Back on Jan. 5, when I wandered into the marsh near the Bayshore Mall to interview some homeless campers, most everyone was still talking about the big flood that blew out some of their camps one early Saturday morning a couple months before. A water pipe had bust somewhere nearby -- crash and roar and then here came the water, four-inches-deep of it rushing in like the Russian River, said camper William Dean Hermann. Like a lot of others, he and his wife, Cassie, had had to up-stakes in a hurry.
"I said, ‘Honey, put on your boots, put on your coat, grab your pack, just be ready,'" Hermann said. "I put on my boots, coat, pack. I looked up again -- now the water's six inches. Didn't stop for hours."
A kinda scrawny but fairly clean-cut man stood nearby, listening. He wore a fuzzy red-and-blue plaid flannel shirt, blue jeans and crisp white sneakers. When Hermann finished talking, he took a turn.
"I woke up in eight inches of water," the man said in a steeply pitched hill twang.
His name was Danny Ray Jones. And, now, most everyone in that part of the marsh might be talking about him, because sometime between late night Sunday, Jan. 23, and early Monday morning the 24th, Danny Ray Jones died just outside his tent.
Deputy Coroner Roy Horton said Jones, who was 51, most likely died from a prescription drug overdose possibly complicated by alcohol. "He had a prescription of oxycodone just three days old that was supposed to last a month, and the bottle was empty," said Horton, adding that people he interviewed in the marsh said Jones might have had a drinking problem.
It will be a few weeks before the drug screen comes back, Horton said.
Horton has spoken with Jones' family, including a brother who's a long-haul trucker and who had stopped a couple of times on his way through town to check on Danny Ray at his tent behind the mall.
That day I met Danny Ray, he told me he'd lived in Eureka about seven years but had only been sleeping in the marsh for a month -- ever since he got kicked out of his house.
"I've never been homeless in my life," he said, his voice choking up and his eyes watering. "I'm a working fool. But I got hurt on the job -- fell off a ladder and shattered my hip, building a house. They put in a new hip, but now they want me to do it again."
He was waiting for an insurance settlement to come through. And he'd had some financial problems, he said, with some family back in Tennessee. Although, he was really proud of his son, he said, and walked to his tent to bring out a walking stick his son had carved for him. When he got that settlement, maybe he and his long-time friend, Hobo, would get a place in town. He spoke with a poignant formality. He seemed angry to be where he was, and at what people might think of him.
"I'm clean," he said, defiantly, gesturing at his tidy campsite. "I get my garbage out of here every day."
Homeless advocate John Shelter, who has worked with homeless campers for years, said for someone like Danny Ray Jones -- in pain and facing another surgery and who knows when that might be -- it can be easy to lose hope out in the marsh.
"He was in a lot of pain and the cold wetness just made things worse," Shelter said. "He ate too many pain pills and washed them down with some wine."
After nearly four months on unexplained -- and fully paid -- administrative leave, Humboldt County Airport Manager Jacquelyn Hulsey will resume her job duties Monday morning.
As the Journal reported last month, no one with the county has been willing to address the reasons for Hulsey's extended leave. Public Works Director Tom Mattson and Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace again declined to elaborate Friday morning. Both repeated that Hulsey's leave is "a personnel issue" and thus confidential.
Though Hulsey has no employment contract, neither is she an "at-will" employee -- someone who can be fired without cause. As a public employee, her job is considered her property; therefore she cannot be fired, demoted or transferred without due process. (This has been the case for non-contract public employees in the state since the 1975 California Supreme Court ruling in Skelly vs. State Personnel Board.)
Hulsey's job performance has been repeatedly scrutinized and criticized in recent years, with members of the public, the county's Aviation Advisory Committee and former employees accusing her of mismanagement, verbal abuse and jeopardizing the safety of both employees and the public. (See previous stories here, here and here.)
Asked if he has any concerns about Hulsey's competence, Lovelace responded, "That would get into an issue that would not be appropriate for me to discuss here."
Addendum: Local business leaders have also been among Hulsey's most vocal critics, particularly following a series of flight delays and cancellations in the fall of 2010 (see the second of the three linked stories above).
Jonathan Speaker, chief operating officer of Arcata-based streaming media company StreamGuys, said he was disappointed to learn that Hulsey will be returning to her position.
"I would like to know why the leaders of Humboldt County are not looking at the track record of Ms. Hulsey and seeing the same thing that the business community is seeing," he said.
Like others, Speaker believes many of the recent problems at the airport could have been avoided with proper communication and project management. He also cited the fatal plane crash on the night of March 1, 2009, which went unreported to search and rescue personnel for more than 12 hours due to a miscommunication between Hulsey and an airport employee (see the first linked story above).
"With this kind of track record it is beyond me why [county officials] are not looking to improve our critical infrastructure by staffing the appropriate key personel," Speaker said. He added that he and others are currently seeking answers from county officials.
UPDATE, 3:26 p.m.: Turns out there was only seven hats. So, Mission: Hat Retrieval accomplished.
UPDATE, 2:45 p.m.: Seven of the 11 stolen hats have been recovered and the alleged perp is in custody. Here's the news release:
Follow-up is still being conducted on this case, and deputies are attempting to locate the remaining four stolen hats. Additional charges and arrests are posssible.
Eleven antique Native American hats were stolen this morning from the Blue Lake Museum, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff's office. The women's basket hats were valued at $1,200 to $3,000 each.
The press release is here:
When the deputies arrived on scene they saw the front door to the museum had been forced in and was damaged. The deputies searched the area for the suspect(s) with no success. With the assistance of museum staff, deputies were able to determine eleven antique female Native American Basket Hats were stolen. These hats range in estimated value from $1,200 to $3,500 dollars each. The glass case in which the hats were stored in was also smashed. The investigation into this case is continuing.
Anyone with information for the Sheriffs Office regarding this case or criminal related activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line 707-268-2539.
St. Joseph Hospital showed off its new, three-story, 100,000-square-foot Northeast Tower today, a sleek, spacious, modern space decked in the latest medical equipement, soft colors schemes and muted light -- except for the operating rooms, of course. In one of them, under the bright bright light, an excited nurse demonstrated the ease with which the many-armed contraption in its center could be manipulated to bring whatever you need within reach.
Work stations and lobbies, with droplet ceiling lights and softly glowing counter features, feel like tasteful coffeehouse lounges. The requisite comforting nature scenes adorn the walls in waiting rooms and halls (autumnal pastorals for the consultation rooms) and the ceilings where patients will be awake and staring upward.
In the cardiac operating room, a beaming older man told a tour-guide nurse that he was the first patient in the original wing of the hospital, back when it opened in 1954. "Tonsilectomy."
St. Joe's built the new tower, which will open for patient care in April, to meet new seismic standards. It cost $145 million to build and equip -- paid for, says a flier, with loans, net income, reserves, donations and a dollar-for-dollar match by St. Joseph Health System for the first $12.5 million raised.
The stats: 17 pre-op beds; 10 post-anaesthesia care unit beds; eight operating rooms and a catheterization lab; 12 ICU beds; 40 progressive care unit beds; a sterile processing room (its features and functions enthusiastically described by an employee on the tour); X-ray, Ultrasound and CT units and a 20-bed emergency room.
Photos by Ken Malcomson.
Pouring rain did not stop dozens of citizens from gathering at 5th and H streets in Eureka Friday at noon to join a nationwide protest marking the second anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that defined corporations as "persons," and, as local organizers sarcastically put it, thus "entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run the government."
Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap of Democracy Unlimited (below) helped assemble the local gathering; she's also part of a new group, Move To Amend, a coalition working toward a constitutional amendment to redefine corporations, and, "rule that corporations are not people, do not have constitutional rights and money is not speech."
The group's first step is to have counties and cities around the country put the issue on the ballot for the November election. A Humboldt County version of the petition was passed around at the protest; former Arcata City Councilman Dave Meserve is pursuing a similar ballot initiative for Arcata. See www.corps-aint-peeps.org for details on the Arcata group.
Go to www.movetoamend.org/occupythecourts for further information about the nationwide movement.
Below, a uniformed protestor
Anonymous joined the gathering
Eric Schimps (below) from the Independent Observers Program was observing the protest in anticipation of possible police intervention. The police did not get involved. More photos here.
We're jumping the rain gun here, offering up some preliminary stats about this lasher of a storm.
But first a note about the photo: Yes, it's King Salmon and no, nobody's surprised about a little/lot of flooding in that low-lying, 'tween-the-track-and-the-bay fisherman's burg. Especially, says Jason Anderson at the Woodley Island office of the National Weather Service, when you've got high tides combined with a heavy storm with south winds whipping it all up. Although, it is sad to behold the sandbagged little espresso bar, with its chairs-up tables and no life inside at mid-morning on a day it's supposed to be open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Maybe it's the flood, maybe it's something else -- we couldn't reach the owners by phone to find out.
Anyway, Anderson offers these stats from weather stations on the rainfall so far, since the long-longed for storm began on Tuesday (he'll have complete totals tomorrow morning when a break comes):
Gasque: 9.8 inches
Three miles north of Crescent City: 7.36
Crescent City airport: 5.93
Airport in Mckinleyville: 4.45
Kneeland -- 2.92
Woodley Island: 3.23
It'll rain lightly tonight here in Eureka -- more down in Mendo -- then there will be a break. "Then we're right back at it" with another storm, says Anderson. It won't be as big is this one, and there might be a wee break on Saturday. Then another whomper's coming in on Sunday.
The storm is warm and mostly rain has fallen in the region, Anderson said -- except in the cold, deep valley along the Highway 3 corridor between Weaverville and Trinity Center, where one to two feet of snow has fallen. The cold air was trapped in there, and the warm air just whooshed on over.
They had to use the Internet to do so, but Access Humboldt announced last night that it's joining Wikipedia and others in the SOPA strike by going dark from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. today. Here's the official announcement:
Access Humboldt is participating in action to highlight US legislation
that threatens commercial censorship of the Internet.
The "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) and the "Protect IP Act" (PIPA)could fundamentally change the Internet, as we know it - giving corporations the ability to control people's speech, limiting the fundamental openness and stifling creativity of the Internet. Among other things, these bills could censor websites, limit innovation, and kill jobs - outcomes that our communities cannot afford.
Congress must stop these bills - but if we are going to get a long term solution that serves the public interest, they need to hear from us. North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1) has expressed his opposition to the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation saying: "Those of us who value the Internet as an amazing tool for communication, innovation and economic development, must stand together in opposition to SOPA - the overly broad Stop Online Piracy Act. At a time of continued economic uncertainty, I oppose SOPA because it will stifle online innovation and result in fewer new businesses, fewer new investments, and fewer new jobs. From 2004-2009, 15 percent of our country's GDP growth came from the Internet industry. While online piracy is something we must continually fight, SOPA is something we can't afford." [quote from Rep. Thompson's facebook page, provided by staffer]
Access Humboldt executive director Sean McLaughlin said, "Thanks to Congressman Thompson for taking a principled position on this important issue! The proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation would place private commercial interests above the basic human rights of our people. Local community voices must be protected from potential abuses of absentee owners and profiteers who seek to control the marketplace of ideas. We join with others across the country on this day of protest against Internet censorship."
About 80 equestrian trail advocates "flash mobbed at Clam Beach today," reports Uri Driscoll. They parked about 35 horse trailers alongside the frontage road between U.S. 101 and Clam Beach/Little River State Beach, and then assembled on foot in front of them with sign boards and a petition. They demanded that Redwood State Park listen to their concerns about a trail project about to get under way along the state's Little River stretch of the long beach.
"This is the area that State Parks intends to narrow by nearly half and install a two-foot wide bike lane and a horse trail alongside the remaining asphalt," said Driscoll in an email following the action.
According to the equestrians, there's a perfectly good horse trail they've already been using, and would like to keep using; they don't want the new trail the state proposes to build -- so why spend scarce state money on it?
Driscoll says they invited State Parks officials to come to the action and accept their petition with about 200 signatures, but received no response.
The trail project is part of a long-term native dune habitat restoration project in the area.
Here's the text of the petition:
"We the undersigned are asking California State Parks to add equestrian designation to the proposed pedestrian trails at the Little River State Beach project site. These existing trails have been acknowledged to have shared use for decades and there has been no data presented to justify the elimination of such historic use.
"We also asked State Parks to consider scaling back the proposed equestrian trail project that would unnecessarily cut into undisturbed habitat. The existing trails if designated for horses would be adequate for continued use.
"A modification of the trail plan submitted to the State Coastal Commission to this end would be supported by the equestrian community.
Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace gathered supporters on the Arcata Plaza Thursday afternoon to announce that he's running for re-election (see text of speech below), then discussed challenges ahead, among them holding onto the county's tax money, rural school busing, marijuana policy and smart meters.
The last 3 years have been very busy. I've worked with a lot of different partners on a long list of important projects, and I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish together.
Working with a broad partnership including IP Networks, RREDC, PG&E and the California Center for Rural Policy, we were able to make reliable, redundant broadband a reality for Humboldt County. This has long been our County's number-one economic development priority, and it benefits virtually every sector of our community.
To make that happen took a tremendous amount of work here, in Sacramento, at meetings around the State and in DC, helping to shape national and state broadband policy and funding priorities, securing grants, permits and easements, and so much more.
Working with County Planning staff, I helped Cypress Grove find a new location for their goat dairy, so they'll now be able to source over 30% of their milk here locally in Humboldt County.
Working with a number of conservation partners and agencies, I helped to permanently protect over 50,000 acres of working forests on the North Coast, including expanding the Sunny Brae Forest and bringing us very close to completing the Arcata Ridge Trail.
Working with the Humboldt Transit Authority, I was instrumental in bringing full, five-days-a-week bus service to Southern Humboldt, and in moving HTA and HCAOG to finally start Sunday bus service in the 101 corridor, which should be up and running this Summer.
I initiated the County's prescription drug discount program, which has saved County residents an average of over 60%, totaling more than half-a-million dollars a year.
Working with a sometimes divided Board, I was pivotal in keeping the Coroner an independent elected official, and establishing the Law Enforcement Liaison Committee, and in keeping the General Plan Update from going off the rails and losing 10 years of progress.
I've pushed to move our region and the State towards rational dialogue on medical marijuana policy that recognizes the difference between those who are trying to provide safe access to those who truly need our compassion, and those who abuse our compassion by destroying our watersheds, our neighborhoods and our communities.
I've been our County's voice at the State and Federal level, advocating to protect our rivers and coastline, to bring down the dams on the Klamath and to push back against draconian cuts that target the most vulnerable members of society.
And along the way, while working on these projects, I've also helped lots of community members with permit processes, tax assessment issues, potholes and road maintenance, public safety concerns and many other day to day issues.
The job is 24/7 and the work never stops. Every day some new issue comes up from a phone call or an e-mail, and whatever it is, even if it might seem insignificant, I have to treat it as the most important issue of the day because to somebody out there, it is.
I expect the next four years to be just as busy, as there's lots more work to be done. The next four years will be pivotal for the Klamath dams. We will see the completion of the General Plan Update, and progress on establishing the County's own community forest on the McKay tract.
I'll continue to push for new air service at the airport, for safety improvements on the 101 corridor as well as Highway 255 through Manila. I'm already working on efforts to expand broadband even further to reach communities along Hwy 299, and I'll continue to be a strong advocate for bike and pedestrian trails, especially that critical link between Arcata and Eureka.
Now, nothing ever gets done by one person alone. While I may have been out front on these issues, there's always a partnership or a team effort involved, whether it's County staff, other public agencies or the private sector. Getting things done requires a team effort.
The same rule applies to this campaign. It's going to take a team effort, and I'm going to need your support. So please, get involved!
In the next few weeks I'll be announcing my campaign team, launching my website and scheduling some events. I hope you'll join me, and support me, and work with me through this campaign and through the next four years.
Working together we can make Humboldt County the best Humboldt it can be.
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