April 29, 2004
Eureka native leading Portland mayoral race
PLAYING HURWITZ: mPixx Entertainment, Inc., an independent film
concern out of Sherman Oaks, in Southern California, was in town
last week doing preliminary research for a feature film on the
whole Pacific Lumber Co. saga -- from the mid-80s when Texas
financier Charles Hurwitz seized the company from the Murphy
family in a hostile takeover, to the recent bankrolling of the
failed effort to oust District Attorney Paul Gallegos, and beyond.
Filmmaker Monte Christiansen said the company is seeking to buy
the option to Bay Area journalist David Harris' 1994 book The
Last Stand, the definitive work on the takeover and the initial
years under Hurwitz. Christiansen is all too aware that a single
account of the period from 1995 to the present does not exist.
"There's so much information. It's going to be a complicated
project," he acknowledged. One thing keeping him going:
the hope, and at this point that's all it is, that a high profile
actor will portray Hurwitz. "We have an obligation to history,
but we also have an obligation to drama," Christiansen said.
His top choice? Kevin Spacey.
These photos were part of a group of 288 images posted on the Internet last week by a Web site dedicated to combating government secrecy. Called the Memory Hole (www.thememoryhole.org), the site obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act request that sought any pictures of coffins arriving from Iraq at the Dover Air Force base in Delaware. The Pentagon, which has a ban on the media taking images of dead soldiers' homecomings at all military bases, said the decision by the Air Force Air Mobility Command to release the photos was a mistake. But that didn't prevent news organizations across the country from making them public.
The photographs were released one day after a Pentagon contractor and her husband were fired after photos they had taken of coffins of war dead being loaded onto a transport plane in Kuwait were published in the Seattle Times.
The Bush administration has argued that the policy forbidding media organizations from photographing soldiers' caskets is an extension of a ban that was in place in the Persian Gulf War and is simply meant to protect the privacy of military families. But critics say not allowing the media to visually portray the human cost of the Iraq War is a form of censorship.
by EMILY GURNON
U.S. Marine Pfc. Kelly Miller doesn't like the fact that he's been getting a bit of attention lately in his hometown. The 21-year-old Eureka native was badly injured in an explosion in Iraq earlier this month, but told his family, "I'm just a Marine over there taking care of business." He didn't do anything any of his fellow Marines wouldn't also have done in the same situation, his sister Holly Miller quoted him as saying.
A member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms, Kelly Miller was on patrol with his unit in the Anbar province in Iraq shortly after Easter when the group was fired on by a rocket-propelled grenade, said his brother, Humboldt County Sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Miller.
"They went on a search for the people who fired," Kevin Miller said. "They were searching cars. One of the passengers in a vehicle jumped out and started assaulting his team leader. That led to a struggle, and sometime during the struggle an explosion went off -- it blew back the team leader and my brother."
The explosion was later attributed to a suicide bomber. Miller was taken by helicopter to Baghdad, then to a military hospital in Germany, before being moved to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
The blast sent shrapnel into both of Miller's arms and his face. "He's pretty banged up," said Kevin Miller. "It's gonna take some time, but he's going to recover pretty well." Miller's sister said it wasn't clear whether he would regain the use of his left arm, but he is walking and talking normally.
The local media focus on Miller may be particularly difficult for him now, since he received the news that two of his buddies who were also hurt in the explosion, Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, 22, of Allegany, N.Y., and Christopher A. Gibson, 23, of Simi Valley (Ventura County), died of their injuries.
"My mom called and told him that this morning," Holly Miller said Tuesday.
Kelly Miller, a 2001 graduate of Eureka High School, worked at the Safeway store at Harris and Harrison in Eureka before joining the Marines about a year ago, Kevin Miller said. He'd been in Iraq only about two months when he was injured.
His family said they didn't know when or if Miller would be returning to Iraq or to active duty. It's too soon to tell. They're just happy he's alive.
Holly Miller, a nursing student at Humboldt State, has been motivated by the trauma to gather donated supplies for a care package for Marines. Earlier this week, she was busy loading up two boxes filled with "every kind of American snack you can think of -- Kool-Aid, Fritos, peanuts, Mother's cookies, Oreos, Mike and Ike's, every Debbie's cake, every Twinkies thing" -- as well as socks, Visine, playing cards, T-shirts, toothpaste and underwear for the troops.
Holly and Kevin Miller, along with their parents, Charles and Linda Miller of Eureka, and Kelly Miller's girlfriend, Shannon Hiscox of Eureka, all visited the injured Marine at his hospital in San Diego this past weekend.
"He was smiling a lot because we made a lot of jokes," said Holly Miller. "We made it good for him. I really don't know how he is. He'll be all right, but it's still so overwhelming right now. How can you put words on it right now?"
Eureka native leading Portland mayoral race
by HANK SIMS
When residents of Portland, Ore., choose their next mayor on May 18, there's a good chance that they'll pick one of Eureka's favorite sons. Jim Francesconi, graduate of St. Bernard's High School and son of local residents Leo and Ida Francesconi, is the clear front-runner in the race to replace retiring mayor Vera Katz.
And though Francesconi, 51, has spent the last 30 years in Portland, many of his Humboldt County friends and family members are following his campaign, remembering the exceptional young man who is reaching the heights they always expected of him.
"He's an unbelievable character," said Eureka resident Joe Botkin, a former classmate. "He's just tremendous. He gives so much, and expects so little in return. Everybody liked him, and he always had the eternal smile. He's still smiling."
Reached between campaign stops last week, Francesconi, who is now married and has three children, said he has always felt that Eureka and Portland have much in common, culturally -- much more than Eureka and the Bay Area do.
"There's just more of a connection to the land up here," he said. "Portland is a city of neighborhoods. It's like 25 Eurekas in one."
Francesconi said that if elected, a top priority for him would be to improve Portland's moribund business climate, which has harmed the city's famously high -- and expensive -- standard of living.
"I have the opportunity to lead what is potentially one of the greatest cities in America," he said. "[However], our public schools, our public parks, our transportation systems are threatened by the loss of 45,000 jobs in the region over the last three years."
A lawyer and a seven-year veteran of the Portland City Council, Francesconi's experience and his platform of helping Portland businesses, as well improving its schools and public services, have won him endorsements from The Oregonian, Portland's daily newspaper, and from many business, labor and education groups.
On the downside, Francesconi has taken some heat for his aggressive fund-raising effort, which has included donations from some of the city's most powerful business interests.
The Francesconi campaign has raised over $850,000 -- the largest amount ever in a Portland mayoral election, and more than 10 times the amount raised by his closest competitor. (If no candidate wins a majority on the May ballot, there will be a run-off election in November.)
When Francesconi made the official announcement that he would seek the office, his main rival, former Police Chief Tom Potter, released a statement excoriating him for seeking contributions from big donors.
"After spending most of the last year writing political IOU's to big donors, I'm glad that Commissioner Francesconi has finally decided to formally let the people of Portland in on the worst-kept secret at City Hall," Potter said.
But in an interview last week, Francesconi offered no apologies.
"I'm very proud of the business support we're receiving," he said. "We need jobs. I'm also getting a tremendous amount of support from small business, and I'm receiving all the labor endorsements."
That wide variety of support seems of a piece with Francesconi's career and his long list of accomplishments in both private and nonprofit sectors. After graduating from Stanford University, he volunteered to serve as a community activist in an impoverished Portland neighborhood. Later, after receiving his law degree from the University of Oregon, he founded a nonprofit organization that worked with employers to find jobs for former gang members. In the 1980s Oregon's governor named him to a commission charged with reforming the state's workers' compensation system, which at the time was the most expensive in the nation.
Francesconi appears to have always been something of a go-getter. In his senior year at St. Bernard's (Class of '70), he was the valedictorian, the student body president and the editor of the school newspaper, in addition to playing on the varsity football and baseball teams. But locals who know him say that even as a kid, there was always more to Francesconi than what would appear on his school transcripts.
Cutten resident Harry Kavich, who was a year behind Francesconi at St. Bernard's and served as his student body vice president, called his old friend a "very concerned, very involved, very spiritual person."
"You know, the kid who always seems a little older and wiser?" Kavich said last week. "That was Jim. If I needed someone to talk to, if I needed someone's opinion, Jim was the guy I'd always go to."
Kavich said that Francesconi -- who still cites Robert Kennedy as a major political inspiration -- was deeply influenced by the Vietnam War and by events like the shooting of students at Kent State University.
"We were up here in Northern California, but we did as much pseudo-activism as we could in conservative Eureka," he said. "We got together and decided -- are we going to close school, are we going to strike? We had long talks about this, as students and just as individuals. Jim was certainly in the middle of all that."
Debra Kingshill, Francesconi's cousin and personnel director at the Humboldt County Office of Education, agreed that he took the social issues of the late `60s very seriously. Kingshill said that Francesconi's politics often placed him at odds with his father and his uncle Larry Francesconi, Kingshill's father and the former owner of Redwood Bootery.
"We were always at my Italian grandmother's house, having these loud dinners," she said. "Jim would be the one initiating all these good-natured arguments."
But Kingshill said her cousin was never one to confuse talk with action.
"Some people are very supportive of different causes and will say so, but their actions won't show it," she said. "Jim really follows through with working on causes he believes in. If there were a park initiative in Portland, he would be in there digging the dirt, planting the flowers. He has that kind of energy."
When reminded of those contentious family dinners last week, Francesconi laughed.
"Uncle Larry and my dad took a pretty conservative approach," he said. "They got more conservative the more glasses of wine they had."
Despite their political differences, Francesconi credits his extended family with instilling values -- family, humility, hard work -- that have made him what he is today. (His mother, Ida Francesconi, died a few years ago.)
In recent months, as the press has portrayed Francesconi as the candidate of the establishment, at least some of his campaign platform probably could have come straight from his father's mouth at those dinners 35 years ago. Acknowledging the irony, Francesconi threw down a challenge, which is sure to be taken up at the family's next get-together.
"I came to appreciate my uncle Larry's and my dad's points of view -- at least some of them," he said. "I willing to admit that I'm learning. I'm not sure those two can!"
© Copyright 2004, North Coast Journal, Inc.