Oct. 10, 2002
story & photos by ANDREW EDWARDS
MORE THAN 250 HORSES OF RAW POWER scream out of the back room of Eureka High's auto shop. Inside the room, the scream becomes a roar. Small cylindrical bolts -- carburetor chokes -- twitch and shimmy on the back of a car engine as if trying to hold on. Award-winning mechanic Steve Grable stoops over the engine, looking and listening as the Nissan 240SX -- up on a platform, its wheels spinning in air -- is run through its paces. A cluster of six students stare at the car and at the man behind the wheel, their teacher, Larry Hansen, one of the top amateur race car drivers in the country.
Last month, Hansen drove the car, designed by Grable and Hansen and built from the ground up by students, to a second-place finish in the Valvoline Runoffs in Lexington, Ohio -- widely recognized as the Olympics of American road racing.
"We all didn't expect him to do as good as he did," said Eureka High junior Ryan Murphy, who, along with fellow students Zach Hoover and Shawn Pulver, went along as crew for the event. "He really amazed us."
Given his qualification times, Hansen started the race in sixth place. But he worked his way up, and at one point took the lead. Then the engine started to seize up due to an oil leak. That, Hansen believes, cost him the victory. Even so, a podium finish was overpoweringly unexpected.
"We were crying; I could barely talk. It was very emotional for all of us," Hansen recalled last Friday while he and his team were preparing the car for another race that weekend at Sonoma County's Sears Point Raceway (Tire trouble hampered Hansen, who placed fourth.)
In Ohio, Hansen finished just three-tenths of a second behind Michael Styphert, a three-time national champion. He was awarded the President's Cup at a banquet following the race for his stellar performance. The highest award the Sports Car Club of America can bestow on any of its 65,000 members nationwide, it was first presented in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and is accompanied this year with a letter of commendation from President George W. Bush. Previous winners include actor Paul Newman and legendary race car driver Bobby Rahall.
The organization also named Grable, a veteran machinist, "mechanic of the year."
"It's hard to describe the excitement," Grable said. "From where we started: built it from scratch and [then to] go on to the national runoffs [against the] fastest cars in the nation is amazing."
Winning is nothing new for Hansen and Eureka High Motorsports, as the racing team is called. They've finished consistently in the top five in the GT-3 division, which includes all of the larger four-cylinder cars like the 240 SX, for the past 10 years. They've built three other cars, all of which still race in SCCA events (two of those were also in the Ohio race). But this was the team's first time at the event, and Hansen's first time ever driving the race.
"To finish second the first year, [people] really went `wow, that high school group is for real,'" Hansen said, smiling.
Hansen started the program in 1984 with his team-teaching partner Dick Brown, now retired. He predicted -- accurately -- that it would boost enrollment in auto-shop classes. He also argued -- again accurately -- that it would be a lot of fun to actually build a sports car and race it as a school project.
So they got funds together and, with Grable assisting, had the students design and build the first car. That was back in the 1980s. Except for the engine block, the cylinders and the fiberglass shell, nothing on that car was stock. The same would be true of the next three cars they would build, including the one that Hansen drove in the runoffs. Each one cost about $100,000 to build and was assembled by hand over three to six months. The latest car, built four years ago, will soon be sold -- the proceeds will be used to build a new car beginning next year.
The experience of maintaining and building a race car can be invaluable on many levels, Hansen and Grable said.
"It's an alternative to any number of things, drugs (for instance). It occupies their free time and gives them a lot of skills," Hansen said.
"If they pay attention, when they walk out of here they could build one of these," Grable said, pointing at the car. "From building it, to running it, and tuning it, they probably know as much as I do about it."
Students in the program have a higher graduation rate than the school at large.
"I don't know of a single one who hasn't graduated," said Principal Bob Embertson.
Many of the students have gone on to careers in the automotive industry. One of them even crewed for champion racer Dale Earnhardt for two years.
Locally, a slew of individuals and businesses help out with the program including McCray Nissan, Masterson's Communications, which donates radio gear, and Humboldt Integrated Waste Management, which supplies motor oil. Another huge help is Hansen's wife, Lori, who organizes all of the team's trips.
The trip to Ohio cost about $16,000, which the group earned doing fund-raisers ranging from landscaping to fixing up and selling a donated `55 Thunderbird.
The trip took just over a week, during which time all of the students were required to do their homework, Hansen said. Still, there was time to check out local attractions such as the rock `n' roll and the pro football halls of fame.
At the end of the day, according to all involved, it was an amazing experience, and they're looking for a repeat.
"(We) Might start doing nationals (all the time) now," Hansen said. "It was a lot of fun and we'd like to go back. It's right where we'd like to be."
The GT-3 national championships will be aired on Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. on SpeedTV.
by ANDREW EDWARDS
Blue Lake has always been a town of opposites -- clowns and loggers. And yet as the city council race heats up in this topsy-turvy hamlet of 1,300, the same two things are on everyone's mind: the casino and annexation.
So much for discussion of a wide range of issues.
Nevertheless, there's no shortage of candidates competing for the two council seats that are up for grabs (each Blue Lake voter gets to mark two names on the ballot).
Lynch, 52, is a bookkeeper who has lived off and on in Blue Lake since 1964. Her primary reason for running is to assist with the disaster planning that the council has already begun. Other goals include maintaining Blue Lake's small town feel, fixing up the seating in Prasch Park and forming a neighborhood watch program to assist the understaffed police department. Lynch is undecided on annexation and is waiting for more information to make up her mind. Politically, Lynch describes herself as "correct," but generally in favor of "smaller government with more people involved."
Ricca, 61, a self-described political independent, is a homemaker who has lived in Blue Lake for 22 years.
A current councilmember, Ricca is controversial. His competitors are doing their best to remind voters of Ricca's longstanding conflict with Blue Lake City Manager Duane Rigge, who fired him from his position as Blue Lake's park supervisor in 1997. Ricca is unapologetic about his strained relationship with Rigge.
"I have been a very severe critic of the Blue Lake city manager since my first term on the council," said Ricca, who was elected to the council after his firing. "I'm trying to offer alternatives to policies and procedures that have led to the perception that city hall does not represent the citizens of this community."
If re-elected, his first priority would be to eliminate a budget deficit, improve park facilities and increase the council's control over the city's budget (he thinks too much budgetary authority is wielded by Rigge). He favors letting people living in areas slated for annexation decide whether or not they want to be within the city's jurisdiction.
Schapiro, 55, is an ex-aerospace engineer turned tax consultant. A 20-year resident of Blue Lake, he has served on the council for the past 12 years.
Schapiro said he wants to stay on the council for three reasons: to increase contact between the Blue Lake Police Department and the community at large; to find ways to encourage economic development in the downtown and industrial park; and to follow through on the goals identified in the citywide "visioning" process. He is in favor of annexation, which he says would allow for needed growth and more affordable housing. A registered Democrat, Schapiro believes politics isn't what's at issue in city government; representation is.
"I have no personal agenda or personal ideology," Schapiro said. "I try to look at all sides of the issue and make the correct decision."
Smith, 53, is an acupuncturist. She moved to Blue Lake five years ago from San Francisco. What attracted her to the community, she said, was its small town feel. Along with better communications with Blue Lake Rancheria, her main goal on the council would be to maintain that small-town atmosphere through managed growth. She says annexation is a part of that because it ensures that the city maintains control of development, rather than the county. A Democrat and a small business owner, she said she would bring unique skills to the council.
"I know what it takes to run a small business, and that's basically what a small city like Blue Lake is," Smith said.
Woody, 43, is a security officer at the Blue Lake Casino. He has lived in Blue Lake for 24 years.
Born and raised in Humboldt County, Woody considers himself a vote for change. Among the changes he says need to be made: improve relations with the rancheria; maintain the police force; reduce squabbling between the council and city staff (a reference to Ricca); and attract more tourists to Blue Lake. He said that both his children were raised in Blue Lake and stressed his attachment to the community across ideological boundaries.
"The thing about being a council person is that you have to support the views of the citizens as long as they have merit," Woody said. "You need to make sure you represent your constituents."
He sees the community's relationship with the casino as mutually dependent and hopes to establish a healthy long-term relationship with the rancheria government. Regarding his employment with the casino, he said it was no different than other council members who might have conflicts of interest. He said he would simply recuse himself if asked to vote on something that would affect the casino.
by BOB DORAN
THE REPUBLICAN-DOMINATED U.S. HOUSE OF Representatives is certain to hand President Bush broad powers to wage war against Iraq in a vote set for Thursday, but that's not stopping Rep. Mike Thompson from speaking his mind.
And, thanks to his high-profile visit to Iraq earlier this month with two other congressmen, people are listening.
On Tuesday morning following President Bush's address to the nation asking for support for his sweeping war powers resolution, Thompson -- fresh from an appearance on CNN -- reiterated his stand in a telephone interview with the Journal.
"I'm not in support of the president's resolution," Thompson said flatly, speaking from his office in Washington D.C.
The resolution urges the United Nations to enforce strict new rules on inspecting Iraq and eliminating its weapons of mass destruction. It also -- and here's where Thompson gets off the train, so to speak -- gives the president the authority to act unilaterally if the United Nations fails to eliminate the Iraqi threat.
"I'm not willing to vote to send American soldiers into combat that all the military experts tell us will be a heavy casualty situation when there is no immediate need to do that," said Thompson, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
He added: "I think Saddam Hussein is bad. I think we need to get rid of his weapons capability, but I don't think we're in any immediate threat."
Thompson, echoing Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, said he opposes the Bush administration's resolution because it sets a bad precedent.
"I am against a unilateral, first-strike military action doctrine," he said. "It reverses over 200 years of constitutional democracy that we've enjoyed in this country.
"Right now we have a number of countries that are at odds with one another, and if we tell them by our action that it's all right to enter into a first-strike situation, that means you have a potential between India and Pakistan -- two nuclear countries -- China and Taiwan, Russia and Chechnya.
"I think it's a very dangerous thing to do," he continued. "It would be a major shift, a complete reversal of our foreign policy doctrine. We don't do first strikes. You don't overwhelm someone with military might and get them to be your buddy. We lead by example. We lead in a way that gives people hope and inspiration. And if we do that they'll choose democracy. We don't have to wipe people off the face of the Earth to get them to understand the importance of freedom."
Thompson said he might support an alternative resolution that would put some brakes on the Bush administration's push for a military confrontation with Saddam Hussein.
"One drafted by (Rep.) John Spratt (D-S.C.) appears to provide for a two-step process where we would go the diplomatic route and if that doesn't work, then we'd come back and Congress would take the second step. That seems much more reasonable."
While some in his party are saying that the focus on Iraq just before the midterm elections is meant to divert attention from debate on the country's economic problems, Thompson said, "I can only assume that (President Bush) was being honest when he said that's not the case.
"I will say, however, that there are serious economic problems, serious at-home problems that are not being addressed right now, problems that need to be addressed -- Social Security, Medicare and the economy to name three."
Supporters of Green Party state assembly candidate Doug Thron have been claiming of late that in a "poll on the issues" Thron bested Patty Berg, the Democratic candidate and presumed front-runner, by 10 percent.
What hasn't been said is who paid for the poll, how it was done and what the questions were.
The poll, it turns out, was conducted by Republican assembly candidate Rob Brown.
"It was interesting," said Brown, who called Thron personally to inform him of the results. "The numbers that I had didn't change that much, but when the issues were detailed the undecided voters just flocked to Doug."
That Brown would produce such a poll shouldn't be too surprising -- his only hope of winning in the predominantly liberal district is if Thron takes a substantial number of votes from Berg.
The poll was conducted by the Nevada-based R.T. Neilson Co. at a cost of $5,600 to the Brown campaign. It asked 300 voters two questions: who they planned to vote for and which candidate they agreed with on a variety of different issues.
It is on that last question that Thron evidently came out ahead, though neither Thron nor Brown would provide details on which issues those polled sympathize with the Green Party candidate.
"It does us no damn good to tell the community about it," Thron said in a telephone interview. "At least that's what Rob's told me and I've just gone from there."
The Hoopa Valley Tribe is calling for a meeting with the federal government over what they see as mismanagement of water levels in the Klamath river, site of a recent mass fish kill.
"Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and the National Academy of Sciences have concluded that `fish don't need water,'" Hoopa Tribal Chairman Clifford Lyle Marshall said in a press release. "They were wrong, and the price of their mistake is thousands of fish and the well-being of our people."
Over the past few weeks tens of thousands of salmon have died in the Lower Klamath river, plastering gravel bars with bloated silver corpses.
The tribe has requested meetings with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to air their complaints.
The tribe sees the fish kill as a conscious decision on the part of the administration to choose farmers over fish.
"Last year I was very distressed to see news photos of Secretary Norton helping open water gates for the farmers in Oregon," Marshall said. "The government took that water away from the Klamath River and the fish died. I would hope she now recognizes her obligation to redirect water to our rivers for the survival of the fish."
The remaining tenants at Ebb Tide RV Park in Eureka, most of whom live in converted school buses or older model RVs, will be allowed to stay until they can find a new place for their homes.
Humboldt Bank, owners of the RV park, notified Ebb Tide's 80 tenants last fall that the park was closing and that they had until Sept. 28, 2002 to move. Most did so earlier this year, but 11 families are still there, city officials said on Monday.
The problem is that most RV parks will not accept converted school buses or trailers 10 years old or older.
The Eureka City Council became involved after Steve Shelby, one of the last remaining tenants, asked the city to intervene. Bank and city officials are trying to find a solution for those families.
Under California law, if the owners of an RV park close the facility with the intent to develop it, they must help tenants relocate. Bank officials have no immediate plans to develop the 29-acre property, but felt that the RV park clashed with Humboldt Bank Plaza on Highway 101 at the north end of Eureka. The park is located adjacent to the plaza.
It wasn't an earthshaking gathering a la the anti-war protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s, but enough people showed up at a demonstration Monday against the looming war with Iraq to make it significant. One observer estimated the midday crowd that came together on the Humboldt State University campus at 500. Campus police, who were visible throughout the peaceful hour-long event, said there were 150 protesters and as many observers. Music that was part of the festivities may have attracted some; perhaps others lingered simply to enjoy the gorgeous weather. Many, though, clearly came out of concern about President Bush's push for a military confrontation with Saddam Hussein -- the result of which could be a lot of dead people, as a handful of demonstrators tried to suggest by laying prone on the ground with red-colored liquid flowing from their bodies. Time will tell.
On Tuesday, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed Measure X, the city of Eureka's ballot initiative to extend the utility tax another three years.
City Councilman Chris Kerrigan and Eureka police officer Robert Martinez told the supervisors that without the tax, city services such as police and fire protection would be in jeopardy. The tax imposes a 3 percent fee for services such as electricity, gas, telephone and cable television.
Kerrigan told the supervisors that if the tax fails to win an extension, it will take $1.1 million out of the city's general fund. That means the city will have to eliminate five police officers and three firefighters, he said.
"This revenue is really essential to providing the level of services constituents expect," he said.
Martinez said the Eureka Police Officers Association is going to be very active in educating residents on what the tax means to Eureka.
"Many services beyond police and fire will be affected," he said.
Supervisor Paul Kirk said that in the past he hasn't supported the supervisors getting involved in city ballot measures. But he has learned something over the years, he added.
"I've been educated. I support (Measure X)," Kirk said.
A new Humboldt County ordinance taking effect this month will allow law enforcement to remove any vehicle parked or stored on county roads for more than 10 consecutive days.
However, because of a loophole in the ordinance, people can skirt the new law by moving their vehicle every few days.
Tom Mattson, of the County's Public Works Department, said there is always a possibility that people will try to avoid the 10-day limit. The ordinance will, however, address the vast majority of problems.
Towed vehicles will be stored at nearby garages, he said.
Humboldt County high schools continued their trend of exceeding the statewide average in standardized test scores.
Sixty-five percent of Humboldt County high schoolers who are now juniors passed a new achievement test, while only 48 percent passed statewide. The "High School Graduation Test," which focuses on verbal and math skills, was administered last spring.
The above average performance of Humboldt County high school students was consistent with previous tests. The reason appears to have something to do with demographics.
The test has been criticized for placing minority and low-income students at a disadvantage, particularly those students still learning how to speak English.
In Humboldt County, only 4 percent of high school students are still learning how to speak English compared to 25 percent statewide. Humboldt County also has a lower percentage of low-income students, with 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price school lunches as opposed to 47 percent across the state.
Ben Shepherd, who is running for the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors' 5th District seat, has earned the endorsements of current Supervisor Paul Kirk, newly elected Sheriff Gary Philp, and the Humboldt Deputy Sheriff's Organization.
Kirk, Philp and the deputy sheriff's organization announced endorsements on Monday.
Philp and David Morey, president of the deputy sheriff's organization, both attributed Shepherd's support of law enforcement as the reason for their support.
The 5th District covers an area from McKinleyville to Somes Bar in the east and north of Mad River to Del Norte County. Kirk is retiring after serving two terms on the board.
Shepherd, of McKinleyville, is locked in a close race with Jill Geist, also of McKinleyville. This is Shepherd's third try for the board of supervisors. It's Geist's first attempt at a countywide office.
Both Shepherd and Geist have served on the McKinleyville Community Services District and the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission.
Geist has been endorsed by Arcata City Manager Dan Hauser, former Supervisor Julie Fulkerson and by the candidates she and Shepherd beat in last March's primary.
American Indian cultural sites have been given greater protection under a new California law that carries a jail term of one year and a $10,000 fine for grave robbing.
Violators could also receive civil penalties of up to $50,000.
The new fines and jail terms ramp up the fight against those who desecrate Native American sites. Until Gov. Gray Davis signed the new law, persons found guilty of looting cultural sites faced up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Tribal leaders hope the law will stop looters who have been robbing Yurok grave sites near Big Lagoon.
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors wants more information on the potential economic and traffic impacts of a Target store planned for the former Montgomery Ward site on the north side of Eureka off Highway 101.
That desire, expressed at the supervisors' weekly Tuesday meeting, was in response to the just-released Draft Environmental Impact Report on the planned 130,000 square-foot store. Target plans to open the new store in the spring of 2004.
The most significant issue is an increase in traffic congestion, said Kirk Girard, director of Humboldt County Community Development. According to the study, the new store will add 143 car trips per hour during the morning peak commute hours and 519 car trips to the evening rush hour.
Proposals by CalTrans to add a left-turn lane from southbound Highway 101 to V Street will help reduce traffic delays, Girard said. There will also be a slight traffic impact to state route 255 to Samoa.
"(It will be a) slight increase but not enough to trigger mitigation," he said.
Girard said the study claims Target will have a less significant economic impact than imagined. The study was done by an independent consulting firm not affiliated with either the city of Eureka or Target.
The study states that Eureka is in a retail vacuum since losing Montgomery Ward and JC Penney. Penney's had been located at the Bayshore Mall.
Supervisor Bonnie Neely asked if the county can get an economic analysis on any impacts Target might cause for businesses located in Bayshore or Eureka malls.
Searching for your stolen car or trying to fight a parking ticket? Look no further than your computer.
The Eureka Police Department website now posts information about stolen cars gathered from around the county. The website also includes forms for challenging parking tickets, as well as crime statistics.
The address is www.eurekapd.org.
Home and Garden Television wants to feature Humboldt area houses on its weekly cable show, "If Walls Could Talk." They're looking for owners of private homes who are knowledgeable about the house's history. They're also interested in established historical houses.
For more information, call 303-712-3321
or contact the Humboldt County Film Commissioner at 444-6633.
Comments? E-mail the Journal: email@example.com
© Copyright 2002, North Coast Journal, Inc.