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April 1, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

Tenants' supporters rally against landlord
Once again, the focus is on Floyd Squires III

Thanks, Arnold

Jack Hitt, co-founder of Northtown Books, dies

Watersheds, burnt manzanita and 30,000 Salmon




CDF LOSING GRIP: A state appeals court issued a ruling last week that says state water officials can protect rivers threatened by logging operations independent of regulation by the California Department of Forestry. The decision overturns a ruling by Humboldt County Judge J. Michael Brown, who, at Pacific Lumber's behest, barred the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board from requiring monitoring of water quality in the Elk River. Palco contended that that amounted to double regulation, but the appeals court said that was precisely what the Legislature intended: "The Legislature has established one statutory scheme for the regulation of timber harvesting and another for the maintenance of water quality," wrote Justice Linda M. Gemello of the 1st District Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The appeals court ruling comes several months after Gray Davis, in one of his last acts as governor, gave regional water quality boards veto power over timber harvest permits issued by the forestry department.

BIG BUCKS FOR BUCKHORN: Rep. Mike Thompson announced last week that a House of Representatives committee had earmarked $8 million in transportation funding for the Buckhorn Summit project. Humboldt County officials and business leaders have been touting the rebuilding of the Buckhorn stretch of Highway 299, between Redding and Weaverville, as a key to economic development; currently, the treacherous section of road is the only thing keeping large, industry-standard big rigs from coming into the county from the east. The full House is expected to approve the transportation bill on Thursday or Friday, after hammering out details with the Senate and the White House.

CORONADO STRIKES AGAIN: Rod Coronado -- the Earth First! activist who last year touched down on the North Coast long enough for Pacific Lumber to brand him as an "eco-terrorist" -- was arrested last week in Arizona. Coronado was in the Tucson area opposing a plan to relocate mountain lions from Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area to a "rehabilitation facility." "We will risk arrest if necessary, because six months' imprisonment is nothing compared to the life imprisonment that these lions face," Coronado told a Tucson reporter. He ended up getting arrested, for trespassing -- video camera in hand -- into a part of the canyon that rangers had temporarily closed off to the public. Coronado's efforts were not in vain, as rangers announced on Monday that the relocation effort would be suspended. A writer for Esquire magazine who is preparing an article on the swashbuckling environmentalist was arrested along with him.

HITCHING A RIDE? Former federal counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke dominated newspaper headlines nationwide last week, with the near-simultaneous publication of his book -- a scathing attack on the Bush White House -- and his appearance before the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. For Humboldt County residents, one disclosure in Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, may be of particular interest. Clarke writes that in 1999, the Federal Bureau of Investigation learned that suspected Al Qaeda operatives were being smuggled into the United States aboard tankers carrying liquefied natural gas from Algeria to Boston. Last week, FBI officials responded to the charge by saying that Clarke was only familiar with the preliminary stages of the investigation, and that further inquiry revealed that although several people did illegally enter the United States aboard the tankers, they were not believed to have Al Qaeda ties.

FINAL TALLY: Although it was obvious on election night that DA Paul Gallegos had beaten back the recall effort against him, the final, official tally of results from the March 2 vote were not released until Monday, almost a month later. In the interim, county elections staff had to sort through and count some 3,100 absentee and provisional ballots that were not included in the election night count. Monday's final results showed that the recall's margin of defeat was a tiny bit wider than everyone had thought -- it turns out that 61.43 percent of voters said no to the recall, as opposed to the 61.21 percent that was reported on election night. And all Humboldt County citizens, regardless of their stand on the recall, can take pride in the fact the final calculations show that over two-thirds of the county's registered voters turned out for the election.

NEW LING COD LIMITS: New regulations governing the recreational fishing of ling cod were issued by the state Department of Fish and Game last week. Starting Thursday, sport fishers will be allowed to take only one ling cod per day. The minimum size for harvestable fish will increase from 24 to 30 inches, and the season will close for the months of November and December. The new regulations are in response to continual over-harvesting of the ling cod stock. According to Marci Yaremko, senior biologist for the agency's Marine Regulatory Unit, there was a federal catch target of 651 tons of ling cod for the entire West Coast in 2003, but recreational fishermen in California alone took in 1,000 tons of the fish. There is some good news on the cod front. A federal assessment showed that stocks are on the rebound, keeping up with and even exceeding their recovery targets. "It's recovering quite well, and we will achieve the level of rebuilding we have desired," Yaremko said. "However, the portion of the stock that's in the southern portion of the West Coast [off California] is still in an over-fished condition." The new regulations do not affect commercial fishing.

NEW POT BILL: There's a new medical marijuana bill working its way through the state Legislature. Senate Bill 1494, sponsored by medical marijuana champion Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose), would amend last year's medical marijuana legislation (SB 420) to ensure that patients who choose not to sign up for a voluntary statewide patient ID card program may still use marijuana for medical purposes. SB 420 required patients to choose "primary caregivers" -- people who provide them with marijuana -- that live within the same city or county; the new bill would also allow caregivers that live within 25 miles of the patient, which may be helpful to those living near a county line.

HAMMOND TRAIL GRANT: The California Coastal Conservancy has approved a $100,000 grant aimed at finally completing the Hammond Trail. The money will pay for the Redwood Community Action Agency to coordinate the planning and engineering work necessary to close the 2,200-foot gap in the coastal trail in McKinleyville. Another $500,000 is anticipated from the Coastal Conservancy to complete the construction, said a representative from State Sen. Wes Chesbro's office. The trail, which will be 5.5 miles upon completion, currently consists of two segments: one from Clam Beach park to Letz Avenue, the other from Murray Road to the Mad River.

KVIQ-TV BOUGHT: Chester Smith started out picking cotton with his family in the Central Valley of California and later became a successful guitar-playing country western singer, performing with the likes of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, before turning his attention to business. He opened his first television station in his home town of Modesto and today owns stations in Sacramento, Chico, Redding and Bakersfield in addition to Fox 29 and the Eureka affiliate for Spanish language station, Univision. It was confirmed last week that Smith's company, Sainte Partners, is also purchasing Eureka CBS affiliate KVIQ-TV from the media giant Clear Channel Communications. Will the sale mean the revival of KVIQ's local news department? KBVU Fox 29 General Manager Don Smullin said Tuesday he's under orders from Clear Channel to say nothing more than, "We're in escrow, pending FCC approval." In a related news item, escrow is expected to close soon on the purchase of Eureka's ABC affiliate station KAEF by BlueStone Television LLC of Wichita, Kan., from Lamco Communications.

HELP! Faced with a problem all too common in California these days, the directors of the Arcata and Rooney-McKinleyville Children's Centers last week sent out a plea for help. "Like so many small businesses and nonprofits in the state, we are faced with an astronomical increase in our workers' compensation rate -- over 87.5 percent in one year!" read a letter from the directors to supporters of the program. "We have been serving families for 27 years and must continue to do so. Without the community's support, however, we may not succeed." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Legislature participated in marathon sessions last week in an attempt to devise a compromise solution to the workers' comp crisis. If they fail, Schwarzenegger has promised to take an initiative to the voters in the fall. Meanwhile, the children's center is conducting a fund-raising raffle to help ease their financial plight, with more than 100 prizes donated by local businesses and individuals up for grabs. For tickets, call 822-1423.

ANOTHER SCAM? A Fortuna resident told police last week that someone from a company identified as "CBI" had called to say the resident had won $200 in gasoline. The catch? The caller needed the "winner's" bank account information. The wise resident refused. Police remind residents never to give out personal or financial information over the phone unless they initiate the call, and never to send money to someone alleging they won a prize. Interestingly, Fortuna Police Officer Matt Eberhardt said many of the telephone scams come out of Canada. "They use the borders to their advantage," he said.

Tenants' supporters rally against landlord
Once again, the focus is on Floyd Squires III


Humboldt County doesn't have the rent control laws of a county like San Francisco, but it does have one thing that has gotten tenants organized: Floyd Squires III.

Squires -- and his allegedly substandard rental buildings -- was to be the focus of a Tenants Union of Humboldt County protest scheduled for Wednesday outside the 211 Fifth St. offices of Humboldt Bay Properties, the landlord's Eureka company.

His tenants and their supporters have complained that Squires' buildings, which number two dozen in Eureka, are plagued with roaches and rodents, broken heaters and stoves, leaking water heaters, electrical hazards, and rotting porches and stairs. The city's building department has a long list of code violations against Squires.

"We've gotten more complaints about Squires than any other landlord, about the substandard conditions in his buildings," said Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer of the Tenants Union.

The April 25, 2002 cover story of the Journal, "A tenant's nightmare," documented numerous allegations of problems and complaints at Squires' properties.

Reached at his office on Tuesday, Squires said he knew nothing about the planned protest and called the complaints "baloney."

"There are no health and safety issues. Last year I spent $400,000 taking care of things." He abruptly ended the conversation with a reporter, saying, "I don't need to get into this any more. I have a business to run."

The conditions in Squires' apartments, often inhabited by families with children, low income people, the elderly and the disabled, are just one aspect of tenants' concerns. The other problem, Sherburn-Zimmer said, is how the landlord responds to complaints.

"Either he ignores it, or, if you step it up, talk to your neighbors and all write a letter together [for instance], that's when they're evicted or harassed," she said. "Floyd and Betty Squires [his wife] rent to people who are either low income or have a really hard time finding something else," such as those with Section 8 low-income housing certificates.

That in itself is good, Sherburn-Zimmer said. "But the reality is [the Squires'] take advantage of that."

Though it is illegal to evict someone just because they've asked for repairs, complained or called the building department, such evictions are commonplace and hard to fight in court, Sherburn-Zimmer said. "The burden of proof is on the tenant to prove that they were retaliated against. And it's really hard to prove you've been retaliated against.

"You supposedly get your day in court, but it's hard, because we can't get a lawyer to represent you. There's not really anyone who will take on a tenant's case locally."

The threat of retaliation is so real, Sherburn-Zimmer continued, that Tenants Union organizers have advised those living in Squires buildings to stay away from the protest.

In letters to the building department, responding to code violations, Squires has blamed the problems on the tenants themselves.

"It is not dilapidation," he wrote in response to one city notice that cited roaches, broken windows, rotted flooring and "general dilapidation." "It is TENANT ABUSE."

Jan Turner, staff attorney with Legal Services of Northern California, said that Squires is well known in her office. "I have lots and lots of complaints about him, for a lot of different things, and it's not only habitability," she said. She declined to elaborate, citing attorney-client privilege.

The Wednesday protest was an effort, Sherburn-Zimmer said, to let tenants know they're not alone. It was also intended to send a message to landlords to let them know that they can't retaliate against tenants without people noticing.

"You can't do this in secret anymore," she said. "Tenants are organizing, and we're not going to put up with it anymore."

The Tenants Union meets at 4:30 p.m. each Thursday at the Peace and Justice Center in Arcata, and maintains a hotline for tenants: 476-1919.

A community forum for tenants only is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 15 at the Labor Temple, 840 E St., Eureka.

[photo of State of California refund check for $1.00]
Thanks, Arnold

Gov. Schwarzenegger's first act upon coming to power last fall was to sign Executive Order No. 1, fulfilling a campaign promise to reverse an automatic increase in the state's car tax. Now, a few months later, refund checks made out to those who had already paid their registration fees are beginning to show up in the mail. The owners of relatively valuable vehicles, like say a $60,000 Humvee, may be receiving sizeable refunds, but if your rig is a little on the old and tired side the checks are decidedly unimpressive. The one here is the overpayment due a Journal staffer, the proud owner of a 1979 Volvo.

Jack Hitt, co-founder of Northtown Books, dies


Jack Hitt, former owner of Northtown Books, died March 25 at Mad River Hospital of liver failure. He was 63.

Hitt was born Sept. 14, 1940 at Trinity Hospital in Arcata and raised in a house next door to his father's shop on I Street, Humboldt Machine. After graduating from Arcata High in 1958, he attended Humboldt State College, as it was then called, before he and his sister Mary founded The Lemon Tree, a short-lived combination coffee house, art gallery and bookstore in Arcata. He left the area between 1964 and 1967 to work in a variety of jobs, including stints as an emergency medical technician on ambulance crews in New York City and Kansas City.

Upon his return to the North Coast, he entered into another business partnership, this one with Jerry Gorsline running The Bookstore in Northtown, later re-named Northtown Books. In 1970 he became the sole owner of the store, which by then had become a popular spot for discourse, not to mention impressive literary events. Raymond Carver, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and David Rains Wallace all gave readings, as did just about any Humboldt County author who published a novel, a chapbook, or even a broadsheet. He eventually moved the business to a larger space in downtown Arcata and settled into an apartment upstairs. In 1992 he sold the operation to two of his employees: Art Burton and Barbara Turner.

[photo of Morris Graves and Jack Hitt in bookstore] The late artist Morris Graves, left, talks with Jack Hitt at a booksigning at Northtown Books. Date unknown.

"He was probably the first person to bring books to Humboldt County," Turner said. "He just had a ton of integrity. That guy, if he took on a project, he was so thorough. He would spend time with people. He really cared that they got the books they were looking for."

Hitt served his community in other ways in addition to his dedication to the printed word. When he was younger he was a volunteer fireman; from 1997 until last September, he was a member of the Arcata Planning Commission.

Hitt is survived by his father, George Hitt, of Bayside; his sisters Mary Anderson, of Arcata, and Anne Hitt, of Trinidad; his brother Don Hitt, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and numerous nieces and nephews. A memorial service is scheduled April 3 at Arcata Veteran's Hall, 1425 J St., from 2 to 5 p.m.

Watersheds, burnt manzanita and 30,000 Salmon

story & photos by BOB DORAN

[photo of Becky Evans holding paper fish]ENTERING THE FIRST STREET GALLERY in Old Town on a drizzling grey afternoon, I'm greeted by artist Becky Evans, a warm, smiling woman clad in black, with a red vest that sets off a mass of red curls. On display in the gallery's front room are a number of her recent paintings and sculptures, part of a dual show in the process of being mounted.

At first glance there's no apparent reason to see the work as an environmental statement, or to see Evans as some sort of environmentalist artist, but she is quick to explain that the pieces all revolve around a common theme - watersheds, or as Evans puts it in the show's title, "Water / Shed."

"Watershed, as in the place where we live, how we respond to it, the history of places and what we do to the watershed but literally, what the water sheds," she begins.

[LEFT: Environmental artist Becky Evans holding an oversized paper fish, made by the students of Zane Middle School art teacher Lee Roscoe-Bragg.]

We start our conversation in front of a large painting, most of it a creamy color, but inscribed with parallel grooves revealing cool colors, the effect akin to a contour map. A blue strip at the top seems to represent a night sky; another at the bottom is dappled like a mountain stream, and studded with individual salmon vertebrae, which, Evans explains, she collected on the banks of the Klamath.

"The title is `Klamath River, Sky, Land and Water,'" says Evans. "The painting is my response to the fish kill on the Klamath River; I went out there after the first headline hit. I felt the need to respond, because all of my work deals with direct experience with the landscape. The center section represents a topographical map of the area [on the river] I was able to get to at the fish kill. The layers of paint are encaustic, layered in colors to remind people of the layers of time it takes to build a watershed. It's a direct response to a place - and an event - and my being in that place."

Encaustic painting is a technique where beeswax is heated along with pine resin and pigment. "It goes all the way back to Greek and Roman times," Evans explains. "It's a very ancient way of painting."

Spread around the room are several spiraling towers constructed of sticks and mud, organic sculptures that Evans describes as vortexes. "That's a universal form in the natural world. When you look at weather maps, you'll see weather forming spirals; when you look at the eddies in water on a river or creek, you'll see spirals; you see them in pine cones, in a sunflower, the currents of the ocean, the solar system, the galaxies. They're all around us."

[photo of burnt manzanita sculpture]One particular piece is constructed of fire-blackened manzanita branches. "The Friday Ridge Fire out in Willow Creek last year burnt through an area that's important to my husband's family and his tribal ancestors. He belongs to the Tsnungwe Tribe from the south fork of the Trinity River. The fire burned through [the area included in his] family's water rights. In some ways [the piece] is a commentary on fire, on the cycle of flood and fire, and how some of our current forest practices can interfere with the natural cycles. [RIGHT: "Friday Ridge Fire," 2004, manzanita, river stones by Becky Evans]

"There's social commentary, there's definitely some politics involved, but they're also about the beauty of the natural world, and the impact of man's presence. I try to include my response to that."

Originally from Whittier, Evans moved to Humboldt County in 1967 to attend Humboldt State. "I was not an art major at first, but I took a few art classes and my eyes opened to a new world around me," she recalls. Among those eye-opening courses was a watercolor class where she met her husband, the highly respected painter, Bob Benson. "We went out on location together to paint landscapes, and that's been an ongoing pattern in our life, going out painting together, or for me sometimes bringing back objects and kind of letting them talk to me."

The pieces of salmon skeleton she gathered along the Klamath spoke to her loudly. Her experience as a witness to the fish kill inspired "30,000 Salmon: a concurrence," part two of her double show.

As we pass into the back half of the building, we are engulfed by oversized paper fish, patterned after Japanese koi kites, hanging by the dozens from a maze of fishing line. "These came from Lee Roscoe-Bragg, an art teacher at Zane Middle School; her students have been making these for the past several months. There are 179 of their kites," Evans says as she weaves her way past a student from Humboldt State on a ladder suspending more fish, moving to the back of the room where community volunteers are stringing a myriad of fish on more fishing line. Every available surface is covered with boxes of fish art, contributions for the installation.

"Altogether there will be at least 30,000 salmon images, in many different forms," Evans continues, explaining that the objects were created by hundreds of elementary, middle school, high school and college students from all over Humboldt and Trinity counties and by numerous area artists.

Evans sees these objects as a creative offering memorializing the fish's struggle, and as a way to promote awareness and respect for our environment by reminding us of the salmon's importance.

"The loss of all those fish is very much a layered topic, one that affects Native Americans, farmers, commercial fishermen, water rights. There are so many political parts to the puzzle, but I didn't feel like that was where I wanted to go. I wanted to make a creative response, hence the subtitle, `a concurrence.' What you see here is a coming together of hundreds of people, all different ages and abilities, all working to do something positive." n


An opening and reception for "30,000 Salmon" and "Water / Shed" takes place during Arts Alive! Saturday, April 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. at First Street Gallery, 422 First Street, Eureka. Both shows run through May 16. Becky Evans presents a talk at the gallery Saturday, April 10, at 2 p.m., free to the public. There will also be a special reception for children, teachers and families who contributed to the project on Saturday, April 17, from 2 to 4 p.m.



North Coast Journal Weekly

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