North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

April 15, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

Racism in Arcata?
Hate fliers spark dialogue, but students say
racism is routine on campus and in town

Victor Schaub dies
Former Arcata mayor has heart attack after
rescuing grandkids in ocean off Hawaii

Delivering bad news
Layoffs at HSU

Come and get it
Art offered in NEC auction April 24

H  U  M  B  O  L  D  T    P  E  O  P  L  E 

John Norton's gift
Historical items will be donated to S. F.'s Palace Hotel



VOTING MACHINES NIXED? County officials are bracing for what they say could be a disastrous recommendation by a state voting panel next week: the "decertification" of voting systems designed by Diebold, Inc., an Ohio-based company that has come under intense scrutiny for its touch-screen voting machines. Decertification would mean that Humboldt County would have to buy a completely new system and put it in place before the November election. But wait, you say, Humboldt County doesn't even use touch-screen systems. True enough. But county officials say that the state is considering decertifying all Diebold systems, including the "optical scan," or fill-in-the-bubbles, system now currently in use here. The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to send letters to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley and other state officials to plead the county's case. "We're hoping that if he's going to decertify anything, it will be only those touch-screen voting machines," said Carolyn Crnich, county clerk, recorder and registrar. If the county's system must be ditched, "it throws us into this seller's market of systems that are hugely expensive," Crnich said. Critics of Diebold's touch-screen systems say the voting machines lack any kind of paper trail and are therefore subject to tampering. The fact that Diebold's chief executive, Walden O'Dell, is an active supporter of President Bush's re-election campaign has added buckets of fuel to the fire.

FISH KILL LEGACY: Nineteen months after 33,000 fall-run Chinook salmon died in the Klamath River, federal fisheries managers last week adopted restrictions to protect a smaller returning population along the coasts of California and Oregon. The restrictions are aimed at protecting what's left of the populations that were hit hard by two smaller fish kills, in 2001 and 2002, in which young salmon making their way out to sea were left stranded after Klamath water was diverted to farmers living in the upper basin along the California-Oregon border. The catch of fall Chinook this year is expected to be down 25 percent from last year.

AIRPORT EXPANSION HITS SNAG: The controversial plan to expand the runway at the Arcata-Eureka Airport in McKinleyville is on hold pending a cost-benefit analysis by the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency is trying to determine whether the multi-million dollar project is financially feasible before it makes the decision to fund the necessary environmental studies. The FAA's analysis is likely to delay the project for more than a year, county Public Works Director Allen Campbell said.

THE FUTURE: Most college students don't look forward more than a few months, let alone all the way to 2043. But that's when the Humboldt State Sustainable Energy Task Force, a student group, foresees HSU becoming independent from purchasing energy. The HSU Energy Independence Fund, which would fund renewable energy efforts by raising tuition by $10 per semester, will be voted on by students next week. If approved, HSU will be the first college to attempt to become 100 percent energy independent -- which means that through conservation and renewable sources like wind and solar power, the university's meter would literally spin backward, albeit 39 years from now. The first order of business, which could happen in the spring of 2005, would be to install solar panels atop a roof centrally located on campus, ensuring that a maximum number of students can see where their Alexander Hamilton went. According to the HEIF's Web site, the university currently spends $768,000 a year on energy.

WANT A SAWMILL? Eel River Sawmills is continuing to liquidate its assets, with its two mills in Redcrest scheduled to be auctioned off this week. A large log sawmill, finishing equipment, dry kilns and other equipment will be put up for bid Thursday or Friday. Assuming the stuff is purchased, the property will be cleaned up and returned to the Childs family, which leased out the site to various companies over the decades, Eel River Sawmills President Dennis Scott told the Times-Standard last week. The company bought the mill in 1974, but the mill began to fall on hard times after Louisiana-Pacific sold its redwood lands to the Simpson Timber Co. and the Pacific Lumber Co. stopped selling its redwood logs.

REICH TO SPEAK: Robert Reich, labor secretary under President Clinton, will speak in Arcata on April 22 in an event presented by the city of Arcata's Committee on Democracy and Corporations and KHSU-FM radio. The title of his talk is "Democracy, Corporations and the Social Contract." The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place in HSU's East Gym. Starting time is 7 p.m.

CLOSING TIME: After 17 years serving southern Humboldt and northern Mendocino, the Life & Times newspaper is shutting down. Their last publication date was April 13. A telephone call to their offices on Tuesday went unanswered. In a written statement issued Monday, the paper said, "We would like to thank all our clients and supporters for being there for us. If you have any outstanding bills due, please send them as soon as possible, in order for us to meet our financial obligations."

CORRECTION: Last week's cover story misidentified who owned the Lost Whale Bed and Breakfast Inn in Trinidad in 2002. The owner was Rita Lakin. Also, the inn was sold in 2003, not 2002. The same story misstated the popularity of Redwood National Park. It is the 127th most visited destination in the national parks system.

Racism in Arcata?
Hate fliers spark dialogue, but students say
racism is routine on campus and in town


AT A RECENT CAMPUS FORUM, YOUNG BLACKS, HISPANICS AND OTHER people of color said that Humboldt State University and the town of Arcata are unfriendly and unsafe for them.

"I've had some awesome relationships [with white students] and attending HSU has been an amazing experience," said James Braggs, a black student. "But on the flip side, every day I ask myself ... `Am I truly welcome here? Am I truly safe?' There are days when I'm convinced that I'm not."

"When I first came to HSU in 1996, there were barely any other faces of color," said Brittany Espinosa, an Hispanic student. "[Today] there are more faces of color, but [many students] leave because they can't take the things that the rest of us have decided to stay and go through."

Braggs and Espinosa were among about 35 people who spoke to an ethnically diverse and mostly supportive crowd of some 300 students, staff and local residents in the university's Kate Buchanan Room last Friday.

Campus leaders organized the event in the wake of turmoil that began after two black female students, Natalie Dawley and Katya Amina, were arrested early in the morning of Feb. 27 on charges of assaulting an Arcata police officer.

According to a story in The Lumberjack student newspaper, Dawley and Amina, both seniors, are regarded as leaders and role models by many of their peers. Their arrest led some staff and students to wonder "what else took place [that night]," in the words of Marilyn Paik-Nicely, director of HSU's Multicultural Center.

Other people, presumably white students, reacted by distributing anonymous fliers that attacked the women with racial epithets and the phrase, "Who let the dogs out?"

Several openly racist letters commenting on the alleged crime were posted on The Lumberjack's Web site. (Editors didn't screen them because the Web site's firewall was malfunctioning, according to an editor.) And scattered incidents of racial name-calling and harassment have occurred since the alleged assault, according to campus sources.

But at the forum, these recent events were barely mentioned. Instead, students and staff talked about experiencing racism and prejudice on a routine and ongoing basis at HSU and in Arcata.

While few told of openly hostile encounters, many said they commonly hear racial-stereotyping remarks made by white students; see looks of fear and suspicion from shopkeepers; and receive extra attention from supermarket security guards and campus and town police.

Accompanying these experiences -- and perhaps amplifying them -- are feelings of vulnerability and isolation that stem from being in a place where people of color are in such a small minority. The HSU student population is about 80 percent white, according to university statistics. Arcata is 85 percent white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In an interview after the forum, Espinosa said she experienced "culture shock" coming to HSU from an ethnically diverse high school in Sacramento.

"In my first semester, I was in one of the largest classes on campus. [The subject] was world religions, and we started talking about something that had to do with people of color," she said. "[I looked around] and saw that an Asian man and I were the only faces of color in that huge lecture hall."

According to Espinosa and others, isolation and prejudice can be even more intense off campus. "A lot of people who work in the stores stare and give you dirty looks," said Espinosa. "They treat you very suspiciously."

Some students speaking at the forum described their surprise at encountering racism and prejudice in a community with a reputation for liberal idealism. "I didn't think Humboldt [County and Arcata] would be racist," said Tarikh Brown, an art major who is black. "I thought it was all hippies."

"I go through racism and prejudice every day here," Brown told the audience. "One night when I was walking home from my homegirl's place a dude in a pickup truck threw a Wendy's cup with soda in it [at me] and yelled `Nigger.' Weird stuff is always coming at you."

Others said they'd chosen HSU in spite of warnings from family and friends. "My mother, my grandparents, all my elders said `James, don't go to Humboldt. That's not a good place for black folks,'" said Braggs.

Many white students spoke at the forum, and several of them critiqued prevailing attitudes about racism in academia and society.

"The new tag line of my generation is, `Everybody's equal, everybody's the same,'" said one white male student. "[With that attitude], you deny the pain and hardship that comes with someone's background. We need to recognize ... that everyone is not [treated] equally."

Another white man from San Diego said he'd grown up being told, "Race and ethnic background aren't important... We can all just get along." But at HSU he'd learned to "appreciate and be enthralled by different cultures."

"Everybody should love up another culture," he said to enthusiastic applause.

But some white students said their ethnic-minority counterparts create or reinforce their isolation at HSU. "People of color walk around in groups, and I sense their anger," said one white male student.

"Stop being so defensive," stated a written comment read by a facilitator.

A white woman apologized for fearing black men, but said she was intimidated by the lyrics of the songs they listened to. "I hear you call me `bitch,' [and] that word is devastating to me," she said. "Words like that are your ambassadors."

Even though these comments went against the grain, the speakers were applauded vigorously, and that was music to the ears of the forum organizers.

"What we're trying to get is honest communication," Ryan Mann-Hamilton from the Office of Student Life said after the forum. "If we try to whitewash everything and make it politically correct, that doesn't help the situation at all."

Mann-Hamilton and other organizers cast the event -- the first in their reckoning to focus on campus and community racism -- as an important first step in broader efforts they hope to see. They urged students at the forum to look critically at a diversity action plan being released this week.

HSU President Rollin Richmond, visibly moved by the forum, spoke briefly toward the end. "You've spoken from your hearts and said things that are important for this campus.

"Let's stop it here," he said. "Let's stop it in time and in Humboldt County."

Freelancer Jim Hight is a former Journal staff writer.

Victor Schaub dies
Former Arcata mayor has heart attack after
rescuing grandkids in ocean off Hawaii


[Victor Schaub in his office]

Victor Schaub, an Arcata civil attorney and professional mediator who served as mayor, City Council member and Democratic Party activist, died Monday in Hawaii. He was 60.

Schaub and his wife, Sondra, had taken their two grandchildren to the island of Kauai for a vacation, said longtime friend John Graves. The children, ages 13 and 11, "got into trouble in the water, maybe a little too strong a current," Graves said. "He went in to rescue the kids, and in the process suffered a heart attack, and they were not able to revive him."

The Schaubs were spending the week at one of their favorite places: Anahola Beach, where they had recently bought two homes and where they planned to retire, Graves said.

"For me, there's a certain beauty in his passing the way he did, in a heroic act, giving of himself to others, and in that particular location, on that island that he loved so much," Graves said. "There's a poetry involved in this. If you could write how Victor Schaub would go out, this would be it."

A native of Southern California, Schaub majored in public administration at Cal State, Los Angeles, then earned his law degree from UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall. He and Sondra were high school sweethearts, helped found the first "hippie commune" in Hawaii, according to Graves, and moved to Humboldt County together in 1974.

Friends and colleagues remembered Schaub as someone who put tremendous energy into working on behalf of his family and his community.

"Victor was a very generous and committed guy," said former Mayor Jim Test, who served with Schaub on the council. "He was interested in community, making things work, helping people get along, making what he considered progress happen."

After being appointed to the Arcata Planning Commission in 1986, Schaub was elected to the City Council in April 1988, and served two terms, until November 1996. He served as mayor from 1990-95.

He worked extensively for the Democratic Party of Humboldt County, serving as chair from 1976-86, and was once named Humboldt Democrat of the Year.

Schaub was a strong progressive voice in the community who advocated for affordable housing, social justice and the environment. His passion sometimes got him in trouble with local conservatives; Schaub became something of a national celebrity when he proposed a City Council resolution declaring Arcata a sanctuary for military deserters and others opposing the Gulf War in January 1991. He told the Los Angeles Times that he had received death threats as a result, and opponents mounted an "Anyone But Victor" slate during his re-election campaign.

"For me, he was a mentor, a brave colleague and a good friend," said Mayor Bob Ornelas. "No man was as adaptable, as intelligent, and he had an incredible ability to work with all types of people."

He is survived by his wife; his daughter, Heidi Claasen and her husband, Jonathan; and his grandchildren, Sadie Rose and Eliot Claasen; all of Arcata.

Services are pending.

Delivering bad news

[Rollin Richmond]Saying it was the hardest thing he had to do in his 20 years as a university administrator, Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond [photo at right] last week announced the layoff of 21 full-time employees and two part-time employees from the Plant Operations Department. "This is the worst thing I've ever seen," he said, referring not simply to the terminations but the state budget cutbacks that forced it.

Physical Services Director Bob Schulz was equally grim. "You will see grounds degrade, grimy classrooms and a campus that looks a lot dirtier. We are removing people who are doing work we desperately need done." The plant operations department employs 92 people, including custodians, electricians, painters, builders and groundskeepers.

The employees will work through the end of June. After that, according to HSU spokesman Paul Mann, the university will assist the terminated workers with job searching. The university will also provide counseling to them and their families, Mann said.

Come and get it

This painting, a watercolor by Naomi Grover of a barn along the Smith River, is just one of many donated to the Northcoast Environmental Center by more than 100 local artists and artisans. The occasion is the center's annual auction and dinner, taking place at the Arcata Community center on Saturday evening, April 24. It's not just works of art that will be put up for bid. Home-cooked meals, massages, adventure getaways, books, gift baskets and exotic coffee drinks are among the many other prizes. The bidding, which will take the form of both a live and a silent auction, will be preceded by a lavish dinner catered by Abruzzi's. Previews of the art can be seen at Arcata's Plaza Grill, at the NEC itself (575 H St., Arcata), or at the NEC Web site --



H  U  M  B  O  L  D  T    P  E  O  P  L  E 

John Norton's gift
Historical items will be donated to S. F.'s Palace Hotel


[John Norton holding copy of the Palace Hotel Courier]AMATEUR ARCHAEOLOGIST JOHN NORTON OF Arcata, aka the "urban miner," is known for going in the crawl spaces under Old Town buildings to find his treasures.

Whether it's rare coins, cups, a gold scale, medicine vials or a pair of clapperless "tingsha bells," the environment in which he did his hunting was always the part of Old Town where the sun don't shine: Below the tourists' feet, below street level, where it's not only dark, but also dank, dirty and spider-infested.

Maybe all that time he put in crawling on his hands and knees through the bowels of Old Town, seeing by the light of a miner's lamp, breathing through a respirator, earned him every now and then an easy score.

Like the time 10 years ago or so when he walked into a Eureka thrift store and walked out, $5 poorer, with a 1916 Holy Bible put out by the Boy Scouts that he learned later was worth between $12,000 and $50,000. (He's still got it.) Or, a couple of years after that, when, at a local thrift store again, he chanced upon an old wooden box full of "silverplate" (cutlery) that included a fish knife engraved with the words Palace Hotel.

The curious thing about that last find was what had come to him two weeks previous: An edition of the Palace Courier, a publication put out by, you guessed it, the Palace Hotel. (As in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. You know. The place where the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso was staying on April 18, 1906, when the earthquake struck. The place that burned to the ground in the subsequent fire and was reopened in 1909. The place where President Warren G. Harding died in 1923 under circumstances that remain mysterious to this day.)

Someone involved in remodeling a house in the 700 block of O Street in Eureka came across the Courier edition and brought it to Norton, saying, as Norton recollected last week, "John, we know this is important and thought it should go to a historian."

Thinking that the Palace Hotel might want the items, Norton, 50, photographed the copy of the Courier, along with the fish knife and a pair of mother of pearl caviar knives that he had also snagged from a display case that day in the thrift store. (Since neither the caviar knives nor the silverplate had been there the day before -- Norton paid daily visits to thrift stores back then -- Norton figured through "artifact association" that they came from the same estate. And since the fish knife and the caviar knives had the same shape, he suspected that they both came from the Palace Hotel.)

[photo of caviar knives]Mailing off the photos, he waited in vain for a response. Eventually a woman from the hotel told him they weren't interested.

Three-and-a-half years go by, and Norton, a jack-of-all trades type, gets a job as a driver for the Veterans Administration. The job entails monthly trips to San Francisco over a two-year period. Norton gets into the habit, during the time between the drive down and the drive back, of visiting "different places of interest," usually a museum of some sort, but always a place to satisfy his passion for the old and the rare. One time he mentioned the Palace Hotel items to an antique dealer, who suggested he go there directly and try to sell the stuff.

So, during one of his monthly layover times in the city, he went to the hotel. Once again, the management said they weren't interested. Snubbed again, Norton's visit wasn't a complete waste of time. He noticed that on display was an edition of the Palace Courier.

He soon learned that that edition, different than his, was the only one the hotel had --or that anyone was aware still existed.

[photo of the Palace Hotel Company Courier]While the Courier was simply a tourist publication -- the subtitle is "A magazine of information about San Francisco and California " -- and while it was published weekly, it was routinely thrown away because it was so common. Few people thought to keep them -- the former occupant of the house on O Street being an exception.

Convinced more than ever of the value, at least in historical terms, of what he had, Norton persisted in trying to interest the hotel. Finally, this year, after a change in management, the hotel was receptive.

Norton was invited to an event at the hotel on April 3 that celebrated the hotel's storied past, an event that he attended with his girlfriend, Harriet Gray, who shares his interest in historical artifacts. Gold and silver artifacts were on display, and Norton and Gray were "treated like royalty," he says. Norton has now decided that he's going to give his copy of the Courier and the pair of caviar knives to the hotel.

"To collectors of San Francisco stuff, it might be worth hundreds of dollars. But the hotel will never sell the stuff. They'll put it on display. So I'm going to give it back."

With the possible exception of the fish knife, he added, which he and Harriet haven't made up their minds about yet. "We may hold out on that," Norton said.

The items will be on display later this month, or possibly early next month, at Ten Window Williams in Old Town, Norton said.

"And maybe a couple of other things from San Francisco," he said cryptically.



North Coast Journal Weekly

© Copyright 2004, North Coast Journal, Inc.