North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

May 17, 2001

Logging begins, arrests rise

Residents boycott meeting

Traffic ticket for pot?

Channel 6 cuts news shows

Eel River sawmill reprieve

HSU investigation continues

Sculpture garden to be rededicated

Balloon tract to be cleaned

Training for displaced workers

Rio Dell water project funded

Families plan review

Speakers available

Workers, know your rights

Grandma goes kayaking?

The poetry of youth

HSU softball to championship

Officer on beach patrol

Logging begins, arrests rise

Logging on Pacific Lumber land in the Mattole River Watershed resumed last week after almost six months, accompanied by an exponential increase in the number of protesters arrested by law enforcement.

Sheriff deputies have arrested 27 since May 9 when the logging began, according to an activist calling himself Rabbit. Until then, there had been a total of 27 arrested since the protests began last November.

While the number of arrests has increased, sheriff's deputies have refrained from using pepper spray, Rabbit reported.

Protesters have been trying to blockade roads into the harvest area in response to the harvesting but have experienced little success.

"We tried that strategy three or four days in a row and it did not prove to be very effective," Rabbit said in a telephone conversation. There are five gates leading onto PL's property where the logging is taking place and covering all of them "was too many bases to cover" for the activists.

Eight of the activists arrested last week were high school students from San Francisco who decided to join the protesters. The Urban Pioneer High School students were arrested while trying to talk to fallers as they cut down trees.

Their arrest was accompanied by charges of contributing to the delinquency of minors for the other protesters, Rabbit said.

"These are bright and intelligent kids who are taking these risks and getting involved of their own free will."

Residents boycott meeting

There were more Freshwater residents outside a meeting Monday night at the Bayside Grange than inside.

Pacific Lumber Co. was holding an informational meeting on its draft watershed analysis for Freshwater basin. Five residents entered the building to hear what PL had to say, while 12 more boycotted the meeting and protested outside.

"For the past two years residents of Freshwater have been attending various watershed meetings with PL/Maxxam in an attempt to provide community input. At every turn our comments have either been ignored or marginalized," said Attila Gyenis, a member of the Friends of Freshwater, a group leading the protest.

Citing critical comments on PL's plan from the Regional Water Quality Control Board scientists and others, the group is calling for an "impartial peer review of the watershed analysis." The group is asking the California Department of Forestry and wildlife agencies to reject PL's analysis.

Traffic ticket for pot?

The U.S. Supreme Court may have dealt medical marijuana a blow this week, but a bill being considered in the state Senate would put pot smokers in the same class of criminals as lead-foot drivers.

Sponsored by Sen. Bruce McPherson of Santa Cruz, the law would change possession of a small amount of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction. The bill unanimously passed the Public Safety Committee last week and is headed to the Senate floor.

The Moscone Act of 1975 decriminalized minor drug offenses, making possession of less than one ounce of marijuana punishable by a $100 fine. But it didn't change the crime's official classification, which remained a misdemeanor.

That misdemeanor status entitled people charged with possession of marijuana to a jury trial and public defender, even though the stakes were low. The new law could save the state money by eliminating those procedures.

Channel 6 cuts news shows

KVIQ Action News 6 is going to have less news in its programming mix. The station announced May 10 that it would be dropping its noon, 6 p.m. and weekend broadcasts, leaving its 6 a.m. and 5 and 11 p.m. newscasts intact. The move leaves KIEM Channel 3 as the region's only station with news at 6 p.m. and on the weekends.

KIEM and KVIQ had been locked in a battle for news viewers for more than a year. KVIQ increased its weekly news coverage from five to 22 hours a week last year [see "More news more often," June 29, 2000]. The station will now broadcast 12 1/2 hours of news programming a week.

"We experienced market share gains" as a result of news coverage expansion, said Jeanne Buheit, vice president and general manager for the station. But Buheit said, "Even with an increased share, this market is so small that it could not support the amount of local news we were doing."

A soft market for advertising contributed to the decision, she added, even though the station has experienced ad revenue gains.

"It just isn't enough," she said. Twelve people, many of them part-time employees, were laid off as part of the reduction. The KVIQ owner, the Ackerly Group, is cutting staffing levels by 5 percent across the company, according to a May 10 press release.

"We had a grandiose plan of quadrupling the news [coverage] and we now realize that what this market can support is doubling the news," Buheit said. "We're still confident we can provide complete news coverage."

Eel River sawmill reprieve

The troubled Eel River Sawmills Inc. found a way to supply its milling facilities with timber but faced a legal setback last week in the court case that is delaying the company's prospective sale.

New logs would keep the doors open at the company's Fortuna and Alton mills. The firm sent a letter to its employees that said log purchases were made possible by payments received from PG&E for electricity the company is generating at its Fairhaven power plant.

The letter states that PG&E had stopped paying for the power earlier this year, "creating a severe cash flow problem." The utility has yet to pay its accumulated debt to Eel River, but began paying current power bills after declaring bankruptcy April 6.

The company has been trying to sell its assets to Pacific Lumber and a group of investors calling themselves Englewoods Forest Products. Those sales were stopped when two former employees sued the company, alleging that verbal agreements of employee ownership had been breached by current management.

As part of that lawsuit, Eel River's assets were frozen by a court motion called a "lis pendis," which informs anyone dealing with Eel River that its assets are under litigation.

Eel River and the former employees are trying to find a judge they can agree on. William Bertain, representing the employees, filed a motion to disqualify Judge Timothy Cissna because of the potential for bias. Cissna was disqualified late last week by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James Ford. It is unclear who will hear the case.

HSU investigation continues

A major investigation of Humboldt State University finances continues following the resignation of Executive Director of University Advancement John Sterns.

Campus police, university officials and the district attorney are not releasing any information as to what has been discovered since Sterns abruptly packed and left his office March 20, 10 days ahead of his scheduled departure date. Officer Thomas Dewey of the University Police Department, who is heading the investigation, would only say that he has been sorting through "stacks and stacks" of papers and no arrests have been made.

In 1998 Sterns took over as head of university advancement, overseeing fund-raising efforts that experienced phenomenal growth in a short period of time. Total external support, which includes such income as alumni donations and grants for university research, grew from $10.9 million in 1997-98, the year before Sterns took over, to $28.4 million in 1998-99 and $39.2 million for 1999-2000.

According to Sean Kearns, HSU director of university communications, the external support reports were compiled and prepared by Sterns.

"The fund-raising figures in the reports for the years 1998-99 and 1999-2000 are currently under review," said Kearns in a memo that accompanied the figures. "At this time the university is unable to verify their accuracy."

External, or non-government, revenue is a portion of the college income that has mushroomed throughout the California State University system in recent years.

"Fund-raising has become an institutional priority at all campuses," said Douglas X. Patino, CSU vice chancellor for university advancement in a press release. The CSU system as a whole received a record $881.6 million in external support in 1999-2000, according to an annual report submitted to the CSU Board of Trustees in January.

The total includes $251.5 million in voluntary support -- gifts from alumni, parents, individuals, corporations, foundations and other organizations. In addition, the CSU campuses raised $630.1 million through special revenue -- money from sources such as sponsorships, bequest expectancies, pledges, contracts, grants, property transfers and income from endowments.

HSU was one of the campuses singled out as having "significant increases in donations" in the January press release from the CSU chancellor's office.

"The [fund-raising] success reflects the tireless efforts of university leaders and the continued confidence donors have in the quality of CSU programs and the importance of the CSU mission," said Patino.

[Romano Gabriel sculpture]Sculpture garden to be rededicated

One of Humboldt County's national treasures will be rededicated in a ceremony this weekend. The Romano Gabriel Sculpture Garden in Eureka's Old Town, recognized as a world-class example of folk art, has received a face-lift. Romano Gabriel was an Italian immigrant who came to Eureka just after World War I and worked as a carpenter and gardener. He combined the two trades in his spare time creating a collection of whimsical hand-painted wooden flowers, animals and people that filled his front yard on Pine Street. The Eureka Heritage Society is holding the rededication event Sunday, May 20, in connection with National Preservation Week, celebrating the completion of work by Carol Hale, a member of the Heritage Board who worked with her husband Jerry cleaning up Gabriel's wooden figures. "We had a facade grant from the Eureka Main Street program," said Muriel Dinsmore, another board member. "It allowed for new lighting, new signage and a protective coating for the glass. Olga Pappini from Arcata donated money for landscaping and we planted some Italian cypress." The display of Gabriel's work was created after Ray and Dolores Vellutini bought the sculptures from the Gabriel estate and gave them to the Heritage Society following the artist's death in 1977. The display on 2nd Street was dedicated in 1982. A no-host luncheon will follow the celebration Sunday at Six Rivers Old Town, next door to the display. For reservations call the Heritage Society at 442-8937 or 445-8775.

Balloon tract to be cleaned

Cleanup of Eureka's balloon tract has been ordered by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The former rail yard and one-time potential Wal-Mart site was the subject of a cleanup and abatement order issued May 9. The 50-acre site suffers from petroleum hydrocarbon -- fuel -- contamination in the soil and groundwater. Also present are arsenic, copper, lead, zinc and chlorinated volatile organic compounds.

The Union Pacific Railroad Co., which owns the site, has until June 15 to submit a work plan. The company must clean up the contaminants and ensure they do not seep further into the groundwater or Humboldt Bay.

Training for displaced workers

Humboldt County workers laid off in recent months will get a helping hand from the state. The Workforce Investment Board has announced a $508,000 grant to retrain 250 displaced workers in the county. The grant pays for retraining, employment counseling, job placement and job search skill training.

Local employers who have laid off employees since Jan. 1 include Montgomery Ward's, JC Penney, Eel River Sawmills and Pacific Lumber Co..

Despite the recent layoffs, the unemployment rate for Humboldt County dropped half a percentage point last month. The unemployment rate for April was 6.3 percent, down from 6.8 in March. These numbers reflect a shrinking workforce: There were 200 fewer jobs in Humboldt County in April, but the rate still dropped because there were 500 fewer people in the labor pool.

Rio Dell water project funded

The funding for Rio Dell's emergency water supply system was secured this week as the California Department of Health Services granted the city $250,000.

The grant is in addition to the $750,000 the city had already received from the State Office of Emergency Services after Gov. Davis declared a state of emergency there March 16. Rio Dell has been experiencing severe water shortages following the failure of wells that have traditionally supplied the town's water.

Construction on the temporary system, which will draw water from the Eel River, began May 16, said Loretta Nicholas, Rio Dell city manager. A permanent solution to the problem will come when Rio Dell receives permission to draw water from the Eel on a long-term basis.

No environmental impact studies were required for the temporary water treatment system because it was considered a clean water emergency. A permanent plant would have to go through normal environmental permitting processes.

Nicholas said the city hopes to have the new permanent plant on line by 2003.

Families plan review

The Humboldt County Children and Families Commission's Strategic Plan for the year 2001 is up for review at three public meetings this month.

The plan is designed to fulfill the Children and Families Act of 1998 by identifying potential strategies for helping young children and families. Copies are available at the Humboldt County Library and the commission's website, See this week's Calendar for the times and places of meetings.

Speakers available

The Humboldt County Human Rights Commission announced last week that it has established a Speakers' Bureau. The bureau consists of a stable of knowledgeable speakers who can talk on issues ranging from anti-semitism to environmental ethics.

Call 268-2548 for details.

Workers, know your rights

"We get a lot of calls from people who just want to know what the laws are," said Jim Smith, president of the Central Labor Council of Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

The council is distributing copies of the book "California Workers' Rights" to the Humboldt County Library and Office of Education to help workers understand what the laws are. The council also is considering running seminars, Smith said.

Smith said the most common questions concern minimum wage, overtime and dismissal.

"When they have genuine grievances, we try to help them," he said, whether or not they are members of the AFL-CIO. For more information, call 443-7371.

Grandma goes kayaking?

"I wanted to build a relationship between young and old people," said Judy Dixon, a teacher at Ferndale Junior High School. To help build that relationship, Dixon gave her students the assignment of talking to seniors in the community and bringing either a biography, story from their life or poem about them back to class.

The fruits of that assignment are about to be published. Dixon has collected and put into a book the work her students did and comments they made about their impressions of senior citizens both before and after the assignment.

Those comments revealed a lot about the benefits of the assignment, Dixon said. "Before the interviews they said old people smell funny, always drive big boat cars and are cranky all the time. Then they found out their grandparents go kayaking."

Students and those they interviewed will be holding a book party May 18 at Ferndale City Hall. There aren't enough copies of the book for sale to the general public, Dixon said, but there will be a copy available at the branch library in Ferndale and the main library in Eureka.

The poetry of youth

Humboldt County's youth is invited to speak its poetic mind June 9.

Teen Speak, a poetry reading where young people are encouraged to stand and deliver their words, is looking for participants. The young adults will be joined by visiting poet Jewelle Gomez, whose poetry has been published in the New York Times, Village Voice and the San Francisco Chronicle.

For more information, call coordinator Karen Hepner at 839-6400.

HSU softball to championship

The Humboldt State University softball team is heading to the NCAA Division II national championship in Salem, Va. this week after sweeping its opponents at the Western Regional Championships in Davis May 11 and 12.

Led by pitcher Jessame Kendall, the team has become a dominant force in college softball. Kendall pitched her 100th consecutive inning Saturday -- she's now pitched more than 1,000 innings overall.

The Lady Jacks had to defeat Cal State Stanislaus and host team UC Davis for the right to head east. They are trying for their second national title in three years.

Officer on beach patrol

Snowy plovers can rest easier at night, thanks to the Humboldt County Sheriff's new beach patrol officer.

Deputy Rick Chandler was hired by the sheriff with funds from the Off-highway Vehicle Commission to patrol Humboldt County's beaches and dunes. His chief mission will be to curb irresponsible vehicle use that is contributing to a decline in the number of western snowy plovers. The birds' nests are camouflaged on the beach and easily run over by aggressive drivers.

The plover is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and it is the county's responsibility to take care of the bird, said 3rd District Supervisor John Woolley. He said it is his hope that with education and an increased enforcement presence, the bird will recover "without further regulations."


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