September 28, 2000
Arcata and Eureka chose permanent city managers this week, and the names are well known to Humboldt County residents.
Dave Tyson was sworn in Monday in Eureka, where he had served as assistant city manager and interim city manager. Former State Assemblyman Dan Hauser got the council's nod in Arcata -- a city he should know well, considering that he has lived in the city for 30 years, served on its council from 1974-82 and was mayor from 1978-82.
Tyson said he hopes to end an era in Eureka politics marred by what many call the city manager revolving-door syndrome. The last five managers, including the most recent, Harvey Rose, have fallen out of favor with a majority of the council and been fired. Tyson would be a bit tougher to remove since his contract stipulates that a 4-1 majority is required to remove him.
"The council felt that this was a way of showing the community that they support me," Tyson told the Journal earlier this week.
Hauser's contract does not have any such niceties. He will be operating under even a looser employment agreement than his predecessor, Keith Breskin, who was not rehired this year. The Arcata Council took advantage of the time between city managers to change the language in the city code. Rather than spelling out the terms of the manager's employment, the code now leaves it up to the manager and the council to negotiate whatever terms they deem fair.
Hauser was hired less than a month after it became clear that he might benefit from an obscure law passed during the last hours of this year's state legislative session. Senate Bill 528, not yet signed by Gov. Davis., passed the legislature without discussion and with little notice. It gives a few select public employees perks relating to retirement benefits. Hauser would be able to access his legislative pension two years earlier than under current law.
Hauser said that there was nothing improper or unfair in the bill. He pointed out that if he accessed his pension early, it would be reduced 4 percent.
"And it is my understanding that I can't draw a pension at the same time as a salary," Hauser said -- meaning that his new job makes it a moot point.
Mayor Connie Stewart said that the Arcata City Council hadn't even taken the controversy surrounding SB 528 into account when hiring Hauser.
"It never came up. I don't know that anyone was aware of (it)," she said. "I've known Dan for 14 years and I have full confidence in him," she added.
Arcata also hired another well-known veteran administrator last week as director of community development. Tom Conlon was Humboldt County's director of planning and building from 1986 to 1997, taught mediation at Humboldt State University and has worked as a consultant to the city of Arcata.
Humboldt Bancorp announced last week a stock swap to acquire Tehama Bank of Red Bluff.
Tehama -- with six branches in Chico, Los Molinos, Orland, Red Bluff, Redding and Willows -- will become an independent subsidiary of Eureka-based Humboldt Bancorp, a holding company. Other subsidiaries include Humboldt Bank, with 10 branches in Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties; Capitol Thrift and Loan in Napa; and Capitol Valley Bank in Roseville.
Humboldt and Tehama have already demonstrated a successful working relationship. The two corporations have owned and operated Bancorp Financial Services, a business equipment leasing and finance company in Sacramento, for the past four years.
Once the bank merger is approved by stockholders of both corporations and federal regulators later this year, Humboldt Bancorp will have more than $850 million in combined assets. Both Humboldt and Tehama banks will retain their own identities with their own boards of directors. The company will continue to trade under HBEK on the NASDAQ exchange.
The merger is similar to one that took place last year involving another Humboldt County financial institution. Six Rivers National Bank, with eight branches, joined North Valley Bank of Redding with 12 branches. The combined assets of the two banks total $530 million.
Stockholders from Six Rivers and North Valley overwhelmingly approved the merger earlier this year, however federal approval was delayed pending investigation of lack of competition in Trinity County created by that merger.
"There was concern about anti-competitiveness," said Six Rivers CEO Mike Martinez. "Our argument is Trinity should be treated as a subset of the Redding market. We found 60 percent of the residents commute to Redding at least twice a month to shop."
Federal regulators agreed and the merger was approved Monday.
The two Humboldt County banks -- Six Rivers and Humboldt -- were created 10 years ago after Bank of Loleta was purchased by U.S. Bank. The banks have shared a sometimes stormy history. On at least three occasions, the latest in early 1999, Humboldt Bank attempted to acquire Six Rivers Bank and was rebuffed.
The Humboldt Transit Authority failed last week to secure a grant from Caltrans to establish and operate bus service between Arcata/Eureka and Redding, losing out in a competitive bidding process to Greyhound Lines.
The HTA proposal requested $800,000 for operating funds and capital equipment to start the new bus route. Greyhound, which already has the buses for the run, requested just $225,000 in grant money to operate the service.
The HTA service proposal was more convenient to Humboldters, said 5th District Supervisor Paul Kirk. The service would have allowed people to commute to Redding for the business day and return the same day. Kirk said Greyhound schedules have traditionally favored people living in Redding.
"In the past, it's been Greyhound's practice not to address our concerns," Kirk said.
While HTA lost out in the bidding process, officials won one concession from Greyhound: The bus line has agreed to consult with representatives of HTA, Eureka and Arcata, and Humboldt County on finding times that work for everyone.
The Eureka Recall Committee took its fight to the streets last weekend -- well, to the mall, anyway.
The group, which seeks to recall Councilmembers Jack McKellar and Maxine Hunter Meeks, collected 147 signatures at a desk in the Bayshore Mall over the weekend.
Committee coordinator Amanda Taylor said she wasn't sure how many total signatures the group had because they have not had time to collect all of the petitions in one location. According to city ordinance, 2,800 signatures are needed to start a recall election, which could be held in January at the earliest.
According to the petition, the committee seeks to recall the two councilmembers because they voted -- along with Councilmember Jim Gupton who has withdrawn from the November ballot -- to fire City Manager Harvey Rose and they limited public discussion prior to the closed personnel session.
The same three also voted to remove a citizens advisory measure from the November ballot. The measure would have asked voters whether or not to accept a $3 million gift to purchase the balloon tract property from Councilmember Cherie Arkley and her husband Rob Arkley, an offer they have since withdrawn because of "instability" on the council.
The Humboldt County Taxpayer's League registered its disapproval of the recall effort in a press release this week, saying that it "objects to the public expenditure of funds toward the recall efforts." It is estimated that a special recall election could cost the city $30,000.
Taylor said the three councilmembers have already cost the city $3 million with the loss of the Arkley gift.
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