December 8, 2005
TICKERTAPE: On Monday, the hearing board of the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District put off a decision on whether to grant the Evergreen Pulp Mill a variance that would allow the mill to continue operating while repairs to faulty equipment are pursued. The board will hear the issue again next month ... The Times-Standard reported that the parties in the 1997 pepper spray case, in which officers from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and the Eureka Police Department swabbed the eyes of nonviolent protestors with the noxious substance, are nearing a final resolution of the matter. In May, the eight protestors prevailed in a long-running civil rights lawsuit brought against the city and the county. According to the paper, the parties are nearing agreement on the legal bill for the plaintiffs' attorneys, which the city and county are required to pay.
Humboldt State University announced Monday that it had beat out Cal State East Bay for a $2.15 million annual federal grant to develop and manage a Small Business Development Center covering all of northwestern California, from the Monterey Bay to the Oregon border and including San Francisco and environs.
A white male adult wearing a green bandana over his face robbed a Shell station on W. Harris Avenue in Eureka early Tuesday morning. The Eureka Police Department issued a press release that helpfully informed mini-mart employees that they should be wary of patrons who wear bandanas covering their faces ... While Fortuna and Arcata don't like to think they have much in common, in recent weeks both cities have suffered from a series of incidents in which yahoos have driven their pickup trucks across city parks and schoolyards for thrills, tearing up carefully tended turf in the process.
In their guise as members of the Eureka Redevelopment Agency, members of that town's City Council were scheduled to make a final decision Tuesday night (after our deadline) on whether to award a prime bit of bayfront real estate to the Hampton Suites or the Humboldt Bay Hostel and Sustainable Living Center, aka the Eco-hostel.
ADAM AND STEVE: Good God. The testimony went on for Two Solid Hours, reaching paroxysms of homophobia parading as religiosity and eliciting tears from lesbian mothers and even from Supervisor Jill Geist. There were pastors sounding off about upholding morality and protecting kids "just like you'd protect them from pedophiles." There was incoherent babble from a woman who attempted to say that gay marriage is wrong but inadvertently revealed that her own marriage sucks. There were threats that the North Coast would become a "dangerous place" if we support gay marriage, which sent the supes chambers into waves of laughter and forced Supervisor Roger Rodoni to pound his gavel. Oh, and of course, someone had to toss in that old rhyming standby -- "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."
But in the end, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors finally said: Gay marriage is fine by us. For all the pre-vote public uproar it created, the county's support of the resolution drafted by the county Human Rights Committee has no legal power and does not afford gay couples any rights. Basically, it says that Humboldt supports an end to legal discrimination against same-sex couples that would like to marry. The resolution is "symbolic, healing and educational," said HRC member Jamila Tharp at the Supes meeting.
Roger Rodoni, who cast the lone dissenting vote, put it another way, saying that gay people won't be able to run up to the fifth floor of the HumCo courthouse and get married just because the motion passed. Rodoni criticized the language of the resolution and said that he needed to stand by his Second District constituents, who overwhelmingly voted for Proposition 22 in 2000, which said that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Supervisors John Woolley, Geist and Bonnie Neely supported the resolution. Supervisor Jimmy Smith was at jury duty.
A TREE-SIT, A FLY-IN: On Pacific Lumber Company's website, in the News Room, the latest notice is a Dec. 5 announcement of the children's Christmas celebration in Scotia, as well as news of the twinkling lights along the streets, the company's donation of 100 turkeys to local organizations, and other pronouncements of joy typical of the season. Quoth the news release: "If you look to the east on the hillside above Scotia, you will see another PALCO holiday tradition -- the live Christmas tree that lights up the evening sky. This same redwood tree has been decorated every year since 1936 with 800 colored lights as well as the glowing star at the very top."
It sounds lovely, and perhaps it's not the image one might expect to encounter if one were paying heed to another, anti-Palco, tradition: logging protesters. Rather, you might expect to see some Scrooge-faced Palco exec shinnying up that Scotia redwood, broad daylight, to smack that star off into space.
See, there's been a stink lately over a timber harvest Palco commenced on Nov. 11 in the Nanning Creek Grove area. Activists -- a few of whom did shinny up old redwoods to stage a tree-sit in the grove once the logging began -- say the harvest, though given the go-ahead by the required agencies, threatens protected species such as the marbled murrelet, which relies on old growth trees for nesting. "Nanning is a grove of ancient redwoods containing trees up to 15 feet in diameter and comprising the largest chunk of intact unprotected habitat for the federally listed marbled murrelet," a Dec. 6 news release from the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters and the Environmental Protection Information Center reads. Other activists locked themselves to trucks (and were arrested), filed court challenges to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's permitting of the harvest plan, and on Tuesday "flew in" to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office in San Francisco dressed as marbled murrelets and were joined by giant redwood tree puppets. The activists blame Feinstein and others instrumental in the 1999 Headwaters Deal for neglecting to protect endangered species. "The deal was based on politics -- not the law or science," said Cecelia Lanman, former program director for EPIC. The activists say that subsequent legal victories "have invalidated permits to kill endangered species granted under the Headwaters Deal."
Palco's News Room has no news release on the tree-sits or fly-ins.
WWWDRS BACK ON: Meanwhile, a visiting judge from Lassen County ruled Tuesday that the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board may proceed with developing watershed-wide waste discharge requirements for the Freshwater Creek and Elk River Watersheds, against the wishes of Pacific Lumber, the majority landholder in both areas. The WWWDRs, when finally passed, would approximately half the amount of logging that Palco is able to do in the two watersheds. The company has opposed them at water quality hearings and in the courts, winning a temporary restraining order stopping them on the eve of NCRWQCB hearings in Ferndale earlier this year.
The restraining order is now lifted, and the board can resume its hearings as early as next month. "Judge Letton has rightly recognized that the court does not have jurisdiction to pre-empt a properly-functioning regulatory process, based upon speculation as to the outcome," said Humboldt Watershed Council's Mark Lovelace in a press release. "Hopefully now the Water Board can get back to the business of trying to provide some relief from flooding for the residents of Freshwater and Elk River."
JENNIFER WHALEN DD: As in drunk driving. News Channel 3's bibulous anchor was caught twice doing it in Humboldt County, once Sept. 9, 2005 and again on Sept. 23. She lost her job as a result. Deputy District Attorney Shane Haushchild was all over the Whalen beat, dashing off a somewhat self-congratulatory press release on Dec. 1. The document reads: "Initially, both incidents were charged as misdemeanors, however, it was discovered by this Office that Whalen had three prior driving under the influence convictions in the State of Missouri, all of which occurred within a relatively short period of time. Under California law, a driving under the influence charge with three or more priors within the past ten years can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony."
In other words, you can't get hammered on the spirits of the North Coast and get away with it forever, and Whalen found out the hard way. She pled guilty to two felonies on Nov. 30. The press release goes on to detail her plea agreement: She won't go to the slammer right away, but she'll be on "supervised felony probation for up to five years." But the 25-year-old will still have to serve up to 180 days in the Humboldt County jail, her license will be revoked for four years and she won't be able to own a gun.
Hauschild brings it home with a big old reprimanding pull quote: "Someone with five driving under the influence convictions within the past two and a half years needs treatment, but also needs to face the criminal consequences of her actions and this plea agreement accomplishes both. While the defendant may be ill and have a serious alcohol problem, it is no excuse to put the lives of the public at risk ... hopefully the gravity of having two felony convictions, and three years and eight months in state prison hanging over her should she violate any term of her probation will be a wake-up call and motivate her to get the help she needs."
Sure Whalen's been bad -- really bad, and all over the country, but you have to wonder if this tar-and-feather treatment might have something to do with the fact that Whalen is -- or was -- a local celebrity. How often do DUI arrests make headlines?
Putting the civilization back in wilderness