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Jan. 20, 2005

The Weekly Wrap

Planned Parenthood:
new building, broader mission

Tsunami relief efforts

Will is stay or will it go?
Industry, enviros react to pulp mill news

Humboldt ranks high in sex offenders


The Weekly Wrap

HEART PATIENTS GET MORE MONEY: The Redding Record-Searchlight reported Jan. 13 that four surgeons alleged to have performed unnecessary procedures on hundreds of heart patients at the former Redding Medical Center have agreed to pay $24 million to settle lawsuits brought by the patients. The doctors are Chae Hyun Moon, Thomas Russ, Walter Fletscher and B.V. Chandramouli. Other physicians, including Fidel Realyvasquez, the hospital's former top cardiac surgeon, have not settled. If no agreement is reached, the lawsuits are scheduled to proceed to trial on July 25. The news of the settlement comes after the former owner of the hospital, Tenet Healthcare Corp., offered $395 million to settle the suits. A number of Humboldt County residents are among more than 700 who alleged that their heart procedures were unnecessary.

See also:
Nov. 20, 2003: COVER STORY - In their hands -- Humboldt heart patients say Redding doctors betrayed their trust

LOCALS ATTEND BUSH INAUGURAL: Republicans from around the country have descended on Washington, D.C., where President George W. Bush was scheduled to be sworn in for his second term Thursday morning. Among the locals in attendance: developer Steve Strombeck, Security National's Rob and Cherie Arkley, and Mike Harvey, the outgoing chair of the local chapter of the Republican Party. "We're excited, we're honored and we look forward to having an exciting and interesting time," said Harvey, who went with his family and planned to attend one of the many official or non-official balls and parties associated with the inauguration. It has been widely reported that tickets to the main event are hard to come by in much of the country, but both Harvey and Strombeck secured theirs through the offices of Rep. Mike Thompson. Meanwhile, citizens less sanguine about the recent election's outcome will stage inauguration protests in Trinidad, Garberville and Eureka, and some are calling for local residents to participate in the national "Not One Damn Dime Day," in which citizens spend nothing in protest of the war in Iraq. See this week's "Calendar" for details of the protest gatherings.

VETERANS CENTER BACK TO COUNCIL: Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Marilyn Miles ruled last week that the city of Eureka broke its own zoning regulations when it approved a new housing facility for veterans last November. The ruling was a victory for Eureka businessman Don Davenport, who protested the decision and filed suit against the city over the issue. The decision places the project, which would have been located at the old Fireside Inn, in limbo; the Eureka City Council was scheduled to discuss the matter in closed session Tuesday evening.

YUROK FISH KILL SUIT DISMISSED: The Yurok Tribe suffered a defeat in federal court in Oakland last week when U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong threw out a lawsuit that sought redress for the fall 2002 fish kill on the Klamath River. The lawsuit aimed to demonstrate that the federal Bureau of Reclamation, managers of the upstream Klamath Project dams, caused the fish kill by not delivering sufficient water downstream. Armstrong ruled that the courts had no jurisdiction to hear issues concerning "tribal trust" -- the responsibility of the federal government to manage natural resources to fulfill the traditional needs of Native American tribes. "It's a very poor decision for Indians all over the place," said Troy Fletcher, executive director of the Yurok Tribe, on Tuesday. He added that tribal leaders will meet with attorneys to discuss whether to appeal the decision. In a series of press releases, the Klamath Water Users Association -- an organization representing upstream farmers -- lauded the decision.

Humboldt Radiology's new outpatient imaging center was originally scheduled to open its doors about now, but the wet weather has delayed construction crews currently putting the finishing touches on the Buhne Street facility. Dr. Greg Holland, a Humboldt Radiology partner, said that his group now hopes to have the center opened by late February or -- at worst -- mid-March. "Nobody wants it open sooner than we do," he said. "For the time being, we're just limping along in our old office."

See also:
Nov. 18, 2004: COVER STORY - Split image: Radiologists break with St. Joe's to take county into 21st century

LOCAL AUTHOR HONORED: McKinleyville author Barbara Kerley was awarded a prestigious Sibert Honor for her book Walt Whitman: Words for America on Monday. The book -- an illustrated non-fiction story for children -- retells poet Walt Whitman's experience as a nurse in the Civil War. Reached at her home, Kerley, 44, said that she was drawn to the story through her love of Whitman's expansive, generous work; she said that the poet's Civil War years set the stage for his literary career. "He spent his life trying to heal the country," Kerley said. "I thought that it really encapsulated who he was." The Association for Library Service to Children -- the group that also chooses the annual Newbery and Caldecott Medals for children's literature -- named three books as Sibert Honor recipients this year, recognizing excellence in children's non-fiction. Kerley told the Journal that her next book will be on the person she called "America's first female celebrity" -- Alice Roosevelt, impish daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt.

HUNTER RANCH SOLD: A 16,123-acre ranch on the Mad River whose asking price was $9 million sold this month. Realtor Jim Redd, a "ranch specialist" with Four Star Realty, and Kevin Sullivan negotiated the sale. Information about the sales price and the buyer was not available by press time on Tuesday.

THOMPSON SNAGS GRANT: Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa) was instrumental in securing a $750,000 congressional State and Tribal Assistance grant to the city of Eureka for the Martin Slough Interceptor project. The project, when complete, will result in improved water quality for Martin Slough, Swain Slough, Elk River and Humboldt Bay by reducing sanitary sewer overflows, according to a statement from the city.

RESTORATION AT LITTLE RIVER: The California State Parks will begin habitat restoration efforts, specifically removal of European beachgrass with excavators and bulldozers, at Little River State Beach. The northern portion of the beach will be closed from Jan. 19 through early March.

FARMERS WANTED: The UC Cooperative Extension office in Eureka wants to link retiring and aspiring farmers so that they can work together for their mutual benefit. The office is looking for farmers who may want to explore the idea of mentoring or creating new business partners to farm their land. Call Deborah Giraud at 445-7351.

NOT TOO LATE FOR SHOTS: The bad news: Flu season is not over. The good news: Flu shots are still available at doctors' offices throughout the county, Humboldt County Public Health Officer Dr. Ann Lindsay announced.

Planned Parenthood:
new building, broader mission


It was 30 years ago when two Humboldt County women decided that this rural area needed a place that would provide a range of family planning services.

Six Rivers Planned Parenthood has changed quite a bit from when Michele McKeegan and Judy Webb first founded the organization in 1975. Its client base has grown exponentially, it now serves many men, and it has outgrown its reputation as simply an abortion clinic for pregnant teens.

But some things have stayed the same, said Executive Director Tina Mackenzie.

In the 1970s, "There was a real need for family planning," Mackenzie said. "That need has never gone away. We fill a real niche in this community." Services are provided at low or no cost, or the clinic will bill insurance.

As it prepares to celebrate its thirtieth birthday at a party Jan. 29, the nonprofit organization also is planning for the next 30 years: This spring, it plans to break ground on a new $2.3 million clinic.

"It's a way of saying to the community, we're a fixture, we're part of the fabric of this community," Mackenzie said.

A two-year fund-raising effort has already netted half the required amount from major donors, including board members. The other half is expected to come from community donations within the next six months, if all goes as planned. The new building, which will be located off Harris Street in Eureka, will be double the size of the Harrison Avenue clinic that has been the organization's home since 1984.

"This building is going to provide so much for the community," said Keta Paulson, 49, a board member, staff member and early client of Planned Parenthood. "We're really stifled in what we can provide because of the space."

The extra breathing room will allow the clinic to double the number of providers and thus the number of clients -- and to see clients more quickly.

"Right now, patients often have a very long wait before they can get in for appointments," Mackenzie said.

It will mean that the organization can advertise its services more broadly to let the public know that it treats women of all ages as well as men. And the extra space will mean the clinic can expand its educational services, such as parent-child workshops, and have more outreach to Hispanics and other groups.

Mackenzie said she continually meets people who think of Planned Parenthood as serving only teens, or providing only birth control and abortion.

Teens do make up a quarter of the clientele, and abortions number between 450 and 500 a year. But 62 percent of its clients are between 20 and 34, abortion clients make up only 4 percent of total clients, and men -- seeking vasectomies or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases -- make up 9 percent of total clients, Mackenzie said.

The numbers of men have more than doubled in the past couple of years, she said. Part of that is because of the clinic's "Taking it to the Streets" outreach program, in which providers go to locations such as the California Conservation Corps in Fortuna or Humboldt State University's Health Center.

The clinic is also popular with women who may be uncomfortable discussing family planning issues with their family doctor, or may feel more at ease with a female provider, Mackenzie said.

"Planned Parenthood really takes the time that a client needs to give them the medical care as well as the encouragement and the counseling and the sensitivity" that they need, Paulson said.

The organization has also begun doing what Mackenzie calls "international work," to increase access to reproductive services worldwide and raise awareness locally about how the U.S. government restricts international family planning services, Mackenzie said.

Six Rivers Planned Parenthood will hold its annual Roe v. Wade Celebration Breakfast at 7:45 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 21 (see Calendar). On Jan. 29, it will hold its thirtieth birthday party. Call the Planned Parenthood office for details (442-2961).


Tsunami relief efforts

LOCAL BUSINESSES AND RESIDENTS continue to join in the worldwide effort to help in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. On Thursday, Jan. 20, starting at 5 p.m., Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville holds a benefit show featuring Kulica and Moses Lincoln Johnson, and Dutch and silent auctions for tsunami victims in Sri Lanka. $15. The Jitter Bean Coffee Company will donate 50 percent of its Jan. 30 profits to tsunami relief organizations.

Internews, an international news agency that operates from Arcata, has assisted the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh to restore radio transmission, and is helping build an emergency media center there.

World Shelters, Arcata makers of all-weather, temporary shelters, are accepting donations to ship huts overseas. Call 822-6600, or visit

Sun Valley Floral Group, the Arcata bulb farm, donates 100 percent of its `Sumatra' lily sales through January to the American Red Cross.

Sacred Grounds, Arcata coffee house on F Street, matches funds donated by customers to send to Sumatra, where they buy coffee beans.

Robert Gearheart, an HSU engineering professor, headed to Sumatra for one month to help with sanitation work.

The North Coast Co-op's Arcata and Eureka grocery stores collect funds for international relief programs UNICEF, CARE and Oxfam.

The Humboldt County Chapter of the American Red Cross accepts donations at 443-4521.

Will is stay or will it go?
Industry, enviros react to pulp mill news


Following the shutdown of the Stockton Pacific pulp mill last Thursday, speculation continued early this week about whether or not the closure would be permanent.

By press time Tuesday, 100 employees had been laid off and negotiations were continuing, but it was not yet clear whether the mill would find a new buyer in Hong Kong-based Lee & Man.

The closure has resulted in a readjustment in the local timber industry, of which the mill is an integral part. At the same time, for other residents, it represented default victory in a decades-old battle over the mill's environmental record.

Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Ltd., one of the largest paper producers in Asia, is the only entity maintaining an active effort to purchase the mill's assets and resume production.

Company representatives were negotiating a possible buyout on at least three fronts last week -- presenting proposals to the unionized employees of the mill, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District and the Chicago-based investment firm PPM Finance, Inc., Stockton Pacific's creditors.

Doug Gingerich, president of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 49, said that Lee & Man last week offered a very favorable deal to the mill's approximately 130 unionized workers.

"It's a four-year contract, with no concessions." Gingerich said. "I'm sure that it will pass."

Union members held a series of meetings to vote on the proposal Monday and Tuesday. The final tally of the vote was not available at press time, but Gingerich said that the membership's response at the first meetings had been positive.

On Tuesday, management at the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District met with Lee & Man CEO Raymond Lee and David Tsang, a Vancouver-based businessman acting as the company's go-between, to discuss the potential terms of a water contract if it succeeds in acquiring the mill, said water district General Manager Carol Rische.

There will be a special meeting of the district's board of directors at 9 a.m. today (Thursday, Jan. 20). The board will decide whether to shut off water to the mill if Stockton Pacific continues to default on the $300,000 it owes for past deliveries.

But the success or failure of Lee & Man's bid will likely hinge on negotiations with PPM Finance, which holds a $30 million note on the mill. Lee & Man will presumably seek to buy out PPM's interest for something less than the $30 million the Chicago company is owed; Lee & Man has some leverage in the matter, as they are the only potential buyer on the horizon and PPM Finance runs the risk of losing its investment entirely if the deal falls through.

According to Gingerich, Lee & Man representatives told him they were flying out to Chicago immediately after they struck a deal with union leaders late last week. There was no news by press time whether the company could conclude negotiations with PPM. Neither Tsang nor representatives of Stockton Pacific returned calls Tuesday.

Since the closure, the area's timber industry has been scrambling to find ways to dispose of its wood waste. The mill had been the region's principal buyer of chips and scrap wood, unavoidable by-products of the manufacturing of lumber. Locally, the Fairhaven Power Co. and the Pacific Lumber Co. -- operators of biomass electrical generators -- also buy chips, but in much smaller quantity.

Henry Appy, general manager of the Simpson Timber Co.'s California operations, said that so far he has been able to send chips from Simpson's local mills to Fairhaven Power. He said that he has been pursuing other options -- such as barging chips up to Simpson pulp mills in Oregon and Washington -- but he didn't believe it would come to that.

"We anticipate the Chinese will buy our mill, and we will resume our shipments to them then," he said.

Gary Alto, co-owner of Eureka's Alto Brothers Trucking, said that he, too, was hoping for the best while preparing for the worst. As recently as a couple of weeks ago he was sending 12 trucks full of chips a day to the pulp mill -- a figure that amounted to about a third of his business.

"If the mill does not run, I lose six to seven drivers," he said. "I have to park their trucks, and they're going to be on unemployment."

But Alto said that what worried him most was the domino effect a permanently closed mill would have on area timber producers. Currently, he said, the small mills he contracted with were adopting different strategies to deal with the chip pile-up -- none of them sustainable in the long-term. He said Eel River Lumber Products was hiring him to haul its chips to a vacant lot, where the company was stockpiling them for the day that the mill reopened. Schmidbauer Lumber arranged a temporary deal to haul its chips up to Coos Bay, Ore., where they were being loaded onto barges for export.

"Before, it was just around the bay, a 10- to 15-minute trip," Alto said. "Now it's taking 10 to 12 hours." Alto said he feared that the increased costs could threaten the survival of several smaller mills -- which would probably put him and his 45 employees out of work.

Despite the economic hardships, though, some local residents found it difficult to mourn the pulp mill's hardships. Among them was Mark Cortright, a Blue Lake resident who battled the mill's environmental practices in the late `80's and early `90s, when it was owned by timber giant Louisiana Pacific.

"Am I sorry to see it go?" Cortright said Monday. "Ha, ha, ha -- that's a good one."

Cortright said that air pollution from the mill was not as bad as it was a decade ago, when it and the next-door Simpson pulp mill made Eureka a no-go zone for people with sensitive noses or respiratory problems. But he said that the mill's current method of disposing of waste water -- by pumping it out into the ocean -- was still far from an environmentally acceptable solution.

Stacey Loeser, a long-time resident of Humboldt Hill -- the area which, given the prevailing winds, has often been most exposed to pulp mill air pollution over the years -- said that she was considering mounting some sort of political action to help insure that the mill stayed shut.

"You felt a huge sense of relief to not see that water vapor coming out of the stack -- to realize how much nicer it would be without it," she said. "It's definitely a lot better than it used to be, but just because you can't smell it doesn't mean that it doesn't have a bad effect on our health."

On Dec. 7, the Humboldt County District Attorney's office and numerous state, local and federal agencies executed a search warrant at the mill, after a whistleblower alleged that Stockton Pacific was willfully and illegally dumping proscribed chemicals into the ocean. The investigation is still ongoing, and no charges have been filed to date.

Humboldt ranks high in sex offenders


Humboldt county ranks eighth per capita among 58 counties in a statewide list of sex offenders, according to the Megan's Law database, now available online.

The database, available through the California Attorney General's office Web site, lists the names, mug shots and addresses of sexual criminals throughout California -- allowing North Coast residents to find out a lot more about the guy next door with just the click of a mouse.

Unveiled in mid-December, the database at has information on 63,000 registered sex offenders in the state, 33,000 of whom have their home address included. According to officials, 22,000 convicted offenders in California are excluded from public disclosure by law and are not on the site.

According to the Web site, Humboldt County had 309 sex offenders as of Jan. 13. (The site is updated daily by the Department of Justice and therefore subject to change. )

The Web site lists 136 registered sex offenders living in the Eureka area, 28 in Arcata, 25 in McKinleyville, and 19 in Fortuna. Transients and those with unknown addresses total 17.

Among the top 10 counties are Trinity, Del Norte, Shasta, Siskiyou and Lake.

Each registrant has a list of offenses, aliases, a physical description including any tattoos or scars, and a photograph. Of the 309 Humboldt County offenders listed on the site, the addresses of 230 are available online. The remaining 79 are listed by zip code only.

The Internet accessible database, which officials say has received 50 million separate hits in the past month, has been touted by Attorney General Bill Lockyer as a tool to protect public safety. However, some fear that opening up the Web to showcase sexual predators may be a virtual Pandora's box, exposing registered offenders -- some of whom may be rehabilitated -- to harassment or violence.

Already, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office has gotten calls from concerned parents and teachers who have visited the site and want the police to take some action against the molesters who live near their homes or schools.

"For law enforcement this is a troubling issue, because there is really nothing we can do," said Brenda Gainey from the Sheriff's Office. "These people are sex offenders, but they are still within the right of the law to reside in our neighborhoods."

Gainey went on to add that some convicted molesters -- also called "290 registrants" by police, referring to the penal code for sex crimes -- cannot live within a certain distance of a school.

Humboldt County Sheriff Gary Philp admits to feeling some uneasiness that upset residents might wage a personal war against nearby perpetrators.

"People think that if you are a sex offender you give up your rights. We tell people that it is illegal to use this information to perform criminal acts," Philp said. "We haven't had any problems of that kind, and we want to be diligent to make sure people do not take the law into their own hands."

Nathan Barankin, communications director for the Attorney General's office, said that while the possibility of retaliation was considered before launching the site, there have been no such instances reported.

Megan's Law makes it illegal to use the information on the site inappropriately. It may only be used for personal knowledge or to warn someone who might be at risk.

Humboldt County's hefty share of sex offenders is no surprise to Philp, who said that his department has been aware of the issue for years. However, Philp speculates that the grim statistics could be artificially high because rural communities with smaller populations, like Humboldt, might be more aware of the activities of their neighbors than people in metropolitan areas, resulting in a higher instance of reporting sex crimes. The sheriff also credited child welfare services and related agencies that are vigilant in reporting crimes against children.

Aside from a higher instance of reporting, Philp could not speculate on the reasons for the relatively large number of sex offenders here.

Before the Web site was launched, the Megan's Law registry was available only through a 900 number for $10 per call or at county and city law enforcement agencies.


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