August 17, 2000
Eureka City Councilperson Cherie Arkley and her husband, businessmen Rob Arkley, notified the council Tuesday by letter that they are withdrawing an offer of a gift of up to $3 million for the purchase and cleanup of the 30-acre parcel known as the balloon tract.
"Due to the instability in the city government of both elected and appointed officials, the Arkleys felt it prudent to withdraw," said their attorney David Dun of Eureka.
Dun spoke specifically of the council termination two weeks ago of City Manager Harvey Rose, who he called "the man who masterminded the rather complicated deal" that would have allowed the city to accept the gift from a seated council member.
Dun said while it is illegal for a city council member to donate to a city for a specific purpose -- with strings attached -- it is not illegal for a council to open escrow with the seller, Union Pacific, and to create an account into which the Arkleys and others could contribute -- "like a non-profit," Dunn added.
Council member Jim Gupton, who led the charge to fire Rose and is supporting Assistant City Manager David Tyson as Rose's permanent replacement, is up for re-election but is not running. He said previously that the Arkleys should donate the money first and then the city should decide how to use it.
"But there have been no negotiations (with Union Pacific), no escrow papers, no steps being taken to proceed," Dun said. "There was a `Y' in the road and the council went the other way."
The economy of Humboldt County may not be on the fast track to prosperity -- but at least it's not shrinking.
The latest Index of Economic Indicators, published monthly by Deborah Keeth and Professor Steve Hackett of Humboldt State University, shows a continuing trend of slow growth, probably linked to increases in interest rates by the Federal Reserve.
Interest rate hikes raise the cost of mortgages. That means fewer people will be building new houses and Humboldt County suffers when fewer people need lumber.
Manufacturing orders at lumber companies were slightly higher in June than May, but show a long-term downward trend -- 40 percent less than in 1997. Hackett said that manufacturing is a small but vital part of Humboldt County's economy.
"It's only about 10 percent of the labor force," Hackett said, but that 10 percent is crucial because the income it brings from outside.
Hackett said economic diversification can help shield Humboldt County against the highs and lows that changes in interest rates bring. Increases in other sources of outside revenue -- such as tourism, retail or high-tech industries --insulate the county against "riding the roller coaster" of a manufacturing-based economy.
One sector of the economy is on the rise -- retail sales. The retail sales figures increased 7 percent over the last month, continuing a four-year trend of retail sales growth totalling 50 percent. It's a sign, Hackett said, that people still feel confident about their economic prospects.
Hackett's monthly numbers are beginning to look at the economic health of Humboldt County in an untraditional way. A new "wealth index" that measures not only the capital and labor of the region, but such things as the natural beauty, healthy communities and clean environment.
"People can understand the traditional monetary measure of wealth, but not all wealth is monetary. It's also the quality of life," Hackett said.
See: the new Wealth Index
See: the Traditional Index
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein will be in town Tuesday to talk to the business community about its concerns and what it sees as the region's legislative priorities. She will speak at a dinner Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the Eureka Inn.
The Eureka Chamber of Commerce, which organized the event, wants to create a strong regional voice with which local businesses can influence legislative decisions. To that end, they've organized a series of conferences with our legislative representatives. So far it has hosted state Sen. Wesley Chesbro and Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin.
For more information, call 442-3738.
The Redwood Community Action Agency has received more than $152,000 to help fund emergency shelter programs. The funds come from the Federal Emergency Shelter Program.
While acknowledging it is impossible reach all homeless people, "The homeless service system here has improved steadily over the past 10 years," said Kurt Thobaben, planning director for RCAA.
He mentioned the Arcata Endeavor's new service center, new programs to treat alcohol problems, and new facilities for homeless veterans as examples.
The misty air here on the north coast is about to get a little thinner. The College of the Redwoods has chosen Into Thin Air by John Krakauer as its "Book of the Year."
The year 1996 was a deadly season on Mt. Everest. For every six people to reach the 29,035-foot summit, one died. This tragedy might have remained relatively unknown if not for Krakauer.
The outdoor journalist happened to be on an especially ill-fated expedition. The guide died in a blizzard as did the guide of the other main expedition out that day. In Into Thin Air, Krakauer details his efforts to try and save some of the other members of his expedition -- and his shame for leaving some behind.
The Book of the Year Program, now in its eighth year, uses one book to integrate different academic disciplines. The nonfiction book will be used as a template for math teachers to teach students how to calculate the altitude of the peak, biology students to learn about the effect of high altitude on the heart and brain, and English students to learn from Krakauer's dignified, but self-doubting narrative style.
Dave Holpert, an assistant professor of English and organizer of the program, said that he hopes to have a film night where documentaries about Everest summit attempts are shown. He also plans panel discussions about the psychology and physiology of extreme sports.
More exciting to Everest aficionados will be a visit by Jamling Norgay, son of Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two men to reach the Everest summit.
Jamling, who like his father before him has climbed to "the roof of the world," will speak Nov. 29 about the experience and how the recent influx of climbers and trekkers has changed Nepal.
For more information, visit the website.
The St. Joseph Health System has added a new face: Chief Cardiac Surgeon Joachim M. Postel.
Postel, who was born and educated in Germany, has worked in Switzerland, Boston, Houston and Florida. He has been the chief surgeon at other hospitals and served as chief of cardiothoracic surgery during his tenure at the University of Florida.
Arcata Co-op reopens
It looks like the Arcata Co-op went overboard. The grocery store's newly minted $3.3 million addition towers above the original quonset-shaped building, adding not only extra space for shoppers but room for an expanded bakery, deli and offices.
The store was forced to close for half a week to allow workers to remove tiles with trace amounts of asbestos in them and to pave the new parking lot.
"When we started this, we knew that we had to plan for the next 25 years," said Taunya Stapp, marketing director for the Co-Op. And with 28,000 members and an "incredible growth rate," the non-profit's board decided to go all out.
The Arcata store is once again open for business seven days a week. The delicatessen, Spoons, is still closed while finish work is being done and is expected to reopen in late August. All departments should be fully functional the second week in September.
English holly, Spanish heath and Scotch broom sound like gentile plants incapable of being unpolite, much less threatening. But they are "invasive weeds" -- non-native plants that compete with native species for resources and can eventually crowd out the indigenous plants.
"They're considered the second largest threat to biodiversity. Only habitat alteration harms more," said Patti Clifford, a biological technician at the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, along with a group of other agencies, is organizing an Invasive Weeds Awareness Week to help fight the problem. Weeds will be removed from sites all over the Humboldt Bay area. See calender for information on how to participate.
If you anticipate subdividing or developing a piece of land in the coastal zone, perk up your ears.
The Humboldt County Department of Public Health has announced the opening of the dry weather test period, during which developers need to test and see that there is sufficient water to support development. Parcels need to be able to develop 720 gallons per day, as certified by a qualified consultant. For information, call 445-6215.
This past Sunday marked the expansion of the Arcata Community Recycling Center's hours of operation. The center is now open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for material dropoff. For more information, call 822-4542.
Nate Madsen, Humboldt County's other treesitter, reported this week that he is doing well despite being on a juice fast since July 20.
"Mentally I'm feeling really well and physically, I'm hanging in there," Madsen said in a cell phone interview. He has limited his ingestion of nutrients to fruit juice in order to call attention to what he calls the "devastating logging practices" of Pacific Lumber.
In a recent press release, Madsen said, "The body of the forest is starving for nourishment as we repeatedly sever its body with contempt." He has said that he began his fast to "correlate the suffering of a human being with the suffering of a tree."
The results have been mixed. He has received increased publicity since beginning his juice strike, including an article in the Sacramento Bee and an interview with KROQ, which has the most popular radio show in LA. On the downside, he said he has lost between 20 and 30 pounds over the last month.
Madsen said he is unsure how long he will continue his liquid diet. He began the treesit in October 1998.
"It's kind of like the treesit itself. I went into it with the intent of sticking to it as long as my stamina will maintain. I'm doing the same thing with the fast."
Salmon fishermen off of California's central coast have had a great year. Their catch was up 750 percent over last year, breaking and in some cases doubling records. The amount of salmon caught in the month of June was larger than the total catch last year. All in all, a wonderful year.
Unless, of course, you live on the North Coast. Salmon runs here are so poor that the California Department of Fish and Game doesn't even allow an early season for commercial fishermen. The department sets a floor of 35,000 salmon that must be allowed to return to spawn. Any fish in excess of that can be harvested by commercial, tribal and sport fishermen.
Greg Bryant, a fisheries biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, said the excellent runs off the central coast are due to 1997's hatchery fish being blessed with adequate amounts of water in the Sacramento River and excellent ocean conditions. Those 1997 fish have now completed their cycle and are returning home.
The North Coast does not have the same hatchery infrastructure and much of our river flows are diverted to supply water to residents and farmers to the south.
But Bryant said that those are only two of "a whole suite of reasons" why salmon runs here are in such bad shape, including poor ocean conditions, overharvesting in previous years and habitat degradation.
Fortuna's smooth jazz radio station KQEX is about to undergo a radical transformation.
After eight years of running "Sunny 100," station owner Steve Hastings has sold the frequency to an investor group from Los Angeles who will transform it to KWTT FM with a "Contemporary Hit Radio" format known in the industry as CHR.
CHR is a direct descendent of what was once called "Top 40." That means hits by Britney Spears, `N Sync and the Backstreet Boys will replace the mellow sounds of artists like David Benoit, Fourplay and Dianne Reeves.
On Sept. 1 Hastings will turn the reins over to Greg Mac and Bill Durks, two music business professionals who have never owned a station before.
"They will fine tune the format and program for the local market," said Hastings who emphasized this does not necessarily mean a switch to a syndicated satellite feed.
"They will be playing music that will make them No. 1 in this market," said Hastings. "It will be formatted for a younger audience. They'll play what the kids are listening to."
The demographic shift will leave out most of the current listeners. While the smooth jazz target market is the 35-plus audience, CHR aims at listeners ages 12-30.
Hastings feels that the time is right for a change. With the switch to digital radio and the growing competition from the Internet, it's getting harder for small independent stations like KQEX to survive.
"You either have to get bigger or move on," he said. "Stand-alone stations like this one are a dying breed."
Reported by Bob Doran, Judy Hodgson and Arno Holschuh.
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