March 18, 2004
900 show up for
Eureka Council meeting on LNG project
TROOP DEPLOYMENT: More than two dozen soldiers from the local National Guard are being shipped to Iraq this week, according to Col. Terry Knight, a spokesman with the guard's state headquarters in Sacramento. Knight said Tuesday that the soldiers, members of the 579th Engineers, have been taking part in war games out in the Mojave Desert and were recently "validated and certified" as ready for combat by the Army. The men will likely play a role in identifying and defusing the "improvised explosives devices," as Knight put it, that have plagued the American military ever since the guerilla phase of the war began several months ago. The Eureka soldiers are part of a deployment of 900 National Guard soldiers from California that constitutes the largest National Guard deployment in the state since the Korean War.
TAKING OVER: Humboldt Bank, which two years ago moved its headquarters to the Sacramento area, has been acquired by Umpqua Holdings Corp., parent company of Umpqua Bank, Oregon's largest community bank. The $340 million deal means that Umpqua now has a network of 91 community banks stretching along the I-5 corridor from Sacramento to Seattle. Humboldt Bancorp President and CEO Robert Daugherty told the Times-Standard on Monday that he did not anticipate that any local jobs would be affected. Ray Davis, Umpqua's president and CEO, told the Journal on the same day that "it was way too early to even think about" whether any jobs would be lost. He said that would become clearer after an organizational chart is completed in 90 days.
JACKS WIN! For the first time in 80 years of playing basketball, Humboldt State on Monday won the NCAA Division II West Region championship. The men's team bested Alaska Fairbanks in a 64-60 nail-biter, and was largely carried by senior forward Austin Nichols, who had a game-high 30 points and 14 rebounds. The Jacks now go on to next week's NCAA nationals in Bakersfield.
TEACHER LAYOFFS, MAYBE: Over the last few weeks, some 70 Humboldt County teachers have received notices from their district offices warning them that they could be laid off next school year. According to Karen Frost, executive assistant at the Humboldt County Office of Education, districts around the county are feeling financial pressure from two sides -- declining school enrollment and the state budget crisis. In total, 22 of the county's 32 school districts sent a notice to at least one teacher, with the bulk of the notices coming from the Northern Humboldt Unified High School District, the Southern Humboldt Unified School District and the Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District. But the notices do not translate directly into layoffs -- school districts send out the notices to prepare for an absolute worst-case budget scenario. Any teacher who might be laid-off must be notified by March 15. "It's more of a philosophical issue with school districts -- whether they send out the notices as a precaution, or whether they get down to the details of who they really have to lay off next year," Frost said.
DELAY IN FRAME SUIT? The state of California is playing an ever-larger role in the long-running dispute between the city of Trinidad and resident John Frame. The Coastal Commission has for some time now been a defendant in Frame's suit against the city, which pits public beach access rights against Frame's private property right. Last week, the Attorney General's office asked Judge John Feeney to rule that the California State Coastal Conservancy -- owners of a "public access" easement for the Wagner Street Trail, which Frame wants the city to close -- is an "indispensable" party in the lawsuit. If Feeney accepts the AG's argument, the Conservancy would be listed as a co-defendant in the suit and trial of the case could be pushed back six months.
SHOOTING IN FORTUNA: A 16-year-old Eureka boy was arrested in Fortuna last Tuesday after shooting a Fortuna High School student twice in the legs. The incident took place shortly after school in an alley near the Fortuna High School campus. After the shooting, the suspect fled the scene, but the Fortuna Police Department later tracked him to the 1400 block of Rohnerville Road. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, brandishing a weapon and violation of probation. The victim was treated at Redwood Memorial Hospital and released. Sgt. Steve Rogers of the Fortuna PD said that the suspect and the victim were involved in an ongoing dispute, and that before the shooting the victim had accused the suspect of stealing money from his mother. The handgun used in the crime was recently stolen, along with the vehicle it was in, from a resident of Eureka. The District Attorney's office -- which could not be reached for comment -- has indicated that it will try the suspect as an adult.
BEACH PLANS: The Humboldt County Public Works Department has posted its new draft plan for the management of the county's parks at Clam Beach and Moonstone Beach. The plan is bound to be controversial -- it attempts to tackle the use of motor vehicles at Clam Beach by banning them from going off-road between the months of March and September. That's when pedestrian use of the beach is highest. It's also when the endangered snowy plover makes its nest on the beach. The plan proposes to require all dogs to be leashed year-round, except at the edge of the water, at both beaches, and contemplates upgrades to the parks' parking and camping facilities. The full plan is available at the county's web site, www.co.humboldt.us. (Look for the link to "Humboldt County Parks".) There will be a public meeting on the plan at McKinleyville's Azalea Hall on March 31, from 7 to 9 p.m. Cheryl Dillingham, deputy public works director, encouraged people to submit comments, suggestions and criticism of the plan in writing.
SISTER CITY BASH: After years of negotiations, the city of Eureka will formalize its brand new sister-city relationship with Nelson, New Zealand on Thursday, March 25, at a big ceremony at the Wharfinger Building. The mayor of Nelson will be in attendance, as will his entourage, and music will be provided by Bourbon Street Beat, a Dixieland band from Nelson that will be in town for the jazz festival.
Story & photo by HANK SIMS
Ward Connerly, the well-known anti-affirmative action activist and member of the University of California Board of Regents, passed through town last week, speaking with civic clubs, Humboldt State students and local Republicans.
At each stop, Connerly defended his controversial stance on issues of governmental policies concerning race. In particular, Connerly pointed proudly to two citizen initiatives he promoted and helped write: Prop. 209, the mid-'90s initiative that reformed admissions policies at the UC; and Prop. 54, last year's failed attempt to prevent most state agencies from collecting racial data.
"The process of classifying people by race is not an honorable one, my friends," Connerly said to a packed house at HSU's Green and Gold Room. "I don't know why this is controversial. To me it seems like a slam-dunk."
Photo at left: Jerry Partain, Ward Commerly, University of California Board of Regents and Mike Harvey, Chair of the Humboldt County Republican Party
Connerly has for years been excoriated by much of the academic left, which sees his opposition to affirmative action as an assault on one of the fundamental tools that has been used to address the legacy of racism in America. His Prop. 54 was blasted for seeking to mask bias by making it more difficult for researchers to gather the raw data needed to detect discrimination in areas such as public health, law enforcement and minority enrollment.
Connerly -- whose 12-year term on the Board of Regents ends in 2005 -- said that he was invited to the county by his "good friend" Rob Arkley, Eureka developer and owner of Security National Servicing Corp.
At the HSU event, sponsored by HSU College Republicans, Connerly insisted that ending affirmative action in the UC system was a benefit to those minority students that the program was designed to assist. In particular, no student had to feel that they were allowed into a school only for their race and not for their talent.
"Every student on the UC campus can now be assured that they are there because they earned the right to be there," he said. He added that there are now more black and Latino students in the UC system since Prop. 209 passed, though their enrollment numbers are down at elite UC schools like Berkeley and UCLA.
Connerly said he favored income-based affirmative action that would be available to all people regardless of their racial background. He said that one of his proudest achievements on the Board of Regents was to end the practice of "legacy admissions" -- special preferences for children of UC alumni, which overwhelmingly benefited white students.
When asked about Prop. 54, though, Connerly offered arguments that perhaps appealed more to the heart than the head. A questioner wondered whether preventing police departments from noting the race of people who are arrested might prevent watchdogs from determining whether or not the department practiced racial profiling. Connerly stood fast in his belief that the gathering of data was worse than the chance that such institutional biases may exist.
"We've got to get beyond this idea that we can solve something just by having the data," he said. "I think there's an overemphasis on this goofy data stuff."
Connerly touched on a number of other issues during his presentation, including racial profiling as practiced by the Department of Homeland Security when identifying potential terrorists. He said that he thought it was a "bad idea" to simply base such a judgment on someone's country of origin.
As he left the podium, Connerly made a special point of stopping by protesters representing an action group called By Any Means Necessary. The protesters carried signs reading "Jails Not Schools," a tongue-in-cheek offer of support for Connerly's views. Connerly appeared to thank them for coming.
HSU student James Garcia took issue with many of Connerly's ideas, saying that the regent apparently wanted to homogenize the country, turning disparate cultures into "one big group."
"What he was describing was this monotheism," Garcia said. "He said he didn't want to consider people's country of origin -- does that mean he doesn't want to teach different languages?"
While in the area, Connerly also made an appearance on the KINS Radio program "Talk Shop," spoke at the Mad River Rotary luncheon and addressed the monthly meeting of the Humboldt County Republican Party at Eureka's OH's Townhouse.
During the question-and-answer period at OH's, Connerly summed up his opposition to affirmative action this way. "It's hard to make that case without being considered a racist or an Uncle Tom, but I've gotten beyond that," he said. "I know in my heart I'm right."
Story & photos by EMILY GURNON
On Wednesday, after the Journal went to press, Calpine abruptly dropped its plans for the LNG facility, citing "insufficient community support" for the deal. Look for more details in next week's issue.
If Tuesday's Eureka City Council meeting didn't set a record for number of attendees, it must certainly rank near the all-time high.
Nine hundred Humboldt area residents showed up at the Eureka Municipal Auditorium to make their voices heard on a proposal by San Jose-based energy company Calpine Corp. to build a liquefied natural gas import terminal at the Eureka Airport on the Samoa Peninsula.
Most of the 70 or so people who spoke Tuesday -- some of whom stood outside with signs saying "Thanks but no tanks," and "Calpine sounds like cow pie" -- came down squarely against the document the council is considering: an exclusive right to negotiate between the city and Calpine. The company says it needs the document signed before it can do a site assessment and share the economic and environmental reports it has done so far with the city without fear of a competitor seeing them.
Because of the huge turnout on Tuesday, the council made no comment or decision on the matter. Instead they continued the meeting to this Thursday, March 18, at 6 p.m. at the Muni.
Ken Abreu, director of project development for Calpine, said the company first got interested in Humboldt County last year.
"Our project at that time was looking for a home port, and this looked like a good opportunity," he told the assembled crowd Tuesday. He said that, contrary to fears expressed by some residents, the decision before the council would not open the door to the company being able to begin the permitting process for the plant. Nor would it take away any local control of the project, he said. "The bottom line here is you have a huge opportunity here for economic development in this area. We only ask that you get the facts."
Once the exclusive right to negotiate is signed, a committee will be formed to conduct an independent study, City Manager David Tyson said. The agreement in no way obligates Eureka to commit to the project, he said.
The concerns expressed by residents about possible safety hazards and ecological damage are shared by the city, he said, "and we recognize the magnitude of potential impacts and the need to fully address and mitigate these concerns as part of any future consideration of this project."
Liquefied natural gas is natural gas cooled to its liquid form, which takes up only 1/600 th of the volume of the gas. That makes it cheaper and easier to transport across long distances.
With rising U.S. gas prices and a limited supply of natural gas in this country, the energy industry has shown renewed interest in LNG, proposing more than 30 new plants in the United States (there are just four currently). Natural gas is touted as cleaner and more abundant than other fossil fuels.
But safety considerations have led some communities, including Vallejo, to reject the plants.
Dozens of speakers at Tuesday's meeting urged the council to kiss Calpine goodbye.
"I'm afraid and I'm upset," said Barbara Clark of Eureka. "The threat of this decision has been waking me up at 4 a.m. I am opposed to a huge corporation building a huge operation in our small Victorian seaport.
"In our schools, we do not tell our students to make independent studies of drug use and decide later if they want to continue," she added. "We tell them to just say no. I beg you -- just say no."
The speakers included a who's who of Humboldt County's environmental community, as well as business owners, blue-collar workers and parents.
"My husband Pete and I own land in this county because we specifically chose to raise our family here," said Alison Sterling Nichols of Westhaven, whose husband held their sleeping daughter, Camden, as she spoke. "It is heartbreaking for me to think of our daughter, who is now 6 months old, growing up with an LNG facility looming on her coastline. My stomach sinks at the thought of what it will mean for her safety."
Others, wearing green stickers that said "Facts Fairness Vote Yes," spoke in favor of at least investigating the proposal.
"What kind of future can I expect for myself and my kids?" asked Joe McKenzie, a construction worker and lifelong resident of Eureka. "I wonder if there will be any local jobs here for them when they're grown."
Dorothy Iversen, a Karuk member from Eureka, agreed. "We can't live our lives in fear of what might happen. We have science and technology to protect us."
In the coming weeks, Humboldt County children will begin taking their yearly battery of standardized tests meant to gauge the improvement -- or lack thereof -- in their schools. This year, though, the tests come with a difference. For the first time, penalties under the federal No Child Left Behind Act will be assessed against schools that fail to make progress.
In California, the statistic used to measure learning is the Academic Performance Index (API), and last week the California Department of Education released last year's final numbers.
Overall, Humboldt County schools showed marked improvement in their API numbers, but one little-known proviso of the federal law continues to worry county school administrators. In order to skirt penalties, schools must not only show improvement but also prove that 95 percent of students are, in fact, taking the tests -- even though parents have the right to opt their children out of the grueling, weeks-long testing process.
"Schools are very aware of that, and they're doing their best to get as high a participation rate as they can," said Janet Frost. "But we still have a number of schools that are not ready to meet that threshold because of the parent waiver issue."
The table below shows key data for most Humboldt County schools, including: their API scores over the last two years; their ranking, on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being highest, among all schools in the state for the last two years; their ranking as compared to schools with similar class sizes and pupils from similar socio-economic backgrounds; the percentage of students who receive subsidized meals; and the percentage of students who are learning English.
-- reported by Hank Sims
The Second Annual Eureka Peace March is taking place this Saturday, one year to the day after the war against Iraq was launched. Marchers will gather at the Eureka Municipal Auditorium, 1120 F St., starting at 11 a.m. The march will begin at noon and will end at the Old Town Gazebo, where there will be speakers and music. Last year, an estimated 4,000 people attended the march, perhaps the largest demonstration of its kind in Humboldt County history. Carpools to this year's event are being organized throughout the county -- see communitiesforpeace.org for further information, or call 445-5883 in the Humboldt Bay area or 923-3292 in Southern Humboldt. Organizers recommend that people bring rain gear.
The city of Arcata has made it clear that McDonald's and Burger King are not welcome downtown, but is there room for Blockbuster Video? How about a Banana Republic or The Gap opening on the Arcata Plaza?
A town hall meeting next Wednesday at the Arcata Community Center on "The Future of the Local Retail Economy" will look, among other things, at the question of whether Arcata's ban on fast food giants in the central business district should be extended to other types of retail chains.
The meeting will feature a debate between two speakers with starkly different views on chain stores: Stacy Mitchell, a resident of Maine and author of The Home Town Advantage: How to Defend Your Main Street Against Chain Stores . . . and Why It Matters; and Randal O'Toole, who runs the Oregon-based Thoreau Institute, which espouses libertarian beliefs. O'Toole is fiercely opposed to government intrusion in business.
Marcia Tauber, secretary for Arcata Mainstreet, a downtown merchants promotional organization, is coordinating the event in conjunction with the city of Arcata Committee on Democracy and Corporations. Tauber is co-owner of Simply Macintosh, a computer store.
She said one purpose of the meeting is to help set a direction for Arcata's retail economy, and that the details would be passed on to the Arcata City Council.
"We want to talk about things like what difference does it make if there are chain stores in town, or if all the businesses in town are locally owned. What's the real difference to our community?"
In a call from the small town in Maine where she lives, Mitchell said, "Many local, state and federal laws undermine local economies; they favor absentee ownership, large scale production, long distance transport, that kind of economic model, over a much more localized, small scale, community-controlled model of development. So our mission is to change the rules, to rewrite public policy in ways that foster the kind of economic model we believe in."
Mitchell works for the New Rules Project, a division of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a national nonprofit, "working on building environmentally sustainable neighborhoods and community-based economic development projects," as the organization's Web site puts it.
O'Toole's libertarian hackles rise at the mention of new laws. "[Libertarian] means freedom of choice, free markets, democracy -- it's what `liberal' used to mean, basically that the government's role is to make sure that markets function smoothly, because markets are the best way of allocating resources."
When it comes to the retail economy, he said, "It should be up to the consumer to decide which businesses succeed and which fail.
"If Wal-Mart wants to build in Arcata," he went on, "and nobody wants to shop there because they don't like buying from huge corporate discounters who buy slave labor goods from China or whatever, then Wal-Mart will fail. If McDonald's wants to build a place in Arcata and people don't like transfatty foods, then that will fail."
Mitchell, on the other hand, expressed alarm at "the growth of large chain stores in this country."
"They have gained a huge market share in the last 15 to 20 years," she said, "led of course by Wal-Mart, but the same could be said about Starbucks, Home Depot or the Gap. There are many economic, social and environmental reasons that locally owned businesses are a better choice for a community than a chain store."
New Rules offers model ordinances on limiting the size of stores, enacting a moratorium on commercial development and banning so-called "formula businesses," or chains.
O'Toole said that's the wrong approach. "The marketplace is the best democracy anybody has ever devised," he stated flatly.
He said government interference in the marketplace ultimately hurts the consumer. "The consumer ends up paying more because there's less competition. Who should decide what kind of stores are out there? Should it be the consumers or should it be the politicians?"
Mitchell contended that "everybody who lives in a community has a right and a responsibility to have some say in how their community develops. The entire community is affected by what happens in the local economy. There's a spillover effect on other businesses that rely on local retailers for support. There's a spillover on the quality of life in the community, on traffic, on property values, all sorts of things. It's all connected."
In a preview of the town hall meeting, O'Toole and Mitchell will engage in an hour-long point/counterpoint debate on KHUM radio next Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Wednesday meeting runs from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
by SHAMARA WYLLIE
MTV came to town this last weekend, joining up with Cox Cable in its search for a youth news correspondent. The offer sounded good: The winner gets a free trip to New York, with a friend, to train with MTV and become an official "Choose or Lose" correspondent.
The idea behind "Choose or Lose" is not simply to find young talent. It's to increase the percentage of young people who turn out to vote. If MTV's young audience sees someone their age reporting on politics, the theory goes, they'll pay attention in a way they won't if it's Dan Rather who's on the air.
You might think kids would have been lined up around the block -- Cox/MTV thought that anyone from ages 15 to 25 would love to win -- but in reality only a handful of people showed up for auditions on Saturday at the Bayshore Mall.
I arrived to audition and to cover the story around 10:30 a.m. and ended up walking around the mall prodding and dragging people to the audition area outside Borders. The TV people were not just offering a trip to New York; one potential correspondent will be chosen from Humboldt County and along with 16 others from around the nation will compete for a chance to cover the 2004 election for MTV.
I might win, but if not, at least I got a T-shirt for my efforts, which involved reading a script, a news report, in front of a television camera.
Besides the chance to be on TV, the music channel is offering young people a chance to realize that their vote counts. "Choose or Lose/20 Million Loud" is MTV's "comprehensive pro-social campaign to inform young adults about the political process, voice their most urgent political concerns, compel presidential candidates to address those concerns and mobilize massive numbers of young people ages 18 to 25 to register and vote," read its advertisement.
Were the young people who showed up to audition just there to be on TV or was it because they want to increase political involvement among young adults? I would have guessed the former, and I would have been wrong. Most of the people I talked to were outspoken about the urgent need for representation of young people at the polls.
Sean, a 24-year-old, said he was interested in politics, but he thought that with the changing society, many young people are not interested in politics in terms of voting, even if they have an opinion on a political issue. Amber Chaney, 15, said she thought more teachers should focus on current events and the voting process in the classroom. She figures if more young people were taught about politics and how to register and vote, there would be record-setting numbers at the polls.
"Choose or Loose/20 Million Loud" is just one among many voting campaigns targeted at young people. In my opinion, the effort to decrease apathy and increase activism among young adults must be embraced by all people. One vote counts; society has a responsibility to teach its children this. If we are indifferent to our leaders, our rights will diminish.
The history of voting rights in this country is long and hard. Many people died for the right to vote; let us honor them by voting. I haven't voted yet myself -- I am only 17 and will not be 18 until April -- but I am already educating others on the importance of their voice. There is no age limit on the movement and there are no excuses not to be a part of it. You may have missed your chance to be on MTV, but you can still go to the polls.
Shamara Wyllie is a senior at Eureka High School and the editor of the school's newspaper, Redwood Bark.
© Copyright 2004, North Coast Journal, Inc.