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Dec. 4, 2003


HSU Track and field cuts spark anger
Special treatment for football alleged



MARCH MADNESS: With Friday's filing deadline for the three up-for-grabs Humboldt County supervisorial seats fast approaching, the contours of the upcoming races are assuming their final shape. No less than five citizens of the county's Second District, including incumbent Roger Rodoni, have expressed some interest in representing the diverse district, which includes Fortuna, Bridgeville, Rio Dell, Scotia, Garberville, Alderpoint and a vast number of smaller communities and boondocks. If early indications hold, Rodoni -- a conservative with libertarian tendencies, often associated with the timber and farming industries -- looks like he'll get his strongest opposition from Carlotta educator Sal Steinberg, who claims to best represent the entire district, including the enviros concentrated in the south. Steinberg came out swinging at Rodoni last week, saying that the supervisor had "failed to provide leadership." Not much has yet been heard from a third candidate, Glen Rogers of Garberville. Nancy Trujillo of the Fortuna area, who announced her candidacy a few weeks ago, is presumed to have dropped out as her paperwork hasn't even been started. Lori Anzini, an Alderpoint resident, had completed some but not all of the paperwork required to run for the seat late Tuesday, and could not be reached by telephone..Up north in the First District, Supervisor Jimmy Smith, the universally liked and respected fisherman from the outskirts of Eureka, may or may not have a challenger. Humboldt State Professor Nezzie Wade, who has taught sociology, psychology and women's studies courses at the university, has declared her intention to run for the seat, but has not yet handed over the $550 filing fee nor the required 20 signatures. The First District encompasses Honeydew, Petrolia, Ferndale and certain Eureka suburbs..It looks as if Third District Supervisor John Woolley, who represents Arcata, Manila and Kneeland, will again run unopposed -- the elections office had not received notice from any potential challengers by Tuesday. The election will be held on March 2, along with the presidential primaries, city elections and the question of whether to recall District Attorney Paul Gallegos.

PATROLLING THE PATRIOT ACT: Probably not too many residents would have expected the Board of Supervisors to take the question of the USA Patriot Act and its alleged infringements on civil liberties quite as seriously as it has; one usually thinks of these sorts of revolts by local elected bodies as being confined to the Arcata city limits. But at its Tuesday meeting, the board unanimously agreed to fire off letters to the California Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney's office asking for information and giving them fair warning that the county will, in all likelihood, be regularly asking them for data on how often the act is applied locally -- specifically, how often (if ever) federal agencies ask local libraries and bookstores about the reading habits of local citizens, whether they are wiretapping local citizens under the act, whether anyone is monitoring local religious or political groups for suspected "terrorist" activity, whether locals are being detained or questioned in a terrorism-related investigation. This should soon all be included in an ongoing county "work plan" to monitor the effects of the Patriot Act on civil liberties in Humboldt County, and it's a small poke in the eye for the federal agencies that have championed it.

PATRIOT v. PATRIOT: Patriot Act buffs may want to attend what promises to be a knockdown debate on the subject this Friday at 7 p.m. in Room 101 of HSU's Natural Resources Building. In this corner: Dapper Dave Meserve, Arcata City Council member, doyen of the Redwood Peace and Justice Center, the Great Green Hope. Facing him: Shawn "Fists Of" Steel, author and former chairman of the California Republican Party -- an unknown quantity in these parts, but a bruiser by reputation. The debate -- billed as "the USA Patriot Act, Civil Liberties and Terrorism in a Post-9/11 America" -- is being sponsored by the HSU College Republicans.

ONE THAT NEARLY GOT AWAY: The Friends of the Eel River got a scare last week, after a portion of their Big Salmon Tent, a popular attraction at many fairs and festivals both locally and in the Bay Area, apparently fell off a truck between Laytonville and Fortuna. The worried group, which estimated that the fish-shaped structure would cost several thousand dollars to replace, put out an all-points bulletin in the local media, asking people to be vigilant while traveling that section of Highway 101 and offering a $500 reward for its return. No news came in for several days, then, just as activists' fingernails were bitten down to the quick -- hallelujah! Fortuna's Ken Lytle is the hero: After swerving to avoid the tent on 101 last Wednesday morning -- running off the road and blowing out a tire in the process -- he threw the bundle into his car and forgot about it, until a friend told him what he had. "We're very grateful," said Nadananda, the group's executive director. "Grateful to get our tent back, and very, very grateful no one got hurt." The missing tent will make the ceremonial swim upstream, back to its delighted owners, on Friday, when Lytle will be presented with the $500 reward.

BAD TIME TO BE A CRAB: It happens every December, more or less. Sidling along the seafloor minding their own business, Dungeness crabs in great numbers are abruptly pulled from the deep, cooked and then eaten. Their loss is our gain, as the orange and white crustaceans are extremely tasty. (Much better than lobster, as all true West Coasters know.) Not to temper your excitement, but early reports are that the crabbing won't be as good this year as last, when the brine was teeming with the critters. ln other fishing news, the state Department of Fish and Game this week closed the season for rockfish -- marketed as red snapper among other things -- after fishermen reached the quota earlier than expected. If this sounds familiar, that's because the department closed the season last month, only to have their action thrown out by a Superior Court judge due to a procedural violation. Fishermen, understandably, feel jacked around by the closed-open-closed dance of the last few weeks, but the confusion has allowed them to continue fishing a severely depleted resource. As a Fish and Game spokeswoman put it, overfishing "continues to hammer the species."

TAXES DUE: The genial Stephen Strawn, Humboldt County tax collector, reminds citizens that the first installment of 2003-04 property taxes has been due for some time, and owners must pay by Wednesday, Dec. 10, if they wish to avoid a stiff 10 percent penalty. Questions? Call 476-2450.

HSU Track and field cuts spark anger
Special treatment for football alleged


Humboldt State sophomore Tom Chamberlain was spending his summer at his parents' home in Walnut Creek, training for his debut season with the university's track and field team. His freshman year, when he had hoped to represent HSU in the long jump, the triple jump and the hurdles, had been a drag for the wildlife major -- an injury had kept him from the track. This year was going to be better.

Then he got the news. There wasn't going to be a place for him on the team, because the team as he knew it had ceased to exist -- a victim of state-mandated budget cuts.

"I was really pissed," he said. "I could have gone to other schools -- Chico was interested in me coming there. There were other schools I could have run track at."

Chamberlain's parents were also angry. They teamed up with other supporters of the track and field team to form a group, Advocates of Humboldt Athletics, which has been fiercely lobbying the university to reinstate much of what was taken away from the team in the last budget round -- and to protest what they consider to have been a closed, undemocratic budgeting process.

In response to an order from then-Gov. Gray Davis for the California State University system to spend less on athletics programs, Humboldt State cut the budget of all its athletics programs by 10 to 20 percent, laying off graduate assistants in some sports. Track and field took an even bigger hit. It decided to eliminate track and field competition in the "field" events -- such as javelin, shot put and the triple jump -- and in short sprinting. One part-time track and field assistant coach was laid off.

Virtually no additional cuts were made in other athletics programs. The sole exception was that a vacant coaching position for the women's soccer team was axed.

The Advocates of Humboldt Athletics take special umbrage at the fact that while the football program -- the biggest moneymaker of all HSU sports teams -- was allowed to hire a new assistant coach, despite the cuts, Scott Tucker, the assistant track and field coach, was laid off.

Dan Collen, HSU athletic director, said that in total, the department had to cut $200,000 from its 2003-04 budget, in addition to a mid-year cut of $50,000 from the 2002-03 season.

"With these cuts are very painful decisions about where to make them while affecting the smallest number of students," Collen said. "There's not a lot of options, which is why it's been such a painful process."

A great sport

But for the Advocates of Humboldt Athletics -- which count current students, their parents, alumni and others in their numbers -- the loss of a good portion of the track and field program is unfair and unacceptable.

Track and Field Coach Dave Wells defended his sport. "In track and field, you have a rare opportunity where men and women train together, and where you bring forward all the racial diversity California has to offer," he said. "Here you've got a sport that is one of the top two participatory sports in high schools. You look at all the health benefits, and the fact that people can do it for life. There aren't any better sports."

In addition, Wells noted that track teams are considerably cheaper to field than team sports like football or even basketball, which require a greater investment in equipment.

This cost disparity has led the Advocates of Humboldt Athletics to charge that during the budgeting process the administration quietly made a decision to "tier" its teams -- to favor high-profile teams, such as football, at the expense of track and field.

Steve Butler, HSU Vice President for Student Affairs, said that the campus does not have a policy that tiers sports teams, noting that all programs received cuts to their budgets. But, he added, "I won't say that we won't have [such a policy] in the future, given the budget cuts."

Those could be substantial. Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the state Legislature to cut an additional $23.8 million from CSU's current budget of $2.46 billion, and to remove an additional $52 million from the system in 2004-05. About half of those cuts would be "unallocated," meaning that the universities would have the discretion to remove them from whatever program they wished -- leaving non-academic programs like athletics especially vulnerable.

Collen said that the elimination of sprints and field events this year hurt the least possible number of students, because many of those affected also participate in other campus sports. He also noted that HSU's cross-country program -- which sent one student to the national championships this year -- received only a modest cut.

"Our All-Americans have been in the middle- and long-distance portions of the field, because of the historic success of the cross-country program," Collen said.

Nevertheless, the Advocates of Humboldt Athletics has blanketed Collen, Butler and HSU President Rollin Richmond with e-mails over the past few months, asking why other options -- like more severe cuts to football -- were not taken instead.

Committee ignored

They have also wondered why bodies like the Intercollegiate Athletic Advisory Committee, a HSU committee that is supposed to advise the administration about athletic affairs, was not given more say in shaping the budget cuts.

Richard Stepp, a member of the panel, said that despite requests, Collen and Butler did not provide different scenarios for the budget cuts, and only informed the committee what cuts they intended to make a few days before the budget was to be submitted to the president of the university.

"What the committee wanted was to see those two come up with some scenarios for how to meet the cut, whatever it was going to be," Stepp said. "We had a lot of data, but how much can you cut the operating expenses of a sport and still keep it viable? We didn't have that information."

Stepp added that Collen and Butler only gave the committee information on the intended cuts at a special meeting, and even then after repeated questioning and badgering by the committee members.

Both administrators hold that they are committed to open budgeting.

"Is the process perfect?" Butler said. "Absolutely not. Is there a process? You bet."

Meanwhile, Tom Chamberlain, the frustrated triple-jumper, has taken a leave of absence from HSU. He enrolled this year at Diablo Valley College, a community college in the East Bay, where they still have a full track and field team.

He's also shopping around his resume to other schools -- Cal Poly, Long Beach, Chico and UC Davis -- and talking to their coaches. He's committed to attending a university with a full track and field program.

"Track is really important to me," he says. " And Humboldt's the only school I've heard of that did this."



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