Valley People

by AVA News Service, June 27, 2013

THE DREADS LANDED. The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival packs them in every year, and Mendocino County's most happening venue, Boonville, radiated peace, love and good vibrations all weekend, as Mendo's very own rasta-groover, Sister Yasmin would say. Our fair town was so crowded Saturday and Sunday with reggae fans, that people were parking well beyond our civic center at Boonville High School to the north, the Boonville Brewery to the south. The holy herb was the dominant scent. Pedicabs shuttled people to and fro, and many locals enjoyed the music whether they wanted to or not, as main stage's powerful amps boomed congas and cowbells, stirring The Valley's somnolent summer hills.

RASTAFARIANS here, Rastafarians there, Rastafarians everywhere in Boonville all weekend. Overall impression was of shuffling, listless people, most of them young but enervated-seeming and Thanatoid-looking. The weather has been rain-cloudy, muggy-warm but only a few sprinkles of actual precipitation fell on the subdued revelers. A more sustained rain began Monday morning, tapered off, resumed Monday night into Tuesday. The Rasta brigades seem to bring seasonally odd weather with them. They were in town five years ago for the big lightning storm. Sunday noon, a drunk was passed out in the flowerbed of the Boonville Post Office. A group of street people was stretched out on the grass strip at the fairgrounds parking lot. A shopkeeper said she would be “glad when they're gone. They steal stuff, they camp out in the bathroom, they're stoned so they'll stand there staring at the menu like they're the only one in line.” Saturday night, a frantic male voice crackled out of the scanner demanding to know what to do with the garbage piling up, an inquiry he concluded by repeatedly screaming the full version of “WTF!” But inside the Fairgrounds, all was organizationally serene, including a tent called Jah-Med, an emergency medical center specializing in over-indulgence but prepared to deal with anything. Off Lambert Lane, a scruffy, youngish man sat with several jars of marijuana bud. “I'm not selling it, I'm donating it. I give you some, you make a donation to me.” A Sheriff's deputy commented on the numbers of “unsupervised juveniles,” remarking that he didn't think the festival was “appropriate for kids.” It's not Sesame Street for sure, but given that somewhere between seven and eight thousand people are in town for this thing, the only arrests so far have been a few drunks-in-public and “juveniles in possession,” which we tend to get anyway even when there are only five people in Boonville.

RASTA FEST'S organizers know what they're doing. By Monday night you'd never know 7-8,000 people had been in town over the weekend. Clean-up crews were already at work Sunday night, and by daylight Monday our very own Arlene Guest, the under-sung heroine who voluntarily keeps Boonville litter-free year-round, had launched her own second-wave clean-up.

THOSE TOOTHLESS NO PARKING signs posted around Boonville over Rasta Weekend seemed to have worked in keeping businesses and driveways unblocked. They were also funny. “2 HOUR PARKING. TOW AWAY ZONE. ANDERSON VALLEY PARKING COMMISSION.” No such entity, of course, but the warning does promote vague images of a rural back room presided over by a sternly unforgiving yokel meting out massive fines to non-locals.

THE MIDDLE AGED WOMAN injured at the Redwood Drive-in last Tuesday (June 18th) when, her vision obscured by large vehicles, she stepped blind into the path of a delivery truck driven by Roque Guerrero, has been identified as Avian Forest of Albion. Ms. Forest was knocked to the ground but suffered only minor cuts and bruises. Mr. Guerrero was not cited. (Avian Forest. Albion. Of course. Where else?)

ANNOUNCING Anderson Valley's Little League All-Stars: 9-10 year olds: Owen Shock and Jason Angulo; 10-11 year olds: Braulio Echeverria and Mateo LaCampagne; 11-12 year olds: JT Carlin and Alejandro Soto.

LAST WEEK, Morgan Baynham, speaking as a member of the Fair Board, told the Community Services District that the Board is considering charging the district for some portion of their water and light bill. “As you are aware, we no longer receive state funding, and this has required us to re-examine our business plan, and realign our services and expenses. We have had to be very aggressive to try and survive this crisis. We are still in the midst of a major crisis and the future of the Fairgrounds is not secure. Without taking drastic measures, the Fair could be nonexistent within two or three years.”

BAYNHAM told the board that the Fair has reduced its full-time employees from four to one, Fair manager Jim Brown adding that the board is trying to increase rental income, “but even this is insufficient to balance our budget.” Baynham said the Fair pays $4,000 a month to PG&E. Among other things, the utility services a pump that supplies water for firetrucks and occasionally must be maintained or even replaced. (Last year the Fair had to replace it at a cost of $12,000.) Baynham said that downtown Boonville residents benefit from the pump-driven hydrants serving the downtown by lower insurance rates. Baynham also said that the lights over the Fairgrounds parking lot are now on longer than they used to be for security reasons, but leaving them on longer means a larger monthly PG&E bill. “This is just a shot across the bow,” said Baynham, noting that Fair Manager Jim Brown would be presenting the CSD Board with the precise numbers for the purposes of a mutually fair arrangement could be made.

GIVEN the huge popularity of soccer up and down the Northcoast, how about a Mendocino County Soccer Championship tournament at the Boonville Fairgrounds? It would pack 'em in. And follow that up with a NorCal championship. If the idea seems to be to keep the Fairgrounds busy with paying customers, there's lots of ways to do that, but someone has to take the initiative to pull the money in.

BOONVILLE FIRE CHIEF Colin Wilson said that the district at one time did pay a portion of the Fair's utilities bill specifically for the hydrant system, and that the district would probably be willing to address the question again when Fair manager Brown is ready.

KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS. Black Bird Farm is still mostly known locally as Highland Ranch, ancestral home of the late Charmian Blattner, the Redwood Empire's longest-running print columnist. When Charmian was a girl, Highland was a long haul across the Navarro River and on up into the hills. These days, visitors can drive in off Greenwood Road.

THE PROPERTY became well-known as Highland Ranch under the gentlemanly auspices of George Gaines, about whom a negative word has never been heard. Mr. Gaines developed the property as a comfortable, high-end retreat for comfortable, high-end people. Not long ago Gaines sold Highland's lush 200 acres to the Hall family of Los Angeles. Jamie Hall, a young woman still in her twenties, daughter of John and Joan Hall, presides over the Highland property, now re-christened as Black Bird Farm and organized as a tax-exempt non-profit.

JOHN AND JOAN struck it rich in the oft-plundered gold fields of public education funding. The Halls were teachers at Hollywood High School when they discovered a particularly lucrative loophole in public education funding requirements, and very soon the Halls were multi-millionaires via a chain of store front charter schools called Options for Youth and Opportunities for Learning, paying themselves some $600,000 annually to run their publicly funded schools, a nice step up from their previous salaries at Hollywood High.

THE OPTION most frequently exercised by Options For Youth seems to have been millions in private profits for the Hall family. In 2006, a state audit concluded that the Halls had been “overpaid” by the state to the tune of $57 million, but since they'd been operating inside California's notoriously lax school funding guidelines, the Halls had done nothing illegal. They got to keep the money, some of which apparently made its way to Philo where more than $3 million was spent to buy Highland Ranch from George Gaines. The Halls also own a lavish ranch in Colorado.

THE HALLS set up a charity run by their daughter Jaimie seeded with $10.8 million, and it's that charity that seems to be the funding device fueling the fortunate Miss Hall's Black Bird Farm in Philo. Black Bird says it's an organic farm that brings in underprivileged youth for stays in lavish rural circumstances the individual underprivileged youth probably hasn't even seen on television.

EXCEPT for the ranch foreman, all the old Highland Ranch employees have been sent packing. They say the Halls first drove down their pay to minimum wage then sacked them.

JERRY AND KATHY COX will retreat to Guanajuato, Mexico this September, with plans to return to The Valley in June. Jerry writes, “We have often hoped of living in Mexico. The new high school principal (Michelle Hutchins) loved our house and wants to rent it, so off we go.” In other Cox news, the younger of their two daughters, Mary Ann, has just been hired as Marketing and Outreach Coordinator for the Ukiah Co-op.

BTW, if you've always assumed the Co-op is some kind of marginal grunge enterprise run by whacked-out old hippies, you will be surprised to learn that it's a wonderful little market more like Whole Foods than your false assumptions.

FRANK HARTZELL of the Fort Bragg Advocate deserves lots of attaboys for persuading CalTrans to clean up a leaky petroleum “wall” wayyyyy too near the Navarro River estuary. The wall consists of stacked concrete blocks behind which Caltrans piles estuary-hostile road-building materials. Hartzell got Mendocino County’s Environmental Health Department to issue an abatement that the wall constituted a public nuisance. Trey Strickland, a County Health supervisor wrote to Caltrans: “I'm writing to inform Caltrans that the abandoned asphalt emulsion oil present at Hwy 128 Post Mile 0.16 constitutes a public nuisance that requires additional mitigation to be considered fully abated. Per Mendocino County Code, it is a public nuisance to maintain property in such a manner … To abate this violation of Mendocino County Code, remove and properly dispose of the remaining asphalt emulsion oil no later than August 2, 2013.” When Caltrans ignores the order, count on Hartzell to be back on the case.

A READER WRITES: “I got this notice from Blue Shield last week and don’t really know what to make of it, other than to giggle nervously. Obviously, it does not apply to me. The notice is from Jeff Smith, VP & General Manager of Individual and Family Plans, Blue Shield of California, 50 Beale Street, San Francisco, and is dated April 22, 2013: ‘I am writing to provide you with information about a change to the Policy for your health plan effective July 1, 2013. Due to a mandate from the California Department of Insurance, coverage for medical services related to gender transition will not be denied if coverage is available for those services when not related to gender transition. Health services that are ordinarily available to individuals of only one sex will not be denied solely due to the fact the person is enrolled as the other sex. Enclosed is an endorsement to your policy which clarifies this change. For future reference, please keep this endorsement with the Policy that was in the Blue Shield plan updates book we recently mailed to you. If you have questions, please contact our Customer Service representative at the number listed on your member ID card’.”

THE ALBION FIRE DEPARTMENT presents “our 52nd annual BBQ and fundraiser. Come join us at the Little River fairgrounds by the airport Saturday, July 13, 12-5 pm. $15 Adult, $10 ages 6-11, under 6 free. We will be serving beef tri-tip, smoked chicken and vegan tamales. Enjoy good food and live music throughout the afternoon. We’ve got lots of new firefighters – come meet us!”

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