Sept. 30, 2004
CONNER STEPS DOWN: Citing concerns
about "the appearance of a conflict of interest," Arcata
City Councilmember Elizabeth Conner resigned her post Monday.
Conner said that her decision was triggered, in part, by a letter
she received last week from the Fair Political Practices Commission.
The commission told Conner that she would have to refrain from
voting on issues related to affordable housing due to the fact
that she is director of the Humboldt Bay Housing Development
Corp., a nonprofit group that advocates and develops affordable
housing. Conner said that the commission's ruling effectively
barred her from acting on the issue that was one of her strongest
selling points as a candidate in 2002. "I can either fail
to provide effective leadership on the issues I campaigned on,
or I could do something illegal -- which I'm not going to do,
obviously," she said. Resignation was the only other option.
City Manager Dan Hauser said that the council would likely seek
to appoint a replacement to fill the remaining two years of Conner's
term. Conner's resignation comes in the middle of a messy election
campaign, with 10 candidates running for three open council seats.
The City Council will hold a special meeting at noon on Thursday,
Sept. 30, to determine the process for filling the vacancy.
by WILLIAM S. KOWINSKI and EMILY GURNON
It was the late 1800s when a Methodist minister in Eureka decided that the town needed a reading room "to keep the boys out of the bars," said Sally Arnot, acting executive director of the Humboldt Arts Council. Some years later, in 1878, the city opened the first free public library in California. It operated out of rented space at Third and F streets, Arnot said.
But the books got their own home 100 years ago thanks in part to the philanthropy of industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who donated $20,000 for the stately brick building on F Street that residents now know as the Morris Graves Museum of Art.
The Humboldt Arts Council, which runs the museum, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of that building, one of 1,681 libraries across the United States that were built with Carnegie money.
On Saturday, the Arts Council kicks off the celebration with a party during Arts Alive!, featuring music by Gil Cline's trumpet quartet (including a trumpet fanfare composed for the event) and the Midnight Jazztet, plus birthday cake from Ramone's bakery. Other museum events include docent-led tours of the Carnegie building, and an exhibit of Peter Palmquist's historical photographs.
Between 1889 and 1923, Carnegie, a native of Scotland, donated $56 million to cities throughout the nation and the world for public libraries.
Carnegie generally paid only for construction, insisting that local communities pledge financial support to maintain and staff the library, and fill it with books. The libraries had to be open to the public free of charge. These two conditions helped spur the spread of public libraries, which were relatively rare in the late nineteenth century.
In the case of Eureka, Carnegie's $20,000 was augmented by another $11,000 from the local community, as well as land donated by the city. Donations of materials came in, too -- as evidenced by the fact that each floor is made of different wood, Arnot said. It was a great effort, and a great deal of money, but the residents made it a priority.
"From the very beginning, the citizens have wanted to have cultural institutions," Arnot said.
After the first few years of his library philanthropy, Carnegie delegated decision-making powers over the many library applications he received to his secretary, James Bertram. A Scotsman like Carnegie, Bertram became known for his scrupulous attention to detail and his sometimes scathing letters to petitioners.
When the Eureka library asked for funds to expand, Bertram refused, citing the wasted space of a large rotunda and the extravagance of the glass dome. (Now, of course, the rotunda is highly valued as a performance space.) Shortly after Eureka's library was built, Carnegie and Bertram began insisting on more uniform design for subsequent libraries, which stressed functional spaces within a sober shell, a style that became known as Carnegie Classical.
Several other communities in the region received Carnegie libraries, and their current disposition reflects the various fates of these buildings across the country, as the library needs of many towns outgrew these facilities, or they became otherwise unsuitable. Built the same year as Eureka's, the Redding library was demolished in 1962. Ferndale's building, opened in 1910, remained a public library. The Carnegie in Ukiah (1914) became a private office. In Willits (1915) it houses a cable TV office, and the Yreka building (1915) hosts the police department.
So who was Andrew Carnegie, and why did he become the Johnny Appleseed of American public libraries? From modest though not dire circumstances in Scotland, Carnegie's family emigrated to America in 1848, when Andrew was 13.
Young Andrew's first break was delivering telegrams to the important businessmen of Pittsburgh, then a frontier town rapidly becoming the financial gateway to the West. From the telegraph office in nearby Greensburg, he watched the railroad being built, and he found his immediate future in its expansion. The railroad made rapid industrial growth practical, and almost everything -- especially the immigrant workers -- Carnegie needed to build his empire, first in iron and then in steel was available within 50 miles of his first home in America.
He was a multimillionaire before he turned 30 and climaxed his business career at 66 by selling the assets that became the United States Steel Corporation.
Carnegie's passion for libraries can be traced to two events he notes in his autobiography: the importance to his self-education of books from the collection of a Pittsburgh gentleman who allowed local boys to borrow a book a week, and his first view of another prominent man's private library in Greensburg, which caused him to pledge: "Someday, I'll have a library."
Seldom mentioned in chronicles of Carnegie's giving are the men and women who labored 12-hour shifts in his mills and mines, the sources of his fortune. Their names adorn no bricks in a Carnegie library, but their descendants have often made use of the libraries their labor paid for, and the buildings became sources of many cherished childhood memories.
Eureka's library was merged with the county library in 1972, at which point the county used the F Street building for administration and storage, and moved the public portion to the County Courthouse, Arnot said.
The city still owned the building, however, and when all library operations moved out, Eureka was left with an aging brick structure that needed earthquake retrofitting and disabled access. It offered the building to the Humboldt Arts Council in 1995. From 1996 to 1999, the Arts Council conducted a major fund-raising campaign, raking in $1.5 million -- much of that in small donations from its buy-a-$65-brick drive -- for reconstruction and retrofitting. It opened as the Morris Graves Museum of Art on Jan. 1, 2000.
"It was really a community effort to save this building and give it a new century of service as a museum," Arnot said.
Now living in Arcata, William Kowinski grew up in Greensburg, Penn., where the public library was not a Carnegie.
by JIM HIGHT
At 10:30 on a sunny morning last week, I was walking from Stanton's Restaurant down L Street toward the Eureka waterfront. At Fourth Street, I stopped to wait for traffic.
After a minute, a car in the closest lane stopped for me. Next, a black Corvette in the middle lane stopped, and I started to cross the street.
Then a blue-gray Toyota pickup closed in behind the Corvette. A brief squeal of tires was followed by a spasm of crunching metal and shattering glass.
The front of the Toyota was crushed like a soda can, but I could see that no one was injured. Even so, I felt shaken -- and guilty. If I'd waved the first car on and waited for traffic to clear, the accident would not have happened.
The driver of the Corvette saw it that way. "So, you just couldn't wait to cross the street," he said with anger, after parking his slightly damaged car.
I offered a qualified apology, but we were distracted by the pickup driver, who walked up yelling obscenities.
I thought he was mad at the Corvette driver, but he may have been cursing his fate. In either case, he soon compounded his misfortune.
After explaining that he didn't have insurance, he borrowed a cell phone from a bystander, made a call, gave the phone back, then disappeared, leaving the totaled Toyota in the middle of Fourth Street.
While hit-and-run drivers and abandoned wrecks made this accident somewhat unusual, collisions involving pedestrians on the Highway 101 corridor through Eureka are common.
A study done recently for the Humboldt County Association of Governments counted 20 pedestrian-involved collisions on Fourth and Fifth streets from 1999 through 2002. (The study didn't break out injuries or fatalities; Eureka Police were not able to provide such data by the Journal's deadline.)
People trying to cross these streets faced "long crossing distances, poor pedestrian visibility, and [drivers exhibiting] a general disregard for pedestrian rights and safety," observed the researchers, Alta Planning and Design of San Rafael and Eureka's Redwood Community Action Agency. "Eureka could be considered one of the most walkable communities in the western U.S., if not for a number of significant challenges facing pedestrians," the study authors wrote. Instead, it ranks second among California cities of its size for pedestrian-involved collisions.
City Councilman Jeff Leonard characterized the dangers to pedestrians on Fourth and Fifth streets -- and at other trouble spots like the west end of Harris Street -- as "probably the most important traffic issue facing the city of Eureka."
But the agency responsible for Highway 101 seems to rank the problem a bit lower.
A spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over Fourth and Fifth streets, said that while the agency is engaged in "constant efforts" to minimize pedestrian hazards, other than one new traffic signal at Fifth and R, it has nothing concrete in the works to improve pedestrian safety.
What could be done to make these crossings safer?
Like most drivers on Fourth and Fifth streets, I routinely pass pedestrians who are waiting to cross, violating Section 21950 of the California Vehicle Code, which says cars "shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked [or unmarked] crosswalk."
Sometimes I'll brake for a tired or frail-looking person, or for children. But I've learned that when I stop, drivers in the other lanes may not, and my good intentions can lead a pedestrian to walk right into traffic. Then there's danger of getting rear-ended.
Eureka Police Traffic Sergeant Mike Hislop said that the accident I witnessed followed a common scenario: The Toyota driver was probably going too fast, following too closely, not paying attention or perhaps all of the above.
"People need to slow down [and] remember the rule that for every 10 miles per hour you're driving, you need to be a car length behind the car in front of you," said Hislop. "No one adheres to that."
The reality of speeding and tailgating make it dangerous to give pedestrians the right of way on Fourth and Fifth streets, Hislop said. "When I'm off duty ... normally I won't [stop for pedestrians] because it is very, very dangerous."
Councilman Leonard and others want to mount a public relations campaign to get drivers to obey the law and show greater respect for pedestrians.
"I've been to a lot of cities where drivers are very good about stopping when pedestrians show they're ready to cross," said Leonard. "In Eureka, that seems to be ignored."
Jennifer Rice, a transportation specialist at Redwood Community Action Agency, agreed that drivers should be urged to stop more readily for pedestrians, but she said she believes that will be a tough sell. "Most people are [already] frustrated by how long it takes to drive through Eureka," she said.
"It's a challenge for anyone to manage a highway that is also a main street," added Rice. "Communities across the nation are grappling with this issue."
One nearby example may give inspiration. In January 2003, the city of San Jose launched an advertising campaign encouraging drivers to respect speed limits and watch out for pedestrians.
Pedestrian fatalities were cut in half in 2003, but a city spokeswoman said the drop was attributable to stiffer police enforcement and road engineering measures, as well as the marketing effort.
The city of Eureka will soon try a new engineering approach on some of its dangerous crossings: a pedestrian-activated system to illuminate crosswalks with flashing yellow lights in the pavement.
Traffic Operations Manager Dan Moody said the first system will be installed on West Street near Burre Center, where residents of a senior apartment building face a hazardous crossing. If it proves more effective than the flashing overhead beacons that are there now, Moody said the city will use grant funds to install two or three more systems elsewhere.
Caltrans has no plans to deploy such measures on Fourth or Fifth streets, but spokeswoman Ann Jones urged citizens to call (445-6444) write (1656 Union St., Eureka, 95501) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) their comments or suggestions.
Jim Hight is a free-lance writer in Arcata and a former Journal staffer.
by BOB DORAN
FIRE. IT'S THE OVERRIDING IMAGE IN THE MUSIC OF THE dancehall reggae artist known as Capleton. His new album from VP Records, Reign of Fire, follows discs titled More Fire and Still Burnin. Onstage, he regularly leads his fans in chants of "Fire, more fire."
For the Jamaica-born artist, whose name is Clifton George Bailey III, the fire is a Biblical, purifying force. "The people love the music; the people love the message," he told me in a phone interview last week. "It's all about uplifting, uplifting the people. It's all about righteousness and purification of humanity, that's what the fire is all about."
But Capleton's critics, particularly those in the international gay and lesbian activist community, see his call for fire quite differently. Translating the thick Jamaican patois used in his lyrics, they see something they call "murder music" in songs like "Bun Out a Chi Chi," a song by Capleton that calls down burning fire on "chi chi men," a slang term for gays.
Capleton says, in his own defense, that he is misunderstood.
Last week protesters at Humboldt State University, citing gay-bashing, called for the cancellation of a Capleton show scheduled for Friday, Oct. 1. Last Friday, the concert promoters, Associated Students Presents, announced that the show was off. This follows on the heels of Capleton losing a slot as headliner for Reggae in the Park this weekend in San Francisco.
Gay rights organizations in Jamaica and England are leading a campaign against some of dancehalls' biggest stars, placing Capleton and seven others, Beenie Man, Sizzla and Buju Banton among them, on a black list.
American gay rights groups have hounded Capleton on his current tour, accusing promoters and businesses sponsoring dancehall concerts of homophobia for providing a platform for what they deem hate speech.
The protests, and gay-bashing, are not new, but they have been heating up this year, initially in response to two incidents in Jamaica, where sodomy is still a crime.
On June 9, Brian Williamson, the founder of the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-Flag) was brutally stabbed to death. Island police are investigating the killing as a robbery, but J-Flag members insist that it was a hate crime.
Later that month in Kingston, six gay men were pulled from their homes and beaten, and among the alleged suspects was none other than Buju Banton, a dancehall star who made a splash in the '90s with "Boom Boom Bye," an international dance floor hit with patois lyrics that basically suggest shooting "batty boys" (gay men) in the head.
Protests by the British gay rights organization OutRage! led to cancellation of recent shows in England by Buju and earlier concerts by Beenie Man, who was also pulled from an MTV show in Miami.
The protest at HSU was led by DJs Brooke Rahn and Kara Randolph from Electronic Legion of Feminist Sounds after they read about Capleton being removed from the lineup for Reggae in the Park. "We were shocked to find out we'd been playing some of these songs [at Club West's gay night, Club Triangle]. Personally I love the dancehall beat, but it's hard to understand what they're saying," said Rahn, who felt it was imperative to share what she had learned with local dancehall fans.
San Francisco-based music industry veteran Steffen Franz spins dancehall reggae as Stand Out Selector. He also serves as manager for Rocker-T, a "positive" dancehall artist who was supposed to perform at Friday night's canceled show at HSU.
Franz traces the problems with what he terms "slackness" in dancehall back to the death of Bob Marley in 1981. "That marked a turning point in reggae as a whole. Bob Marley was a fixture internationally and in Jamaica who was pushing God, pushing Rastafari. His music was like gospel; it was music that was not just for entertainment, it was for education as well His death was the starting point of slackness in the dancehall."
In reggae lingo slackness refers to lyrical content emphasizing sex, violence and hard drugs, as opposed to "positive," "conscious" lyrics, focusing on "one love" and other spiritual matters.
At the end of the '80s, a Jamaican MC/singer known as Shabba Ranks crossed over into the American R&B market with his sexually explicit dancehall records. "You can root [the current controversy] back to Shabba saying, 'likka shot in all mama man head' which basically says, `shoot all homosexuals in the head,'" said Franz.
As noted in his official VP Records biography, "When Capleton first burst on the scene in the late 1980s, the dancehall was a very different place than it is today. Slackness and gun talk were the order of the day. This bright promising newcomer announced his arrival with a string of hit songs from `Bumbo Red' to `Lotion Man.'"
"Bumbo Red" was so explicit it was banned from the radio. Franz recalls, "In `Lotion Man' he says, `likka shot in all batty man head; likka shot in all lesbian head.' ["Batty" is equivalent to butt.] It gained him notoriety, gained him success for other records. It's what put him in the position to become a `conscious man,' to become a `comearound' -- and that's what they call Capleton. He came around [to the Rastafarian faith] because it was economically more viable for him to become a conscious artist. Maybe he found Rastafari, and if that's the case, I respect that, and more power to him."
In 1994 Capleton announced his new-found faith musically with a song, "Dis The Trinity." He allied himself with the Bobo Shanti Rastafarian order also known as Bobo Dreads, who typically cover their heads, the women with scarves, the men with their dreadlocks wrapped in turbans. Bobo Dreads follow a lifestyle drawing on the Old Testament, including rules for menstruating women that limit interaction between the sexes. Homosexuality is considered an abomination, recalling the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, the sinful Biblical cities destroyed by fire and brimstone.
While it is clear from his lyrics that Capleton sees homosexuality as wrong, he feels he is misunderstood. "You have mischievous people who are trying to cause controversy and contention, maybe because they are fighting the music, or maybe they have an agenda. But I've been in this business for over a decade and people know that Capleton is not telling no one to go out and shoot nor kill no one. In Jamaica, in our dancehall patois thing, when we say kill, it don't necessarily mean kill. It's not literal. It's word. It's sound."
"Everyone has their own way of seeing the world," counters Rahn. "He might be misunderstood, but that doesn't mean it's appropriate for a campus sponsored event in our community. No matter how it's justified, it's wrong to sing about killing all queers when it's funded by student money."
Regarding the controversy over gay-bashing in dancehalls, Capleton reiterates, "When Capleton say `burn' or when Capleton say `more fire,' it's not on a destructive level. It's not saying to go out there and kill no one or murder people or destroy people. This fire is all about the purification of humanity and the uplifting of the people. The fire is self awareness and self control. You must stay away from self-serving immorality.
"Each man must judge himself. And even when Capleton burn the fire, when Capleton mix up the fire, Capleton will get burned in the fire also. It's not a partial fire; the fire is for everyone. The fire is for the purification. Only fire can preserve and purify.
"It's up to you to be clean and pure at heart, and whatever you do, by your work, you will get your pay. Every man will get paid according to their work: If you do good, then you will get good pay; if you do bad, then the pay will be bad."
At this point the pay looks bad for Capleton: The controversy surrounding him has led to cancellations of concerts at Chico State and CSU Sacramento. And his next concert, scheduled for West Hollywood, long known as a gay enclave, will surely add more fire to a hot issue.
© Copyright 2004, North Coast Journal, Inc.