It was a dramatic week in Eureka politics.
Saying he was responding to "a number of unhappy people" in the business community, Councilman Jim Gupton called for a special session Thursday with one agenda item: the possible termination of City Manager Harvey Rose.
"My whole intention was simple: to take up a personnel issue in closed session," Gupton told the Journal Monday morning.
He said he wanted to act quickly.
"I followed the city attorney's advice. This thing didn't need the whole weekend for the community to get stirred up," Gupton said.
But his plan backfired. Two council members -- Cherie Arkley and Connie Miller -- cancelled out-of-town travel plans as did Mayor Nancy Flemming. All three are unabashed Rose supporters as were many members of the public who spoke at the meeting which was, at times, unruly. Council members Jack McKellar, a long-time Rose critic, and Maxine Hunter Meeks joined Gupton in calling the special session.
At Rose's request, the meeting was open to the public and only one speaker was critical of the city manager. The council continued the item until Tuesday's regular session.
Monday afternoon, Gupton suffered a diabetic seizure and was hospitalized. At press time Tuesday, the council was scheduled to continue to take public testimony, but several council members said action would likely be delayed due to Gupton's illness.
"The fact is you have a mayor and two members of the council doing a lot of meeting off to the side -- completely legal since the mayor is a non-voting member -- putting undue pressure on the city manager," Gupton said. "We need to stop these meetings and turn this city manager loose."
Gupton said the city has been particularly slow in "plugging the loophole" that would have allowed WalMart to locate on industrial land by the bay, which led to a controversial ballot measure voted down last year.
He also said members of the community don't like the three-minute time limit imposed at regular council sessions, but the main reason he is no longer supporting Rose is "lack of confidence."
Gupton cited a number of business groups -- including the Eureka Chamber of Commerce, the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Eureka Mainstreet --expressing a lack of support for Rose but those organizations quickly denied taking any official position.
One Rose foe, Dale Warmuth, general manager of Leon's Mufflers, said he was particularly concerned with industrial jobs leaving Eureka for Arcata.
"It's pretty clear there is a want to balance the (city's) books on retail sales tax dollars," he told the Journal.
But Rose supporters dominated last Thursday's special session.
"It's funny they say I have a lack of support in the community," Rose said. "In the last five days I have had hundreds of phone calls and bouquets -- the kind of support many city managers dream of. It's gratifying.
"The point is many projects are moving forward, there is a feeling in the community that business is doing better, people are upbeat," Rose said.
But does the council have the three votes to fire him?
"The average tenure of a city manager is four years in California," said Rose, who has held the position since 1996. "If that's the case, I've beaten the odds."
Mayor Flemming said the push to remove Rose is her third such experience.
"This is so familiar," Flemming said. "The first time I was in Japan (David Tooley, city manager from 1987 until his ouster in 1991). The second time (John Arnold, 1992-95) I was also out of town.
"Eureka is known for its revolving door," Flemming said. "It's got to stop."
Pesticide use examined
There was bad news and good news in a report on use of pesticides in California by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) released earlier this month.
Pesticide use in California has more than doubled since 1990.
The good news? Humboldt County has been steadily using less and less pesticides, and the northwest region of the state in general is low in pesticide use.
Humboldt ranked 49 out of 58 California counties in number of pounds used and has reduced its use from a high of 76,433 pounds in 1995 to 50,694 in 1998. Neighboring Trinity County ranked 57 out of 58 for number of pounds used.
Susan Kegley, staff scientist for PAN, said that the entire North Coast region uses relatively little pesticide. She said that has a lot to do with the kind of agriculture done here.
"While they do use quite a number of pounds of herbicide [in forestry], it's nothing compared to a cotton field," she said. The worst places are in the San Joaquin Valley. Counties with strawberries, wine grapes or carrots used the most toxins.
Tim McKay, director of the North Coast Environmental Center, said that he "is convinced" that there is another reason for Humboldt's low pesticide use: the people.
"Humboldt County residents create a ruckus over the spraying of pesticides," he said.
According to McKay, government here has also been helpful.
"There's been some responsiveness on the part of the Board of Supervisors and Caltrans," he said. "The board (of supervisors) themselves are not pesticide activists, but they listen to their constituents."
Fish and Game funds?
A decision by the state Assembly's budget subcommittee last week would double the effectiveness of the Department of Fish and Game to protect endangered species. That's according to Ken Moore, supervisor for the department's coastal timberland planning program in Eureka.
Moore said that the money is needed to fulfill the department's job of stewarding public lands and preventing the extinction of rare species. Speaking about the marbled murrelet, he said, "Other than documenting its demise, we haven't been able to do anything about it This funding might allow us to keep an eye on them and even get them on the road to recovery."
The department would also receive extra money for reviewing timber harvest plans. The department currently monitors the most sensitive 14 percent of all timber harvest plans to see if the logging would result in the death of endangered species or have adverse cumulative effects on the ecosystem. The department would be able to review 25 percent of the plans with the increased funding.
"I'm happy we were able to take this step to assist Fish and Game in its responsibilities to the state," Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin, who sits on the subcommittee, said in a written statement.
The Assembly's version of the budget now includes $44 million more for the department than Gov. Gray Davis' proposal of $229 million. Strom-Martin said that was necessary because of past underfunding, and Moore agrees.
"It's a tradition to be underfunded," Moore said
Eureka boardwalk approved
The plan to create a boardwalk along Eureka's waterfront cleared a major hurdle last week when the Coastal Commission unanimously approved the project.
The commission report said that while the project was located close to sensitive marine resources, it had been designed to minimize impact. The proposed 1,610-feet-long boardwalk and dock will now enter the building phase and should be under construction by summer.
County soil to be mapped
There are explorers loose in the county. They're getting out into the most remote areas, going where no person has gone before -- at least not with a soil auger.
Humboldt County is one of the largest areas in the country that has yet to have a modern soil map done but the Humboldt/Del Norte Counties Soil Survey should remedy that problem.
The survey, began in 1988, has been slow going. But recent budget increases for the Natural Resource Conservation Service have tripled staffing levels. There are now eight soil scientists collecting and analyzing soil samples.
"Landowners need to know what type of soil they have so they know how to manage it," said project leader Sue Aszman.
The final report, due out in 2004, will help farmers, timber harvesters and others figure out exactly what their soil can do for them. Interim reports on the project will
be available through the Arcata Soil Survey Office. Call 822-7090 for more information.
Sometimes small is beautiful. The Fortuna farmer's market may only be big enough to fill one street, but market outreach coordinator -- and vendor -- Holly Kreb said that makes it unique.
"We're not Arcata," she said. The market, held Tuesdays from 3:30-6 p.m. at 10th and Main sts., is smaller than its cousins in Arcata and Eureka and offers a different spectrum of goods. Foods that have been processed but not grown by vendors, for example, are allowed. That means homemade bread and jam can be sold, even if the vendors didn't grow the berries or wheat.