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November 12, 1998

 

Humboldt in media spotlight -- again

PALCO suspension 'unprecedented'

September retail sales rise

Ch. 6 debuts 5 p.m. newscast

Eureka precinct a bellwether

Census Bureau to hire 300



Humboldt in media spotlight -- again

STILL REELING FROM NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION following the death of Earth First! activist David Chain, police use of pepper spray on demonstrators and the battle over the Headwaters deal, the expression "no news is good news" couldn't be more accurate for Humboldt County.

But the media spotlight is again trained on Eureka as confessed serial killer Wayne Adam Ford, 36, of Arcata, awaits his fate in the Humboldt County jail.

Hours after news of Ford's surrender to sheriff's deputies Nov. 3, reporters from all over California descended on the county seat, interviewing every source possible, from tavern owners to the county coroner, and blanketing the area with cameras.

The intense scrutiny resulted in Superior Court Judge Bruce Watson issuing a gag order and Sheriff Dennis Lewis publicly admonishing Coroner Frank Jager for releasing too many details about the gruesome case.

At Ford's Nov. 6 arraignment, reporters and camera crews packed Watson's courtroom, creating the kind of spectacle seldom witnessed in Humboldt County.

Questioned by media outside the courtroom, public defender Kevin Robinson appeared miffed when a microphone narrowly missed hitting him in the jaw, and Deputy Public Defender Worth Dikeman suggested to reporters that a change of venue in the case would be likely given the attention they were providing the case.

Ford, an Arcata truck driver who reportedly turned himself in because he was tormented by urges to kill his former wife, convinced deputies his confession was real by producing a severed breast he had been keeping frozen. He has confessed to killing four women hitchhikers he picked up while driving in various parts of California over the past year. He has also been linked to beating a prostitute in Santa Rosa who has reportedly identified Ford as her attacker.

Ford has so far been charged with one count of murder, for the slaying of an unidentified woman whose body was dismembered and the torso dumped in Eureka's Ryan Slough. Ford has pleaded not guilty to the charge, but Knight-Ridder Newspapers reported Tuesday that the suspect told family members he does not want a trial and wants to be put to death for his crimes.

He is scheduled to be back in court Nov. 16.


PALCO suspension 'unprecedented'

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's decision to suspend the Pacific Lumber Co.'s timber operator's license was reached after a "long, arduous" process and marks the first time a major timber company has been subjected to such an action, a CDF spokeswoman said.

"We have taken the licenses of timber companies before but they have all been small companies. This is unprecedented for a timber operation this large," said Information Officer Karen Terrill.

"The director (Richard A. Wilson) obviously gave a lot of thought to this decision and made it based on specific documentation and after a long, arduous process of evaluations."

Pacific Lumber responded Tuesday by laying off 180 employees from its workforce of nearly 1,600 people. The suspension immediately threatens logging operations through Dec. 31, the slowest time of year for the company. It does not affect Palco's contract loggers, which are responsible for roughly half of the company's output.

"This is very difficult very, very difficult," said PL spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel.

In a news release, company President John Campbell stated: "This current situation is unacceptable for a company that prides itself on its dedication to the principles of conservation and environmental protection and enhancement."

In response, Campbell said he was developing "strong safeguards to ensure this does not happen again."

A five-point plan released Tuesday includes formation of a compliance team, a review of the company's compliance efforts, expanded oversight, further training for equipment operators and truck drivers, and open communication with regulators to "build mutual respect."

The company has five days to appeal the decision, which was made in response to "continued violations of the state's forest practice rules," CDF said. If PL appeals, CDF director Wilson has 10 days to decide whether to terminate Palco's license.

"For Pacific Lumber to prevail they would have to convince the deputy director and the director that these violations did not exist," Terrill said.

Termination of the license would mean Pacific Lumber would not be able to harvest trees through the end of the year. It could apply for a new license for 1999, although past violations would be taken into consideration by CDF at that time.

On Tuesday, Bullwinkel said Pacific Lumber was working to set up a meeting with CDF. "We do feel we've made progress in terms of reducing the number of violations over last year," she said.

In 1997 CDF refused to renew Palco's license, but a stipulated agreement was reached allowing the company to keep operating on a conditional license. CDF maintains Palco violated terms of that agreement.


September retail sales rise

September proved to be a good month in Humboldt County for real estate agents, business owners and hotel operators.

Retail sales rose 5.7 percent over the previous month and were stronger than at any time since 1994, according to the latest findings in the Index of Economic Activity for Humboldt County.

"Seasonally adjusted retail sales in September 1998 were about 25 percent above levels observed in 1994-96, indicating the retail sector is enjoying marked growth," according to the index compiled by Humboldt State University's business and economics department.

Homes sales here were up 9.3 percent in September, the strongest showing for that particular month since 1994, when HSU began tracking the local economy.

Manufacturing output, primarily measured by board feet of lumber, was up 10.1 percent during September, similar to September 1997 but about 15 percent above 1994-96 levels.

Overall, the Index of Economic Activity rose a modest 1.7 percent for the month.

"The rather small overall increase ... is primarily due to unchanged levels of electricity usage and labor employment, and masks strong performance in the home sales, retail, manufacturing and hospitality sectors," the index states.



Ch. 6 debuts 5 p.m. newscast

Some two months after Seattle, Wash.-based media conglomerate the Ackerley Group announced its intention to purchase Eureka television station KVIQ Channel 6, the news department has added a third evening newscast.

Renamed Action News 6, the station premiered its 5 p.m. weekday newscast on Monday. Half-hour newscasts also air at 6 and 11 p.m.

"We're definitely in the mode of expanding and enhancing local news in a big way," said Station Manager Jeanne Buheit.

The local newscast on CBS affiliate Channel 6 has long lagged behind competitor KIEM Channel 3 in viewership, but Ackerley has indicated its plans to change that. Nilsen ratings for July showed Channel 6 was watched by 9 percent of the households in the market area, while leader Channel 3 saw 41 percent of households tuned in. The third local television news program, on KAEF Channel 23, was watched by 6 percent of households.

An August news release said, "The Ackerley Group is known for strengthening local news in the markets in which they operate. Stations managed or owned by the Ackerley Group gain greater viewership or become leaders in their markets because of the company's commitment to provide the most comprehensive television news in the market."

Ackerley, which owns or operates 10 television stations as well advertising businesses and the Seattle SuperSonics basketball team, has entered into a definitive agreement to buy KVIQ from Miller Broadcasting Inc. for $5.5 million. And for the past two months it has been pumping money into the station with equipment purchases and personnel additions.

Buheit, hired by Ackerley, is among a growing group of new employees. The station hired a news director last month and most recently added another news anchor and reporter. Veteran reporter Dave Silverbrand is continuing with the station and will co-anchor the evening newscasts. Pattison Christensen has remained as the station general manager.



Eureka precinct a bellwether

Humboldt County voters appeared to follow their personal beliefs and political parties in the Nov. 3 election, with the exception of the proposed tobacco tax, according to a Humboldt State University exit poll.

Party played a part in the Proposition 10 vote, but tobacco use proved to be the most salient factor, the poll conducted by political science students showed. Fifty-eight percent of the Democrats polled said they voted in favor of the initiative, compared with 29 percent of the Republicans. Fifty-five percent of nonsmokers supported the proposition, while 90 percent of smokers opposed it. The measure's outcome is still undecided.

The HSU students conducted the poll on Election Day in a bellwether precinct in Eureka using a computer model that found the precinct where in previous elections ballots cast came closest to the final election results. Voters were asked to check a number of characteristics about themselves. The results were compared with state totals and cross-tabulated with those characteristics.

The exit poll was not scientific, however the students found the results to be fairly accurate for the races polled, according to a survey summary.

In addition to voting patterns related to smoking, the poll also found that voters' personal beliefs were stronger than their political party affiliation in all the candidate races, except the contest for state Assembly and U.S. representative, where party was slightly more dominant.

Virginia Strom-Martin received 78 percent of the votes from Democrats in her race to retain her Assembly seat and just 22 percent from Republicans, while 72 percent of Republicans and 11 percent of Democrats voted for challenger Sam Crump.

In the race for U.S. representative, Mike Thompson had both a higher percentage of Democratic votes and Republican votes than any other Democratic candidate, 80 and 44, respectively. Among Republicans, Matt Fong received the highest percent of Republican votes, 74, and Democratic votes, 37, bucking the statewide trend that retained U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer by a significant margin.

On Proposition 5, to permit house-banked gaming in Indian casinos, party may have played a larger role than ideology. Seventy percent of Democrats supported the measure and 55 percent of Republicans opposed it.

Neither the respondents' education nor income seemed to affect the way people voted. For example, four people in the sample with master's degrees voted for Gray Davis for governor as did three out of four people who had less than a high school diploma.

Seventy percent of those in the higher income bracket, those making more than $60,000 a year, identified themselves as Democrats. Republicans were more prevalent in the middle income group, 44 percent to 40 percent. But there were more low-income Democrats 47 percent compared with 38 percent of Republicans.

And, like the nation, it appeared the Clinton-Lewinsky affair had only a minimal effect on the election outcome.

Seventy-four percent of the respondents said they would have voted the way they did regardless of the scandal. Twelve percent said it made them vote for more Democrats, while 14 percent said it made them lean more toward Republicans, a net effect on 2 percent of the voters.

The students who conducted the poll were Gigi Campo, Brian Dennert, Saul Gibusiwa, Christopher Gordon, Kent Leary, Jessica Perry, Ariel Roumasset, Francina Scarbrough-Jones, Kevin Samsel, Craig Swaim, Belinda White and Wendy Zwiefelhofer. Government and politics Professor JeDon Emenhiser supervised .


Census Bureau to hire 300

Looking for a new job to ring in the new year?

The U.S. Census Bureau may just have your number.

Beginning in January, Humboldt County residents will be able to apply for up to 300 jobs with the Census Bureau in connection with the year 2000 census.

Shannon Gallant, employment program representative for the state Employment Development Department, said the bureau is interested in people who can work on the weekends either part- or full-time.

"But they (the bureau) don't seem to be real picky," she said. "They seem willing to accommodate people ... all over Humboldt County."

The official census begins April 1, 2000. In the meantime, Gallant said workers will be assigned various tasks, such as locating habitable buildings, updating maps, collecting statistics and demographic data and checking names against phone books and registries. Pay begins at $7 an hour.

Once the census begins, workers are expected to spend most of their time locating addresses and conducting door-to-door interviews.

Census takers are not eligible for federal employee health benefits, but they are covered for disability in case of injury on the job.

To be a census worker, applicants must be a U.S. citizen, be at least 18 years of age, have a valid driver's license, be free of convictions (other than minor traffic violations) and be registered with the Selective Service (males only). In addition, applicants must pass a security and employment reference check and pass a test demonstrating an ability to read, follow written instructions, do basic arithmetic and read maps.

Gallant said the bureau also intends to open a facility in Eureka in 1999, which will bring several clerical positions to the county.

For more information, call the Employment Development Department at 445-6532 or go to www.caljobs.ca.gov on the Internet.


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