Dec. 11, 2003
KUCHAREK SAYS NO: Attorney Jim Kucharek, head of the county's Child Support Services department, said Tuesday that he will not run as a replacement candidate in the March recall election against District Attorney Paul Gallegos. Kucharek, a deputy prosecutor under former DA Terry Farmer, said that family concerns are keeping him out of the race. "Family comes first," he said. "My son is a [high school] senior. In eight months he's going off to college. I'd kind of like to spend some of that time with him." According to the non-candidate, pleas from people urging him to run have been increasing in recent weeks -- a sign, perhaps, that viable replacement candidates are hard to come by. Most local attorneys with prosecutorial experience already work in the DA's office, and it is presumed that they will not run against their boss. (The deadline to file is Dec. 18.) Kucharek's decision did not stop him from leveling some serious criticism at Gallegos. "My view is that that office, right now, is a mess," he said.
STOEN COLD CANDIDACY : He was in -- then, just as quickly, he was out. In the wake of his brief run for the U.S. Senate, Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen -- the self-described "one-day wonder" -- leaves behind a stir that may last much longer than the campaign itself. On Thursday, Stoen came out of the gates strong, saying that his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat now held by Barbara Boxer would shine a light on the effort to recall Gallegos and the Pacific Lumber Co.'s dirty tricks; a pro-lifer, he also said abortion would be a key plank in his platform. Pacific Lumber CEO Robert Manne said Stoen's candidacy proved that the DA office's lawsuit against the company was "politically motivated." On Saturday, Stoen called it quits -- he said that the entry of former California Secretary of State Bill Jones into the race on Friday meant that pro-lifers would be represented.
ALSO BACKING OUT: HSU instructor Nezzie Wade, who last week took out papers to run against incumbent Jimmy Smith for First District Supervisor, has withdrawn. Wade told the Journal that to run for the seat would be much more expensive and time-consuming than she had imagined. So Smith, like Third District Supervisor John Woolley, will run unopposed. Second District Supervisor Roger Rodoni will face three challengers: Sal Steinberg of Carlotta, Glen "Bud" Rogers of Garberville and James H. Baker, a land surveyor, also of Garberville.
PUSILLANIMOUS PANEL: We've been waiting we don't know how long to use the foregoing term, and now the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has given us an opportunity. At a jam-packed meeting in Fortuna last week, the seven-member board managed once again to avoid taking strong action to curb logging on Pacific Lumber Co. lands in the flood-prone Freshwater and Elk watersheds near Eureka. Instead, it approved more than half a dozen motions that, taken together, could impose substantial sediment discharge restrictions on timber operations in the watersheds -- but not until 2005 at the earliest.
LA GRIPPE HAS ARRIVED: Health officials have confirmed three cases of "type A" influenza -- the nastier variety of the virus -- in Humboldt County. No telling, yet, whether these are cases of the "Fujian" Flu, which hit the U.S. earlier than usual this year and is causing considerable concern; but Fujian is a type A strain, and about three-quarters of the type A samples tested by the Centers for Disease Control this year have been Fujian. The strain is troublesome because it was unanticipated -- this year's crop of flu vaccine does not specifically guard against it. Nevertheless, health officials recommend a flu shot in any case because they believe it will ameliorate the effects of Fujian, and guard against other varieties. People at particular risk -- those over 50, individuals with immune deficiencies or pregnant women in their second or third trimester -- should get their shots right away, if they can -- supplies of this year's vaccine are running low.
HEALTH CENTER DIRECTOR FIRED: In a move that reportedly left staffers shocked and disappointed, the director of the Redwoods Rural Health Center in Redway was fired by the organization's board last week, after only 10 months on the job. Barbara Pierson will be replaced by Interim Director Kent Angerbauer, a retired federal employee from outside the area, said Chief Financial Officer Kim Collins. Angerbauer is expected to start after the first of the year. Pierson could not be reached for comment, and Collins would not elaborate on the reasons behind her termination. One staff member said Pierson had opposed, among other things, a board decision to cancel employees' health insurance.
GALLEGOS HQ OPENS: Gearing up for the coming campaign, the Friends of Paul Gallegos officially opened their downtown Eureka headquarters (507 H St.) on Friday. Campaign manager Richard Salzman said that the campaign was currently recruiting people to make phone calls and walk precincts. "We hope to have 12 people phone-banking in here seven days a week," by early January, Salzman said. Their goal? To have 3,000 new voters registered for the March election. Information can be found at www.votegallegos.org.
FOURTH TIME A CHARM? The Southern Humboldt Unified School District voted last week to yet again place a parcel tax measure before voters in March. The measure would impose a $75 per year fee on most SoHum property owners, generating about $600,000 in funds for the ailing district. The tax would sunset after six years. A nearly identical proposal barely missed the two-thirds majority vote needed for passage earlier this year -- the third time the measure had failed in recent years.
HSU PROJECTS HIGHER ENROLLMENT: Humboldt State University will increase its student enrollment by 2 percent per year, doubling its total student population by 2040, Humboldt State President Rollin Richmond said this week. HSU currently has 6,100 full-time students, and projects an increase to 12,000.
BACK ON THE JOB: It doesn't seem like that long ago when John Sterns was sentenced to a year in jail for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars, for forgery, for filing false government records and for lying about $15 million in donations during his tenure as Director of University Advancement for Humboldt State. But now that he's done his time, he's got a new job -- as a fund-raiser for an educational institution. According to the website for Oakland-based Coalition of Essential Schools National, Sterns is working as the organization's development coordinator, making use of "15 years experience in the development field, including work with national and international organizations." Better keep an eye on the till.
by BOB DORAN
DO POLITICS AND ART MIX? THAT QUESTION WAS THE TALK OF THE TOWN at Saturday's Arts Alive!, where a piece of artwork withheld from the Redwood Art Association's 45th annual fall exhibit managed to overshadow the works on display.
The venerable RAA is not the sort of organization you'd expect to find mired in controversy. Nevertheless, controversy is what it got when one of its own award-winning works was excluded from the exhibit after a sponsor -- Paul Bareis, owner of Eureka Art and Frame -- took back a donation that would have gone to the winner.
The piece, by Fortuna resident Chuck Bowden and titled "Tactics of Tyrants are Always Transparent," won a $300 second-prize award in the RAA fall show. It is an extremely provocative response to the events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath. The central figure is a composite drawn with President Bush's face on a child's body. "911 blood" drips from the figure's hand. A river of blood behind him emanates from the Twin Towers, burning in the background. Text around the drawing blames the Sept. 11 attack on "operatives of a militarist cabal" and suggests that the towers fell because of bombs placed inside the buildings.
But the provocative drawing is not hanging in the RAA's temporary gallery at 517 Fifth St., despite a longstanding tradition that in the RAA's fall and spring exhibition, members are basically assured that the piece they enter will be hung.
Why is Bowden's piece missing? Depends on whom you ask.
"The majority of the board of directors voted to exclude the piece," said RAA board member Jack Sewell -- not for its content, he said, but because of a disagreement regarding insurance.
On the entry form Bowden was asked for a sale price and an insurance value. He noted that the work was not for sale and put down $35,000 as the insurance value.
While the seemingly exaggerated price was not noted by RAA officials on entry day, Sewell eventually called Bowden, explaining that the value he listed was "pretty darn high" -- so high that an insurance company would balk at paying it. Sewell told Bowden he would have to justify the value he set for the work if a claim were made.
"Our insurance company refused to insure the piece because he couldn't prove the value," said Humboldt Arts Council President Barbara Garza, whose agency provided insurance for the show. "You can't just go on someone's word." Garza said the Arts Council offered Bowden the opportunity to sign a waiver saying that his piece could hang in the show uninsured, but he refused to sign.
But Bowden is convinced that the real reason the piece was pulled was because of its content, and that the RAA raised the insurance issue to justify what he calls the "banning" of his work to please Bareis, who refused to have his name associated with the work.
"Obviously [the rejection] is related to the sponsor withdrawing his money," he said. "It was too politically disturbing. If it's some kind of insurance limitation because of value, they should include [something] on their form saying work should not exceed a certain value. The whole thing seems fishy."
Reached on Tuesday, Bareis said that he hadn't seen the work in question -- he had only heard a description of it -- but that he didn't feel it was appropriate for a general art show.
"In my opinion, art should be something that appeals to everyone," he said. "Of course, everyone has a right to express their opinions I think there's a time and place for this sort of thing, for political cartoons. And that's what this is, a cartoon -- artistically it doesn't have any merits. It's just one person's opinion. And when you look at it factually, he doesn't have anything correct. It belongs in a particular type of show."
Sewell said he alerted Bareis about the controversial nature of the piece that would hang with his business name next to it, because he knew from prior experience that the award-winning painting -- picked by an independent, out-of-town judge -- might offend him.
Sewell said he was thinking an RAA show in the early 1990s, around the time of Redwood Summer. In that show, a painting critical of the timber industry won an award sponsored by Bareis -- the prize money had already been awarded in that case, but Bareis had the RAA remove the placard announcing the award from the gallery wall.
RAA regulations for the show indicate that the association "reserves the right to refuse work on the basis of content unsuitable for exhibition."
Bareis feels that the RAA should take a look at how it runs its shows in the future.
"I think it makes sense for them to sit down and realize that content matters," he said. "Let's depict the wealth of talent in our area though these shows -- however, let's not make political statements. It's simple. If you want to have a show like that, let the sponsors know ahead of time. If my name is going to be attached to a political statement I want to know in advance."
For his part, Sewell wonders what will happen in future shows. "We'll have to ask questions any time we have a controversial piece come in or we may have trouble finding sponsors," he said. "Our three biggest awards came from individuals in the community who have strong political views."
Other top prizes in this year's exhibition were provided by Security National (the Arkleys) and by timberman Stanwood Murphy and his wife. Sewell wonders, "Will we lose those people if we award [their money] to controversial pieces? Judges seem to like controversial pieces."
As a side result of Bowden's rejection, the artist has lined up a show of his own. The controversial piece and other works will be on display during January at the gallery at Humboldt Carpets in Old Town with a reception during Arts Alive Jan. 3. In the meantime, you can see his work at www.chuckbowden.com.
by KEITH EASTHOUSE
Those who say Paul Gallegos's fraud lawsuit against the Pacific Lumber Co. shows that he is a rogue DA should consider this: His predecessor, Terry Farmer, almost filed a suit of his own against the company.
It was the late 1990s, a time when PL was employing a take-no-prisoners approach to logging -- and racking up scores of violations of state forest practice regulations in the process.
A call came to Paul Hagen, newly hired by Farmer to prosecute environmental cases. It was from the Fortuna office of the California Department of Forestry, then and now the chief regulator of private lands logging in the state. The agency wanted to know if the Humboldt County DA's office would be interested in pursuing legal action against PL for illegal logging.
Hagen, who had prosecuted similar cases against PL when he was with the Mendocino County DA's office, cases that had resulted in the company agreeing to pay financial damages, agreed to look into the matter. CDF forwarded information pertaining to no less than 225 violations.
Hagen went to Farmer, who told him to go to State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and ask his assistance. If such assistance was granted, if in other words the personal and material resources of Lockyer's office could be made available to the county in a legal action against PL, then Farmer said Hagen should proceed. If, however, such assistance was denied, Farmer instructed Hagen to forget it. No use provoking a lion without sufficient ammo.
Hagen, in a telephone interview this week, said he never got an answer out of Lockyer's people; or, rather, he said he was never able to get them to say "yes." He declined to speculate as to why, but you don't need to be a soothsayer to see that PL's influence with then-Gov. Gray Davis -- the company was a significant financial supporter -- might have had something to do with it. In any event, when Hagen told Farmer that they'd be on their own, his boss made clear that Hagen should move on to other things.
Hagen did so, and never carefully reviewed the evidence CDF had provided. As a result, he can't say today whether the case -- which promised the payment of, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of dollars to the county in financial damages -- would have been successful. Not surprisingly, given his achievements against PL in Mendocino, Hagen said he was ready to go without the help of the state AG's office if Farmer had been willing -- "although now I'm not sure that would have been wise."
That's an allusion to the magnitude of the "artillery," as Hagen put it, that the company and its supporters have directed against Gallegos over his suit. Gallegos, it's worth noting, also sought Lockyer's assistance and was also turned down -- not too startling since the Headwaters deal, signed onto by several state agencies, would have made the AG both prosecutor and defendant. That wouldn't have been the case when Hagen was nosing around.
© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.