July 18, 2002
A statewide initiative proposed
by a Southern California man seeks to legalize Las Vegas-style
gambling in Eureka as a test pilot for the state.
Robert W. Wilson of Studio City, Calif., has filed an initiative to amend the state Constitution to allow "sports wagering, roulette, slot machines and percentage games played with cards or dice for the next 28 years in the city of Eureka on an experimental basis."
This is Wilson's second attempt to gather enough signatures to force a statewide vote.
"We first heard about it about a year ago. This group from Ventura was promoting [legalized gambling in] 12 California cities and up to two Indian reservations," said Eureka City Manager Dave Tyson by telephone Tuesday. "We thought it was dead in April, then it came up again in early June."
Both times Tyson took the matter to the Eureka Council and councilmembers directed him to send a letter of opposition directly to the Secretary of State's Office.
The initiative would create a three-member state commission to supervise gambling operations and operators and a commission appointed by the city of Eureka to investigate applicants for gaming licenses.
The fiscal impact on state and local government "could result in revenues ... potentially up to the low millions of dollars annually from fees and taxes ... and other related economic activity," according to the initiative proposal.
Even with the promise of such riches, city officials are saying, "Thanks, but no thanks."
The Arcata House, which provides temporary shelter to those who cannot afford housing, has found another home. A ground-breaking ceremony Friday celebrates the beginning of the renovation of the old Eagles Hall on 11th and I streets in Arcata.
The 10-year-old non-profit already runs two homes in the city and this will be the third.
The first step in the renovation, demolishing the building from the inside out, has been completed. The work involved removing pest-infested wood and salvaging old redwood beams.
Most of the outside structure has remained intact, and Arcata House officials say they intend to preserve as much of the building as possible.
The remodeling is estimated to cost $247,000. The remodel is funded through the city of Arcata from a federal development block grant.
When completed, the new Arcata House will house six people and provide office space for the nonprofit's operators.
The Arcata House provides transitional housing to people who are suffering from a financial setback. The goal is to help them acquire permanent housing.
Humboldt State University is expecting a 12 percent increase in incoming freshmen and new transfer and graduate students for the fall semester. That number is up significantly from previous years, university officials said.
In addition, HSU has seen a 30 percent increase in enrollment applications for the past two years, placing it near the top of the 23 California State University campuses.
"(We) had the third highest gain in the CSU system," said Ron Maggiore, dean of enrollment management.
A shift in HSU's recruitment plan, seeking students from up and down the state, is partially responsible for increased enrollment, Maggiore said.
Limiting recruitment to within 100 miles of the university would have meant fewer students, he said.
But whether the downturn in the economy played a role in increasing enrollment won't be known for another 18 months. That is because the recruitment cycle runs about 18 months out, Maggiore added.
As of July 3, 310 new students were enrolled at HSU, an 8 percent increase, according to university spokesman Sean Kearns.
"Freshman registration numbers are up significantly from last year," Kearns said.
Additionally, the number of students who applied for admittance to HSU increased by 29 percent and the number of students admitted increased by 27 percent.
However, those numbers are hard to assess because students could be applying to more than one campus in the state university system, Kearns said.
That could mean HSU is not necessarily a student's first choice.
HSU is expected to enroll 731 freshman this fall, for a total student population of 7,382, said Dennis Armstrong, public affairs assistant for the CSU system in Long Beach.
Maggiore is optimistic that HSU has turned the corner on enrollment.
"Building enrollment is a high priority for the (university) president," Maggiore said, referring to the new top man at HSU, Rollin Richmond.
But even with the increased enrollment, HSU is still among the lowest for student population in the statewide system, Armstrong said.
San Diego State university leads with a student population of 31,609. CSU Monterey Bay, in contrast, has 2,600. The California Maritime Academy in Vallejo has 653 students, Armstrong said.
Seventeen employees were laid-off from the Arcata Co-op last Friday and more layoffs are expected by the end of this week.
"Of course, we'd like to see more people keep their jobs," said John Fromm, a Co-op employee and union organizer, "but if it's what the Co-op feels it has to do, we can't do much about it."
So far the layoffs have been limited to staff in the coffee bar and juice bar, but Fromm declined to speculate as to what other parts of the store might get hit with layoffs.
The juice bar, which was closed with the layoffs, is scheduled to be back in operation by next Monday.
The reason for the layoffs? A bloated workforce, with payroll accounting for 25 percent of the $13 million in gross sales, and the fact that the store has been running in the red for the past two years.
"We're in a transition period, " said store General Manager Patrick Cleary. "We did lay off quite a few people, but it's not a huge number, and we're trying to keep it to a minimum."
Susan Tatro, the 56-year-old woman charged with allowing her dog Phoenix to die of neglect and malnutrition, pled guilty last week to a felony that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
In a separate case, Dan Evans, a Eureka man who poisoned and killed five cats with antifreeze, was charged with a misdemeanor, causing some to wonder if justice has gone awry.
"I do think there is a discrepancy there," said John McCrone, Tatro's public defender. "[Evans] used antifreeze to kill cats; that's a much more active role in animal cruelty."
He said that the felony charge against Tatro was too harsh considering her age and lack of any previous criminal record.
McCrone didn't debate the problems that both cases unearthed with animal control efforts in Humboldt County.
"We don't have the funding next year for the Humane Society... and then what?" McCrone said.
Tatro is set to be sentenced in August. (See the Journal's June 6 cover story, "Phoenix didn't have to die")
The Arcata Theatre will once again change hands: giving yet another proprietor at shot at turning it into the performance venue it has long promised to be.
Nathan Kaplan, an Arcata area musician, has made a bid on the theater and is in the process of closing escrow with the current owner, Robert White.
The current asking price for the theater is $485,000.
According to sources, White bought the theater from David Phillips of the Minor Theater Corp. for $350,000.
Former Congressman Dan Hamburg is leading a renewed charge to ban the logging of all old-growth trees in California.
The Heritage Tree Restoration Act would ban the logging of any tree standing since 1850 on state or private land that is of a certain diameter.
The act, a ballot initiative, needs 420,000 signatures to get on the state ballot in 2004 -- an amount organizers fell far short of achieving when trying to get it on this year's ballot.
According to the California Forestry Association, a timber industry trade group, the act would put $6 billion to $11 billion worth of timber off limits, which could severely damage rural economies.
Groups such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and celebrities such as James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt have endorsed the measure. Hamburg, who served in Congress from 1992-94, is co-author of the initiative.
Aimee Joy Morris, [photo at right] is headed for San Jose this weekend to participate in the Miss American Coed Pageant, a beauty and talent contest in which the top prize is a college scholarship. A student at Lincoln Elementary in Eureka, Aimee is entered in the preteen division. Her older sister, Rebecca Rose Morris, who will attend Winship Middle School in the fall, is competing in the junior teen division. Both sisters will play the harp for the talent portion of the competition. Winners will go to the national finals in Orlando, Fla.
Humboldt County might not be such a bad place to find a job after all.
The county's unemployment rate in June was 5.7 percent compared to 6.4 percent statewide.
Traditionally, the county has had a higher rate of unemployment than the state average. But over the last 10 years the gap has closed steadily and now the county is edging ahead.
"Part of the reason is that Humboldt County did not participate to the extent of the rest of the state in the technology boom, so we didn't participate as much in the technology bust," said Steve Hackett, professor of economics at Humboldt State University.
The unemployment rate varies widely throughout the county, ranging from a low of 2.1 percent in Ferndale, where only 10 of the available work force of 620 are jobless, to 12.4 percent in Rio Dell, where 150 out of 1,210 are without work.
The unemployment rate stands at 11.2 percent in Willow Creek; 6.4 percent in Arcata; 5.8 percent in Eureka, 4.7 percent in Fortuna; 4.5 percent in McKinleyville; and 4.4 percent in Blue Lake.
Ferndale's award-winning B & B, the Gingerbread Mansion, has been sold by its owner of 21 years, Ken Torbert, to Tom Amato and Maggie Dowd, East Coast residents who recently relocated here.
Torbert had shepherded the inn through years of growth and international acclaim, culminating in it being selected as the "Most Excellent Inn in North America" in 2001 by the Johansen's guides to hotels, inns and lodges.
Citing the inn's already excellent reputation, the new owners say they don't plan any major changes except for a few tweaks to the menu by the Culinary Institute of America-trained Dowd.
Tired of pulp mills, diminishing fishing fleets and the occasional cruiseliner? Want to find out how a real port works?
Humboldt County's Ad Hoc Committee for Economic Development is sponsoring a bus trip Aug. 1 to tour the port of Oakland.
"Most people up here haven't seen a working port," said Bill Bertain, a Eureka lawyer who is organizing the trip and who founded the Citizens for Port Development 25 years ago. "It can be a real engine for economic survivability and still be compatible with all the good things we have up here."
About 20 people have signed up so far, including the head of the harbor district.
For information, call Timbuk Tours at 442-5800.
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© Copyright 2002, North Coast Journal, Inc.