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July 1, 1999

 

Welfare director arrested again

Wal-Mart debate heats up

Chamber loses director

Local papers honored

Trash site selected

Dog D-Day approaches

Bucks stop here

Endeavour sails Monday

A news break at 11?

1st District hopefuls

House OKs flag amendment


Welfare director arrested again

For the second time in two-and-a-half years John Frank, the director of the Humboldt County Department of Social Services, was arrested following an alcohol-related injury accident.

On Tuesday, June 22, Frank was driving east about 45 miles from Willows on State Highway 162, a Forest Service road, when he struck a dirt embankment and rolled his truck, according to the California Highway Patrol report.

His blood alcohol level at the time was .19, according to a spokesperson for the Glenn County CHP. He was treated for moderate injuries at Glenn Medical Center and released.

At the time of the accident, 3 p.m., Frank had been scheduled to be at the University of California at Davis attending a training session for California welfare directors. The session started at 12:30 p.m. that day. Frank had requested and received an advance to attend the meeting, according to the county auditor's office.

The accident occurred "a long way from Davis," the CHP spokesperson said.

Frank was unavailable for comment. A secretary in his office this week said he was on leave, but she would not confirm if it was administrative or medical.

Frank was involved in a strikingly similar accident Oct. 6, 1996. He rolled his car on Fairway Drive in Eureka, received minor injuries but was not hospitalized. He later pleaded guilty to drunken driving, was fined $2,000 and placed on probation for three years. His blood alcohol in that accident was reportedly .20 or higher.

The accidents were not the only time Frank has been the center of recent controversy. In 1997 Frank was investigated by the Humboldt County Grand Jury and featured in its annual report. Frank had used proceeds from two statewide conferences, held in Eureka in 1990 and 1994, to purchase office furniture for himself and to set up a trust fund in his father's name to benefit a children shelter. At first the California Welfare Directors Association demanded the return of the money $25,000 but after a year of trying, dropped the matter. The grand jury recommended the money be returned but the county Board of Supervisors took no action.

Last year the grand jury investigated additional financial irregularities involving the welfare director and travel expenses, in particular the practice of charging for meals on travel when meals were provided, called "double dipping." In addition, the panel investigated an incident in which Frank used the welfare offices and telephones off-hours for fund-raising activities by a private, non-profit organization.

Both matters were handled "administratively," according to County Administrative Officer John Murray at the time. The findings were never reported in last year's grand jury report.

As to the latest accident, Murray said Tuesday, "We're looking into it. It's a personnel matter."


Wal-Mart debate heats up

Let the educational games begin!

With the Wal-Mart special election just two months away, proponents and opponents have begun working in earnest to win the hearts and minds of Eureka voters. But both sides are keeping their game plans guarded.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Daphne Davis declined to give specifics regarding the company's role in the election campaign other than to say the company is "very serious about coming to Eureka." She confirmed that a recent controversial public opinion poll that asked questions like, "What do you think of Mayor Nancy Flemming," is "related to the election."

A local Measure J supporter, Jerri Murphy, was reluctant to discuss details of her committee's plans other than to offer a teaser during a conference call Tuesday.

"I can tell you it's going to be fun," said Murphy, a volunteer and coalition member of the Eureka Citizens, Businesses and Wal-Mart Stores for Responsible Economic Planning. A paid consultant was listening in on the call, but asked to not be identified.

After collecting the necessary signatures to put the measure on the ballot, Murphy signed on as one of five Eureka residents supporting the initiative. If successful, the measure directs the city to rezone a waterfront parcel from public to service commercial.

The 30-acre balloon tract, currently owned by Union Pacific Railroad, was once the hub for the Northwestern Pacific Railroad. Escrow is expected to close about two months after the election.

"If it doesn't pass, then it wasn't meant to be," Murphy said, adding that at least Eureka voters were presented with the option.

Of all the obstacles Wal-Mart must overcome, the California Coastal Commission approval is still expected to be the most difficult. But the city election Aug. 24 may be the most vocal.

To Murphy, getting the store in Eureka is a matter of competition, faith in the free enterprise system and building the local economy. The Eureka native, who works in finance, hopes Wal-Mart will increase the sales tax base in Eureka.

Murphy's opponents said during a news conference Tuesday that Wal-Mart won't bring in new dollars, just rearrange them.

"Wal-Mart says it will create 250 new jobs in the area. But for every job created, 1.5 are lost," said attorney Tim Needham, a member of the No on J committee, who addressed what he called "the Wal-Mart myths."

Studies also show "for every dollar Wal-Mart grosses (in other communities), 80 cents comes out of the pocket of local merchants," he added.

Patty Berg, chair of the committee, agrees, saying the election "is really about quality of life issues."

"I came here 25 years ago fell in love with the place, and stayed. What we have here is unique," she said.

Berg's group gathered a number of community leaders Tuesday to speak against the measure, including representatives of the Humboldt County Taxpayers League, Citizens for Port Development and others.

Humboldt County 4th District Supervisor Bonnie Neely called the measure "just bad land use."

"We've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years on these (economic reports) and not one of them ever said that we should use waterfront property for a discount retail store," she said.

Neely said the city officials should have required a conditional use permit for the project because it would trigger a site analysis and environmental review. As it stands, she said, the only review will be on the 130,000-square-foot building, "the equivalent of eight to 10 city blocks."

"We don't have a regionalized vision," Berg said during a follow-up interview Tuesday, echoing Neely's statement.

Others in the No camp say using the parcel for a retail store would preempt its use as a vital transportation link.

With the port deepening in progress and the railroad repairs underway and funded, "This is not the time to change the zoning of the last available property" where the rail line meets the bay, said Chuck Goodwin Jr., president of the Taxpayers League.

But Murphy said Eurekans should seize the opportunity presented by Wal-Mart because no industrial developer has shown serious interest in the property which will require expensive toxic clean-up. She also praised Wal-Mart representatives for going of their way to appease citizen concerns.

"Wal-Mart is standing there with its checkbook open," she said. -- by SUSAN WOOD


Chamber loses director

The Eureka Chamber of Commerce lost its newly hired executive director, after only two weeks on the job.

Keith Welch resigned with "no reason given," chamber President Dale Warmuth said.

"I wish I knew why he resigned," Warmuth said. "It's beyond explanation."

The chamber hired Welch after a 10-week search. It will probably use an executive headhunter to find his replacement.

"I'm confident we will soon find a replacement," he added.

Welch could not be reached for comment.


Local papers honored

Three weekly North Coast publications received awards for excellence in print journalism last weekend in an annual contest sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

The Ferndale Enterprise took first place in its size category for a series of public service stories and editorials on the decommissioning of the U.S. Navy base on Centerville Beach outside Ferndale.

It was the fourth award in three years the local paper captured for weeklies with circulations under 4,300, Editor and Publisher Carolyn Titus confirmed. The publication's circulation is 1,400.

"It's been a tough, uphill battle," Titus said, describing a climb to credibility in recent years. But the outcome is "very rewarding."

The Lumberjack, Humboldt State University's weekly newspaper, grabbed a second-place award among four-year colleges for general excellence for issues published during 1998. The editor at the time was Mike Plett, who now works as a graphic designer for the Modesto Bee.

For front page design, the Humboldt Beacon based in Fortuna took away the second-place award for newspapers with circulations between 4,301 and 11,000.

In the daily category of newspapers circulating between 75,000 and 200,000, the Press Democrat based in Santa Rosa won six awards.

CNPA presented awards in 26 categories at a luncheon Saturday in Pasadena.



Trash site selected

The Humboldt County Waste Management Authority agreed last week to buy City Garbage Co.'s transfer station on Hawthorne Street in Eureka and made residents near two alternative sites not chosen happy in the process.

The authority will pay $3.5 million for the facility, which it plans to remodel or rebuild, and adjacent property totaling eight parcels. The expanded agreement represents a way the county agency could deal with an earlier concern that this site would have inadequate space for all its transfer station plans, authority General Manager Gerald Kindsfather said.

The City Garbage site has no direct access to rail service, so transportation remains a drawback that makes the site more expensive, he added. The plan is to ship waste by rail.

The waste authority needs to have a new transfer station in place by November 2000, when the city of Arcata stops handling the trash at the temporary Arcata transfer station.

The purchase of the Hawthorne Street site also includes City Garbage's landfill on Cummings Road since the company would have no further use for it.

Construction is due to begin next spring, Kindsfather said, adding plans like tree-planting to spruce up the area.

"I think people will be surprised at how good a transfer station can look," he said.

Final agreement is contingent upon the environmental review within the next three months. The pact, due July 14, also depends on the blessing of both boards of the two entities with their respective attorneys and City Garbage receiving extensions on its current collection contracts until the year 2010 with the city of Eureka and the county.

At the same meeting last week, the authority passed a $5.2 million budget for fiscal year 1999-2000.


Dog D-Day approaches

[photo of shelter puppy]Today, July 1, 350 animal shelters across California are supposed to extend the impound period time before a dog or cat is euthanized from three to six days, according to a new law sponsored by state Sen. Tom Hayden, D-Santa Monica.

At press time, a measure to delay implementation of the new law by one year was pending. The closely watched bill by Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, passed the Assembly and awaits Senate action.

The Sequoia Humane Society, through its contract with the county and its cities, takes in more than 500 dogs and cats each month, according to Director Ron Lapham. Over 70 percent are eventually killed.

Local governments contributed $140,000 toward the $315,000, five-year contract that has just expired. The Eureka-based non-profit recently agreed to a three-month, $60,000 extension with the county contingent on passage of the Alquist bill.

The county did not want to get "locked in" to another five-year contract with Sequoia Humane Society, said John Falkenstrom, county agricultural commissioner.

"Whatever it takes, we want out of that."

The county's animal control administrator is negotiating with a local veterinarian, who has outbid a Sonoma County vendor, to take unruly dogs.

But grown dogs are only part of the problem, Lapham said. Half of the shelter inmates are puppies and kittens.

In addition to delaying implementation of the Hayden bill, this new legislation requires that shelters needing extra time to come up with a cost analysis, an outline of space provided and a day of the week to stay open after hours.

A spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control said adoption rates improved once it began staying open on Wednesday nights.

Some animal rights activists are calling for a "no-kill" policy, which Falkenstrom call "a great goal but not attainable."

Miranda Rescue of Ferndale also receives animals, operating as a "no-kill" facility. Owner Shannon Miranda, who has dedicated his life to protecting animals since he became disabled, is applying for a permit with the county to operate.

For two years he has taken in horses, cats, dogs, llamas, pigs, goats and geese from as far away as Las Vegas. He also takes some birds, such as owls, to the Wildlife Care Center in Carlotta and sea lions to the North Coast Marine Mammal Center in Crescent City.

Another privately run "no-kill" shelter in Honeydew was denied a conditional-use permit last week by the county Board of Supervisors for allegedly violating building and zoning codes.

Supervisor Stan Dixon said the shelter "infuriated some neighbors," who accused the owner of letting dogs run loose.



Bucks stop here

Federal and state officials last week announced the release of up to $12 million in disaster relief funds to the Northwestern Pacific Railroad. The funds are to be used to get the 300-mile railway up and running along the North Coast again.

The specific amount, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state Office of Emergency Services, has yet to be determined. However the North Coast Railroad Authority, operator of the line, will be asking for $13 million, according to NCRA President Allan Hemphill.

The line, from Eureka through the Eel River Canyon to Fort Seward, has been closed for over a year. Since May crews have been removing debris and re-laying track, and have completed rail repairs up to a point near Petaluma.

"We're just marching north now," Hemphill said.

Crews should complete work to Willits by the end of next month, he predicted, and the entire line north to Eureka by next fall.

Beyond the rail authority, elected officials have been eager to make progress in getting the rail service running again. Businesses shipping agricultural products, in particular, have been "getting killed" with high trucking rates, Hemphill said.



Endeavour sails Monday

H.M. Bark Endeavour a replica of Capt. James Cook's 18th century tall ship a broadside near Trinidad Head upon her arrival in Humboldt County. Tours of the worldly ship continue through July 4 at the Bonnie Gool Guest Dock on the waterfront in Eureka. The ship departs Monday.



A news break at 11?

Late-night television viewers looking for more of a choice at 11 p.m. may get it from the Public Broadcasting Service in a year or two.

MacNeil-Lehrer Productions is considering developing a half-hour program that will feature national news similar to the MacNeil-Lehrer "NewsHour" along with time alloted for PBS stations to air local news, publicist Sara Hope-Franks said.

If it's offered, KEET-TV Program Director Karen Barnes said the station is very interested.

KEET, one of the smallest PBS stations in the nation, is already looking at signing on to rebroadcast the 6 p.m. NewsHour at midnight. Robert MacNeil retired from the show, which celebrates its 25th anniversary on the air next year.

It is unclear who would host the national segment of the proposed late-evening show now under review.

MacNeil told the Associated Press the extended NewsHour selection is meant to bring forth a substantive alternative to "body bag" journalism found on late-night local news programs, referring to crime beat news segments.

While receiving the Quinniplac College's Fred Friendly First Amendment journalism award for the nightly newscast with his former co-anchor, Jim Lehrer also denounced the TV networks for viewing news as entertainment. He took aim at opinionated reporters, invasions of privacy and public leering, according to an AP report.

Even PBS isn't immune to criticism.

The network was under scrutiny recently when the former moderator of the Washington Week in Review, Ken Bode, reportedly walked away from the job when the show's new management asked for "more attitude." PBS management has denied the characterization.

And when more than 100 PBS stations aired a program that deals with how schools in the United States are addressing gay issues in the classrooms, it caused enough protest nationally that a rebuttal show was offered.

In the last few weeks, KEET has run both "It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School" and "Suffer the Children" in back-to-back segments

Barnes said local reaction was mixed. Those who opposed the initial documentary live outside KEET's reach, she said. Support came from local residents including one who left a message saying, "What's this right-wing crap."



1st District hopefuls

Two candidates announced their candidacy for Stan Dixon's 1st District seat on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. John Fullerton and Chris Crawford both announced their plans to run for the county supervisor's seat this week.

Fullerton, a certified public accountant, said that incumbent Dixon has lost touch with the people of the 1st District. He is seeking to alter the way the county's fiscal projects have been managed.

Crawford, a technology and court management consultant, said that he plans to look at economic development from a large picture and to make wise fiscal decisions.

Dixon told the Journal he plans to formerly announce his intention to run for re-election within the week.



House OKs flag amendment

In time for the holiday that celebrates the nation's independence, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a proposed amendment to ban flag burning last week, the Associated Press reported.

The 305-124 vote marked the third time in four years the measure to protect the national symbol passed the House. It's headed for the Senate, which according to observers, it will probably be rejected.


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