Sunday, December 16, 2007

More Millions For The Railroad

Posted By on Sun, Dec 16, 2007 at 1:12 PM

The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports that on Thursday the California Transportation Commission released an additional $13.6 million to the North Coast Railroad Authority. The money will be used to fund repairs in Sonoma and Marin counties. According to the P-D, the NCRA says the money is enough to open a 60-mile stretch of the south end in the next few months.

The P-D further reports that the railroad authority believes that it can get to Willits by fall 2008, and that it has no "firm timeline" for getting past the treacherous Eel River Canyon to Humboldt Bay.

Meanwhile, the monster lawsuit filed against the NCRA by the City of Novato, the County of Marin and several HumCo and MarinCo environmental organizations, is now scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 8.

UPDATE: Major egg on face. See comment below. The CTC was on the NCRA agenda Thursday, but I ended up with the wrong Thursday. Let me make some calls.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Railroad Wackers Army Assembles

Posted By on Sat, Dec 15, 2007 at 2:07 PM


It began with an outdoors column by Journal publisher Judy Hodgson detailing a day of "civil disobedience" spent cutting blackberries and brush along the railroad right-of-way between Arcata and Eureka. She followed with a publisher's column saying in part,


The response to the story was immediate and overwhelming. How can we help? Where can I join? I could not keep up with individual e-mail responses, so sent a generic reply. I said the Journal would be happy to sponsor a clean-up day in the spring. KHUM radio offered to help spread the word as well.


Well, apparently folks don’t want to wait. They want the tracks cleared and they want to start using it at least as a hiking trail. So somebody (Rondal Snodgrass, shown above with 'Honk' sign) picked a date and time and that information began appearing in e-mails from various individuals and organizations. Here it is: Saturday, Dec. 15 at 10 a.m. The plan is to show up with tools and safety gear (goggles with weed whackers, please) at various entry points: behind Target, by Bracut and especially at the Arcata end by South G and Highway 101 and by the Marsh Interpretive Center.


A couple of dozen trail-loving volunteers showed up. As reported in this week's Town Dandy , the plan was just slightly complicated by Bracut owner Rick Hess' assertion that he actually owns the right-of-way through his property since the railroad hasn't used it for years. Hess was hoping someone from the trail people's ad hoc volunteer weed-wacker army would consult with him before showing up on "his" land. They did. Rondall Snodgrass reported to the group that he'd talked with Hess and found that the brush near Bracut was already cleared so they would not need to go there.


A representative from Supervisor John Woolley and the embattled North Coast Railroad Authority showed up as the wackers assembled and assured everyone that NCRA was not planning on prosecuting anyone for trespassing. Instead they were asking participants to sign a release from liablilty for anything bad that might happen "related to a project to clear garbage and rubbish from the NCRA right-of-way."


The media was well represented with John Driscoll from the Times-Standard , Terrence McNally of the Arcata Eye and a vid-crew from Access Television all in evidence, so expect to hear more about the project in the days to come.


update : Turns out the self-described NCRA/Woolley rep with the release forms was Lawrence LaBranche of Capdiamont's Weblog , who weighed in in the comments here. He has a post on the clearing party (with lots of pix) in which he says that he's not exactly a representative of the Railroad Authority.


And you can see more of my photos here .

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Times-Standard Blogland

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2007 at 12:29 PM

Our semi-esteemed colleagues at the Times-Standard have dived back into the Internet, launching or relaunching a whole slew of blogs. Check out T-S Online Editor James Faulk's convocation here. A convenient time to rain down fire on the enemy Eureka Reporter. Kick 'em while they're down, James!

Unfo, each of the 10 T-S blogs has its own solitary RSS feed, which makes keeping up with the pensées emanating from Sixth Street just a bit more difficult. Therefore, I have assembled for them and their fans a T-S Blogland Yahoo! Pipe.

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Burly, But Not Yet Burly Enough

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2007 at 11:37 AM

hawk


Hella shredding news for the long-dreamed-of Eureka Skate Park. The Havasu News-Herald (don't ask) reports that the Tony Hawk Foundation has kicked down with a $25,000 grant.

Now for the buzzkill. Check this Nov. 21 Eureka Reporter article :

But roughly $250,000 is still needed for to project to be a go, to reach the goal of $450,000 by June 1, 2008.

Grant funding will be lost if the park is not built by summer of next year.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Sheriff At FPPC

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2007 at 6:31 PM

There's an interesting article in last week's Capitol Weekly about the new chairman of the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, the state agency that oversees California's money-in-politics regulations. The new guy looks pretty burly:

The FPPC, spawned by the Watergate scandals, is the state’s political watchdog (although few at the FPPC like that term) with the authority to enforce campaign finance laws. But critics have complained that its teeth have been drawn. In part, that’s because the FPPC does not conduct criminal investigations, it has strict limits on fines that are rarely painful to flush campaign accounts, it is understaffed and submerged in paperwork, and it enforces intricate and arcane rules that prove daunting to even the brightest public officials. With a staff of about 80 and an $8 million budget, the FPPC has jurisdiction over thousands of state and local officials.

But in recent months, the watchdog has been baring its fangs, at least in part because it has a new chairman: Ross Johnson, a combative, conservative Republican from Orange County who was appointed to the $127,833-a-year position in February by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "I’ve been in a lot of fights. I’ve lost most of them," Johnson noted. His critics, including political attorneys and some in the Legislature, hope he keeps losing them. So far, though, that isn’t happening.


The article lists several reforms that Johnson has undertaken, or is in the process of undertaking. Most interestingly, from Humboldt County's point of view, is that he has ordered commission staff to respond to all complaints within 14 business days. If staff needs longer than 14 days to decide whether or not it will investigate a complaint, it can take another 14 days to decide.

Sound familiar? That's just what happened with the recent complaints brought by the Humboldt Watershed Council against Fortuna Mayor John Campbell and Humboldt County Planning Commission Chair Tom Herman. The FPPC said it would investigate Herman very quickly after the Watershed Council filed its two complaints; a couple of weeks later, it said it would investigate Campbell as well.

The Johnson era sounds very heartening from the reporter's point of view, too. Used to be that you could spend an hour on the phone with an FPPC public information officer and get nothing but 500 different variations on "we can't tell you." Johnson has apparently ended this charade, putting in a policy that will for the first time to allow the PIOs to confirm or deny that an investigation is taking place.

Puts me in mind of my most favorite souvenir from my reporting career. Check it out here, if you like (.pdf). If they ever sack me, this is definitely going into the resume packet as one of my three letters of recommendation.

If you're reading this, Johanna: Love ya, babe!

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Homeland Security $ for SoHum - don't worry, it's a good thing

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2007 at 2:31 PM

It's always nice when pork-barrel politics helps out your friends. And who is more deserving than SoHum's backwoods volunteer firemen?

WASHINGTON – Today, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-01) announced that the Beginnings Volunteer Fire Department in Redway will receive a federal grant of more than $97K.

The grant will be used to replace degraded fire hoses and purchase new personal protective gear.

"Our local fire departments are often the first line of defense for a wide range of public health and safety threats," said Congressman Thompson. "This grant will provide Beginnings Volunteer Fire Department with the equipment they need to be prepared for all types of emergencies. Their efforts to keep residents safe deserve our constant appreciation."

"We are a rural fire department protecting homes and the land around them, as well as wild lands," said Fire Chief Tim Olsen. "This grant will bring us current with replacing hose sets that are extremely degraded. The new hoses don't rot, they take a lot of pressure and will last for a very long time. My greatest concern is protecting the protectors. This grant helps us to do that by replacing personal protective gear."

This very competitive grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. Additionally, the award is made under the Fiscal Year 2007 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

K-i-s-s-i-n-g

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2007 at 5:41 PM

nepic


Yep, after years of acrimony fueled, it is said, by pernicious personality differences, two of the biggest homegrown environmental organizations in this Humboldt/North Coast surroundscape have officially locked lips and sealed their alliance: the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Northcoast Environmental Center , wed at last.

They've been sorta growing close over the past year or so after wriggling out of their respective old skins and starting anew under new directorships. As EPIC's Scott Greacen put it in May, "The relationships between organizations are the same as the relationships between human beings. They can fall in love. Or they can have friction."

Read the news release (.pdf).

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EPD Brass Arraigned

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2007 at 4:45 PM

zanotti


Lt. Tony Zanotti testifying in the coroner's inquest into the death of Cheri Lyn Moore . Drawing by K. Rudin.


Press release just in from the District Attorney's Office:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 10, 2007

Retired Chief of Police David Douglas and Eureka Police Lieutenant Anthony Zanotti appeared for arraignment today in Department 8 of Humboldt Superior Court on a felony indictment charging them with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of Cheri Lyn Moore. Judge John T. Feeney ordered the matter continued for further arraignment until February 21, 2008. Both remain free on their own recognizance. If convicted, each man faces up to four years in state prison.

In April 2006 Cheri Lyn Moore was shot and killed in her second-story apartment at Fifth and G Streets after a standoff with Eureka police officers. Douglas and Zanotti were the police commanders in charge at the scene of that incident. Testimony regarding the shooting was taken before the grand jury from several witnesses, including police officers, over several days. The Grand Jury returned an indictment naming both men. That indictment remained sealed until today.


UPDATE: Same-day Times-Standard coverage .
The second floor hallway of the Humboldt County Courthouse was awash in black as a crowd of uniformed officers, city officials and other Eureka Police Department personnel attended the proceedings in support of Douglas and Zanotti.

Both defendants attended the brief court hearing, after being escorted into the court room through a back entrance by a bailiff. They left quickly once the hearing was over.

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Farmed Fish Gone Wild

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2007 at 12:10 PM

fish

In The New York Times Magazine's "The 7th Annual Year in Ideas," one story addresses what's being done to combat dwindling stocks of wild fish in the face of overfishing and environmental changes: manipulate farmed fish to taste wild.

This spring, after 10 months of testing, the aquaculture company HQ Sustainable Maritime Industries created what it calls "sea-flavored" tilapia, the first farmed fish manipulated to taste like a wild fish. "It met 10 out of our 10 taste parameters," says HQ's president and C.E.O., Norbert Sporns. The company, which is negotiating distribution deals with several fast-food chains, employs good old-fashioned food-processing technology to imitate the industry standard. It uses flavoring compounds to replicate the mild taste of Alaska pollock, a northern Pacific whitefish that holds a near-monopoly over products like fish sticks, imitation crabmeat and frozen fish fillets.

Art from nytimes.com

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Ouch

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2007 at 12:10 PM

lumber


The November 2007 issue of the Humboldt Economic Index is out. The above graph represents seasonally-adjusted lumber production in the county -- 55 percent of total manufacturing employment, according to the Index's authors. And slipping rapidly, apparently.

In other Economic Index news: Home prices continue to drop , though home sales rallied somewhat.

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