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Oct. 12, 2000


Then there was Blanche

KHSU turns 40 - power boost at KMUD

Home sales soar

Graduation rates slip

Eureka Baking scales back

Self-help in McKinleyville

Math tutoring help

Pirate radio under fire

Midriff inspection in Ferndale

Town custodian endangered

Co-op expansion complete


Then there was Blanche

[photo of Blanche Quirino]When Blanche Quirino says her home is "nothing fancy," she's not kidding.

The windows are boarded over, her neighbors' apartments all have different doors. The fence around the courtyard is crooked. It is a ramshackle mess, but to Quirino, "It's home to me."

And since she relies primarily on her monthly $712 Social Security check, she especially likes the rent -- just $180 a month which includes utilities.

"I moved into this building in 1972," said Quirino, 89, a Yurok Indian who drove a Greyhound bus for 40 years.

But in August Quirino and her half a dozen neighbors at Second and H streets in Eureka received 30-day eviction notices from the building's new owner, Kurt Kramer, who says the dilapidated building needs to come down and he needs the lot to provide parking for his tenants in the renovated Vance Hotel down the block.

The story of Blanche's plight quickly made the 6 o'clock news.

It's been a long two-month process, but everyone, including Quirino, has found a home.

First, Kramer offered each tenant $300 to help relocate. Most tenants took him up on the offer, but for Quirino and her caretaker niece, who lives in another unit, finding safe and affordable housing proved to be a lot tougher.

Every week or two, the Journal would call to ask how she was doing. Quirino said she was still there. Once she said, "I'm packing, but I don't know where I'm going."

The underlying problem is a shortage of low-income housing, said Gail Lampey of the Housing Authority of Eureka and Humboldt County.

"There's been a shortage for a lot of years," Lampey said. "To change it, we could rehabilitate or build more housing for low-income people, but there are few sites in Eureka left to build on."

Kramer, a developer, said that rising building costs associated with the regulation of the construction industry have contributed to the housing shortage. Newer, more stringent laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act make buildings more expensive to put up.

"I can't build an apartment today for the same price as 10 years ago," he said.

Direct financial assistance from the government is also scarce. Last month the Housing Authority opened its waiting list for Section 8 housing assistance for just 10 days after it had been closed for nearly 3 years to clear the backlog. Section 8 gives needy families, disabled individuals and the elderly money to help pay rent. The housing authority received thousands of applications in that short period.

"We'll have to close it again for a couple of years to help these families out," Lampey said.

Quirino ended up being one of the lucky ones. She qualified for subsidized senior housing and has found a new apartment.

"It's all repainted and everything else, really spic and span," she said, and she knows how lucky she was. Until she found her new apartment, she said she considered herself "next to homeless."

Homelessness is not an unlikely scenario for someone in that situation, said Pamlyn Millsap, homeless services coordinator for the Humboldt County Department of Mental Health.

"I see people on the streets that are basically no different from this woman." She said the only real difference is the natural "decomposition process" that takes place when people hit they street.

"And it isn't pretty."

KHSU turns 40 -- power boost at KMUD

Arcata's public radio station KHSU turns 40 Oct. 17. By chance the station's birthday coincides with its biannual membership drive. At the other end of the county KMUD is in the midst of its "silent drive," a prelude to its on-air drive in early November.

How important are these pledge drives?

"Absolutely vital," said Charles Horn, KHSU's development manager. "Community support is the biggest, the most important and the most reliable source of funding we get."

"Everything else depends on the money we get from the community," adds Terry Green, the station's general manager. "All of our federal support is a match one way or another for community support."

While funding from state and federal sources has been up and down, community support through memberships and underwriting has risen steadily.

"It went up significantly in 1995, the year federal support fell quickly. The community rallied and kept the station in business," said Green?

The '90s were hard times for public radio in general. When the Republicans took over Congress in 1995 funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was significantly reduced.

"That happened on the heels of the recession in California and that made it more difficult for Humboldt State University to provide the same support it once did," Green said. "Luckily community support went up quicker than government support went down, so the station's overall budget grew."

"The highest percentage of our funding comes from underwriting," said Pamela Parsons, KMUD operations manager and volunteer coordinator. "It accounts for about 36 percent of our budget. Next would be our on-air fundraisers. We do several smaller fundraisers like our coffee booth at Reggae and a few gigs at the Mateel. But those only bring in a minimal amount of money."

Both stations receive direct funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. KMUD gets $89,000 annually, less than a quarter of its $380,000 budget. KHSU receives $130,000, about 20 percent of its $660,000 budget.

In addition to CPB money, KMUD and KHSU have been recipients of other federal funding. This year, through the Department of Commerce's Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, each station received grants for equipment upgrades.

"These are matching grants which require that part of the money be raised locally," said Horn. "In our case it's always been 50 percent. Up to a certain point the government contributes $1 for every $1 we raise."

At KHSU a $35,000 grant will go toward equipment that will allow digital storage of pre-recorded programs. KMUD received a $79,261 grant in 1999 which pays most of the $90,000 it will cost to replace an aging transmitter and antenna system on Pratt Mountain.

When complete the upgrade will boost the station's transmitter power from 187 to 5,500 watts, providing a clearer signal in hard to reach areas of southern Humboldt and northern Mendocino counties.

"We'll have a much better signal," said Simon Frech, the station's technical director who had just returned from working on the transmitter. "And it should be done very soon."

The KHSU membership drive begins Saturday, Oct. 14. To celebrate 40 years on the air, the 40-member-strong Marching Lumberjack Band will perform live on the air beginning at 5 p.m. on the show, "Your Saving Grace." There will be a 40th birthday bash from 3-6 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Arcata Co-op.

KMUD celebrates the end of the silent drive and prepares to launch its on-air drive with the annual Howloween Boogie at the Mateel Community Center Oct. 28. The event features family fun and music by three bands -- Sta-Free Funk, Tubesteak Jones and Something Different.

To learn more about Humboldt's public radio stations tune in. KHSU-FM broadcasts at 90.5, at 89.1 for Ferndale/Fortuna, 89.3 Garberville, 99.7 Willow Creek and on KHSR-FM 91.9 FM Crescent City. KMUD is at 91.1 FM in Southern Humboldt and at 88.3 up north. Or visit them on the Internet. At you can listen on the web. At you can make a pledge online.

Home sales soar

Humboldt County's economy continued to coast during August, according to figures in the most recent Index of Economic Activity for Humboldt County, compiled monthly by Humboldt State University Professor Steve Hackett and student Deborah Keeth. The Index decreased about 1 percent from July to August, a minor change that reflects the stable state in which the Humboldt economy has found itself since January 1999.

While the Index as a whole has been stable, individual segments of the regional economy have experienced wide swings -- much to the delight of realtors. Sales of new and existing homes rocketed to unprecedented levels in August, with 150 being sold. That's almost 28 percent more than in July and the highest number since the Index started keeping track in 1994.

Hackett hypothesized that the increase might be due to the combination of a healthy economy and low mortgage rates. He also noted that the national median home price fell in August to $142,200. The spike in sales in Humboldt County might be due to the fact that we're still below that average: The median price in Humboldt County is $137,000.

Graduation rates slip

It's taking longer and longer for students to graduate from state universities -- and Humboldt State is no exception.

Only 7.6 percent of HSU students who enrolled in 1995 graduated within four years, according to university statistics. That's down from 9.3 percent for the students who enrolled in 1994 and 11 percent for students enrolling in 1993.

The phenomenon is neither unique nor especially alarming, said Sean Kearns, HSU's director of university advancement. He said that students are spending longer in college across the country.

It is certainly consistent across the California State University system. According to a recently released report, only 20 percent of students enrolled at CSU campuses are in a position to attempt graduation within four years. That is not necessarily due to laziness or procrastination, Kearns said. It has to do with CSU's mission.

"In terms of herding people through in four years, that's not the CSU philosophy. We're dedicated to offering guidance to make it through to a degree at a pace and intensity that they [the students] prefer.

"Working or personal issues may come to bear on an academic career," he added. According to the report, 80 percent of CSU students have jobs, 25 percent have children, and only half receive support from their parents.

Eureka Baking scales back

The Eureka Baking Co., a bakery and coffeeshop that had expanded well beyond the confines of Eureka to serve customers from Fortuna to McKinleyville, will be closing most of its retail stores.

The family-run business will continue, said co-owner Andrea Pedley.

"It's strictly amicable. We've been in business for 12 years and my younger brother, Joseph (Vellutini), and my mother (Delores Vellutini) and I decided we wanted to do something else."

Pedley said there was more competition than in 1988, and that left less room in the market for her family's company but stressed that there was no ill will and the company was not being forced out of business.

Pedley's other brother, Vincent Vellutini, will stay on and run the Henderson Center store in Eureka. Pedley. Joseph Vellutini and Dolores Vellutini will shift their activities to property management.

Self-help in McKinleyville

Owning a home has long been part of the American Dream, but for many it remains out of reach. That will soon change for 23 families in McKinleyville.

They will be participating in an innovative program, called Self-Help Housing, that provides loans for land and materials as long as the families provide the labor.

The program is administered by the Rural Communities Housing Development Corp., a private, non-profit. The RCHDC secured a $579,650 loan from the state Department of Housing and Community Development's Rural Predevelopment Loan Program. The money will be used to buy already-improved lots near the intersection of Thiel Street and Railroad Avenue. In addition, $900,000 for building supplies will come from Humboldt Bank in the form of low-interest loans. And labor will come from the homeowners themselves.

"It's not easy," said Tom MonPere, director of housing development at the RCHDC. "It's a tough program, because it's going to be at least a year of your life you'll be working on it."

And by working, he doesn't mean an hour here or there.

"The homeowners have to be able to put in approximately 40 hours a week."

But the rewards make it worthwhile, said Teresa Grossi, the loan officer who handled the grant application. Homeowners learn how to maintain their home while they build it, gaining the skills they'll need to repair plumbing or electrical systems. They're also more likely to undertake those repairs, she said, "If they feel like they have part ownership."

Fourteen of the homes are designated for low-income families. To be eligible, a family of four must have an income of less than $29,600. The remaining nine homes will be for families with even lower incomes. They would have to have less than $18,500 in annual income to qualify.

The program will be bringing to McKinleyville what it has brought to other areas of Humboldt and Mendocino counties. MonPere said his agency has already helped build 300 houses in the two counties and is always looking for "both families willing to work and property to build on."

"There is ample money sitting there" for future projects, said Grossi.

"There are funds available and we would love to help (more families) out."

Math tutoring help

Schools across Humboldt County are showcasing the results of this year's standardized testing, and many have reason to be proud. Washington Elementary School in Eureka, for example, increased its Academic Performance Index from 779 to 833, putting it over the state-mandated target score of 800.

But not all Humboldt County students are enjoying such success, and one Eureka teacher is getting the chance to help those that have the most problems catch up.

Valerie Gardner has been awarded a McAuliffe Fellowship, a $39,000 grant that pays her salary while she researches and writes a program to help the worst performers in mathematics start learning again.

Gardner, who until receiving the award was a teacher at Lafayette Elementary School, described her project as "a balanced program aimed at helping diagnose where their misconceptions in mathematics are and giving them strategies so they can use math in computation and problem solving. It helps them make sense of it all."

The 12-week program will eventually be implemented at all Eureka elementaries on an after-school basis.

The McAuliffe Fellowship is named after Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire schoolteacher who was aboard the Challenger space shuttle when it exploded in January 1986. Gardner received one of only two McAuliffe fellowships for the state. Carol Smith, an education consultant with the California Department of Education, said that the program "taps teachers' creativity and experience."

"Teachers are out there with all these great ideas, and they just need a little bit of funding and time to implement them. This allows them the time and resources to do a project that's aligned to the state's standards but is still on the site, hands-on and will help the kids."

Pirate radio under fire

The station 94.9 Pirate radio ("Pirates of the Radio," Dec. 2, 1999) has come under increased scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission in recent weeks, leading to a temporary reduction in broadcasting.

According to a DJ who gave his name as "Pigpen," the van where the station is located was visited by FCC agents Sept. 25, 26 and 27. During their first visit, a citation was given to the DJ on duty and broadcasting was stopped, but the mobile station was soon transmitting again. Over the next two days, agents repeatedly tried to convince DJs to cease broadcasting and were repeatedly successful -- sometimes for as much as an hour.

No word has been heard from the agents since Sept. 27.

The station is now on a sporadic schedule, transmitting from various locations. Pigpen, who did not give his name because of legal reasons, said, "In a very physical sense, the FCC has the entire federal government behind them," so they could probably take 94.9 off the airwaves.

However, Pigpen said the station's plan is to continue broadcasting.

"What pirate radio really boils down to for us is the voice of the community. The transmitter itself (agents) can get if they tried hard enough. But they won't be able to shut down the voice of Arcata."

Midriff inspection in Ferndale

Shortly before lunch Sept. 14, Ferndale Elementary School Principal Kathy Tyzzer walked into four junior high classrooms and created a controversy. As part of an attempt to enforce the school's dress code, she asked that the girls in the class raise their arms over their head and then bend over to the floor to see if their midriffs were showing. She then asked boys to show the waistline of their pants to see if they were appropriately fitted.

The inspection upset several students, said Sue Brower, whose son was in one of the four classrooms.

"My son was so embarrassed to see his friends," Brower said. "They were so humiliated."

Brower and others are asking that Tyzzer be suspended. At a school board meeting Sept. 20, some parents called for her resignation. The school board has so far refused both requests and is handling the issue as a personnel issue -- in closed session.

"My plan was not to embarrass or humiliate my students," Tyzzer told the Journal. She said she had received complaints concerning students who had flaunted the dress code, which says no bare midriffs on girls, no saggy pants on boys.

"I was trying to enforce it equitably," said Tyzzer. She disputed allegations that students requested the inspection be carried out in private, and said the inspection would cease.

"It's not something I would consider doing again. It was an errant judgment on my part," she said.

Town custodian endangered

For the past 14 months Garberville and Redway have enjoyed the benefits of a town custodian, thanks to the Merchant's Guild Beautification Project funded by local businesses. The project tackles maintenance tasks like street cleaning, trash removal and mowing in and between the towns -- but the fund is about dry.

Jeff Varner, who coordinates the project, announced last month that funds will run out this month. The work would normally be done by a city, but Redway and Garberville are unincorporated.

Businesses have paid for the project to boost tourism and civic pride, said Garberville-Redway Chamber of Commerce Director Janis Tillery. Although it's hard for small businesses to come up with the contribution every month, the project has been very valuable and she hopes it can continue.

"We're just trying to go month to month right now."

Co-op expansion complete

The North Coast Co-op celebrates the completion of the remodel and expansion of the Arcata store Oct. 14, with a Grand Reopening Harvest Festival scheduled for 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Planning for the expansion project began in 1997 and demolition began in July, 1999. The remodel increased the size of the Arcata store from 11,000 to 18,000 square feet. The expansion includes new office space, the addition of a juice bar and garden shop, relocation and expansion of Spoons deli, and space for an expanded selection of grocery items.

The re-opening event will include a pumpkin carving and dressing contest, product demonstrations, give-aways and live music.

Instead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony the formal opening will be marked by the un-tying of a tie-died bow at 12:30 p.m.


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