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Valley People (Jan 15, 2003)

A FUND to assist the two children left behind by Ramiro Balano has been established at the Ukiah branch of Washington Mutual Bank. Contributions should be directed to Balano-Balson Children, Washington Mutual Bank, 700 South State Street, Ukiah 95482. The account number is 044400001296252.

JERRY COX reports that Sueno Latino, who good works include low cost housing, has just received full non-profit status, meaning it can accept donations for which donors can accept tax write-offs. Sueno Latino is also now eligible to apply for a range of grants heretofore unavailable to it.

THERE'S MORE and more talk about the possibility of creative deal-making as it might apply to Wasson Landia on Anderson Valley Way. Wasson Landia, also known as Tia Juanita, as most locals know, is a long unoccupied, circa-1940's motel revived as slum shelter for farmworkers because the local wine industry is not required by either state or local authorities to erect housing proportionate to its labor requirements. Between 20 and 40 farmworkers, depending on the season, are jammed into 8 or so transient units on a site whose septic system failed long ago. Each resident pays an extortionate rent which bears no relation to the quality of his shelter. The property's owner, the legendarily non-cooperative Phil Wasson, apparently sub-leases the place to a Spanish-speaking manager who collects the rent for Wasson, El Padrone.

A SECOND WASSON property to the north of the old motel is a single-family dwelling presently inhabited by drug dealers, several of whom, togged out in the full "gangsta" look as mobile laundry bags, are often seen in the street in front of the place doing business on their cell phones. The front yard of this second Wasson rental presents a vista of wrecked cars, uncollected trash, burst garbage bags out of which ancient pampers and fast food leftovers have spilled, the whole of it frequently accompanied by the cries of an unattended infant.

THE MOTEL RESIDENTS are, according to Deputy Squires, law-abiding. The occupants of the residence on the Motel's north side are not. Deputies Squires and Nordin spend a lot of time there, on one matter or another. They're as frustrated as the rest of us. "We know what's going on there," Deputy Squires says. "And we know who's doing what, but....." But no matter how many times certain people are arrested, no matter how many times certain other people are deported, no matter that both deputies know the names and addresses of every crank dealer in The Valley, the crankers keep on cranking.

THE CREATIVE part of any effort to drag Wasson Landia in the direction of First World health and safety standards would seem to involve a long-term lease- option on the ramshackle premises; the leaseholder, the discussion goes, would be the AV Housing Association. Even more creative would be a rehab of the place without un-housing the 30-40 men who live there now. Seems doable, especially if present residents were mobilized to do some of the work and county authorities, such as they are, could be persuaded to cooperate. And why wouldn't they, given that they've allowed the property to deteriorate for years now without so much as a red tag?

COMMUNITY, n. I think it's time to put the word on hold. There is no community where there's no help for a visibly deranged man whose deterioration is witnessed daily by everyone in town. And then he's publicly murdered. There is no community where dope dealers openly sell hard drugs to anyone, kids included, with the money to buy them. There is no community when bad people feel no pressure not to do bad.

THERE ARE CREATIVE ways to drive bad people out; property owners who maintain public nuisances can be creatively sued in small claims court. A recent case in Berkeley brought by neighbors fed up with an unmaintained structure that had become a health and fire hazard eventually got a judgment against the uncaring suburban property greater than the value of his untended urban holdings. As for public crooks, I think they've got to be taken on directly or we'll all wind up cringing behind triple locked doors hoping they'll leave us alone.

THAT DEA RAID last week on the big shed at the junction of Mountain View Road and 128 did recover some of the materials used for methamphetamine production. One man who was arrested and five guns with their serial numbers filed off were confiscated. A perky young blonde woman was on site when the cops busted through the makeshift door of the barn-like structure. She said she'd just broken up with her boy friend and, apparently not mourning the break-up, was spending the night with one of the men discovered in the shed. The young woman implied she was a green card missionary who was going to marry Señor Boff "so he can get his green papers." When a cop asked her what she was getting out of the deal, she said, "Nothing. I'm just doing it as a favor." A quantity of marijuana was also seized at the property.

ON NEW YEAR’S EVE, somebody drove by the high school and shot out several big windows with an AK-47, apparently converted to fully automatic functioning, according to people who heard the shots. When Superintendent J.R. Collins reported the damage to Deputy Squires, the deputy soon discovered ten spent shells on Mountain View Road. Some of the bullets went through the front set of windows, through the window at the rear of the room, and then through another window across the hall. “We were very fortunate that the shots hit nothing but windows and walls,” said Collins. “They didn't hit any equipment or computers or do any other damage. Whatever kind of gun it was,” Collins remarked, “it certainly was a powerful gun.” The damaged windows are made of safety glass. Some cracked, others sustained neat holes. Some of the windows will have to be replaced, others can be repaired. A Ukiah glass outfit says it’ll cost about $2100 to make replacements and repair those that don't have to be replaced. The school district carries a $1,000 deductible insurance policy. “There haven’t been any other incidents related to this,” added Collins. “It probably had to do with New Year’s Eve revelry. Probably drunks. Deputy Squires said he had quite a few reports of either fireworks or gunshots on New Year’s eve. If it was revelers it’s the kind of revelry we can do without. It’s pretty scary. And then when you link it with a guy getting shot right in downtown Boonville with bullets in buildings….. We’ve never found guns at the high-school as long as I’ve been here, and we’ve never been shots at before. It’s crazy. Fortunately, this one happened during vacation when nobody around. When school is in session, we have people working evenings around the buildings and people cleaning. If it’d been a regular night someone certainly could have been hit."

DEPUTIES SQUIRES AND NORDIN are confident that they know who shot up the high school. Two young men, one of whom is fresh out of the Youth Authority, have been questioned about the crime. Deputy Squires speculates that the AK may be one stolen a year or so ago from the Navarro home of Kary Mullis, Anderson Valley's Nobel Prize winner for science. Mullis did break-through work on DNA.

PHIL WASSON’S NEIGHBORS on Peachland Road noticed recently that Wasson's big pond looming up over 128 has been emptied. Wasson dug the mini-lake of a reservoir back in the early 70s, filling it from year-round Conn Creek. The water fed his pears and cattle. The pond just sprang a leak, collapsed and washed out. The pond was full from this winter’s torrential rains and then all a sudden it was empty. It hadn’t been drained, inspected and repacked since it was built. A lot of ducks who'd called the pond home have been flying around in a confused state for weeks now, most of them eventually settling at night on the puddle-sized waters remaining.

LOGO LOGS ON! Logo Tevaseu, Anderson Valley's legendarily great football player, and a heavily recruited football player off two magnificent seasons at SRJC, has flown off to Fort Worth, Texas, where he will play for Texas Christian. Logo enjoys a full scholarship, complete with a berth in the school's luxurious athletic complex.

STEALTH DENTISTRY? The AV Health Center seems loathe to advertise the fact, but it is operating a dentist's office in downtown Boonville's Cronquist Building. The fetching Dandelion Severn-Walsh is said to be functioning as receptionist, an occasional patient-looking person has been seen entering the facility's unmarked rear door, a sober gent in a white smock has also been observed in the general vicinity, and an occasional pained yelp is audible, the origins of the last not precisely located. You may need a court order to learn the office's drilling hours, but for now try the Anderson Valley Health Center at 895-3477.

CDF'S PLANS to close its Ukiah "air attack base" is very bad news for the county's hill muffins. With CDF's aerial fire trucks flying out of Sonoma County or wherever they're relocated to, means delayed responses to rangeland fires, many of them originating deep in the summer hills where many people now make their homes.

AS AN EYEWITNESS to the scuffle the other night between the Slotte and Summit boys, I'd say it certainly wasn't serious enough for Deep Valley Christian to say they won't play ball games against us the rest of the year or until passions subside. Heck, there are lots of people around who remember the basketball game in Point Arena back in '68, I believe, that ended in an massive, all-age, intra-gender punch 'em up that took half the cops in the county to finally get under control. It was several years before Point Arena and Boonville dared compete against one another in any sport, such was the residual bad feeling. The fight the other night that ended the game between us and Deep Valley didn't come close to getting out of hand or involving anybody else. Cooler heads quickly prevailed. Potter Valley visits Boonville this Friday night for a bunch of basketball games.

ORDINARILY, obituaries aren't funny. Neither is the Ukiah paper, unless the humor is inadvertent. Since MediaGroup took over the Ukiah Daily Journal, The Willits News, the interchangeable Mendocino Advocate-Beacon, the two Lake County papers, and the Eureka Times-Standard, MediaGroup's Colorado-based owners have squeezed their new acquisitions for all that's left to squeeze, including Mendocino County corpses. Local families now have to pay the Colorado ghouls to announce the deaths of loved ones. In return for the final cash and carry death notice, the family gets an obit printed in a garish, bold type font that looks like it's an announcement for Madam Blavatsky's personalized horoscopes. These things are about as dignified as the drunk who makes a graveside pass at a fresh widow. Incredibly, the Journal at first inscribed these shockingly insensitive notices with the news that they had been paid for, implying that although people could be reasonably certain that the deceased had indeed departed, the information about him may be suspect! The paper has since modified its obituary policy to make it seem less mercenary, but it's not, despite the corporate chain's pious denials as expressed recently in this treacly response to an irate reader: "No family is excluded from having the notification of a local resident's death and the pending services in the Daily Journal. That is still free. The minimal fee we charge (less than a classified ad) for funeral notices allows the families to share with the community all the information they want about their loved one — which was previously limited — and have a true keepsake obit."

FROM THE MENDOCINO DISPATCH-DEMOCRAT of Friday, January 16th, 1903, as retrieved by Jody Martinez of the UDJ: "Rhodes held to answer. The preliminary examination of Martin Rhodes, the man who shot the colored man Thomas Lewis at Boonville, took place last Monday. In order to get the injured man's testimony the Court Reporter, Constable and Attorneys went out to the hospital with the accused. Rhodes was held to answer. Lewis is in a fair way to recovery."

THE TRUE HISTORY of Mendocino County is mostly moldering in the basement of the County Courthouse. How the above matter was resolved is down there somewhere, and it's a shame an archivist or an historian hasn't been allowed to mine it and many other matters about which the old newspapers, insofar as they still exist, are silent.

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