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Letters (April 5, 2017)

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Hello Michelle [Hutchins, AVUSD Superintendent] and members of the Board,

I want to follow up with what I said at the public meeting last night regarding the delayed start time. I knew that if the issue wasn't spoken to in the public comment section that the process wouldn't allow for follow through. I actually had some great conversations during my two and a half hour wait!

The problem as I see it is that the board can not legitimately function without the public witnessing and engaging in the meetings. If the public aspect of the meetings was not a fundamental requirement, there would be no public meetings.

By making the community wait for over two hours (and I understand that there were stressful and unusual circumstances) the board effectively eliminates a significant portion of public comment. Many people left in the interim. What insights were lost in not having those people present? Everyone stayed at least twenty minutes.

In order for the board to truly have public meetings it is important for the board to start within a reasonable amount of time of the published start time.

I suggest that the wait be no more than twenty minutes. You can certainly tell when a bigger issue is at hand in the closed session and twenty minutes allows for another closed session to be scheduled.

Again it goes back to building trust with the community consistently in every interaction.

I have had the privilege of witnessing and participating in board meetings for the past year and have seen first hand that the board does listen and take action on items that the community cares about. Thank you. This allows me to see incidents such as the strategic planning process and being made to wait for over two hours in a more forgiving and human context.

There is a great book called Flourish where the author Maureen Gaffney talks about the the "pattern of negative reciprocity". Essentially that in order for neutral or slightly negative interactions to be viewed with grace and understanding there must be a well of trust and positive interactions to draw from.

There was found to be a magic ratio of positive to negative experiences of 5:1. (Losada and Fredrickon's research in 2005) And the positives can be simple, mundane, and ordinary. (Eric is going to help me make a few pages from that book available to you digitally in the next few days. It is an interesting read and informs more than just the health of meetings and teams.) For every negative interaction the board/school has had with the public there needs to be five opportunities for positive interaction in order to maintain a healthy collaborative environment that can focus on positive change and creative problem solving. That is not to say that the board has to hustle and add on extra work and outreach. But it does offer an informative lens to understand the dynamic between the school and the community.

The board has had one community meeting that significantly called into question the ability of the school district to authentically engage in a strategic planning process. The very next public meeting the public was made to wait for over two hours.

I know that these events are not linked and nor are they intentional, however due to past experiences other people may have had with the school district, those last two interactions could significantly alter the ratio of positive to negative interactions- perhaps cementing people's viewpoints and coloring all future interactions with a negative and cynical bias. For example- was the community made to wait because lawyers charge so much for their time and the community is volunteering to be present? It could certainly be interpreted that way if that ratio of positive to negative interactions in tipped to the negative.

It is interesting to ask what values are presented when certain decisions are made. For example: What values is the board expressing to the community in the decision to remain behind close doors rather than take up the issue after the public session? Does the board truly value community input? I have seen that answer to be yes. But think about it from the perspective of a parent that perhaps showed up for the first time at the community meeting and then again last night.

Schools with a high level of parent engagement thrive. It is one of the main indicators of a school's success. This school cannot afford to loose even one parent. (I happen to be unusually stubborn.)

Please know that I am not faulting anyone in particular for what happened last night. I have seen that the process of following mandated board procedure can take on a life of its own. Thank you for doing all the hard work of being a board member.

Thank you,

Saoirse Byrne


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All of us knew Michael as a savvy businessman and a very successful real estate agent, a loving husband and father and a friend. I knew Michael as a former Peace Corp Volunteer, we served at different times and in different places, he in Turkey and I in Honduras and that was an experience that shaped the rest of our lives. We shared the idealism and the belief that you can make a difference and that when people organize they can make at least a small part of the world a better place.

Many of you may not know or may have forgotten the role that Michael played in creating the only publically funded farm worker and low-income housing in the Valley.  In the early 80s, when I was working as a Health Educator at the AV Health Center my first task was to conduct a community needs assessment.  Questionnaires were mailed to everyone in the Valley.  One of the questions was: what do you consider to be the three major public health issues in the AV.  One of the most frequently mentioned responses was:  people living in substandard housing. As a result the Anderson Valley Housing Association was formed. We struggled to find a way to improve the housing conditions particularly for farmworkers who were moving into the Valley in increasing numbers to work in the growing wine industry.

At the time there were people, mostly single men, living in culverts and chicken coops and packed into small trailers designed for 1 or 2 people. For months we made no progress and then one day Michael Shapiro called me and said: “Why don’t you buy the convalescent facility on Ray’s Road that’s for sale?”

I said: “How can we?  We don’t have any money.”

Michael knew how to make it happen. He joined the Board of the Housing Association and put the pieces in place to purchase the building that initially housed 18 single men and a family and that now houses two families and fewer single men. He did the work that made it possible for the Housing Association to purchase the buildings that are now the Boonville Apartments which house eight low-income households. He did that work for free. I can say unequivocally that without Michael Shapiro’s help neither one of those housing projects would be in existence today.

Michael was smart and committed and fun to work with and funny.  I remember arriving at one meeting of the Housing Association and sharing that I was worried that I had had to leave home before my husband Jerry arrived home from work and I didn’t know why he was so late. I was wondering if I should call the Sheriff. At the time, Jerry was the Director of R House, a rehabilitation facility for juveniles in the court system. Frequently the paper printed in the Sheriff’s Report incidents of staff from R House calling to report runaways. Michael’s response to my concerns about Jerry was “Don’t call the Sheriff it will show up in the paper that Kathy Cox called to report that Jerry ran away.”

We will all miss him.

Kathy Cox


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Our friend Alex Levine, who seems to know every word in the English language, has refined the name of our president into Donald Trumpery. The Oxford American Dictionary definitions include: delusive, shallow, junk, showy, but worthless. Maybe he should show his birth certificate to convince me he didn't have his name shortened.

Don Phillips


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De-Kunstler the AVA

Please promise if the global finance system does not 'kerplode' by the end of April and President Gas is not deposedassassinated by the oxymoronic "Intelligence Community", you will cease printing the truly moronic and repetitive mewlings of James Kunstler.

I have not experienced such extended one-note droning since the last 30+ minute performance of Terry Riley's "In C".

Thanking you in advance,

Mort Gage-Lifter


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To the Editor:

Some time ago Dr. Reyes who heads Mendocino College wrote a rather lengthy letter to the editor (Feb. 7, 2017) that really said very little regarding the football program. Two days later, an article appeared on the front page regarding a discussion among the trustees regarding student housing for the college. Architect Chris Brown stated at the meeting that campus housing ‘…also helps to attract international students, increasing diversity, and also boosts recruitment in general.’

As a taxpayer, I need to chime in here. Our federal government is up to its eyeballs in debt, and that is the debt we know about. The State of California is in a similar situation. The Mendocino County Pension System is woefully underfunded. There just is not ‘extra discretionary’ cash floating around to fund things beyond basic functions and basic needs … and there may not even be enough money for that!

The purpose of a community college is threefold as I see it:

Provide an economical way for a local student to complete lower division course work before transferring to a four-year college or university. These students save money by living at home and possibly work part time in anticipation of completing a degree program. Sometimes due to family or personal needs these students may need more than two years to complete their studies here.

Provide an opportunity to earn an Associates degree, such as accounting, in order to move right into the job market.

Provide an opportunity to earn recognized certification to also qualify for a full-time job.

With available funding or through fees, community colleges can offer continuing adult education. This is a nice to have, but not a necessity. A community college is not designed to achieve national or international prestige like a Harvard, a Stanford, or a Cal. If employees of the college seek this kind of notoriety, then they should find a job at one of these other institutions. Doing the other things Architect Brown states are mostly self-serving motivations for the college administration, faculty and staff to increase compensation and the size of their empire. The College should focus on performing its core functions well at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer for our own local young people.

D.E. Johnson


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What’s the right health care plan? Solved. I want what Congress has.

Conversely, make Congress settle for what we have. describes health coverage for members of Congress. Barack Obama says it’s great, and it is. You would like it.

Carolynn Abst Case


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I doubt if there's any connection between the size of a man's fingers and the size of his penis. If Donnie and I had a dick-off, I don't know who would win (or what, exactly, would constitute “winning”). Despite my normal-sized hands, mine is pretty small (but I'm old enough not to care much). Judging by Donnie's defensiveness when the question arises, I suspect his is as well. And I've heard that women who've had the misfortune to encounter him in the park call him “Little Donnie.”

Clifford Story


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To the Editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal:

Come on, KC [Meadows]. Seems the UDJ has gone in whole hog to promote a Group Think about the need for LA style suburban sprawl onto our farmland greenbelt (see your front pages of March 10 & 28). Pushed by Ukiah’s most economically powerful, those relentlessly repeating the Talking Points tell us our community suffers a crisis of insufficient single family dwellings for sale. The relentlessness now reminds us of the bogus 2002 war propaganda about Saddam and “WMD.” Ukiah’s memorized chant for sprawl has been well disseminated and is now promulgated by high paid city, county, hospital, and special district officials.

While there is a clear need for new rental housing in Ukiah, it’s vital we challenge the powers-that-be now promoting 1950’s style, environmentally absurd tract home sprawl onto our unrecoverable farm land. The targeted farm land just north of town is designated agricultural in the Ukiah Valley Area Plan. This General Plan came at a cost to taxpayers of some $400,000 and was supported unanimously by the Ukiah City Council and made law by a 4-1 vote of the County Board of Supervisors.

The claim that professionals cannot find homes to buy in our valley is unfounded. Today, a local realty listed eighty homes for sale in Ukiah, with one home being added to the listing daily; average listing time on this site has been 95 days. Yet we still hear the refrain that doctors and county administrators cannot find homes here to buy. Please give us a break.

Let’s save our vital farmland greenbelt while supporting rental housing and townhouse infill projects such as the 72 unit one in the Brush Street Triangle and others underway within the obvious urban boundary of Ukiah.

Phil Baldwin


ED NOTE: Er, Phil, there's a difference between a straight account about a proposed housing development and advocating it. KC Meadows has not advocated either it or Weapons of Mass Destruction. We agree totally on infilling Ukiah before slurbing it outward. 

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To the Editor:

President Trump’s proposal to drastically increase the Pentagon’s budget by more than $50 billion at the expense of funding some of our nation’s most important diplomatic, foreign policy, and national security tools is a travesty of morality and of common sense, and will only serve to make our country less safe.

In addition to severe cuts to the State Department’s budget, Trump wants to slash EPA and U.N. funding. These moves will not only impede our efforts to mitigate humanitarian crises raging around the world, but it will also relinquish American leadership on key diplomatic issues like combating climate change, all the while reverting the U.S. back to the military-first approach of the Bush-era.

Today’s biggest national security challenges: famine, refugees, climate change and even terrorism, cannot be met with military force alone. But don’t take it from me; more than 120 retired generals and admirals have urged Trump against cutting funding for diplomacy. And as the current Secretary of Defense, Gen. James Mattis, once said: “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Catherine Milovina


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Since Mark “Devious” Davis gets to take the “Traitors” to Vegas, let’s be sure that part of the deal is for him to pay off immediately all the remaining debt and the cost of demolishing that horror we agreed to in order to get the Oakland Raiders back after their 12-year affair with LA. I wish we could keep the name Raiders and create a community-owned franchise like the Green Bay Packers.

David Gill


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To: Bruce McEwen:

Why don't you find something better to do with your life? 75% of California — rough estimate — is overweight. Are you part of that percentage?

The Judge did order me to check in with probation the day I got out. I got a three day kick that the court isn't even aware is eligible for Mendocino inmates. It was Saturday when I was released. You ever heard of 10%? Because some effect of that must have gone into effect. Also because I was released in total, a full amount of four early days. How can a judge say your released date will be the following week on a Wednesday and not know what happens inside the county jail and not ask how my behavior has been in jail?

So I was released on a Saturday and went back to my probation terms like a smart young man would do. I had a pickup order 14 days later when I have 30 days to check in with probation. How can I legally the violated? The district attorney even made that clear to my ears. Nosy you didn't hear about all that, did you? If me and you are in a boxing ring with gloves, a headguard and a mouth guard, would you say all that to my face? Maybe you would be better at writing comics instead of making a public mistake like that? I did not say I wanted a break. I'm enrolled in college, RCS stepping stones for free housing and was third on the list.

When I got on probation I had to check in with Damon Lebert once a week for three and a half months and get tested through him and the SLP program on Brush Street at least nine times a week. Damon didn't even offer me a bike for transportation. That's why he's not my probation officer anymore. I had too much on my plate with checking in, testing that much, 10 hours of work within the SLE when the gardener is away, having community service hours myself to do, look for work, and go to narcotics anonymous, alcoholics anonymous, and behavioral health court.

I ended up missing a court date because of how tired I got through everything. I explained myself to Judge Moormon and she discontinued my behavioral health court so I didn't have to go to it. The judge also recommended me to check in with Willits probation but I don't know why. I left the program because I didn't have to be there. "No order."

I was and am homeless because I lost respect for my mom for good reason. I maxed out in the hall, and got off probation and got out to find out that her and my sister sold everything I had due to my involvement in gangs due to me and mom's relationship.

Mother also had a U-Haul van out on Madden Lane getting packed and moving to the city without me. My sister was moving without me also.

Yes, I have a dysfunctional family. Yes, I'm an Army brat. Yes, my father is a veteran that got a dishonorable discharge for cheating on my mom. I have a little sister from that action. I never said to myself I wanted to be a bud kid at a young age or go to CPS at age 9 because my mom's new ex-con boyfriend attacked my mom having illegal drugs in the house with firearms.

Put this in your paper punk. Or leave the punk out — your choice. Let the real in my life be known because Mr. McEwen, you and everyone that reads that paper and what you say and think is true don't know me. So please post this in your paper and stop talking about me!

Judge Moorman also asked Marsella, Do you know Isaiah? And she replied, No, only on paper. Judge Moorman then asked Mr. King, do you know Isaiah? He stated, Yes, he's sitting in front of my face with a green suit on!

The court date where I was sentenced to check in with probation the day I got out Mr. King came to me and whispered, Just make sure you check in even if it's at night or I'll be looking for you.

I wasn't hiding. I made it clear I was on a mission to be housed by RCS, not too far from Low Gap Road actually.

I’m looking for work which I now have a food handler’s license. I passed the test so I can look myself in the mirror and say thank you now.

I got back on probation to receive help but all you people do is fuck of my life. You, Bruce, what you're doing is identical to you pointing your finger at me and laughing if — which I'm not going to — I assaulted you I would get charged with aggravated assault. Stop aggravating me! Is what you wrote about me what you came up with or did you get an actual report? You probably came up with all this yourself. Fight fire with fire.

Isaiah Bennett


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Compassion: What we have for all around us.

Respect: What we give to those who mean the most.

Courage: What we have the most of for all who try to fill us with fear.

Honor: It is for all who have earned it through hardship, effort and determination.

This is the Boonville Bushido. Follow this code with honesty.

‘Fawkes’ (a Boonville High School student)

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