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Oct. 23, 2003


Out-of-towners recruited for Gallegos recall bid
Petitioners getting a whopping $8 per signature


GREEN PARTY CANDIDATE CHARGED WITH DUI Doug Thron of Arcata, the Green Party's candidate in the 2002 1st Assembly District race, has been charged with driving under the influence, according to the District Attorney's office. He pleaded guilty last Friday to a "wet reckless," a lesser charge referring to reckless driving involving alcohol, and was sentenced to three years probation with a $1,300 fine. According to Deputy DA Zachary Bird, Thron, 33, was pulled over at 2:20 a.m. on July 5 after an Arcata police officer noticed his red Chevelle swerving across the center line. The arresting officer smelled alcohol on his breath and said that his speech was slurred, but Thron, a nature photographer and real estate agent, refused all sobriety tests, saying he'd had only "one margarita," Bird said. Thron, in contrast, told the Journal that he consented to and passed the tests, and an arrest record appears to show that he consented to two breath tests, which didn't yield a result, then refused a third. "It was dropped to a lesser charge because police had altered the data in the first place," he said. "They wrote that I failed the test, then changed it afterward [to say] that I refused. This has been a longstanding problem of mine, since I ran for office. They pull me over all the time. It's clearly just nonstop harassment by the police." Better lose that "THRON" license plate, Doug.

BUSY 24 HOURS First, Arcata City Council Member Dave Meserve took part in last week's marathon council meeting, where the governing body voted unanimously to ask Congress to investigate whether President Bush and Vice-President Cheney committed impeachable offenses in the buildup to the Iraq war. Then, after catching about an hour of sleep, he jetted off to Washington, D.C., where he hand-delivered the council's written request to the House Judiciary Committee. Meserve, who was in the nation's capital to take part in a conference on the USA Patriot Act, said he was pleased with the council's action even though it fell short of the impeachment demand he had been seeking. Brian Willson of Veterans for Peace, the main backer of Meserve's impeachment resolution, agreed. "It's a lot better than nothing," Willson said.

SPEAKING OF THE PATRIOT ACT At the recommendation of the Human Rights Commission, the Board of Supervisors discussed the law at its Tuesday meeting. Many residents spoke, all but one favoring non-cooperation with allegedly unconstitutional provisions of the act. Supervisor Roger Rodoni revealed his strong libertarian streak by coming out squarely against the act. "I have a considerable concern about local autonomy and federal intervention," Rodoni said, adding that the Patriot Act was a "bright blinking light" that threatened undue federal usurpation of state and local authority. But county staff -- including the sheriff, the chief administrator and the county counsel -- each expressed some concern about how far the county could go in repudiating federal law. In the end, the supervisors voted 4-0 to support supervisor Jill Geist's proposal to form a subcommittee, composed of Rodoni, Supervisor John Woolley and a member of the HRC, to further determine what latitude the county had in dealing with unconstitutional or unpopular aspects of the act. Woolley said that he hoped the process would not end with the board adopting a "milquetoast" resolution. Supervisor Bonnie Neely has been ill recently, and has not been able to attend the last two meetings.

NO WAY That, in essence, was the response earlier this week of the Hoopa Valley Tribe to a settlement offer from the Westlands Water District over flows on the Trinity River. The tribe said the offer, which would have made more Trinity water available to Central Valley irrigators, simply was not based on sound science -- a conclusion shared by a team of federal scientists with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

GALLEGOS ON 420... SB 420, the state medical marijuana bill that will become law on Jan. 1, may override current county policy, but the author of that policy -- District Attorney Paul Gallegos -- said last week that he was delighted with it nonetheless. "They addressed every issue we'd been dealing with, just about, and they confirmed our position," said the DA, applauding the fact that the Legislature tackled sticky issues such as transportation of the herb, ID cards and doctor-patient confidentiality. The state regulations are "a floor, not a ceiling," Gallegos said, and the Board of Supervisors may choose to allow local patients more than the six mature plants specified by the law.

HSU RECEIVES MAJOR GRANT Humboldt State officials announced last week that the university had received a $7.4 million grant from the estate of Louis Schatz for the Schatz Energy Research Center and the Schatz Tree Farm in Maple Creek. The money will allow HSU to construct a new "signature facility on this campus," and also expand the work of the tree farm, President Rollin Richmond said. The research center has done pioneering work on alternative energy sources, such as hydrogen fuel cells. The grant is the latest from the Schatz family, bringing the total to about $15 million. Schatz, who died in 2001, was a plastics industrialist in Washington state who supplied parts for the likes of Boeing. His son Gordon lives in Maple Creek. (And no, the family is not related to Eric Schatz, the Schatz Tree Service owner who's been involved with removing treesitters from Pacific Lumber land.)

TRIBAL RECALL CALLED OFF The Native American tribe that announced a recall effort against two of its tribal council members will not hold an election after all. Carole Reeves, treasurer of The Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria, of Loleta, said the recall organizers pulled back because one of the targets was up for election in March, anyway. Then there was the cost: At an estimated $900, the election would be too pricey, the tribe decided. (Others had no such qualms about a recent statewide recall.)

ALLEGED SHOOTER ARRESTED After a months-long hunt, police have nabbed the man they say is responsible for the drive-by killing of 19-year-old Justin Andersen of Eureka. Maher Conrad Suarez, 19, was arrested in Shasta County, where he was staying with friends, officials said. He was arraigned Friday in Humboldt County Superior Court on charges of murder, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and participating in a street gang. "Gang activity is a zero-sum equation," said District Attorney Paul Gallegos. "If you're not hurt or killed by your own involvement, we will get you." Andersen was killed June 16 near California and West Del Norte streets in Eureka.

NEW SKATE PARK Arcata skateboarders will soon have another place to practice their carving and grinding. The Fogtown Skatepark, located across the street from Jacoby Creek School, is scheduled to open in about a month, said manager Michael Kennedy. The park will require a yearly membership fee of $50 and will be open to rollerbladers as well as skaters. (Sorry, no bikes or scooters.) Hours are tentatively set at 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

Out-of-towners recruited for Gallegos recall bid
Petitioners getting a whopping $8 per signature


[Petitioner at table in front of store, with sign saying "State petition to repeal the car tax increase is here!"]The campaign practices of the Committee to Recall Paul Gallegos were again called into question this week after it was learned that out-of-town petitioners were getting paid a whopping $8 per signature in a last-minute effort to qualify the recall for the ballot.

After learning from the Journal on Monday that out-of-towners were being recruited to gather signatures, county elections chief Lindsey McWilliams notified the California Secretary of State's office, which enforces most election laws. The law requires that signature gatherers be registered to vote in the county in which they solicit signatures.

"If there's anecdotal support that people from out of the area are [involved], that's something that should be forwarded to the Secretary of State," he said. "They can sort it out."

This is the second complaint related to the Gallegos recall effort that McWilliams has forwarded to state election officials. Earlier this year, Shelter Cove resident Jim Ferguson wrote to the county Elections Office, alleging that pro-recall petitions were being "posted" at local businesses for anyone to sign, a violation of elections law. McWilliams notified the Secretary of State's office, which has not yet weighed in on the claim.

Richard Salzman, coordinator of the pro-Gallegos Alliance for Ethical Business, said that the exceptionally high $8 per signature rate being paid to gatherers -- most causes pay closer to $1 -- shows that recall proponents are "desperate."

MTC Associates, the Arcata-based consulting firm that is managing the recall campaign, hired professional signature-gathering company US Petitions to conduct the recent drive. MTC Associates owner Rick Brazeau said that the goal was to gather around 1,500 additional signatures between Saturday and Wednesday, the campaign's deadline. US Petitions also worked on the recall campaign earlier this summer.

"We were so close that we just really, really wanted to put the full-court press on it," Brazeau said.

A message left on US Petitions' answering machine last weekend asked for recruits to come to the county to help in the drive. The message, which seemed to be addressed to employees gathering signatures on different projects in the state of Washington, was left by company manager Brian Schrier.

"We have a new issue going on in California," the message said. "It is a temporary issue -- we only have until Tuesday to do this -- but it pays $8 a signature. It's a recall for the district attorney of Humboldt County, Paul Gallegos. If you're interested in doing this job, please contact me personally. Please only contact me if you are very serious about this job and you have a way to get here, and you understand that it's only until Tuesday."

The message did not mention that signature gatherers were required to be registered to vote in Humboldt County. Visiting citizens may immediately register themselves as local voters by giving their motel as an address, apparently even if they only intend to stay a few days.

According to McWilliams, that could mean that even if US Petitions has re-registered all its workers in the county, they still may have violated the intent, if not the literal interpretation, of the law.

Schrier said on Monday that his signature gatherers, which he put at 17 individuals, were all registered Humboldt County voters, though he said he didn't know if all of them were registered here a week ago. Schrier, who has a San Diego cell phone number, said that he registered to vote in Humboldt County during the summer, but re-registered himself last week just to be certain.

"We just want to go by the book on this thing," Schrier said.

Those leading the drive to recall Gallegos need to gather 11,138 valid signatures to put a recall on the ballot. All petitions to recall Gallegos were due to be turned into the county elections office by 5 p.m. Wednesday. At press time late Tuesday, it was not known how many signatures recall proponents had gathered.

If the signature drive proves successful, it is expected that the question of whether to recall the district attorney will come before Humboldt voters in coming months -- although it will not under any circumstances be on the ballot for next month's local elections.

Antoinette Erwin, who was gathering signatures in front of Safeway in McKinleyville Monday morning, said she was the only full-time local resident currently working on the US Petitions drive. She said that most of the other gatherers have come from Washington and Alaska.

One of Erwin's colleagues, stationed outside the McKinleyville K-Mart, said that he was a Humboldt County voter, though he first named McKinleyville and then Eureka as his city of residence. He declined to give his name.

Erwin -- who said she wasn't in it for the money -- was also gathering signatures for a petition to repeal the recent increase in vehicle licensing fees, which she was not being paid for. The gatherer at K-Mart put up several posters around his table, soliciting help in repealing the "car tax." No mention was made of the Gallegos recall petition on his posters.

According to the Voter Education Project, a nonprofit group critical of the signature gathering industry, the vehicle license fee petition was probably being used as a "stopper" -- a petition that's "easy to pitch and popular."

"`Mercs' [mercenary signature gatherers] use them to draw people to their clipboards in the hope of getting their signatures on the other petitions they are carrying," the project's Web site states, adding that "mercs" sometimes simply throw the "stopper" in the trash when they finish the job.

Salzman, who worked on Gallegos' political campaign, wondered who was putting up the money for the petitions -- which would presumably cost $12,000, plus administrative costs, if all 1,500 signatures were gathered.

That question may not be answered until January. The recall committee is required to submit its third quarter financial statements later this month, but they will cover only income and expenditures from July through September. In its last statement, the committee showed a June cash balance of $18,000, but it has since had other expenses, including a direct-mail drive.

Brazeau said that he was not aware of any large donations recently received by the committee.



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