Sewer Water

Unintended Consequences

“It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

Peter Arnett quoting a US Army source, Vietnam, 1968

We were worried that an unintended consequence of the projects would be a net loss of housing in Boonville. Well, scratch that. It’s now clear that loss of housing is an intended consequence of the plan.

The neighborhoods that were to be saved by the clean drinking water and sanitary sewer plan will be destroyed by it. Consider the Haehl St. neighborhood. Most of the lots in the neighborhood have an original single family house and one or more additional housing structures such as double-wide trailers and other temporary structures that many families call home. Under the plan, only the original legal structure will be eligible for hookups. Worse, the plan will bring scrutiny from the County that will lead to the removal of the additional structures and will limit occupancy of the original legal structure to a single family.

Proponents of the plan readily acknowledge the truth of this. They shield themselves from responsibility by saying that they will not be the ones carrying out the evictions.

Proponents of the plan also tell us that once the illegal structures are cleared, the hookups will allow construction of new granny units on eligible parcels, never mind that most of the parcels in the Haehl St. neighborhood are too small to be eligible. Even for the one or two that might be large enough, construction of a new granny unit will cost in excess of $300,000, putting that option well outside of the modest budgets of most parcel owners.

Some might celebrate this forced gentrification, but it will come at the cost of untold suffering brought upon the families whose homes will be lost. And their loss will be our loss as a community. These are families that work and contribute. Their children attend our schools. They are brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. If this comes to pass, what will those who remain of our shattered community do for them? Hold a bake sale? Take up a collection? Or will we turn our backs and tell ourselves that it was for the greater good?

Sewer Water

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

Once upon a time, when I was just a pup in the computer business, International Business Machines (IBM) often deployed a sales tactic that came to be known as Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt, or simply FUD (rhymes with mud). It worked by instilling fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the minds of customers thinking of choosing a computer system built by someone other than IBM. “No one ever got fired for choosing IBM,” is an example of this tactic.

The antidote to FUD was simple: Teach your customers to recognize it and provide them with information that combats it.

Today in 2020, the Anderson Valley Community Services District (AVCSD) is rolling out FUD to sell their water and sewer system plans to Boonville. This website is dedicated to fighting AVCSD FUD by pointing it out and providing articles and discussions to inform.

Take a look at the recent mailer from the AVCSD titled, “Water and Wastewater Treatment Update #1”. In the event that you’ve consigned your copy to the trash, I’ll quote from the mailer.

“There is a public health crisis in Anderson Valley.”

Grabs you, doesn’t it? When I first read it I thought of the black plague, of carts filled with corpses, and the ringing cry “Bring out your dead.” The first aim of FUD is to get you to stop thinking critically by getting you to think irrationally about something you fear.

“In 2015 water testing detected coliform bacteria and high levels of nitrates in 21 of 23 residential wells tested in central Boonville.”

Sounds like it might be factual. What it doesn’t say is that the wells selected for testing were already strongly suspected to be contaminated. In no way was this a representative sampling of wells in Boonville. When I asked at the AVCSD meeting on 2/5/2020 whether it was fair to say that the wells to be tested were “cherry picked”, the answer given was, “Yes”.

Now that you’ve been hit with a health crisis and some cherry picked facts, comes the sowing of doubt. Hopefully you’ve been sufficiently frightened to accept this dubious chain of reasoning:

“This is a serious public health issue and could affect the greater community. The contamination could spread beyond Boonville to the aquifer of the Anderson Valley, potentially polluting everyone’s water on the valley floor.”

Notice the use of “could” and “potentially”, words that signal a speculative line of reasoning. No facts here, the intent is to sow doubt about the future, so that unless the remedies to come are taken whole and without question, terrible things might happen.

“Residents of the Anderson Valley deserve better water quality than what is normally found in third-world countries.”

This sentence is offensive. The admixture of “normally found in third-world countries” and “Residents … deserve better” comes off as xenophobic. It has no place in an official communication.

“The State funds will no longer be available if the AVCSD doesn’t act soon.”

Here’s the uncertainty. If we don’t rush into whatever plans the AVCSD and its friends in the consulting and construction industries have cooked up for us, we might not get anything. Take it or leave it.

And that is how FUD works: Fear for our health, uncertainty about funding for alternatives, and doubt about the future.


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