson Valley with a sad and wholly unconvincing tale that the cops separated him from the Boonville cargo in some place like Utah where a kind of cottage industry has developed intercepting youngish men with California plates tooling along with a tail light out or some other visible pretext for a stop. Sure enough, the vehicle reeks of Mendo Mellow and, fast forward, either the forces of law and order made a nice buck off the ensuing fines or the driver sold the dope and kept the money, as has been known to happen. The transport guy made it back to Anderson Valley suspiciously fast, so fast it was unlikely that he had been, as they say, incarcerated. The two parties to this sad chapter in weed free enterprise encountered each other the other day in central Boonville, the ripper blithely telling the ripped off to go have sexual intercourse with himself, while the ripped off said he intended to kill the ripper and his children. And they call it the love drug.

DEPARTMENT OF WHO CARES, this notice from Susan Ranochak, Registrar of Voters: “The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors approved a change in biennial election date for the Mendocino County Board of Education from the odd numbered years to the even numbered years to consolidate with the Statewide General Elections beginning in 2018.”

THE MENDOCINO COUNTY SUPERVISORS ought to declare the County Office of Education a relic of the 19th century and shut it down. When that office was one man and a bookkeeper who hired, paid and dispatched teachers out of a modest office in Ukiah, and off these lady teachers went on horseback to the far-flung school houses of vast Mendocino County, the County Office of Education served that crucial purpose. But that simple task has, over the years, morphed into a large bureaucracy, ensconced in lavish quarters at Talmage, where the rare visitor finds plump, perfumed, looking for love-looking women, and a few otherwise unemployable men, wandering around with their coffee cups, Moonie-like grins plastered on their uncomprehending pusses, talking about in-servicing their common cores or whatever else is totally irrelevant to teaching young people how to read, do some basic math and maybe write a coherent sentence. To repeat, the County Office of Education does not do one thing that could not be done better and cheaper by the individual school districts of the county, all of them over-staffed, too.

A READER NOTES: Drove to the coast last week and noticed that Little River was extremely silty, so much so that the entire Bay at the mouth was a chocolaty brown. The River wasn't very high volume, and the other rivers in the area were more green than brown, so it seems like a large mudslide may have happened up Little River recently.

MEANWHILE, our fish-free, silted-up Navarro, despite these fine late rains, is already nearly closed at its mouth.

THE CARE-A-VAN, Mendo’s mobile spay-neuter service for dogs and cats will be at the AV Grange this Friday, March 31 from 10am to 2pm. Spay-neuter service is by appointment only. Please call 707-888-7698 for appointment. Vaccinations, heartworm testing and microchipping do not need appointments. Vaccinations are $10-$13 each. Sponsored by AV Animal Rescue.

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