June 23, 2005
WAITING FOR GALLEGOS: There was no word last week whether the District Attorney's office would appeal last week's ruling, issued by Lake County Judge Richard L. Freeborn, that dismissed the massive fraud suit filed by DA Paul Gallegos against the Pacific Lumber Co. shortly after he took office in early 2002. Deputy District Attorney Tim Stoen said Tuesday that any decision to appeal would be made by Gallegos alone, and that the DA was currently out of town due to a family emergency. Stoen was unabashed in the face of defeat: "Our case is a good case, a solid case, and it deserves to be heard. I wouldn't change one thing about filing it." For its part, Palco was exultant: "We are elated with this decision," stated company CEO Robert Manne in a press release. "We now look forward to moving ahead, and we will do our part to bring this community back together." But not everyone is in the mood for reconciliation. On Tuesday, an anonymous e-mail sent to local media announced that a challenger to Gallegos would officially announce his or her candidacy at a press conference Wednesday, after the Journal went to press. The Journal made several fruitless phone calls in an attempt to learn the name of the new candidate, who enters the race a full year before Gallegos comes up for reelection, but many have speculated that attorney Allison Jackson -- a former prosecutor fired by Gallegos last year -- would seek the office.
REDEVELOPMENT SUIT DROPPED, FOR NOW: The Humboldt Taxpayers League has dropped its conflict of interest lawsuit against the Eureka Redevelopment Agency and two private developers -- for the time being. Last week, the city of Eureka said that it would not sit down with the league to discuss disputed issues unless the lawsuit was dropped. According to Jerry Partain, a league board member, that's exactly what the league decided to do -- all the while reserving the right to re-file the suit if it so chooses. Partain said that the legal maneuver has paid off; he said that City Manager David Tyson was scheduled to discuss the matter with the Eureka City Council at its meeting Tuesday night, and that he and Tyson made tentative plans to get together for talks on July 19. (Tyson could not be reached for comment.) The lawsuit alleges that developers Glenn Goldan and Dolores Vellutini, who have both served on the city's Redevelopment Advisory Board, had impermissible conflicts of interest when they entered into contracts with the city's redevelopment agency for projects on two separate waterfront lots.
OYSTER FEST WASHOUT: Summer officially began this week -- but with all the rain it looked more like winter, and Arcata Main Street felt the bitter sting of the unusually wet weather over the weekend when it was forced to postpone the 15th Annual Arcata Bay Oyster Festival until this Saturday. Its website apology reads, "While we can function safely with fog, mist or even a light rain, we cannot for safety reasons operate in heavy rain." More than 2 inches of rainfall was recorded last weekend -- almost four times the average for the entire month. Arcata Main Street Director Michael Behney said Tuesday that 75 percent of the oyster vendors have told him they will be there Saturday, as well as 90 percent of the arts and crafts booths. Everything else -- music, kids' stuff and wine and beer sales -- will be out in full force, as previously scheduled, Behney said. Many shellfish-laden restaurants had oyster special deals last Saturday night and Folie Douce, an Arcata restaurant and previous Oyster Fest winner that has not yet rescheduled for this Saturday, opted to push their oysters last weekend at the Arcata Farmers' Market along with Aqua-Rodeo Farms. As of Tuesday there was a 30 percent chance of rain predicted for Saturday. Arcata Main Street will post updates about the fest's scheduling status on its website, www.arcatamainstreet.com.
BIG CPB CUTBACK PROPOSED: The Sesame Street gang has been given a tentative eviction notice from a Congressional subcommittee, which recently voted to significantly curb federal funding for public broadcasting and to yank all federal funds from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting over the next two years. For KEET-TV and KHSU-FM, North Coast public broadcasting stations that are among the smallest in the nation, such drastic cuts could be devastating, but KEET Executive Director Ron Schoenherr is remaining optimistic. "[The cuts] will not likely happen," Schoenherr said, explaining that when the vote goes to the Senate, the proposed funding cut will likely be put back in public broadcasting's coffers, as it has after past attempts to slash funding. Although Schoenherr is hopeful, he has considered the worst-case scenario -- 46 percent of KEET's annual $1.4 million budget, or $644,000, could be wiped out. Elizabeth Hans McCrone, program manager for KHSU-FM, said that the federal cuts would erase about a third of her station's budget. Unlike Schoenherr, McCrone isn't looking on the bright side. "This is a serious threat to public broadcasting," she said. "The changes in leadership at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting show a lack of support from our current administration for public broadcasting as we have known it. Eliminating funding is one way to chip away from a source of information for people that's free from commercial concerns."
METH MESSAGE: In the meantime, students from Zoe Barnum High School in Eureka recently worked with KEET to create three public service announcements warning young people about the dangers of methamphetamine use. Two of the 30-second spots will air Thursday, June 30 on KEET, channel 13, at 7:27 p.m., following the BBC World News and on other TV stations later in the summer. Ten to 15 students starred in, wrote, directed, filmed and edited the PSAs with the help of KEET staff. The public broadcasting station received grant funding last year for the drug prevention and awareness campaign.
NO OWL BLOODBATH: Last week, newspapers across the country ran variations of a story by Associated Press reporter Jeff Barnard, in which Barnard wrote that federal scientists "are planning an experiment that involves shooting a small population of barred owls that are threatening smaller northern spotted owls" in the Klamath National Forest. Non-native barred owls have been encroaching on the endangered spotted owl's territory throughout the West. Barnard continued: "If the experiment shows removing barred owls allows spotted owls to reclaim lost territory and is duplicated on a larger scale, it could lead to shotgunning thousands of barred owls in Washington, Oregon and California." That last bit generated a storm of scary headlines: "Common owls will be shot to save endangered ones" (Houston Chronicle). "Barred owls to be shot to save group of smaller spotted owls" (Marin Independent-Journal). "Scientists plan to save owls by killing owls" (Chicago Sun-Times). But the feds aren't exactly planning wide-scale carnage against barred owls just yet, if at all, says Joan Jewett, a spokesperson with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Nobody is getting ready to go out there and start blasting away at them," Jewett says. "I actually called Jeff [Barnard], and he said, `OK, it's unlikely. But it could happen.' I think that Jeff's story had quite a bit of hyperbole in it." The plan to remove barred owls is the California Academy of Sciences', which is interested in the barred owl's expansion into spotted owl territory. The academy had applied for, and received, a permit from the F&WS to collect up to 20 barred owl specimens. F&WS scientist Brian Woodbridge, quoted in the AP story, heard about the collection plan and decided he could use the opportunity to monitor what the spotted owls do once the barred owls are removed, says Jewett. But she adds that "it isn't a rigorous scientific `experiment' for the feds." Scientists met last week in Arcata to talk about the overall barred owl/spotted owl dilemma. Jewett says they need to gather more information before they'll know how to proceed.
DON'T BE SURFIN' IN THE RAIN: To the two surfers happily paddling in the surf at Trinidad Beach on Sunday: What were you thinking? Rained a bunch last week. Rained loads on Saturday. Rained some more on Sunday. Sure, that might make for nice swells, but dudes, that's also when the beaches get sullied. Rain saturates lawns and pastures, floating pet and stock waste, pesticides, fertilizers and other yuck into the streets to join with the iridescent, oily puddles. It all then gets whooshed off to sea through drains and creeks. Sometimes septic tanks overflow and join the party. So things get murky -- but the message is clear: "Stay out of the water, especially near creek mouths," says Harriet Hill, registered environmental health specialist with Humboldt County's environmental health division. "People should not be swimming during a storm event or within three days of a storm event. I would not suggest surfing in the rain." The county monitors beach quality year-round, by wading into the surf and collecting samples to test for coliforms, and posts the data on its website and at the Clam Beach and Moonstone kiosks. The nonprofit group Heal the Bay uses the data, and that from other counties, to produce "report cards" for every beach in the state. During dry weather, Humboldt County's beaches are nearly pristine, receiving mostly As and A-pluses. Wet-weather grades are another story -- especially this year (April 2004 to March 2005), when local beaches' grades plummeted because of the extra rainfall. Clam Beach got a D, Luffenholtz Beach got a B, Trinidad Beach at Mill Creek got a B and Moonstone (Little River) Beach flunked. To see the report cards, go to www.healthebay.org.
BODY IDENTIFIED, AUTOPSIED: Forty-five-year-old Roger John Pelletier's name was etched into a partial denture he wore. That is how Humboldt County Deputy Coroner Charles Van Buskirk identified Pelletier, a Fortuna man whose body was found washed upon the Trinidad shore last Thursday. On Monday an autopsy revealed that Pelletier, who was said to have been visiting friends in Trinidad, died from drowning and had been in the water between two and four days. Buskirk said that Pelletier's bruises were consistent with injuries that would happen to a body adrift in the sea, and that it is not known how the man -- who was wearing jeans and cowboy boots -- wound up in the water. In Pelletier's pocket was an empty pill bottle with no label. A toxicology screening is scheduled for later this week. An investigation is continuing.
EUREKA INN SOLD: The Redding-based company Americor finalized its purchase of the Eureka Inn last week, a year and a half after the historic hotel was foreclosed upon and shuttered. A company spokesperson said he could not comment on the sale, but that company president Gary Anthis would soon hold a press conference in Eureka to describe Americor's plans.
JENKEL'S REBELLION: Motorists passing through Arcata Monday might have thought that the large laminated sign on the 14th Street overpass that read "Boycott Arcata" was a conservative-conceived affront directed at the city for its notoriously liberal stances on national politics. Almost the opposite is true. The sign-toting out-of-towners are anti-war activists who think that the Arcata City Council was right on the money when, months ago, they considered a resolution "in support of troops who refuse to serve in illegal wars" and that the Green council acceded too easily to the fears of the "morally corrupt" Arcata Chamber of Commerce, which worried that the city's meddling would cause a boycott against the town's shops. Now Arcata is being boycotted for not meddling. "This really means, `Wake up Chamber of Commerce,'" said Elizabeth Neylon, of Santa Rosa, who is fronting the boycott effort that she called a "theatrical stunt." The self-professed follower of Gandhi stood on the overpass with three houseless Arcatans who held the sign so it overlooked the southbound lanes of Highway 101, garnering a few horn honks from the travelers below. "The ones who beep are probably right-wing," said Neylon, adding that she is in Humboldt County to get people of all political persuasions talking about "unconstitutional wars." Neylon said she is working on behalf of John Jenkel, a Sonoma County gadfly who recently caused a stir in Lake County after demanding that the Board of Supervisors let him speak for an unlimited amount of time to enumerate reasons for a cease-fire in Iraq. "Mr. Jenkel chooses the words," she said. "I just spread the message." Jenkel will make an Arcata appearance at the July 6 city council meeting, Neylon said. Until then, she will brandish the boycott poster.
story & photos by JUDY HODGSON
SACRAMENTO -- At 9 a.m. June 16, the hearing room was teaming with people, sorting themselves into groups as they chose their seats. On the right side of the room, second and third rows, were the corporate suits of Pacific Lumber Co., among them, Palco CEO Robert Manne. On the left side was a small, eclectic bunch easily identifiable as being from Humboldt County: shaggy haircuts, sensible shoes and comfort clothing in a roomful of silk neckties and high heels.
Above right: Sacramento hearing: Palco CEO Robert Manne, second from right in second row.
The Humboldt contingent of citizen/activists had risen at 2 a.m. to make the long drive to the state capital for item No. 11 before the State Water Resources Control Board. They had reason to be cautiously optimistic, just as the PL executives had reason to be glum. They all had read the staff report to the board and the draft order proposing to halt all logging this year in the Freshwater Creek and Elk Creek watersheds.
Officially, item No. 11 was a petition by the Humboldt Watershed Council, the Environmental Protection Information Center in Garberville and the Sierra Club to overrule the regional water board, which had given its consent for the timber company to continue logging.
For the most part, the testimony was like watching a re-run of a re-run: Residents of the impaired watersheds told how historic and current logging upstream fouls their drinking water and floods and devalues their property. Palco officials argued they already had California Department of Forestry-approved timber harvest plans on those two watersheds that previously addressed environmental review. The water board has no right to block those valid THPs -- only CDF does, they claimed.
In the end, there was little discussion from the five members of the board. The vote was unanimous: Not one more tree would be cut -- this year anyway. A smattering of applause broke out from the left side of the room.
"It's a small, small victory," said Kristi Wrigley, whose family has lived on the north fork of Elk River since the turn of the last century and whose apple orchard is no longer economically viable due to persistent flooding. "It's just a slower rate of harm, really."
Catherine Kuhlman, executive officer of the regional water board, strongly took issue with the state board's decision."
Below left: celebrating what they call "a small victory," left to right: Mark Lovelace, Jesse Noell, Kristi Wrigley, Ken Miller and Marianne de Sobrino. Lovelace and Miller are with the Humboldt Watershed Council. The others are residents of Elk River.
"I believe what our [regional] board did was justified," Kuhlman said. "By intense inspection and by reducing [harvesting] by 25 percent, that was sufficient to begin recovery in those watersheds."
Palco President Manne, who had been chatting with the media prior to the hearing, declined comment, leaving Chuck Center, Palco's government liaison officer, behind to answer questions.
"Obviously, we're disappointed," Center kept repeating. Tuesday, by telephone, Center said no discussion had been held yet on Palco's next step -- whether to appeal to the state Superior Court. Palco has 30 days to file such an appeal.
Remarkably absent from last week's hearing testimony was any mention of the precarious financial situation of Palco and Scotia Pacific, which owns the timberlands that feed Palco's mill.
ScoPac does not have the funds to pay a $27.9 million bond-interest payment due July 20, according to a Tuesday report on the website, Debtwire.com. This week bondholders are being presented with a restructuring proposal by Maxxam Corp., the Houston-based parent company of both Palco and ScoPac owned by Charles Hurwitz.
ScoPac reported that it has a $22.2 million line of credit available, but it lacks liquidity to pay the debt interest. If bondholders agree to restructure the debt, Palco's short-term line of credit could be used to buy ScoPac another six months until its next debt payment is due. If they do not, bankruptcy is still an option for ScoPac.
In the meantime, the long-awaited watershedwide waste discharge requirements -- called WWDRs -- for Elk and Freshwater are in final review by the regional board and will be released later this week, according to Kuhlman.
by HEIDI WALTERS
When the ground started shaking the night of June 14, Humboldt County Supervisor John Woolley and his family were at their home in Manila. His wife was rehearsing with her Irish band, Good Company. Their two boys were watching TV. They all felt the earthquake, and they gathered around the TV to read the warning band moving across the screen. And then they acted: "We took the prudent option to go into town [Arcata]," John Woolley says. They didn't phone 911. They didn't call their neighbors or go pounding on doors. They just made for higher ground, and waited for more information.
Turns out the Woolleys acted like model citizens -- unlike the hordes of doubting Thomases who started phoning around to see if the warning was "for real." The 911 line was overloaded, says Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Brenda Gainey, and those doubters wasted valuable time they should have used to get to safety.
"On Tuesday night's event, we had a `near-source' warning," Gainey says. "Had an actual tsunami been generated, we on the North Coast of California would have been the initial point of contact. We would have had about 15 to 20 minutes to clear out." But, she says, "there was apparently some confusion. On the West Coast, we're not used to warnings. So people were saying, `What should I do?' Well, in a near-source event, we're `it.'" That means emergency personnel won't have time to coordinate an evacuation -- and would merely be endangering themselves if they went to the low-lying areas to roust people -- and the alerts on your TV and radio might be the only warnings you get before the first wave hits. Or, if you're away from a news source, the shaking ground may be your only warning to flee to at least 100 feet in elevation.
Last Tuesday's warning was generated automatically by the National Weather Service, which activates warnings for quakes 7.0 or higher. Tuesday's was a 7.2, although initial reports had it at 7.4. Local tsunami expert Lori Dengler says it would have taken a larger local quake to generate a tsunami. And if it had been a bigger local quake, say a 9.0, "you would have had less than 10 minutes to get yourself to safety," she says. A distance-source quake, on the other hand, might allow an hour or so for emergency personnel to stage an evacuation. The 1964 tsunami that devastated Crescent City, for instance, was triggered by a quake near Alaska. It flooded parts of Humboldt County, also, but there was time to evacuate 3,000 people from the Samoa Peninsula, says Dengler.
Gainey says the biggest lesson the county has learned from last Tuesday's event was that people living in low-lying coastal areas need to be better educated about tsunamis and floods in general. First, they need to know not to wait for an official warning to escape to higher ground. Second, they need to trust the automated warnings if they do see them, and not waste time and clog phone lines seeking a second and third opinion.
One place to learn more about local risks and how to deal with them is at HSU's earthquake and tsunami website. It includes hazard maps that show low-lying areas most likely to be flooded by a Cascadia tsunami -- generated by a quake from our local subduction zone. For instance, the maps show that the highest dunes -- at around 75 feet -- on the Samoa peninsula have never been overtopped by water.
The county is working on a tsunami education plan for the public. It also hopes to have evacuation route signs, and perhaps a special tsunami siren system (like they have in Crescent City), in place in Humboldt County by next year.
"Once there's a universal warning system in place, people would feel more comfortable trusting the system," says Woolley.
Dengler adds that everyone on the coast should have a NOAA weather radio. You can get the $20 one, or spring for the $100 version that turns itself on when there's a warning -- so even if you're snoozing when the big one comes, you'll be alerted. People also need to adopt what Dengler calls a "cultural acceptance" of our area's tsunami risk.
"I was recently in Indonesia," says Dengler. "In some areas, people had developed a whole tradition of tsunamis. All those people lived (during the Dec. 26 tsunami)" because they fled to higher ground. "Others, who stayed on the coast, died. I think that, when you feel a strong earthquake, you definitely get off the beach -- it should be a regular exercise."
by LUKE T. JOHNSON
In September 2002, a nationwide class action lawsuit against five of the nation's top record labels and three major retail chains reached a settlement. Last week, Humboldt County began to reap the rewards.
The lawsuit alleged that the record labels (including Atlantic, Capitol, and Universal Records) conspired with retailers (including Tower Records and Musicland Stores) to illegally raise the prices of CDs and other music products by implementing Minimum Advertised Price policies, which violate state and federal antitrust laws. The defendants denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
The ensuing settlement required the defendants to pay a total of $67.4 million in cash to the victims, which included anyone who bought a music product from one of the retailers between January 1, 1995, and December 22, 2000. In addition, defendants agreed to provide $75.7 million worth of prerecorded music CDs, to be distributed to not-for-profit, charitable, governmental or public entities for music-related purposes or programs.
Local music aficionado Matthew Frink signed up for the lawsuit after he read about it in Rolling Stone a few years ago. He received his check for $13.86 like the rest of the plaintiffs in the country a little over a year ago. He is pleased that the outcome was so positive for the consumer.
"The money is inconsequential," he said from his Arcata home. "There needs to be some sort of repercussions for all the price gouging. This was a step in the right direction."
On April 25 of this year California began distributing the 665,000 CDs the state was allotted (roughly $8.9 million worth). The Attorney General's office allocated the total so that 55 percent would go to public library districts, 40 percent to K-12 school districts and 5 percent to public colleges and universities. K-12 schools were given such a large portion because consumers under the age of 25 represent a significant percentage of the music purchases made, according to the Attorney General's website.
Humboldt is among the last counties in the state to receive its bounty. The County Library in Eureka received "about seven or eight boxes," said Audio/Video cataloguer Michael Logan. "We haven't even finished unpacking them yet."
For institutions as perennially underfunded as libraries, these CDs are especially appreciated, Logan said. "It provides for a huge influx of new material and we didn't even have to pay for it," he said.
The titles are as varied as they are numerous, ranging from operas like Madame Butterfly to Outcast's Stankonia.
"I was pleasantly surprised," said Cindy Benbow, manager of the branch libraries throughout Humboldt. "I had heard horror stories about them dumping like 112 copies of Jessica Simpson and Barry White -- and nothing against those artists, I just don't think we need 112."
"There are some fun CDs and some seriously good ones," Benbow said, referring to titles such as Voices of the Shoah: Remembrances of the Holocaust and a box set of vintage doo-wop tracks, one she's particularly excited about.
Local school districts, it seems, did not receive an assortment as exciting as the county's. Arcata High School librarian Mary Anne Harlan said she "wasn't impressed" and felt like they "received everybody's remainders." She said many California school librarians felt the same way.
"I just don't think Martha Stewart's Sounds of Halloween is a particularly valuable resource," she said. She is not sure what she will do with the CDs because there are not enough to start a viable lending collection. She may donate some to art and music programs, or maybe to the county. For a few of the titles, she is considering supplementing some of the library's books with a CD sleeve in the back. One of the library's hottest books, for example, is The Wu-Tang Manual, which could be easily supplemented with the hip-hop group's album The W.
Benbow said she plans on cataloguing all of the CDs at the main library because it has more space. Titles of which there are multiple copies will be dispersed throughout the county to libraries with already established CD collections.
For a list of all the titles the libraries received, visit the Attorney General's website.
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