The Eureka Police Department has entered what appears to be an introspective, self-improvement period. First it hires a homeless liaison to tend to the needs of those a-wander in our streets and marshes. And then it conducts a "crime and policing" survey to assess residents' measure of satisfaction with the departments' work as well as gauge their greatest crime-related concerns.
The results are curious. The overall results indicate that the majority of respondents are satisfied with the EPD's work -- how officers treated them, how fast they responded to calls, and so forth. And yet 41 percent thought crime had increased and 54 percent thought it had remained the same over the past 12 months. As well, while 52 percent of respondents said they had not changed their activities because of concerns about crime, 48 percent said they had. And only 36 percent felt safe or very safe in Eureka.
So what exactly niggles you most, Eureka? What keeps you up nights clutching your phone, provokes cold sweats and nightmares when you finally do fall asleep as dawn brightens the sky? Illegal drugs (sales, possession and use, exposure to children). Transients. Grow houses. Theft. Violence. Illegal dumping and littering. Gangs.
And what plagues you practically not at all, compared with those other demons? Noisy neighbors and barking and/or wandering dogs.
Party on, law-abiding funlovin' citizens and rowdy canines.
Read the news release and survey results.
Great. First we start shipping whole logs to China; now we're exporting entire trees.
Actually, we doubt too many people will object to the massive tree giveaway being organized by Lowe's Home Improvement Centers across the country, featuring live seedlings that even now are being sorted, packaged and shipped from the relatively tiny Jonsteen Company in Dow's Prairie.
Preparing the packages has been a monumental undertaking for the Jonsteen Company.
"We've had crews working 24/7, in three shifts, since the beginning of April," co-owner Jonathan Claasen said by phone this afternoon. "It's been an exercise in crowd control."
"This is by far the largest single-day tree-planting event we've ever been a part of or even heard of," Claasen's partner Steen Christensen said in a press release. (Put their first names together and you'll see where the company gets its moniker.)
Claasen said they've enlisted help from everywhere they could find it, including their employees' friends and spouses, plus about 30 temporary workers hired through Express Personnel. Claasen's wife and Christensen's parents have been providing homemade cookies for everyone. "We've been trying to make it as fun as possible, but boy, it's a pretty long haul," Claasen admitted.
Jonsteen has been involved with large-scale tree giveaways in the past, partnering with the likes of The Smithsonian Institution, FedEx and Whole Foods. In 2008 they coordinated a major nationwide tree giveaway for Macy's. "But even as large as it was, the Macy's distribution was only about 10 percent of what Lowe's is doing," Claasen said.
The company will be providing Giant Sequoias and Coast Redwoods to many California locations. But because of the sheer volume of trees necessary for the effort, plus the widely varying climates across the country, Jonsteen sourced many seedlings from other nurseries.
"We have palms for Hawaii and Southern Pines for the South; super cold-hardy stock for the Northeast; and wonderful mountain trees for the West," Christensen said. In all more than 40 different species will be used for the Lowe's giveaway, including rare specimens such as Korean and Japanese Fir, various Larches and Hemlocks, Bristlecone Pines and Black Hills Spruce. (If you don't want to drive to Redding for a tree -- and well you shouldn't -- you can order some here.)
Lowe's tree recipients will have the opportunity to "register" their trees online, then see where other trees are being planted across the country and interact with fellow tree-planting enthusiasts. The big-box retailer issued its own press release, saying, "When planted, these one million trees will eventually produce more than 260 million pounds of oxygen annually, providing air for more than 670,000 people for one year. (More info here.)
How exactly did a McKinleyville business with three windblown greenhouses end up supplying "the largest tree event in history" for a Fortune 500 company headquartered in North Carolina?
"Jon and I could probably answer that in various ways," said Christensen in his press release. (Clearly they anticipated this question.) "In the end it comes down to the unique and potent animal that is The Jonsteen Company. We are a tree company uniquely equipped for precisely this kind of thing, and we bring to bear a long history both growing trees and strongly advocating for more emphasis on tree planting and tree education in urban America."
"Plus, we have a high tolerance for eating at Waffle House restaurants," Claasen joked. He added, less jokingly, that securing the deal took about four years, dozens of conference calls, hundreds of emails and several trips to North Carolina. Today was the last-minute rush: Claasen said they hope to have the last seedlings in the mail by tonight.
However, he added that they might have to overnight some to Burbank tomorrow. Why? Because Ellen DeGeneres wants to give a tree to each member of her studio audience sometime next week -- a more environmentally friendly gift than some distribute.
The owners of The Jonsteen Company gave credit to Lowe's for doing more than just "greenwashing" themselves as a PR stunt. "Instead of promising to support some vague reforestation effort in some distant locale or 'give a portion of the proceeds' to some perhaps-worthy charity or environmental cause, how about this: Here's a tree. Plant it! Figure it out. That's real," Christensen said. "That's immediate. That's conservation at work right here, right now."
Claasen said that most of the trees they're sending out can live for up to 500 years. Others, like the Bristlecone Pines, can live for thousands of years. "This could have a really lasting effect on our country," he said.
Claasen and Christensen said they're encouraging Lowe's to make the tree giveaway an annual event. "This is all just part of Steen's and my plan to take over the world with trees -- from the most beautiful place in the world, Humboldt County!" Claasen said.
"And we'll do it without ever suggesting the need to log Richarson Grove," added Christensen.
Most likely both cops and homeless folks -- and local businesses -- will be heaving great sighs of relief as a new addition to the Eureka Police Department adjusts to her duties.
EPD Chief Garr Nielsen hired Pamlyn Millsap on March 17 to serve as the department's homeless liaison, the EPD announced in a news release today. Officially Millsap, who was Humboldt County Mental Health's homeless coordinator for 19 years prior to this, will be a Police Services Officer. It's an existing, non-sworn officer position, said Sgt. Steve Watson on Tuesday. But Millsap's duties will be brand new.
In brief, she is assigned to help homeless people, especially chronic ones who may be dealing with mental health issues and/or substance abuse, get off the streets. Her duties will include connecting them to food, clothing and shelter; homeless services providers; family and friends (including helping them get home through the Transportation Assistance Program); and treatment and transition programs.
Watson said Millsap's presence will reduce the number of individual contacts between officers and homeless people, freeing them up to deal with larger problems in the community. Watson couldn't say what percentage of an officer's time is consumed by handling homeless-related issues and crimes, but only that it is "significant."
Millsap has worked with law enforcement before, starting in 1985 as a liasion to victims in the Victim Witness program. In 1989 she began working in the mental health field. Currently she works part-time as a substance abuse counselor with the HART program. Though she recently retired from the county mental health division, she said in an e-mail to her new fellow EPDers that her "retirement plans flew right out the window" when Chief Nielsen offered her the new job as homeless liason. She wrote:
"I have a long history of working side by side with EPD to help transition the homeless off the streets. I would never have been able to do my job in the past without the support of law enforcement."
Opponents of the California Department of Transportation’s Richardson Grove Improvement Project staged a second rally Monday at Caltrans' District 1 office on Wabash in Eureka. Colorful signs, chants of "One demand: Cancel the plan!," and personal, impassioned, megaphone-aided pleas from protesters directed at local law enforcement and office occupants were plentiful.
The rally (similar in nature to the Feb. 7 rally previously reported on by the Journal) attracted over 100 community members, many affiliated with the group Richardson Grove Action Now! Pretend you were there by clicking "more":
Right click/view image to "biggify."
One notable occurrence: protesters stealthily erected a ladder to the lip of the awning covering the main door of the building. A single protester was quickly able to scurry up the ladder, just out of the reach of law enforcement who then lowered the ladder.
Within 10 minutes, officers climbed out a second story window onto the roof and gently removed her, but not before obligatory cheering and flashing o' peace signs.
Protesting makes you hungry.
One protester illustrates another use for saws.
Charles Edwards of Eureka's Stroop Effects Studios sent us the link to this short video he produced for Democracy Unlimited, highlighting last Friday's protest of Bank of America. Another protest, organized through MoveOn.org, will take place today at 4:30 at the B of A in Henderson Center in Eureka.
Speaking of protests (see Andrew Goff's post below), here's a guest post from Somes Bar resident Malcolm Terence on the protest against budget cuts held Wednesday at HSU:
Students, faculty, staff and citizens gathered Wednesday at Humboldt State University for a rally reminiscent of the college demonstrations during the Vietnam War, converting the quiet library quad into a sea of signs and speakers. The protest was centered on budget cuts and CSU fee increases.
In the dicey science of crowd counting, the numbers were estimated at 1,200, four times the size of the crowd of union members and supporters who rallied at the county building in Eureka a week earlier. The HSU crowd was younger and louder but speakers at both events invoked the spirit of the huge rallies in Madison, Wis., in February when Governor Scott Walker fast-tracked severe anti-union laws through a Republican-controlled legislature.
The rally had all the trimmings -- jugglers, drums and a wealth of signs. Dunn wore one of hundreds of bright red tee-shirts handed out by the California Faculty Association that read, "Take Class Action!"
The protest signs touted the importance of public education with slogans like "Students Are Not The Fiscal Problem" or "Fund Public Education -- It's OUR Future." The pithiest may have been "Tax The Rich -- Problem Solved."
R.J. Etzel, a junior History major who attended community colleges before HSU, carried a sign that said, "Don't Privatize Public Education -- Education for All." He questioned how more cutbacks and fee increases would help the state's economy and said he was already saddled with large student loans.
Student Dan Feliciano, one of the many speakers on the library steps, observed that the chancellor of the CSU system was paid $35,000 per month while students like him had to manage to live off $10,000 per year. The crowd cheered with approval.
"Are we angry?" he yelled into the microphone. He drew a loud response from the crowd.
"How angry are we?" he yelled. A response came, twice as loud.
John Woolley, former county supervisor and current rep for Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, surveyed the crowd from the podium and urged them to lobby representatives in Sacramento to let the people vote on extensions for taxes already in place.
Zuretti Goosby, a field rep for State Sen. Noreen Evans, said that a second tier of cuts would come if there were no tax extensions, "and none of us want to go there."
The California Faculty Organization predicts on its website that contract negotiations with the CSU administration "are likely to stretch on for months...and CFA will fight to protect student rights for an accessible, affordable and high quality education."
In anticipation of Tax Day on Monday, soggy teabaggery was on full display in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse Friday as just over 50 members of the Humboldt Tea Party Patriots braved the drizzle to voice their displeasure with, as one sign put it, being "Taxed Enough Already." (See below for more signage.)
The rally is the first in a series of planned protest events being held by various groups with various agendas in the region in the coming days. On the opposite side of the tax argument, Democracy Unlimited is hosting a protest at the Bank of America on the Plaza in Arcata today at 5 p.m., while MoveOn.org is hosts a similar protest at the BofA at 4th and F sts. in Eureka on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
Want more chances to wave a sign? After bringin' da ruckus with their last Eureka-held protest, Richardson Grove Action Now will hold a follow up rally on Monday, April 18, again at noon at the Caltrans District 1 Headquarters on Wabash, to protest the proposed widening of Highway 101 through Richardson Grove. Protesters coming from Arcata can meet at the Plaza at 10 a.m. to bike to the protest site on roads that are presumably wide enough to support a large caravan of cyclists.
But the "Grovies," perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, have also diversified their interests. The group is holding a "Chernobyl Day" rally at noon on Tuesday, April 26 on the beach near the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant. Again, a bike caravan leaves from Eureka at 10:30 a.m., presumably down the 101 to the King Salmon exit.
Oh, right. More signs from Friday afternoon:
And finally, the lone opposition.
Following a joint investigation by the Eureka Police Department and the Humboldt County District Attorney's office, former Eureka police officer Daniel "Danny" Kalis has been charged with numerous crimes including false imprisonment, possession of heroin, possession of more than an ounce of marijuana, petty theft and vandalism.
The DA's office first began receiving reports of Kalis' alleged criminal conduct in January, according to a press release. The department gathered evidence over the next two months. The EPD initiated its own investigation in March, and on March 7 Officer Kalis was place on administrative leave. On March 16 representatives of the two agencies met and, after discussing the status of their individual investigations, decided to join forces.
Following an "extensive investigation," the DA charged Kalis with the following:
Possession of a Controlled Substance (Heroin)
Unauthorized Communication with a Prisoner
Possession of more than 1 ounce of Marijuana
Possession of Controlled Substances without a Prescription
Unauthorized Disclosure of DMV Records
Unauthorized Access to Computer Network
According to the press release, the investigation continues and additional charges may be filed. Kalis is scheduled to be arraigned on May 16.
Officer Kalis was fired resigned from the Eureka Police Department, effective April 1, according to EPD Chief Garr Nielsen. "Such allegations, if proven, cast a pall upon a noble profession which derives its legitimacy from the public trust," Nielsen said in the release. "The violation of that trust impacts the profession, our organization and the dedicated men and women who place themselves in harms way to ensure the safety of our communities."
Members of the community with information regarding potential criminal actions conducted by Officer Kalis are urged to contact Eureka Police Department Senior Detective Todd Wilcox at (707) 441-4315 or Humboldt County District Attorney Investigator Wayne Cox at (707) 268-2591.
This should alleviate some of the City of Eureka's financial neck pain. The charming (or barbaric, depending on your view) but costly millstone of the Sequoia Park Zoo has been lightened by a whopping grant. The press release:
The City of Eureka and the Sequoia Park Zoo Foundation are proud to announce that we have been awarded a Nature Education Facility grant award of $2.3 million from the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The grant will be used to develop and build an exhibit entitled Watershed Heroes which will provide interactive educational opportunities for children and adults centered on the charismatic wildlife of our local watershed -- river otters, salmon, and bald eagles.
On second perusal, this might do nothing to fix the funding problems that have plagued the zoo over the last few years. But river otters! Bald eagles! Um, salmon. There will be a press conference at the zoo tomorrow morning at 10:00. If only Bill had lived to see this.
What exactly was the point of the railbanking item at yesterday's meeting of the North Coast Railroad Authority?
Going into the meeting it seemed that trails advocate Chris Weston and his Eel River Trails Association had built up some momentum in the effort to adapt the long-abandoned stretch or railroad between Willits and South Fork into a trail (while preserving the railroad right-of-way).
That the NCRA agreed to place the issue on its agenda suggested a possible lessening of its longstanding aversion to (or, perhaps, ignorance of) the topic. Yesterday, however, the agency's board summarily dismissed a resolution to seek proposals for a trail project.
Reached by phone today, NCRA Executive Director Mitch Stogner admitted that the NCRA has no intention of moving forward on a trails project anytime soon. "We're not ready to even consider railbanking because there hasn't been an organized group that's stepped forward that has financial backing," he said.
So how did the item get on the agenda? Stogner said the NCRA was intruigued by the concept of railbanking after Weston explained, at the agency's meetings in February and March, that the process allows for non-motorized uses like hiking, biking and horseback riding while reserving the option for the rail's eventual return. "Seems like a reasonable suggestion," Stogner said.
So the board asked staff to develop a suggestion on how to proceed. "What emerged was this resolution that, more than anything else, we thought might be starting point for discussion -- real discussion," Stogner said.
That discussion evidently came to a perfunctory halt when, like boys who set out halfheartedly to build a rocket ship, everyone was forced to acknowledge just how ambitious, complicated and expensive such an endeavor would be.
"The reaction from the board was, we're not ready to even consider railbanking because there hasn't been an organized group that's stepped forward that has financial backing," Stogner said. "We haven't fleshed out the legal issues. There isn't a good concept for what the conditions of the canyon are. We need a good capital assessment report. There's just a whole lot of unanswered questions, basically."
Stogner admitted that the prospect of trains returning to the stretch anytime soon is equally unlikely: "I think the current board of directors of the NCRA has correctly concluded that trains through the canyon are a long way off and will require extensive environmental review and massive amounts of money."
So is that the end of it? Is the line doomed to moulder for another decade? Not necessarily. Stogner said the board directed staff to do more homework on railbanking -- to research the rules, regulations and procedures. "But clearly the onus is going to be on the proposer," he said. "Someone's gonna have to step forward with a logical plan and logical funding. Nothing will happen until that happens."
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