Former North Coast Assemblyman Dan Hauser may be heading back to Sacramento soon.
Hauser, an Arcata Democrat whose 14-year legislative tenure ended two years ago due to term limits, is seeking Governor-elect Gray Davis' appointment to head the California Department of Fish and Game. He is said to be one of two top contenders for the post, according to a Santa Rosa Press Democrat report last week. The other frequently mentioned nominee, according to the report, is former Democratic state Sen. Dan McCorquodale of San Jose.
"It's an area that I've been interested in for a long time," Hauser said, adding that he worked very closely with Fish and Game during his legislative term. He chaired the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture and was a founding member and first chair of the Pacific Fisheries Legislative Task Force.
"It's been a long time since any of the department heads have had any real knowledge of the legislative process," said Hauser. "I think that's key to being successful because you've got to, in effect, lobby to get things done."
Hauser, who resigned in late July as executive director of the troubled North Coast Railroad Authority, said he had no idea when the appointment would be announced and denied any firsthand knowledge of where he stands in his bid for the director's job, which currently pays $107,000 a year.
A spokesperson for the governor-elect said on Monday there is no specific time frame to announce the appointment, and declined to comment on who the top contenders are.
If appointed, Hauser said his first priority would be "rebuilding a department that's been devastated under the last two administrations, both as far as numbers and morale." Morale plummeted, he said, when the previous administration forced Fish and Game to "take a back seat" to other agencies.
Hauser said he would also "reinstitute those programs that are already called for by law but haven't had the personnel to be able to carry them out," listing the monitoring of water quality following forest harvests, habitat protection and poaching prevention as examples.
Tim McKay, director of the Northcoast Environmental Center in Arcata, said of Hauser's possible appointment: "I think it's going to be great for anybody on the North Coast who's been concerned about declining morale in the Department of Fish and Game." He added that Hauser's legislative track record was very supportive of fishery protection and restoration.
Hauser and incoming Gov. Davis have worked with each other since 1982, when they were both elected to the Assembly and served two terms together. After Davis was elected state controller, Hauser continued to work with him in writing oil spill prevention and clean-up legislation. Hauser said he and Davis have a "friendship and working relationship."
After being back home in Arcata for two years, Hauser said, there are "upsides and downsides" to the prospect of going back to Sacramento. "I'm looking forward to being back in the middle of activity," he said. "The downside is it's been nice to be home every night."
A new bill proposed by three North Coast assemblymembers would require that some California schools build sidewalks for students who walk to school, but would likely have little, if any, impact on Humboldt County.
The idea for the legislation came from a Sonoma County community group, which wants the bill dubbed "Patrick's Law" in honor of 17-year-old Santa Rosa resident Patrick Jerome Scott. Scott was fatally struck by a minivan Dec. 1 while walking to school on a muddy rural road.
North Coast Assemblywoman Virginia Strom Martin, D-Duncans Mills, has presented the bill to the state Legislative Council. Assemblywomen Kerry Mazzoni, D-Novato, and Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, were also involved in writing the bill.
If passed, the law would require new schools build adequate sidewalks or demonstrate that safe routes are available to students who walk to and from school.
Janet Frost, administrative assistant for the Humboldt County Office of Education, said the law probably wouldn't affect Humboldt County because the county doesn't have any immediate plans for new school construction due to declining enrollment.
A man accused of murdering a Laytonville woman may also be linked to the deaths of two Humboldt County residents dating back 20 years.
John Annibel, a 41-year-old Fort Bragg resident, was arrested in Mendocino County Dec. 4 and charged with murdering 42-year-old Deborah Sloan. Sloan's nude body was spotted by Mendocino County road workers Nov. 30. The suspect had apparently met the slain woman just prior to her death.
Annibel is now being questioned by Humboldt County investigators about the 1976 rape and strangulation of Sherry Lynn Smith and the 1980 disappearance of his then live-in girlfriend, Andrea LaDeRoute. Annibel was initially a suspect in both unsolved cases, although no charges were ever filed against him.
In 1976, when Annibel was 18, he was questioned in connection with the death of 15-year-old Smith, who disappeared after going to a dance in Garberville. Her body was later found in Myers Flat, where Annibel's family lived at the time.
Annibel lived with DeLaRoute in Fortuna when he was 22 and she was 20. He reported her missing March 18, 1980. Her body was never found.
Blood evidence from the 18-year-old case taken from the couple's apartment will now be tested for a possible DNA match, a procedure that was not available in 1980.
Annibel continues to deny any involvement in either woman's death.
Humboldt County's real estate market took a hit in October, with home sales down more than 33 percent over the same month in 1997, according to the Index of Economic Activity for Humboldt County.
But one area Realtor said the statistics are misleading.
"On the contrary, we are experiencing a very, very good year in real estate," said Jacques Debets, president of Century 21 Consolidated Services in Eureka and Debets and Associates Realtors in Fortuna. "I would say we're running 25 percent above last year and probably over that for 1996."
The Humboldt County Board of Realtors reported 80 residential home sales during October, down form the 113 homes sold in September, according to the Index, which is provided as a public service by Humboldt State University Associate Professor Steven C. Hackett in the School of Business and Economics.
A month by month comparison shows October 1998 homes sales were 33.3 percent below October 1997, 27.2 percent below 1996, essentially the same as 1995 and 13 percent below the same month in 1994.
While homes may not have sold fast in October, retail sales were strong, suggesting that "retail sales are a continuing source of economic growth for Humboldt County," the Index stated.
Retail sales amongst the approximately 20 businesses that participate in the Index were up 5.8 percent from September, 10.5 percent from October 1997 and approximately 25 percent over levels observed in October 1994, 1995 and 1996.
That's "especially remarkable," Hackett said, considering the statistics reveal increased sales by existing businesses, rather than new stores which might initially attract shoppers only to later fizzle out.
The business professor attributes some of the gain in the retail market to a historically low unemployment rate (5.6 percent in October and 6.4 percent in November), more retirees moving into the area and retention of workers who are able to live in Humboldt County by "cyber commuting."
In a major shift, the San Francisco-based Save-the-Redwoods League announced Monday it will discontinue support of Pacific Lumber Co.'s controversial Habitat Conservation Plan unless changes to the plan are made.
The league, which until now has been supportive of the Headwaters Forest purchase, sent letters to the California Department of Forestry, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service requesting that the agencies address concerns raised by scientists critical of the HCP.
These scientists say the plan does not adequately protect small tributary streams that may carry sediment into larger salmon- and amphibian-spawning streams. The plan would also threaten populations of marbled murrelets and other species dependent on old-growth forests for their survival, the scientists say.
In light of the PL's recent alleged violations of the California Forest Practices Act, the league has also requested that the plan include some method by which PL's logging activities can be monitored
If the habitat plan and PL's sustained yield plan are accepted, state and federal agencies would then purchase 7,800 acres from the timber company for $480 million. About half of the land is old-growth redwood.
This week's tree-sitter update: four sitters, three trees and one perpetually frustrated lumber company.
Pacific Lumber Co., with help from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, failed in its attempt last week to evict two activists from a tree in Grizzly Creek.
But the company will likely return when the weather improves. Meanwhile, PL is continuing to ignore tree-sitter Nate Madsen in Freshwater and Julia "Butterfly" Hill in Stafford.
"We wouldn't tell the media ... but maybe there will be plans to remove (Madsen and Hill) in the future," said PL spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel. "They are trespassing on private property."
But even Bullwinkel admits removing tree-sitters isn't that effective.
"When we attempt to remove some of the tree-sitters from their perches, there are a lot of other people who suddenly flush out of the woodwork to take their place."
For now, Hill, Madsen and the two Grizzly Creek activists, "Bird" and "Lily," remain in their treetop perches.
It isn't clear why PL singled out the Grizzly Creek activists for eviction last week.
Earth First activist Josh Brown says PL hasn't removed Hill from her tree in Stafford because "the whole world's eyes are on her."
"It would be a huge PR disaster for PL," he said.
Brown said he also thinks the Grizzly Creek protestors were targeted because Pacific Lumber wants to log the area near where protestor David "Gypsy" Chain was killed Sept. 17.
"It makes sense," Brown said. "They want to log ... the crime scene as soon as possible."
But Bullwinkel says PL has no intention of immediately logging the area.
"We have no specific plans (to log) at this time," she said. "It could be before next spring or next summer, certainly it would be when the good weather came back."
Bullwinkel declined to provide further details as to why the eviction was targeted at the Grizzly Creek activists.
"It was a decision we made," she said.
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