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Jan. 30, 2003

Cutting corners:
Faced with shrinking state support, county officials get creative

Dark Anniversary
Fort Humboldt marks its sesquicentennial

Pepper spray trial to be held here

Water board may hit PL

Drive-by shooting

Attempted child abduction

Library threatened

Got a million bucks?

Campbell's last hurrah

They're No. 1

Jacks rebound

Letter backs U.N. efforts

Correction


Cutting corners:
Faced with shrinking state support, county officials get creative

by GEOFF S. FEIN

Earlier this month, Allen Campbell, Humboldt County public works director, told the Board of Supervisors the county's road maintenance fund would lose $500,000 in the current fiscal year and another $700,000 in fiscal year 2003-2004 if Gov. Gray Davis made good on a proposal to eliminate local street and road funding.

Without the state's $500,000 allotment, Campbell warned, county roads might have to wait months, if not years, for repairs.

But last week Campbell was spreading some good news. Because Davis and state legislators can't agree on how to balance the $34 billion deficit (some estimates put the shortfall as high as $40 billion), funds continue to filter down to the county. Last week the county got $180,000 for its road fund. However, it may be the last time for a while that the county sees any more road money from the state.

"I told the board we used [the reserve] up because we were unsure if the state would help us out," Campbell said. "Now it appears we will get reimbursed. We will build back up the reserve."

Damage from December's winter storms was also expected to deplete the road fund. The county had a reserve of $650,000, but early estimates showed it could cost in excess of $2 million to repair roads damaged by the rains. By doing the repair work itself, the county expects to shave almost $1 million off the cost. Additionally, the supervisors' recent declaration of a local emergency means that the state will chip in 75 percent of the bill.

The county, in other words, is in better shape than previously expected -- at least in terms of funding for road work. But the financial fix is only temporary. Next fiscal year could be worse, Campbell said.

For example, Campbell expects the county will have less money to do road surfacing work next year. Public works crews do about 30 miles of roads a year. Without the state funds, work will have to be put off, Campbell said.

In addition, a change in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) fund allocation could mean projects like the $1.6 million reconstruction of Union Street, south of Eureka, could be delayed.

"Our projects are in jeopardy," Campbell said.

Other projects facing potential delays include widening of Myrtle Avenue; widening of Old Arcata Road, a project that includes construction of bike lanes; and repaving McKinleyville Avenue.

The Myrtle Avenue project has already been delayed a year because of sewer and water line replacement, Campbell said.

Campbell doesn't expect to learn which projects will be delayed until at least April.

But projects that pertain to public safety, such as filling potholes and replacing signs, will continue to be done, he said.

Under the provisions of STIP, Caltrans determines how much funding will be available for road projects over a four-year period. The agency then determines how many projects can be funded. From fiscal year 2000-01 to 2003-04, the state anticipated a budget of approximately $19.8 billion. Of that amount, 75 percent went toward regional transportation projects. The remaining 25 percent was directed to projects chosen by the state.

For the four-year period, Humboldt County was scheduled to receive approximately $39 million for road projects. For fiscal year 2002-03, the county had $9 million budgeted. That has now been reduced by the state to $7 million and further reductions are expected, said Loretta Nickolaus, county administrative officer.

A juggling act

Talk of state legislators withholding funds for road maintenance, public health and general fund programs has left Humboldt County officials scrambling to find ways to pay for services, many of which the county is required by law to provide. County officials hope the state sticks by its promise to help fund mandated programs.

It's a juggling act even the most accomplished performer would admire.

"We are trying to take as many [cost-saving] measures as we can right now," Nickolaus said.

In a report to the supervisors, Nickolaus said the county stands to lose more than $20 million, $9 million of which will come from losing vehicle license fees, if the governor's proposed cuts go through. It is a scenario the supervisors and county department heads are hoping to avoid. But until Davis and legislators agree on a budget, some time this summer, the impacts of the state's deficit won't really be known.

The supervisors have implemented a freeze on all travel by county employees. Only those employees who are required to attend continuing education programs, such as attorneys, will be exempted. The county is hoping to take advantage of a state-run program that offers reduced travel expenses to help save money.

Officials are also looking at buying teleconferencing equipment to further cut back on travel expenses. The county may also refinance its debt; that could lead to a savings of $70,000 a year, Nickolaus said.

The county has frozen about 200 jobs -- vacancies that won't be filled. Public works has frozen 10 of 86 positions. The Public Health Department has frozen 80 positions -- 50 mental health jobs and 30 in social services. Director Philip Crandall said the hiring freeze is necessary to protect county jobs.

"Further reductions could lead to layoffs, but [we're] hoping for a salary savings by not filling jobs," he said. The supervisors could ask all departments to make additional cuts of more than 10 percent, Nickolaus said.

"The county is in a good position right now. We are not in a deficit," she said.

But the supervisors are concerned about what happens after July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, Nickolaus added.

Even though 80 positions in his department are unfilled, the budget reductions have not affected services, Crandall claimed. If true, that's a good thing, since about 70 percent of the population will turn to the health department at some time during their lives.

Unfunded mandates

While the state is looking to reduce payments made to counties, declining revenues -- for example, from sales taxes -- are compounding the economic problem.

At its mid-year budget review, the supervisors were told there is a substantial gap between declining revenues and increasing expenditures. Many of those increasing expenditures are in social service programs.

So far the Public Health Department, which includes social services, mental health programs, and programs for children and adults, has taken a $1.2 million mid-budget year cut.

What concerns Crandall is how the county will fund state-mandated programs, such as In-Home Support Services. The state required every county to have an in-home service program in place by the end of 2002. The program, which will put the county in charge of care givers, could have an annual price tag of $5 million. With additional budget cuts planned, the county could be stuck footing the entire bill for the service.

"We don't want the state to walk away from unfunded mandates," Crandall said.

More troubling is that there is no way to avoid implementing mandated programs, Nickolaus said.

"The state is threatening to withhold funds if some programs, like in-home services, are not funded by the county," she said.

In 1979, voters approved the so-called Gann initiative, which allowed cities and counties to get reimbursed by the state for unfunded mandates. A few years before, state legislators established a commission to handle reimbursement of mandated programs to municipalities.

This is how it works: Local governments file a claim with the state, the claim is reviewed by the commission, and, if approved, it becomes an amendment to an appropriations bill so that a county or city can get paid. But according to a spokesman with the California State Association of Counties, it can take from three to 20 years before a county is reimbursed.

Crandall questioned what will happen if caseloads and costs grow, if new mandated programs are created, or if the economy fizzles and the county can't meet its obligations.

"Those are issues we are concerned about," he said. "What are the basic mandates the county is required to handle?"

Davis is also proposing a cut in vehicle license fee payments made to cities and counties. That could translate into a $9 million loss for Humboldt County's general fund.

"Hopefully [he] won't go there," Nickolaus said. "It would be devastating."

A cut in the fee could impact the Humboldt County Library and programs such as probation.

In 1998, when California was in the midst of an economic boom, legislators cut the fee from $170 to $55 for an average car. The state made up the difference to cities and counties through what was referred to as a "backfill."

Last week the state Assembly Budget Committee proposed raising the fee back to its 1998 level. It was a move favored by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, but opposed by Davis.


Dark Anniversary
Fort Humboldt marks its sesquicentennial

by BOB DORAN

American flag with 36 starsWhen Fort Humboldt was established in 1853 on a bluff overlooking Humboldt Bay, some saw it as a reassuring sign of civilization in an untamed land. The fort's main claim to fame is that Ulysses S. Grant was stationed there for four months in 1854, nearly drinking himself to death in what he considered a forced exile. But today, many local residents are unaware the fort ever existed, and ignorant of the role it played in the bloody extirpation of the region's Indian population.

At noon this Saturday, a color guard from Eureka High School's Naval Jr. ROTC will hoist a replica of the American flag raised by U.S. soldiers 150 years ago. Additionally, the original flag itself, replete with 36 stars, will be on display during the fort's sesquicentennial celebration. [photo above right]

Celebration is probably not the right word. "The event Saturday is a commemoration of the first raising of the flag, but it's hard to stand behind the history of what happened here," said Edie Carhart, the state park interpreter who is organizing the event. [in photo below left, with Fort Humboldt's hospital/museum]

As sole employee of Fort Humboldt State Historic Park, Carhart's duties include leading tours of what was once the fort hospital. She has told the story of the fort, and of the conflict between two cultures, over and over to groups of students, to locals and to tourists from other continents.

"When the gold rush [in the Trinity Alps] hit, a number of white settlers came into the area. Of course, they were pushing out the Native American population, who had lived here for thousands of years, pushing them back into the forest, so a conflict started."

Edie Carhart in her parks uniform, standing in front of the Fort Humboldt hospital/museum buildingHumboldt Bay was not "discovered" until the Josiah Gregg party came out of Trinity country at the end of 1849. The onslaught of white settlers began in the spring of 1850 with boatloads of people streaming into the region by sea, staking claims on land that was already occupied. The area the whites called Humboldt Bay was home to the Wiyot.

"The bay was ringed by Wiyot village sites; there were trails connecting them. They used canoes for transport across the water," said Jerry Rohde, a Humboldt County historian who will speak at the event Saturday.

At the end of January 1853, a company of U.S. Army soldiers under the command of Lt. Colonel Robert C. Buchanan arrived in Humboldt County. Their assignment: protect the community of new settlers from their Indian neighbors -- and vice versa.

Buchanan chose to center his operations on a bluff near what was then known as Bucksport. On Feb. 2, 1853, troops raised the U.S. flag for the first time over what would become Fort Humboldt.

According to Rohde, "the standard history" of the county usually includes two things: "There were a bunch of hostile Indians up here who were interfering with the development of the white community and its commerce, and they needed a military presence to subdue those hostile Indians and to protect the white population.

"You hear about conflicts all through the 1850s, first minor things but eventually escalating. There were incidents right around the bay, occasional times when the whites murdered Indians or there might have been an attack on a white person. A lot of things didn't get reported, you have to piece them together. What you hear about mostly is stuff that went on further out in the hinterlands where the whites were setting up ranches and where the pack-train trails went."

Cheryl Seidner, tribal chairwoman of the Wiyot Tribe, said she is not sure how she feels about a celebration of the establishment of the fort. In her mind, the army was supposed to stop the settlers from attacking the Wiyots, not the other way around.

"The fort was supposed to be there for our protection, but I'm not sure how well it protected us," she said. "I've heard people talk about small skirmishes, people say, `This is what happened to my family' in the 1850s to the 1860s.

"It was not a good time to be a Native American. I don't know that it's ever a good time to be a Native American or someone of color in these United States of ours," she added.

"If you read the early military dispatches, you see that the commanders saw themselves as a peacekeeping force," said Rohde. "They were not there solely to attack Indians and you see instances where they claim to have taken Indians under their protection. There were occasions where they mediated conflicts, apparently to no one's satisfaction.

"The whites felt they were being too easy on the Indians. The whites were concerned that cattle were being stolen or there were attacks on individuals. They did not feel that the military response was satisfactory."

When federal troups were called east during the Civil War, Governor Leland Stanford brought in the California Volunteers, seasoned Indian fighters who were considerably more aggressive.

"It all happened very fast here," said Carhart. "There was less than 20 years from the time the Native Americans saw the first white settlers to when they were all shipped off to reservations -- those who were left alive."

After operating for a mere 13 years, Fort Humboldt was abandoned by the Army in 1870. By that point the place was in a sorry state, according to Carhart, with most of the buildings having been looted by whites.

In 1893 the land and the remaining buildings were bought by a man named W.S. Cooper for $6,000. Cooper restored the hospital building, intending to save it for posterity; he also built several new structures along the bluff where there had been no buildings. After he died, in 1928, his family gave the fort to the city of Eureka.

"There was a museum with an odd collection of things, some from the fort, some from elsewhere," said Carhart. "The city had it until 1955 when it was given to the state park system."

In the late 1960s the Northern Counties Logging Interpretive Association began working on assembling a collection of historic logging equipment including the Falk, a vintage steam train. In 1986, exhibits were installed in the old hospital building to tell the story of the fort and of the intercultural conflicts, including the slaughter of many Native Americans.

"They talk about celebrating the sesquicentennial of the fort," said Rohde. "I really don't think it's anything you can celebrate, it's not a joyous occasion. I think we can note the date. There's a lesson to be learned, something that goes beyond the death and destruction that occurred here."


Pepper spray trial to be held here

Anti-logging protesters whose eyes were swabbed with pepper spray in a controversial police tactic in 1997 received a new trial date last week in their bid to win damages from Humboldt County sheriff's deputies.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, who dismissed the original lawsuit in 1998 after jurors deadlocked 4-4 in the first trial, set May 12 as the date for the new trial, which was ordered by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

But in a surprising twist, Walker directed that the trial be held in Eureka, near where the 1997 incidents at issue occurred, instead of in San Francisco, where the first trial was held.

In an informal courtroom conference with attorneys in the case, Walker said he wants the trial to be held in May instead of later in the year because, "This case is old and it needs to be resolved."

The activists who are the plaintiffs in the case claim that Humboldt County sheriff's deputies used excessive force when they used pepper spray during three protests in the fall of 1997 over Pacific Lumber Co. logging of ancient redwoods. The protesters had locked their arms together inside metal cylinders.

The activists are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages as well as a judgment that would prevent police from using the chemical on nonviolent protesters.

After the plaintiffs appealed Walker's decision to throw out the original suit, the Court of Appeals issued two opinions that voiced disapproval of the use of pepper spray and ordered a new trial.

The case also was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ordered the appeals court to re-evaluate the case under a different standard, which

includes considering not only whether the alleged force was excessive but also whether the officers in question understood it was excessive.

-- reported by Bay City News Service


Water board may hit PL

The staff of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is considering taking steps to halt possibly illegal logging by the Pacific Lumber Co. in the Freshwater basin east of Eureka.

At press time late on Tuesday, Frank Reichmuth of the water board staff said the agency was trying to determine whether cutting by PL in the Freshwater basin was causing sediment discharges in violation of state water codes. If so, he said the water board could seek an injunction from the state attorney general. Another option, Reichmuth said, is for the water board to slap PL with a cleanup and abatement order.

The dispute centers on three timber harvest plans in Freshwater which, under an October order from the water board, cannot be the source of any sediment discharge while the board studies what restrictions are necessary to protect water quality.

The company continued to log despite the order, claiming that cutting trees does not in and of itself cause erosion.

Reichmuth said Tuesday that water board staff is "out in the field" trying to determine whether that claim has any merit. Activists maintain that it's not necessary for the water board to prove a discharge has occurred. All they need to do is prove that there is a threat of a discharge, said Ken Miller of the Humboldt Watershed Council.

The matter was not resolved during a stormy two-day meeting in Santa Rosa meeting last week before the water board. The Board issued some permits for PL logging, while refusing to waive permit requirements in other areas.

Residents living downstream of PL timberlands in Freshwater and the Elk River watershed have been plagued for years by flooding which they believe is due to overlogging.

That belief seemed to be backed up by a recent report from a board-appointed independent scientific panel, which recommended that specific logging rates be established and mitigation measures taken to limit erosion.

It also recommended additional study, a clause PL has jumped on saying the report was an incomplete rush-job which failed to take into account erosion abatement measures the company already has in place.



Drive-by shooting

A group of suspected gang members opened fire on a truck full of high-school age kids on Broadway in Eureka Monday night, hitting the driver twice before speeding away.

The 19-year old driver had one bullet lodge in her hand and another pass through one buttock, but both injuries were described as minor.

The incident occurred after what appears to have been a confrontation in front of the Bayshore Mall Food Court just before 9 p.m. on Monday.

According to the passengers there was some kind of stare down, which the suspects -- possibly members of the Hispanic Nortenos gang -- took a little more seriously than the other teenagers, none of whom are known to have any gang affiliation.

The suspects are several white male teenagers, around 15 to 16 years of age, and a large hispanic male about 6 foot 2 inches tall weighing well over 200 pounds. They were driving a gray or bluish early 1990s model Cadillac, When one of the Cadillac's passengers opened fire, someone in the pickup yelled, "Duck!" and the middle passenger pulled the driver's head down as bullets sprayed into the vehicle. One of the bullets, according to police ballistics, ricocheted and was on a line that would have hit the driver's head or face if she hadn't moved quickly.

"She was very lucky," Harpham said. "The potential for a death or maiming was very likely."

Despite having been hit twice, the driver remained remarkably calm. Apparently she peeked up and had enough presence of mind to pull over into the parking lot of Broadway Gas and Deli. She was standing up, waiting when police arrived on the scene soon thereafter.

The suspects are still at large, though the police say they are following up on several leads. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the police at 441-4044.



Attempted child abduction

Eureka Police are searching for a man who tried to kidnap two eight-year-old girls on F Street Saturday night.

According to police, the girls were walking south on F Street around 5:30 p.m. when they were approached by a white male, between 30 and 40 years old, black hair, 6-feet tall and weighing about 180 to 200 pounds. The suspect grabbed one of the girls and attempted to pull her to him and asked her if she wanted some candy.

The girl broke free and along with her friend they kicked the man in the shin and fled.

The suspect left in a dark colored newer model compact car, with at least one other person in the vehicle.



Library threatened

If the state withholds Vehicle License Fee payments to Humboldt County, it could spell trouble for the county library. According to a report given to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, the county's library fund could lose $133,000.

If the county loses the payments, it would be unable to continue providing the same level of library service it currently provides, said Karen Suiker, assistant county administrative officer.

In addition, if the state decides to begin withholding payments beginning next month, that could result in an additional loss of $4 million to the county.

Suiker told the supervisors on Tuesday the county is not prepared to handle such a cut.

"It's beyond comprehension," she said.

Cities also would be hit.

Arcata could lose $316,000 in the first year and $666,000 in the second year if the fees are withheld. Blue Lake would lose $21,415 in the first year and $45,000 in the second year; Eureka would lose $500,000 in the first year and more than $1 million in the second year, Suiker said


Got a million bucks?

Architectural drawing of proposed NEC office buildingThe Northcoast Environmental Center is looking for $1 million (or "20 people with $50,000" as Econews editor Sid Dominitz put it) to rebuild their offices on I and 9th streets in Arcata, which were burned to the ground in July 2001.

The three-story building would feature apartments on the top floor, a large conference room and terrace on the second, and an expanded NEC office on the first. The plans call for an appropriately eco-friendly design including roof-top solar panels. [architectural rendering by Jack Freeman & Associates]

"This is going to be a project that would be of great benefit to the city of Arcata," said NEC director TIm McKay.

In other NEC-related news Arcata City Councilwoman Connie Stewart will be leaving her job as NEC office manager, a post she has held for 14 years, to work for Patty Berg in the Assemblywoman's Eureka offices.

"I've been here a long time," Stewart said on Tuesday. "It's been a very amazing adventure and it's time to move on. I'm really happy to be joining Patty's team."


Campbell's last hurrah

John Campbell, chairman of Pacific Lumber's Board of Directors, retired last week. He had served as the timber company's president for 15 years before being replaced by current President Robert Manne in October.

The retirement party was not without incident. Several activists passed themselves off as reporters for KIEM Channel 3 to gain entrance to the party. The activists and PL representatives had differing views of the incident. According to witnesses at the Scotia Fire Hall event, the activists served Manne with legal papers. But activists said Manne was served with the documents earlier.



They're No. 1

The four-year old Coast Guard Recruiting office in Eureka is the No. 1 recruitment office in the nation.

The Eureka center signed up more than 168 percent of its required recruits, according to the Coast Guard.

It's the first time the north coast office has received the top honor, beating out 125 other recruiting offices from across the country.

Petty Officer First Class Jack Clifford fell two recruits shy of being named Recruiter of the Year. Clifford's recognition has earned him a transfer to Chicago, Ill., where he will concentrate on inner city recruiting.

Clifford's last day in Eureka will be Feb. 15. He will be replaced by Petty Officer First Class Tim Crothers of Yakima, Wash.



Jacks rebound

Humboldt State University's basketball team, the Jacks, extended their home-court victory streak to 27 straight wins last week, defeating Western Washington 76-69 on Thursday and following it up with a 80-70 victory over Seattle Pacific Saturday.

The wins helped HSU maintain its number one ranking in the Great Northwest Athletic conference, and keep its number two spot in the national rankings.

HSU had been rated number one nationally until losing on the road to Central Washington two weeks ago.

The Jacks' number two all-time scorer, Fred Hooks, became the number one all-time rebounder during last weekend's playing with 795 rebounds.Mark White, who had been out due to back surgery, rejoined the team last week.The team will take to the road yet again this week playing University of Alaska, Anchorage on Thursday followed by U of Alaska, Fairbanks on Saturday. The games will take place at 8 p.m. local time and will be broadcast on KATA 1340 AM and online at www.hsujacks.com.



Letter backs U.N. efforts

Rep. Mike Thompson and 121 other House members -- all Democrats -- signed a letter to President Bush last week asking him to give peace a chance.

The letter urges the President to give U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq all the time they need to do their work and to use his State of the Union message Tuesday to reassure Americans and the international community that he favors a peaceful resolution.

"The U.S. should make every attempt to achieve Iraq's disarmament through diplomatic means and with the full support of our allies, in accordance with the process articulated in U.S. Security Council resolution 1441," the letter reads.



Correction

A news item in last week's issue incorrectly spelled the name of David Hagemann, an arborist brought in by the city of Eureka to assess the condition of more than two dozen Monterey Cypress trees that had been slated for cutting as part of a water tank replacement project at the corner of Harris and K streets. The item also mistakenly said Hagemann estimated that if the trees were left alone they would live for another 20 to 25 years. Hagemann said he never made such an estimate, but that if he had he would have said that some of the trees had "many decades" to live. Both mistakes stemmed from a city document.


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