June 30, 2005
AUGUST CASE TOSSED: Citing concerns over the defendant's right to due process, Judge John Feeney last week dismissed the last remaining charge in the grand jury's accusation case against Fortuna City Councilmember Debi August. The judge's decision, which came at the request of August's attorneys, followed a week of testimony from former grand jury foreperson Judith Schmidt, who told the court that the current foreperson, Darlene Marlow, had ordered her to destroy internal grand jury documents related to last year's investigation of and legal proceedings against August, who the jury eventually accused of "malfeasance conflict of interest" (see "The Debi August File," Sept. 9, 2004). Instead, Schmidt turned over the materials to the court hearing August's case. Many of the documents in her possession were not previously disclosed to August's defense team. In his ruling, Feeney said that the documents -- which, according to Schmidt's testimony, should have been included in the grand jury files provided to the court earlier this year -- demonstrated that August had not been provided materials necessary for her defense, and that the court had similarly been deprived of materials necessary for it to make a fair judgment on an earlier motion to throw the case out. Feeney dismissed the case "with prejudice," meaning it may not be resubmitted. On Monday, August attorney Greg Rael said that the content of the documents was such that if August's defense team had had them earlier, the accusation against her never would have progressed this far. "Our position is that if we had those documents, the entire case would have been dismissed," he said.
GRAND JURY REPORT IN: Then, on Tuesday, Marlow delivered this year's grand jury report to the Board of Supervisors. This latest version of the report -- the product of a year's worth of work by 19 citizens appointed to investigate citizen complaints about local government agencies -- focuses, in large part, on two major themes: the county's charter schools and the District Attorney's Office. Noting that the DA's office has not been the subject of formal review for 10 years, and in response to several citizen complaints, the grand jury took an in-depth look at how the office operates under DA Paul Gallegos. In general, the report is sharply critical. Though Gallegos is "pleasant and accessible" to members of his staff, the report's authors write, Gallegos lacks basic managerial skills -- he does not meet regularly with department heads in his office, for instance, and has a poor record of attending meetings with fellow heads of law enforcement agencies, according to the report. "Implicit in all evidence gathered by the Grand Jury -- including interviews with the DA -- is the unfortunate truth that the DA expresses a limited understanding of how things are done in the department," the report reads. In a separate section, the report criticizes the District Attorney's Office's declining participation in the Child Abuse Service Team since Gallegos took office. "Deputy District Attorney participation attendance at CAST interviews dropped precipitously from 85 percent in 2002, to 46 percent in 2003, to 25 percent in 2004." The report includes several recommendations to the DA, asking him to open up communications with police agencies, meet regularly with his staff and "refrain from firing long-term, experienced prosecutors." In the long section on area charter schools, the grand jury finds that most of them are well-run and some are turning out students with test scores well above the average. However, the report does raise questions about the accounting practices of the Big Lagoon Charter School Network, as well as the credentials of some of the network's teachers. In addition to these major investigations, the grand jury weighed in on a number of other issues. It faults the city of Rio Dell for poor oversight of its first-time home buyer and housing rehabilitation programs, which are administered by the Redwood Community Action Agency, saying that in the awarding of rehabilitation grants "[a]larming structural and safety issues were ignored in favor of superficial cosmetic repairs." The Manila Community Services District is criticized for its practice of using revenues from its sewer and water operations to subsidize parks and recreation programs. The full text of this year's grand jury report is available online at www.co.humboldt.ca.us/grandjury.
PALCO HOLDS JOB FAIR: The company that fired them is now trying to find them new jobs. The Pacific Lumber Co., which let go close to 100 sawmill workers last year in the face of ever-tightening timber regulations, held a job fair last Thursday at the Scotia Inn for those still unemployed laborers. According to Palco, 22 Humboldt County companies -- including Simpson, Eel River Sawmills, Danco and Humboldt Creamery -- as well as other regional businesses were on hand to recruit new employees. In a press release, Linda Maxon, Palco personnel manager, said, "We are very committed to finding as many opportunities as we possibly can for the Fortuna sawmill employees." The company has also offered retraining courses for former employees at the College of the Redwoods.
GIMME GRAVEL: McKinleyville residents who feared they would be relocated from their homes and that the town's main drag, Central Avenue, could be rerouted to make way for a bigger runway at the airport have relaxed somewhat. Last week, the county released a revised Master Plan recommending a special gravel buffer zone for the runway, which would limit expansion, sparing nearby residences and roads. The gravel barrier, known as an Engineered Material Arresting System, is a Federal Aviation Administration approved expansion alternative that slows landing planes. The 20-year Arcata-Eureka Airport Master Plan also calls for a remodeled passenger terminal, hangars and an air traffic control tower. The revised plan is part of an effort to meet post-911 FAA-guidelines for airport safety and can be downloaded online at www.co.humboldt.ca.us/aviation.
MORE TSUNAMI ACTION: Evergreen Pulp, Inc.'s CEO David Tsang knows a positive-press moment when he smells it. Last Wednesday at a news conference at the pulp mill on Samoa, held to reveal the company's solution for curbing emissions from its smelt dissolver scrubber, Tsang began by handing out a news memo -- on tsunamis, being good neighbors and ham radio. That's right, ham radio. Quoth the memo: "In response to Earthquakes and the Tsunami warning issued in the last several weeks in the Humboldt Area, Evergreen Pulp, Inc. is pleased to announce an agreement in principal to work with Gary Nixon, WA6HZT, and Dick Van Hoose, WB6HII, for the installation of a new, UHF Amateur Radio repeater system at Evergreen's facility in Samoa, California." The repeater system would be available for use in emergencies -- like, for telling other ham radio operators to get thee to the high dune, quick, and direct the panicked masses as you go, please -- and would also connect to other amateur radio systems and, through the Internet Radio Linking Project, to the world. Wow. So, that's cool.
AND THE EMISSIONS?: Well, Evergreen Pulp, Inc., proposes installing a "water curtain" that would use "weak wash" -- recaptured water from the mill operation -- to clean the scrubber. The company's staff recently visited a mill in Canada that satisfactorily uses a water curtain. "This is the absolute quickest, best solution," said CEO David Tsang. It would take a month to install. Evergreen, which bought the mill in January, has been under the gun to clean up the mill's particulate emissions, which have exceeded permitted levels and could pose health risks to humans. Evergreen's been operating under a variance from the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District, which allowed it to operate without penalties for polluting while it sought fixes for the emissions problems. The company has fixed one offender, the lime kiln, and has sought a second variance to allow it time to resolve smelt dissolver scrubber emissions. As we went to press Tuesday, the district was holding a hearing on the requested variance. But on Monday, district director Lawrence Odle said Evergreen must meet certain conditions -- and the water curtain's but a spit in the wind toward the fix. "One non-negotiable condition requires ambient monitoring," said Odle. That is, the company must install -- or collaborate with the district to install -- pollution monitoring equipment downwind, on the ground level, where emissions are likely to have the most impact on people. Other conditions include installing strainers to clean the recycled water used in the water curtain, developing a preventative maintenance plan ("Our observation is that they don't fix it until it's broken," said Odle), an updated health risk assessment, an updated emission inventory and "a real-time, in-stack monitor that tells us what particulates are coming out, and how much." The district also wants to know what's going in the scrubber. "The big problem is, Evergreen [doesn't] know the root cause of these emissions," Odle said. As for the water curtain, Odle is not impressed. Unlike the Canadian mill's water curtain, which uses "combined condensate," Evergreen proposes using dirtier water that's already been through the mill. "Think of it as washing your white shirts in the same water over and over and over," Odle said. "It's going to improve the particulates, but we don't believe it's going to bring them into compliance." So, as a backup plan, the district wants Evergreen to add a "venturi" scrubber to the series of cleaning devices. "The irony of this is, a 1997 internal memo at this pulp mill found their own consultant recommending the addition of the venturi scrubber," said Odle. "And the environmental consultant they're using today is that same [person]. So, this has been on the table for eight years -- and now they're proposing installing a dirty-water curtain." Regardless of the solution, the district wants the mill in compliance by Sept. 1.
POSTPONED OYSTERS STILL TASTY: Marsha Lenz, owner of Folie Douce restaurant in Arcata, prepared grilled oysters dressed in wasabi sauce with plum paste June 18 in the pouring rain on the Arcata Plaza. Aqua-Rodeo, an oyster growing company, barbecued under a tarp that also shielded customers. They were the only two vendors there. "We did it as a community service," Lenz said. "People who traveled from far away were so grateful. We had customers from Eastern Europe and Arizona that Saturday." The following week, the Oyster Festival proceeded as planned, with just a few booth cancellations due to prior commitments. According to Michael Behney of Arcata Main Street, there was no noticeable depreciation in the crowds, however. He estimated 15,000 in attendance June 25, about the size of the crowds in 2004. "All 12 blocks (four on the Plaza and all eight feeder blocks) were full," Behney said. Scott Sterner, owner of North Bay Oyster Co. and supplier of a number of local restaurants, said he had harvested thousands of oysters early, but he held most of them in refrigeration for one week. "It's a good thing, actually, because we were shut down [prevented from harvesting] after that." Excessive rains can cause too much runoff and contamination from cow pastures, for instance, triggering a ban on harvesting from the health department. A 2004 study by Humboldt State University estimated the economic impact of the festival at more than $700,000 spent on food, retail items and accommodations.
HOOPA ELECTION RESULTS: Hoopa Valley Tribal Council Chairman Clifford Lyle Marshall barely held onto his seat last Tuesday in the tribe's general election. Marshall won the chairman's race with 436 votes to opponent Duane Sherman Sr.'s 397. The high votes for Sherman, who has served twice before as tribal chairman and challenged Marshall in the past election, surprised some tribal members, who thought perhaps Sherman's past indiscretions on the council might count more against him. Sherman, during a previous tenure as tribal chairman, was thrown out of office amid allegations about his personal and professional conduct. Also in the election, three of the seven council seats were decided: Incumbent Margaret Mattz-Dickson took the Soctish/Chenone District seat with 486 votes to Arnold Beeson's 347; Byron Nelson Jr. upset incumbent Edward K. Guyer II, 438 to 396, to take the Agency District seat; and incumbent Leroy Jackson kept his Bald Hill District seat with 466 votes to Rob Roy Latham Jr.'s 367. Of the 1,331 tribal members qualified to vote, 848 members went to the polls.
by JUDY HODGSON
The idea wasn't original -- but the execution certainly was.
When Dell'Arte needed to raise funds for its new building, someone suggested producing and selling a calendar for 2006. Not just any calendar. This calendar would feature Dell'Arte cast and crewmembers doing what they normally do every day for the world-reknowned school of physical theater in Blue Lake -- rehearsing, painting sets and, in general, clowning around. The plan was for them to be photographed by a professional photographer -- nude.
The idea, of course, is a complete rip-off of the wildly popular nude calendar project by the otherwise proper ladies of the Rylstone Women's Institute in North Yorkshire, England, immortalized in the 2003 movie Calendar Girls.
The Rylstone women produce a local calendar based on pastoral scenes around the Yorkshire dales each year as a fund-raiser. But in 1999 the husband of one of the ladies became ill with leukemia and the women decided to make an alternative calendar of themselves, decked out in pearls but otherwise tastefully topless, doing ordinary things like baking cupcakes or painting a picture. They had hoped to sell a few hundred copies around their villages, but the calendar quickly became an international phenomenon that made celebrities of the women and landed them on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno.
Since Dell'Arte is big on creativity, the challenge was the execution.
"Dell'Arte sat down as a group and made up a story," said Robin Robin, a veteran commercial photographer, who shot the photos in his Eureka studio earlier this year.
When arranged from November back to January in a line, the months make up a continuous story. (December is the entire composition.)
"It's one long event, all taking place at once," Robin said.
It starts with a topless Joan Schirle, founding artistic director, in rehearsal. Two guys are moving a ladder and one of them -- dressed in boots, a tool belt and a smile -- inadvertently stands on the hem of her skirt. The mayhem proceeds from there -- a distracted production manager (Tisha Sloan) spills coffee on the somewhat exposed lap of Artistic Director Michael Fields. Needless to say, there's a rubber chicken involved, a giant fish, someone being launched into the air and a barbeque. (If you've ever seen a Dell'Arte production, this will all make perfect sense.)
Robin, who has been photographing people and products for 45 years in Eureka, Los Angeles and Europe, said he had never done a project quite like this before, one where a series of photographs tells a story.
"I've done nudes, of course. I did a series of black nudes for the Nikon House (on Rockefeller Square in New York)," he said.
The new Dell'Arte building, designed by Arcata architect Kash Boodjeh, will eventually be built on a lot adjacent to Dell'Arte's complex in downtown Blue Lake. The school has 50 full-time students, 24 of them working on a master of fine arts (MFA) degree for ensemble-based physical theater, a new three-year program.
"It's the only MFA of its kind in the world," Fields said.
The building will house more teaching studios with dorm-style housing on the upper floor, plus offices and storage.
"The calendar is our first shameless attempt to raise money for the new building," Fields said. "We need to raise $2 million."
The calendars, which sell for $15 each, are currently available only in Blue Lake. A poster version is coming out soon.
"Plus, we'll autograph it for free," said Fields -- or, as he is otherwise known, "Mr. August."
Above right: From
the calendar, month of June: Daniel Stein, projects director,
by HEIDI WALTERS
SHIVELY RESIDENT JACK JONES SR. IS SCRATCHING HIS head over how his land down along the Eel River ended up re-zoned for agricultural use only, even though he says it's been subdivided into 83-by-120-foot mostly buildable lots since 1911 and two of the lots even have houses on them.
Jones, a self-described "long-time produce farmer," only discovered the zoning oddity recently, in the process of trying to sell the property to developer Jens Sund of Eureka, who wants to build homes on the lots.
Last week -- prodded into action partly by the county's General Plan update, which is stirring up land planning debates among residents -- Jones and his son-in-law, Jason Hubbard, came into the Journal office wielding maps showing the zoning discrepancy: a 1911 blueprint of the approved subdivision and proposed street names, with the signatures of the then-county supervisors and county auditor on it, and a 1999 county map that has disappeared the lot lines and labeled Jones' property "AE," or agriculture-exclusive. The re-zoning -- the land was dubbed "unclassified" before -- happened in 1999, when the county amended the General Plan's Avenue of the Giants component, which includes Shively. Jones said he was around during that amendment process, that he attended the meetings and even served on a committee, but that he never heard his land was going to be re-zoned.
"I was never notified," he said. "I should have got a certified letter, but I didn't. Not a soul I know of got a letter." He said that when he finally discovered the rezoning and asked about it, the county told him that all it was required to do at the time of the amendment process was to post legal notices in the newspaper. Jones has since procured a copy of that legal notice. "If I had heard then [about the rezoning], I would have fought it," he said.
In an interview Tuesday morning, Sund said about 39 of the 50-some lots he's trying to buy can be built on. Jones concurs, saying in a letter that his subdivided property was approved in 1911 "with water, power and approvable septic systems," and adding that his property is "above the '64 flood mark and on a paved county road."
Sund said that before he started the purchase proceedings, he talked with his title agent and an engineer in Fortuna, who both told him the property was subdivided. So he put the property in escrow, he said, and went to talk to the county about his plans for the property.
"Three times at the counter, I was told it wasn't a subdivision," he said. "I don't know if they were intentionally putting me off, but I tell you, these are their most experience planners telling me this."
He had his attorney Bill Barnum look into the matter. In a June 10, 2005 letter, County Counsel Carolyn J. Ruth responded to Barnum's inquiry about the land. The upshot: "The existence of legally subdivided lots does not mean a right exists to construct homes," wrote Ruth. "Specifically, an approved subdivision map does not give a vested right to build." Later, she wrote: "[A]n application for building permits pursuant to this map would require the Planning Division to subject the project to current zoning and plan requirements. Currently, the land in question is planned and zoned for agricultural uses." That means, according to AE zoning, only one dwelling is permitted per 20 acres, she said, and that dwelling has to be related to the agricultural activities.
Property owner Jones said he has met with county staff a couple of times to try to sort out the matter. Another meeting was scheduled with county planning director Kirk Girard for this Monday, but it was cancelled, said Jones. Their case may be brought to the Board of Supervisors instead. The Journal had not heard from Girard by press time.
Jones and Hubbard, his son-in-law, fear the rezoning could jeopardize the sale to Sund, or result in a lesser sale. "They're trying to make us not sell," said Hubbard. Jones added: "If it's [ag-exclusive], who's going to buy it? And if a piece of land is worth a million and a half dollars, once you slap [ag-exclusive] on it, it's only worth $500,000. So I'm losing a million dollars. This was my retirement."
But Sund said he's going to go ahead and apply for a building permit for one home, to see what happens. After all, perhaps it is all just a big goof. Also, he said, there are other land owners in Shively who are getting variances to build on some of their ag-zoned land. "Some people can get [variances], some people can't."
If it turns out he can build on the lots, Sund said he has a couple of ideas for them. He could put in summer homes: "It's beautiful out there. It's out of the fog, it's within walking distance of the river." But he said he likes the idea of building affordable homes -- and points to the county's mandate to provide them.
"I've been in negotiations with the Hoopa tribe to put modulars out there," Sund said. (The tribe recently opened a new factory to produce a variety of modular houses to be sold to developers.) "I think the homes could come in under $200,000 for a three-bedroom home," he said.
by HEIDI WALTERS
DENNIS MAYO IS NOT A SNOWY PLOVER HATER. NOR SOME KIND OF VANDAL who goes around destroying predator fencing set up around plover nests, or other such "horrible, barbaric things" which have occurred at Clam Beach in the past, and of which Mayo says some folks have indirectly accused him.
"When you get hooliganism, or vandalism," he says, "I'm the first guy to come down on them like a sledgehammer!" (He mentions a couple of times he and his buddies have had to take bad drivers to task down at the beach.)
The plover, federally listed as a threatened species, nests at Clam Beach. Its protection is one element in the county's Clam and Moonstone Beach Management Plan, which is undergoing public review through July 8. Among other things, the plan proposes to continue closing Clam Beach at night to vehicles; closing it to vehicles on high-use weekends (such as the Fourth of July weekend); and closing the beach to vehicles seasonally, except to clammers with permits, from March 1 to Sept. 30, when the plover is nesting in the dunes.
The biggie in the plan, for Mayo and some others, is the language pertaining to vehicles. "It's about the loss of a lifestyle, of a way of life," he says. "We've got so few places" where people can drive on beaches. And, he says he is "tired of being misrepresented" by people "who just hate vehicles." He's been vocal at public meetings. And, last weekend, he was handing out petitions at the Oyster Festival that call for the supervisors to "correct the negative restrictions" proposed in the beach master plan.
"I don't have anything against the plover," says Mayo. "I'm the No. 1 naturalist that you ever met." He says he has personally gone to horse clubs and other venues to talk about being careful not to tread on the plover nesting grounds. Still, he doesn't agree that the plover's in danger. "It isn't the plover it's the people that would use it for economic and sociological gain. It's a cash cow" for scientists, he says.
Well ... the scientists do say the plover hasn't quite recovered to delisting status yet, although it is doing better. Ron LeValley of Mad River Biologists says symbolic fencing and nighttime beach closures have helped protect the plover, and chick hatches are up. But LeValley agrees the plover isn't the biggest issue out at Clam Beach: "It's the ability to go and have a clean, healthy, safe experience at the beach."
Which brings us back to the cars, campers and hooligans. "About two years ago, it reached a peak," LeValley says. "There was a group of people just really abusing the place: big parties every night, bonfires right next to the snowy plover nest sites, drug dealing, and someone burned a swastika in the beach." People were driving too fast, and up onto the dunes. Now, things are better, except increased usage of the beach still results in clashes. But LeValley never thought it was Mayo who did the vandalism.
Mayo, however, thinks "eco-terrorists" did it, to further "the cause" of closing the beach to everyone. Does he equate the county's beach management plan to eco-terrorism? "Yes!" he says.
OK, so he does get a little excited.
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