June 9, 2005
SUIT: Not since last year's Calpine
controversy has Eureka been quite as shaken up as it is now,
after the Humboldt Taxpayers League filed suit against the Eureka
Redevelopment Agency and developers Glenn Goldan and Dolores
Vellutini last Thursday. The suit has already given birth to
a full-page Times-Standard ad, a flurry of heated e-mails
between the two sides and impassioned Sunday morning commentary
in at least one neighborhood grocery. Things looked to get hotter
still Wednesday afternoon at the Samoa Cookhouse (after the Journal
went to press) as Goldan and Vellutini promised to confront their
accusers at the Taxpayers League's regular monthly meeting. At
its base, the lawsuit alleges that Goldan and Vellutini -- both
of whom are building high-profile developments on the Eureka
waterfront -- have legally improper relationships with the Redevelopment
Agency, an arm of city government. Both of them became members
of the city's Redevelopment Advisory Board, a citizen panel that
makes recommendations to the agency, in 1994; since that time,
both contracted with the agency to develop waterfront lots. In
his filing with the court, Neil Shapiro, the Taxpayers League's
Monterey-based attorney, argues that the two's public and private
roles amount to a legally prohibited conflict of interest. In
their defense, Goldan and Vellutini said that they have always
stepped aside when any matter pertaining to their personal business
came before the board, even on contracts that they had not yet
bid on but possibly intended to. They also questioned the League's
motives and its timing -- one of the contracts in question was
signed as early as 1995.
by Helen Sanderson
No one is denying that the caterwauling mating call of a peacock can be annoying.
But whether or not the sound is so vexing that it warrants inclusion on Eureka's City Council agenda and calls to police is a question that has residents of one Eureka neighborhood joining forces to protect a semi-wild specimen from City Councilmember Mike Jones' crusade to banish it from the city.
Around October, the peacock showed up in Eureka's Fifth Ward near the corner of Huntoon and C streets. It has been there ever since, often in the yard of Kathleen Becker and her partner, Linda Byrd.
"My neighbors have all said to me, `He's beautiful, he's special,'" Becker said last week.
Though it often frequents other homes as well, the bird has become such a part of Becker/Byrd household that they have given it a name -- "Punjab," after the peacock's native pecking grounds in India.
So when animal control officers arrived at Becker and Byrd's house on June 1 asking to go into their yard to capture the peacock, Becker said no.
"I wanted to do some research about this first and see what other neighbors thought about it," Becker said.
It was only after this incident that they found out that the neighbor most opposed to the peacock's presence was their representative on the city council, Mike Jones, who had brought the matter to the city council weeks earlier after it had kept him awake several nights.
Becker decided to take action. After talking to some nearby neighbors the next day, and finding that other people liked the peacock, Becker canvassed the neighborhood with a petition.
Twenty-five neighbors from 19 households in the area where the bird roosts signed the petition stating that they "consider [the peacock] more of an asset than a detriment to our community. We are advocates for this animal and do not wish to see him harassed, impounded, or harmed in any way."
At the May 17 council meeting, Jones requested city staff to explore how the city should go about removing the peacock from the area. He said that neighbors had contacted him to complain about the noise.
No action was taken at the meeting, but City Attorney Dave Tranberg said that staff has looked into the issue and that it is animal control's job to settle the dispute and possibly find a new home for the bird.
Some neighbors see Jones' measures as blatant impudence and a waste of the council's time and taxpayers' money.
"Two weeks ago someone broke into my ATV trailer and took some wrenches," said Bud Nees, a retired postal worker who has lived in the neighborhood for 34 years. "My renters' window in his car was smashed, and nothing is ever done. But when they use city resources to hunt down a bird -- the only nuisance is [Mike Jones], and he doesn't represent the people in his neighborhood. He didn't ask any of us what we thought."
Animal Control Officer Rob Patton said Eureka police are is still looking at how they should proceed with the issue, and that one option is to relocate the bird to the Trinity Lake ranch of another officer who keeps a flock of peacocks.
According to Patton, residents from three neighborhood locations have called Animal Control to complain about the peacock.
The dispute between Jones and the neighborhood's pro-peacock faction came to a head Saturday, when Nees heard someone shooting a BB gun down the alley. From his driveway, Nees saw Punjab fly off a fence, letting loose with four or five loud squawks as he descended into a neighbor's yard.
Nees, 71, ran down the alley to where the shots came from -- Mike Jones' yard. He questioned Jones' son, who is in his 20s, about the gunshots.
"I asked the kid, are you shooting at that bird and he said, `What's it to you?'" Nees recalled, adding that he told the young man to leave the bird alone.
"And he says something to the effect of, `I'll shoot anything I want.' One thing leads to another and he says, `I'll jump over the fence and come down there and we'll have it out.' And I said, `Come on.'"
Meanwhile, Becker called 911 while Byrd went outside to see what was going on. By that time, Jones and his wife had arrived.
"They started shouting, `It's not your business, get out of here,'" Byrd later said. "Then the son says, `Why don't you go back and kiss your girlfriend.' He said, `I can have a friend come over and beat you up.'"
Jones said that his son was not shooting at the peacock. Public Information Officer Suzie Owsley confirmed that police did not find evidence that the bird was shot at.
"[My four sons] have all been taught not to shoot the bird," Jones said. "They shoot cans, Pepsi cans, root beer cans. When I was a kid I did the same thing. I may have even shot a bird once."
The police have been to the Jones' house before, when Becker called them after one of Jones boys allegedly shot at robins in her yard a few months ago.
Becker and Byrd said that they have been the target of petty harassment from the Jones' for years. According to the couple, who are avid gardeners, their rose bushes have been cut down and plants run over with a truck by the Jones boys, who have also yelled homophobic taunts like, "Kill all the fags!"
In the summer of 2002, before Jones was elected to council, the family posted a placard in support of Proposition 22 -- a 2000 state measure that banned gay marriage -- on the back of their house, facing into Becker and Byrd's back yard. It was not visible to any other household.
Jones said that Byrd and Becker vandalized the Prop. 22 sign when it was in his front yard in 2000 and he kept it as a memento. (Becker denies vandalizing Jones' sign, but did admit that she had taken a sign from someone else's front yard.) He said that he did not know that his sons placed the sign on the back of the house years later.
As for their comments he said, "Boys will be boys."
by HANK SIMS
When Dan Rather and 60 Minutes ran a story on President George W. Bush's military service based on shaky documents last year, the universe of on-line diary-scribblers and unpaid Internet commentators known as "bloggers" jumped on the case, proving the documents false and forcing a personnel shake-up at CBS News.
In January, bloggers seized upon and published supposedly off-the-record comments made by CNN Chief News Executive Eason Jordan at the annual Davos World Economic Forum. Jordan had said that he knew of instances when U.S. armed forces deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq; after his words became public, he was forced to resign.
The pseudonymous local blogger Captain Buhne doesn't have such grand ambitions -- at least, not yet. But over the last few months, his Buhne Tribune has made an earnest attempt to influence Humboldt County news coverage.
But unlike many of the more well-known national media bloggers, Buhne is less concerned with a publication's politics than with its prose.
"I am dumbfounded by the number of newspapers in this town, and yet not a single one deviates from the same boring, official angle on every story!" he wrote in a recent e-mail interview.
To that end, Buhne, who said that he is a Humboldt County native in his early 30s and a "media addict," has tweaked the noses of various local newspapers with satirical, scandal-mongering posts. Early last month, it was the Times-Standard's turn, as a classified ad soliciting local nude models "between the ages of 18 and 20" for an adult website received Buhne's scrutiny.
A few weeks later, his attention turned to the Eureka Reporter, a newspaper that so prides itself on its patriotism that it carries a regular column entitled "Essence of Americanism." Noticing the Reporter's nameplate, which features a fluttering U.S. flag, Buhne looked up federal regulations on the use and display of the flag and discovered that the newspaper was apparently in violation of several of them.
In particular, federal law states that the flag may not be used for "advertising purposes," may not be printed on material that is intended for one-time use and may not have writing printed on it. (The Reporter's initial "T" is superimposed over the flag in the paper's logo.)
"Here's what you can do: Boycott this traitorous rag until it cleans up its act," Buhne wrote. "Contact the publisher -- right now -- and cancel any subscription or advertisement placed with them Finally, demand an apology -- in writing -- to our brave men and women of the armed forces, who daily shed blood to protect our nation."
Though the words may have been harsh, Buhne said by e-mail that he isn't really all that concerned about what the paper does with its logo. Rather, he issued a challenge to the Reporter, and all other local papers -- if you don't want to suffer such indignities, publish something interesting and stop condescending to your readers.
"Does any young, starving reporter really think `the Dixieland Jazz Festival is a great time for all,' or whatever?" Buhne asked in an e-mail. "Or that Pastels On The Plaza is newsworthy, for the same reasons, every year? Of course not. He's probably got Metallica on his iPod, and he's forcing himself to be interested in whichever lame event he's been assigned to cover."
The Buhne Tribune can be found at buhnetribune.blogspot.com.
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