Anderson Valley Inc.?

by Mark Scaramella, December 24, 2013

Last Wednesday night, Community Services Board member Neil Darling proposed that the District and the Valley consider incorporating into a town of its own with its own City Council, perhaps along the lines of Point Arena, although, obviously much larger geographically.

Mr. Darling cites several examples of poor service from the County administrative apparatus in Ukiah and summarizes the results of his preliminary research regarding the incorporation process.

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Proposal To The CSD Board

by Neil Darling

I propose that the CSD Board set up a special committee to evaluate the pros and cons of incorporating Anderson Valley as a self-governing municipality under California state law.

I believe that there is merit in such a move, but I also understand that there may not be the will within the Valley to undertake such a complex and difficult task. However, my preliminary thinking leads me to believe that it should at least be studied. I also believe that the CSD should lead this effort. As a legally empowered governing body for the Valley, the CSD has the authority to petition the Mendocino Local Area Formation COmmission (LAFCo) to approve such incorporation. The other route is to get either 25% of voters or 25% of landowners in the Valley to approve such a petition. I believe the CSD has the leadership and resources to better handle the challenge than through a grassroots petition drive. Obviously, the CSD would have to reach out to the entire community to ensure a thorough and credible evaluation.

The fundamental reason that communities incorporate is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of land-use policy and tax revenue usage. The following are just a few examples that I have experienced of inefficient and ineffective use of Valley resources under current county government:

1. For years a blighted property has stood on Boonville's main street with no effective County action.

2. Airport Manager Kirk Wilder has endured months of bullying by a county employee before he could build a simple latrine.

3. $15,000 was voluntarily contributed by Valley residents for a Sheriff’s canine unit but we must still beg the county for police coverage in the Valley.

4. The fairgrounds may closed due in part to inadequate funding from the county and the state.

5. The last straw for me is the County’s attempt to coerce the Senior Denter into paying rent and a utility fee that would force the closure of the Center within one or two years. While the Supervisors will likely back down because of our protests, the attempt reflects a lack of sensitivity to Valley needs. And why should we have to beg for $7500 per year of our own tax money for the Center? What will be the next threat?

6. While Dan Hamburg attempts to look out for our interests, he does not live in the Valley and has to persuade other supervisors to support us.

A quick review of county documents suggests that the Valley may pay a disproportionate share of the county's tax revenue. We pay 5.3% of property taxes while we are only 3.3% of the population. A lot more study is needed, but I would bet that County revenue from the Valley far exceeds the value of services received. Incorporation is not a fiscal panacea for all our needs, but at least people who live in the Valley would make these resource allocation decisions. This will ensure more responsive, efficient and effective government.

And no, we are not too small to incorporate. The law requires a population of at least 500. The Valley has about 2800 residents. Out of 482 cities and towns in California, 37 (8%) have a population of under 3000. Point Arena is incorporated and has a population of 449.

Another important issue is the ability to efficiently provide services to residents of the Incorporated area. The location and continuity of Valley topography makes it far more efficient than from Ukiah. Consider the difficulty for Valley residents to attend Supervisor meetings or to get various permits in Ukiah. Many of our older citizens are unable to approach their government because of these travel requirements.

We need to think about the future. Much will change in the Valley over the next ten years — new bike path, more vineyards, senior housing, low income housing, Fairgrounds survival, changes in healthcare access and delivery, etc. Do we want County officials and employees making important decisions for the Valley — or ourselves?

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After minimal discussion, including a few questions about which of the Valley’s four towns might be included in the Town of Anderson Valley, the Board voted 5-0 to form an ad-hoc exploratory committee.

Board Chair Valerie Hanelt worried that the AVA might put its own slant on the proposal.

Several people thought even if the proposal doesn’t go as far as incorporation, it would at least fire a shot across the Supervisors’ bow and perhaps get them to take Anderson Valley more seriously.

Directors Kathlenn McKenna and Neil Darling, along with fire Chief Andres Avila and local reporter Mark Scaramella volunteered on the spot to be on the committee. Other interested parties are invited to participate. Contact CSD manager Joy Andrews at 895-2020 or districtmgr.avcsd@gmail.com.

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