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Oct. 14, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

JPR chooses news

CR, Loleta float school bond measures


 T H E  W E E K L Y  W R A P

COUNCIL CALLS FOR SPECIAL ELECTION: In an about-face, the Arcata City Council is expected to vote next Wednesday to hold a special election to replace Elizabeth Conner, who resigned last month. Three of four council members -- Connie Stewart, Michael Machi and Dave Meserve -- said Monday that they favored a special election over an appointment process. Meserve had previously said he was against a special election but had a change of heart. "In light of the vituperative personal attacks on council members in the last meeting, it seemed to me that even though we could have appointed one of the applicants, that appointee would have had to serve under a cloud of ill will and innuendo and feelings of illegitimacy," he said Tuesday. He added that no women had applied for the appointment, and said he hoped some would run in the special election, to be held next March. The council voted unanimously last week to reject the $18,000 gift offered by an anonymous donor for a special election, since it could represent special interests attempting to muck up the process.

NURSES PLAN PICKET: Nurses said they would hold an "informational picket" outside St. Joseph's Hospital to bring attention to patient safety issues at the hospital. The co-chair of St. Joe's California Nurses Association committee, Kathryn Donahue, said that the hospital is inadequately staffed and nurses are overworked, which diminishes patient care. Donahue expected 50 to 100 nurses to join the picket, which was scheduled for Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. None of the nurses are ditching work, Donahue said, although many will join the picket during their lunch break. A press release from the hospital stated that "some of [the nurses'] concerns are based on a lack of understanding of the hospital's success and sincerity at resolving their issues. But the hospital also shares some of the nurses' frustrations. The past year has been one of enormous change in health care in California, and particularly at St. Joseph's." Among the changes was implementation of an all-RN care model, which reduced the number of nursing assistant positions at the hospital.

NO GREENS ALLOWED: David Cobb of Eureka, the Green Party presidential candidate, was arrested in St. Louis while protesting his exclusion from the presidential debate last Friday. Cobb, 41, who repeatedly requested to be included in the debates with President Bush and John Kerry, protested with Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik outside Washington University and was arrested after trying to push past police officers and enter the building. Badnarik was also arrested along with a few students, said Cobb's partner, Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap. "The corporations sponsoring these restricted, scripted and staged events, and their two-party accomplices, don't want the American people to know about the choices they have in this election," Cobb said in a press release. Cobb was released from jail shortly after midnight Saturday and charged with trespassing and failure to obey a police order. On Tuesday, Sopoci-Belknap said that Cobb, who was roughed up by police but not injured, had no plans to protest Wednesday's presidential debate in Tempe, Ariz. Cobb is scheduled to be back in Eureka Oct. 19-24, after which time he will return to the campaign trail, Sopoci-Belknap said.

SUPERVISOR UNDERGOES SURGERY: 1st District Supervisor Jimmy Smith recently had extensive skin cancer surgery, and is recovering at home, Supervisor Jill Geist announced at Tuesday's meeting of the board. Details about his prognosis were unavailable.

GOOD LUCK GETTING VACCINE: The Humboldt County Public Health Department announced that it would not have flu vaccine available this year. Public health staff are surveying local doctors' offices to see if they have the vaccine available, but no pharmacies have it here, and there is expected to be a widespread shortage, said Susan Wardrip of the Public Health Department. Chiron Corp., which manufactures half of flu vaccine supplies, was forced to keep its vaccine off the market due to possible contamination. Fortunately, officials anticipate no flu emergency this year. Those at highest risk of the disease are people over 65, infants up to age 2 and people with chronic medical conditions.

WOMAN MISSING: A woman known to frequent Old Town Eureka has been reported missing by police. Friends of Alice Sherman, 52, told Eureka police on Oct. 6 they have not seen her since Aug. 20. Sherman is described as Native American, 5'3", 160 pounds, with brown eyes. The last time her friends saw Sherman her hair was dyed red. Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call EPD Detective Ron Harpham at 441-4315.

FATAL HIT AND RUN: A woman was killed in a hit-and-run traffic accident while attempting to cross Broadway in south Eureka, police said. Ronda Lea Didier, 43, of Eureka, was crossing the road near McCullens Avenue on Friday, at 7:35 p.m. when witnesses say she was struck in the southbound bike lane by a Ford pickup truck hauling a trailer carrying a water tank. A friend who was with Didier at the time said that they were going back to Brogi's, a bar on the southbound side of Broadway near McCullens Avenue. Deputy Coroner Charlie Van Buskirk said that the friend waited in the turning lane before crossing but Didier went onward and was hit by the truck, which was traveling about 50 to 55 miles per hour. Judging from eyewitness accounts, the impact threw the woman 90 feet, but there were no skid marks at the scene, Van Buskirk said. Witnesses told Eureka police that the mid-`90s truck was gray-blue with a dark stripe on the side. Van Buskirk said that the right front fender of the vehicle was damaged, as there were pieces of the truck left on the roadway. Anyone with information about the accident is urged to call Eureka Police at 441-4044.

ANTI-HARASSMENT GRANT: Six Rivers Planned Parenthood was recently awarded two grants to address gay bashing in schools. The California Safe Schools Coalition grant was split among a number of organizations around the state, with SRPP receiving $1,790 for its program. The second grant of $2,000 came from the Walt Whitman Foundation. Debbe Hartridge, SRPP education director, said that the money has been used to purchase brochures on creating safe schools, which will be available at Eureka High School. The rest of the money will fund Spare Change, a local teen theater troupe that was mired in controversy in 2002 after Arcata High School administrators refused to run the troupe's performance, which candidly dealt with sex, teen pregnancy and homosexuality. (See Journal cover story, "Too sexy for this school?" Feb. 21, 2002.) Hartridge said that the troupe is currently scripting a new play, scheduled to be staged at area high schools in December.

IT'S A BOY!: The latest addition to the Journal's family is the yet-to-be-named baby boy Sims, son of staff writer Hank Sims and his wife, Jenny Hales. The healthy tyke arrived on the scene Tuesday, weighing in at a strapping 10 pounds 7 ounces. Congrats!

JPR chooses news


Oregon-based regional radio network Jefferson Public Radio announced Tuesday the choice of its "News and Information" service as the programming format for KZPN, the former British Broadcasting Corp. relay station.

The decision comes after staff from JPR faced an angry, hostile crowd last week when they came to Bayside soliciting input on the future of the station they acquired over a year ago.

Based in Ashland on the campus of Southern Oregon University, JPR is an ambitious regional network offering three different programming packages. Adding KZPN makes for 20 stations reaching more than 700,000 listeners in Southern Oregon and Northern California, an area JPR calls "the mythical State of Jefferson."

The question at hand last Wednesday -- which of two JPR feeds to run on KZPN -- was often pushed aside by the standing room only audience, many of them dedicated fans of BBC World Service, the programming offered by former station operators Monica and Lee Olsen for 12 years.

The most vocal critics, from a group calling themselves Friends of the BBC, voiced opposition to JPR's purchase of KZPN with a passion that crossed over into rudeness, including irrational outbursts, accusations and outright threats, with one "Friends" associate invoking Earth First! while implying that he was considering sabotaging the station's transmission tower. (NOTE: The above statement is incorrect. See CORRECTION below.)

Jamie Flower, a lawyer who moderates a talk show on KHSU, was JPR's most immoderate, vociferous critic, characterizing the two JPR feeds offered as a choice between "Coke and Pepsi."

After trying in vain to block the transfer of KZPN's license at the Federal Communication Commission level, Flowers has filed an appeal to JPR's "main studio waiver," a permit to run the station from outside the area. The waivers are not unusual: KHSU has one to run KHSR in Crescent City and Brookings, Ore. KMUD also uses one for its Northern Humboldt sister station, KMUE.

More rational fans of the BBC simply did not understand why they couldn't keep things the way they were with a 24-hour BBC feed. As JPR Executive Director Ronald Kramer explained, that was not something JPR or anyone else could do legally since Minnesota-based radio giant Public Radio International has an exclusive agreement for distribution of BBC World Service in the United States.

As Eleanor Harris, a PRI representative, stated flatly in a recent letter to Kramer, "[PRI] never had an agreement with KZPN Bayside to broadcast BBC World Service. The service they were running is not a service PRI distributes, nor is it authorized for distribution in the United States."

After the Bayside meeting Monica Olsen conceded that PRI had contacted her seven or eight years ago challenging her right to broadcast BBC material. Olsen said she asked her BBC contact what she should do and was told that it would be best if she ignored the letter.

PRI's BBC World Service feed is currently offered in a two-hour block on KHSU from 3 to 5 a.m. weekdays. The same feed runs on JPR's News and Information service from 5 to 7 a.m. and from 10 p.m. until midnight weekdays.

Initially JPR had planned on adding its "Rhythm and News" feed, a mix of music and programs from National Public Radio, but according to Paul Westhelle, JPR's development director, the overwhelming sentiment at the meeting and in e-mails, letters and phone calls showed that former KZPN listeners favored "News and Information."

The discussion at JPR as to which feed to choose also took into consideration the overlap with programming already offered in the area on KHSU and KNHT, a station JPR has been operating locally since March 2000 running its "Classical and News" feed.

Adding "Rhythm and News" locally would have meant that an NPR program like "All Things Considered" would be offered on three local stations at the same time. "News and Information" programming draws material from non-NPR sources including programs from the BBC, PRI and Canadian Broadcast Corp.

KHSU General Manager Elizabeth Hans McCrone said she would have preferred it if JPR had chosen "Rhythm and News." She was uncertain of the impact JPR's choice will have on KHSU. "My concern is that potential supporters will turn away from KHSU," to get news from the new station.

JPR also announced that it will change the call letters of KZPN to KNHM, adopting the standard of other JPR operated Northern California stations, which all start with "KN."

According to Kramer, JPR's plans for the new station include moving its transmitter off the Olsen's Kneeland property "as soon as possible." While no firm decision has been made, JPR engineers have already contacted KEET-TV inquiring about space on its Kneeland transmission tower. JPR is also planning an increase in power. The combination of a stronger signal and a more favorable transmitter location would likely mean that KNHM's coverage would match KHSU in range.

Correction: Oct. 21, 2004

In the above story, "JPR chooses news," it was incorrectly reported that "The most vocal critics, from a group calling themselves Friends of the BBC, voiced opposition to JPR's purchase of KZPN with passion that crossed over into rudeness, including irrational outbursts, accusations and outright threats, with one `Friends' associate invoking Earth First! while implying that he was considering sabotaging the station's transmission tower."

In fact, the speaker was not a member of the Friends of BBC and representatives of the Friends group who spoke made no threats.

There was only one threat expressed that evening, which many in the audience took to be in jest. (Others did not.) Reporter Bob Doran incorrectly assumed the speaker was a member of the Friends of BBC because he wore a Friends' button, available at the door to all attendees, as he made the following comment:

"For the last 10 years, Monica has created us. We're zealots. We're religious. We're evangelic. And now these guys come from out of town and are going to import this new thing. They're going to take it away from you. I think if these guys were halfway smart, just a little bit smart, you'd say, `Hey, maybe these guys would call in money.' I would give you if you would just, just give me half an olive branch right now, say, `You know what? You guys made sense tonight. I think if I gave you an hour you guys would give me 15 grand a year.' But here we here we got the standoff. You're flippin,' we're flippin' and -- no, you're not gonna get a penny from me. I wanna find the antenna. I'm looking for your antenna. I'm Earth First! BBC, man! "


Nov. 23, 2000 COVER STORY: The British Connection: Lee & Monica Olsen of KZPN

Oct. 2, 2003 NEWS: KZPN bought up: Station known for airing BBC is acquired by
Southern Oregon public radio giant

Jan. 29, 2004 NEWS: Glitch in sale of KZPN radio: Meantime, local ABC-TV affiliate changes hands

Sept. 30, 2004 NEWS ­ Weekly Wrap: BBC signs off

Aug. 5, 2004 NEWS ­ Weekly Wrap: BBC signing off

CR, Loleta float school bond measures


College of the Redwoods instructor Lisa Nedlan's nursing class is often overflowing with students. With the shortage of desk space, some students have plopped down on the hospital beds in the back of the class during lectures. One first-year nursing student said she sat through a three-hour class on a milk crate.

Others said that with so many students, not everyone can get hands-on experience during lab time and must come back to finish their work after class has ended.

"The teachers here do their best, but at a point it's just not enough," said nursing student Jaycie Littlefield.

With two school bond measures, Q and K, on the Nov. 2 ballot, there may be major improvements in store for CR and the Loleta School District. But some taxpayers feel that the initiatives are too much to ask in tight budget times.

Measure Q calls for a $40.3 million bond measure for facility improvements at the College of the Redwoods, to be paid through property taxes over the next 25 to 35 years. Loleta's Measure K asks for $456,000 over the same time span.

The average parcel owner in Humboldt County would pay $21 a year if Measure Q is approved; the average cost for Measure K in Loleta would be $36 per year.

Both schools will seek state matching funds; $20 million for CR and $790,000 for Loleta. The bond measures must be approved by 55 percent of the school districts' voters.

In Loleta's case, the district includes the Eel River Valley, south of Fernbridge, and north of Tompkins Hill Road. CR's voting range is far larger, covering all of Humboldt and Del Norte counties, coastal Mendocino County and western Trinity County, to include all of the college's branch campuses, whose enrollment totals 6,600 students.

The last bond measure the college campaigned for -- $3.6 million -- was in 1964. It was approved by voters and used to build the Eureka campus. Many of the labs have not been renovated since they were built.

"It isn't a matter of deferred maintenance," CR President Casey Crabill said. "We're a fix-what-you've-got institution, but we still need renovation to compete in the 21st century."

Included in CR's plans are larger classrooms, upgraded science labs, new ventilation systems, particularly in vocational classes like the construction technology department, earthquake safety retrofitting, disabled access, an indoor firing range for the Police Academy, gymnasium upgrades, and technology infrastructure.

As for the 54-year-old kindergarten through eighth grade Loleta district, made up of two main buildings and five trailers, improvements include updated classrooms; lighting, electrical and heating work; window replacements; asbestos and lead paint removal; kitchen repairs; and computer network upgrades.

"The school board started thinking about modernization about 11 years ago," said Loleta School District Superintendent James Malloy. "Our initial hope was that we would be able to fund [the improvements] without going to the voters. But that was before we had the state budget crunch."

While support for Measure Q is far-reaching, from the county Sheriff's Department, and the Eureka, Fortuna, and Crescent City chambers of commerce to the Humboldt Democratic Central Committee, there is a comparatively small but vocal opposition -- the Humboldt Taxpayers League.

Leo Sears, president of the league, said that while it may be nice to have a modernized campus, it is not necessary and does not warrant local spending. A major gripe Sears has with the measure is that the funds, he said, will be used to update technology that will be outdated by the time the bonds are paid off.

"Technology changes rather rapidly. Thirty-five years from now, things will have changed and the equipment won't last that long," Sears said. "Let's say it has a 10-year life. Then they still have 25 years to pay for it. Pretty soon you have layer upon layer of debt. It doesn't make good fiscal sense to finance anything beyond its useful life."

Crabill said that Sears' claims are overstated.

"The college has funded equipment and equipment replacement without bond funding for 40 years," Crabill said. "What has changed substantially is the technology behind all of our vocational areas. The infrastructure needs to facilitate new work. So when we renovate areas, we will upgrade the technology, the connectivity, the structural support for equipment, the power sources, not to mention the expansion of space necessary to accommodate these changes. In fact, the vast majority of these funds, easily upwards of 80 percent, will be spent on enduring capital improvements."

Sears and the Taxpayers League think that property owners are being overburdened with taxes, noting the recent fire district tax, the potential passage of the Measure L county-wide sales tax and increased water bills in Eureka and Arcata.

"I have the highest regard for [CR], and it's not just this one tax that is the problem, you have to look at the larger picture," Sears said.

If the school bond measures do not pass, both schools said essentially the same thing: that they'd try again.




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