Surely it's been a wonderful Godwit Days so far -- rare larkspur sightings, perhaps a Scroobius Pip spotted lurking in the marsh. But there's been grave talk, as well, among the bird folk. Did you hear? As many as 20,000 waterfowl may have died in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge since February, victims of avian cholera.
The tragedy has been in the news for weeks. Most reports note how the bird deaths heighten the already contentious atmosphere surrounding negotiations between farmers, fishermen, tribes and environmentalists over Klamath River water rights and plans to take out four dams to restore the river. As the Capitol Press put it, the bird deaths "have fueled the latest round of posturing over a landmark water-sharing agreement."
Today's S.F. Chronicle continues the narrative, quoting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Matt Braun as saying that more birds than normal migrated through this spring at a time when only about half the refuge had water, much of it having been consumed already by those in line ahead of them -- fish, tribes, farms. The birds crowded into the wet places where they more easily spread the disease.
As opening day approaches for Eureka's Wal-Mart (behold the interactive 360-degree panorama of the construction site above), a story in today's New York Times shows just how far the biggest of big box retailers will go in its "relentless pursuit of growth."
The exhaustive story (this sucker clocks in at nearly 8,000 words) reports widespread bribery of government officials by executives of Wal-Mart de Mexico. A whistleblower says that the company engaged in an orchestrated bribery campaign "to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country." When Wal-Mart's U.S. leaders were informed that Mexican and U.S. laws had likely been broken, they took a willfully blind, half-assed approach to an internal investigation, the story reports.
A former executive of Wal-Mart de Mexico says the bribes "targeted mayors and city council members, obscure urban planners, low-level bureaucrats who issued permits -- anyone with the power to thwart Wal-Mart's growth."
In 1999, Wal-Mart tried and failed to convince Eureka voters to support a zoning change on the so-called Balloon Track property. Their entry to the Bayshore Mall required no such zoning change or voter approval.
PREVIOUSLY: Humboldt's Wal-Mart Resistance
Letts tried a recipe herself ("Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes"). She also got local chef Lauren Sarabia to perform some of the recipes and comment. Sarabia is owner of Comfort of Home Catering and co-author of the cookbook "Locally Delicious: Recipes and Resources for Eating on the North Coast." (Disclosure: Sarabia puts on a fine wedding banquet -- nug-free, in my case.)
"Using all local and organic ingredients, [Sarabia] prepared 'Cornish Game Hens with Peach, Sausage, and Rice Stuffing,' with a side dish of 'Over-Stuffed Twice-Baked Potatoes.'"
Letts quotes Sarabia saying the recipes are easy to prepare and designed to hide the yucky green flavor (OK, she doesn't say "yucky"), and that the ingredients are a cinch to obtain. Says Sarabia, according to Letts: "The flavors of the other ingredients totally hid the flavor of the Cannabis, and that night sleep came easily."
Do you like to read? Since you're reading this, we'll assume yes. How do you feel about books? Despite any rumors you've heard, the book is not about to die -- not if serious book lovers have their way.
You may find a few local book fans giving away books next Monday, April 23 (and the days that follow) as part of World Book Night, an annual celebration designed to spread a love of reading and books, with local headquarters at Arcata's Northtown Books. This is the second annual World Book Night; it started last year in United Kingdom and spread to the U.S. in 2012.
The idea is pretty simple. With input from a panel of booksellers and librarians, publishers created special paperback editions of 30 titles by contemporary authors. Volunteers "givers" signed up online and chose a book they feel strongly about from the list. Participating bookstores and libraries act as distributors receiving cases of books, 20 copies of a single title for each giver. (When we stopped by Northtown Books Saturday, they'd already received their shipment.) The givers come in and pick up a pile of books, and then they give them away, no sooner than April 23. Readers read the books, and hopefully pass them along. By the time it's over half a million books will be distributed.
"This is a celebration of the individual book and the individual reader. I am honored to take part," said Sherman Alexie, whose book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is among those to be given away locally.
Local givers also selected I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.
And lest you think that the list was short on desirable best-sellers, Suzanne Collins' hot title The Hunger Games and Stephen King's The Stand were also among those available (but not selected by any local givers).
Where will they be giving away books? WBN organizers suggest schools, hospitals, nursing homes and diners, but it's up to each individual giver. Watch for them next week.
Here's how it worked in England last year when they gave away a million books:
(Above: Jesse Hughes-MacArthur protests Wal-Mart. Click pics to "biggify.")
With construction of Wal-Mart at Eureka’s Bayshore Mall well under way, it’s perhaps more accurate to say “Wal-Mart is here” instead of “Wal-Mart is coming.” But even though the world’s largest retailer is mere months away from flipping the switch on its latest money vacuum, Humboldt residents continue to sound the “Wal-Mart = Bad” alarm.
This past week provided a couple examples of up-in-arms Humboldtry. On Thursday afternoon, students gathered in front of HSU’s Career Center to protest a scheduled visit from Wal-Mart representatives to offer employment information.
“WAL-MART… HAS NO HEART!” was the most popular chant of the day as protesters held signs and banners and invited passing students to scrawl out their own anti-Wal-Mart sentiments. One sign read “Say ‘hello’ to Wal-Mart and ‘goodbye’ to Richardson Grove & the Redwood Curtain.”
“If you have to hide what you’re doing, it’s probably not something right!” protester Jesse Hughes-MacArthur yelled, referring to Wal-Mart’s stealthy Humboldt introduction. “The invasion of Wal-Mart is coming.”
But on top of Wal-Mart opposition, the protesters' beef extended to the Career Center itself for allowing the retailer a location to seduce job-hungry students.
“Wal-Mart is using our Career Center,” Hughes-MacArthur said, going on to list a few of the corporation’s policies he found atrocious and voicing disapproval for HSU’s “promotion” of the 200 job “opportunities” that would soon become available.
“This school is supposed to be committed to social and environmental justice,” he said. “It should not be involved.”
Career Center counselor Loren Collins saw the decision to allow Wal-Mart on campus as an issue of protecting access to Wal-Mart employment for students who might desire it.
“Regardless of how we might feel, there are students on campus who want the opportunity to work at Wal-Mart,” Collins said. “We can’t make that value decision for them. We have to allow them access.”
While more protesters glommed onto the movement outside, inside Wal-Mart reps met with interested job seekers in a Career Center conference room, fielding questions and guiding them through the online application process. A few protesters sat in and asked pointed questions about Wal-Mart’s business model and ethics which the reps, at first, attempted to give credence to.
And then Verbena poked her head in the door.
“Are you from Wal-Mart?” she asked a man in a tie. He told her he was and then continued answering a student’s question about the permanency of the positions being offered.
“Then you can go on welfare and work your ass off at Wal-Mart!” Verbena chimed in.
As more protesters entered the room, verbal clashes quickly escalated — not between protesters and Wal-Mart reps (who remained mostly quiet) but between protesters and job-seekers.
“There’s a lot of jobs that will go away when Wal-Mart gets here,” one protester offered.
“Well, I’ve been looking for a job and I can’t find one!” one upset job-seeker replied.
“I can get you one at Arcata Pizza and Deli,” the protester fired back.
“I think it’s very nice that we have companies that come to our school to provide us with something,” job-hopeful Jody Bivians said, rising to her feet.
“They’re going to ruin where I live,” Verbena pleaded Bivians.
“Are you going to pay my bills?” Bivians inquired, sharply. “No!”
(Above: Vebena vs. Bivians!)
The shouting matches around the room continued, and by the time the gentleman sporting a monkey mask under a Wal-Mart baseball cap rolled into the meeting, all order was lost. Campus police arrived to attempt to calm things down. Eventually Career Center staff opted to move the session into a different room downstairs, behind a locked door.
“Are you really interested in a job at Wal-Mart?” Collins asked students as they entered the building. He used his keycard to unlock the door and usher in sincere seekers.
Inside the now-closed-door (but media allowed) meeting, reps shared their personal Wal-Mart stories with around 20 job seekers. One male rep inspired the young crowd by recounting his journey from an entry-level stocking position, to assistant manager, to being selected to be part of a team that traveled to India to open more Wal-Mart stores. As he spoke, potential employees filled out applications on their laptops.
Also in attendance, dressed in a smart business suit with neat, cropped hair, was Gabrielle Long, who will be the manager of the new Wal-Mart in Eureka. She was restricted by company policy from answering my questions that day. She instead politely gave me the number to Wal-Mart’s media relations department. (Y’all want it? It’s 800-331-0085.)
(Above: Gabrielle Long speaks with a potential job applicant.)
Outside the locked door, Collins deflected protesters’ complaints until well after the building had officially closed, and all who remained were Collins, Hughes-MacArthur and me. After a lot of philosophical back-and-forth the two found their common ground and apologized to each other for any misdirected heightened rhetoric. They shook hands and went their separate ways into Thursday night’s downpour.
Attendees at a separate anti-Wal-Mart shindig Sunday afternoon were a bit more restrained. Around 25 people gathered at the Ink Annex in Eureka for one of a couple of local screenings of Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.
“We’ve got cookies and popcorn,” event organizer Dorie Lanni said, motioning to the snack table as she met attendees at the door. Next to a bowl of pretzels sat a bowl of No Wal-Mart buttons.
The film was briefly interrupted by both a drummer practicing in an adjacent room and a projector malfunction. Afterward, Lanni asked for suggestions on how the community could respond to Wal-Mart’s impending Humboldt arrival and spoke of how she’s gauged local response thus far.
“It’s been pretty weak, which is not entirely surprising. But even if two people showed up it was still worth doing it,” Lanni said of the screening. “If people are seeing announcements, if they’re seeing flyers, then they know that there’s public opposition.”
Since there is virtually no hope of stopping Wal-Mart's opening in Eureka, Lanni said she’d instead institute an individual consumer boycott and hopes other will do the same. Instead of aligning herself with any established local political movement she hopes that the information she provides about Wal-Mart’s business practices will resonate with those likely to be affected most.
“If we’re out there like Occupy, then people just blow it off like, ‘Oh, this is some fringe/anarchist thing.’ And it’s not,” she says. “This affects mainstream families more than anyone else here.”
(Above: Dorie Lanni speaks before a screening of Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.)
PREVIOUSLY: Wal-Mart Now Hiring
UPDATE: Oh, by the way. Want to see how the construction progress is going inside Wal-Mart's new Bayshore Mall digs? The Journal's Bob Doran was recently granted access and used some shmancy app to construct the panoramic shot below. Use your mouse to get all 360 on it.
A story in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle offers a bemused overview of the candidates running for the newly redrawn second congressional district, which writer Joe Garofoli describes as "a political world like no other ... where all but the two Republican candidates are running to the left of President Obama."
Also of note: Garofoli says Republican candidate Dan Roberts supports same-sex marriage. That's not quite the impression we got from our interview with him last month, during which Roberts said he "probably" voted for Prop. 8, the 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment that took away the right of same-sex couples to marry.
The exchange, which was left out of the Journal story due to space constraints, went as follows:
North Coast Journal: What's your position on same-sex marriage?
NCJ: Did you vote for Prop. 8?
DR: I probably voted for it. I don't remember specifically, but I probably did, yeah. I'll take a Ron Paul line: You take the government out of marriage. These are unintended consequences to social engineering.
Yikes! If you're headed north out of Eureka tonight you might want to take another route. A pickup and a large trailer are blocking one lane of traffic on 101 between the Bayside and Indianola cutoffs. Thankfully, firefighters on the scene reported that no one was hurt in this wreck.
(These photos get bigger if you click 'em.)
the new Veterans Affairs medical clinic.
You might have driven past the shell of the old Safeway on Harris Street recently and wondered what all that construction was about. The Safeway closed when the big new Safeway opened farther up the road.
Pierson Company has gutted the old structure and is now upgrading it to meet federal seismic standards and remodeling 16,000 square feet of it to meet the Veteran's Affairs needs, says Greg Pierson, who's also managing the property for the owner, L&H Properties. Eventually a new facade will go up, and likely by the end of September or early October the folks working at the old vets clinic site, on F Street, will be able to move in, says Judi Cheary, spokesperson for Veteran's Affairs at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. The old clinic site will be closed -- but the new one will indeed be new and improved, with expanded services.
"The new services will include extended mental health services, radiology services for simple Xrays, eye care and audiology care, and telemedicine -- where a veteran can receive speciality care from San Francisco without having to go to San Francisco," said Cheary.
The new VA clinic will be owned and operated by Veteran's Affairs, unlike the old clinic which was run and operated by contractors -- who were "great," said Cheary. But, she said, the needs have grown and so Veterans' Affairs was ready to take over. The VA has a 20-year lease on the building from L&H.
There's another 13,000 square feet on the site, said Pierson, adding, "We're not disclosing what's going in there now."
The Department of Veterans Affairs has signed a 20-year lease with L & H Properties, LLC, to rent the West Harris Street store.
It looks like all the hard work, political frustrations and financial investments of the Westside Community Improvement Association (née Jefferson School Committee) have paid off. In a press release issued today, the group announced that it and the Redwood Community Action Agency have received a whopping $3.3 million grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The money will go toward construction of a community center and park at 1000 B St.
If you'll recall, in 2010 the City of Eureka was all set to purchase the property, which has been closed since 2005, until new council members took office late in the year. (See the Journal's coverage here.) Left in the lurch, the community group rounded up its own funding and purchased the property from Eureka City Schools last April by submitting an uncontested bid of $610,000.
In his own press release, Assemblyman Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) congratulated the group.
"This grant will directly benefit all of Eureka, not just the West Side," Chesbro said. "The community owes a huge ‘thanks' to Heidi Benzonelli, president of the West Side Community Improvement Association, and the Redwood Community Action Agency, who worked so hard to complete a successful grant application on a short deadline."
Read the Westside group's press release below:
The Westside Community Improvement Association (WCIA) and Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) have been awarded $3,305,560 from the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Office of Local Grants and Services. The funding from the Statewide Parks Program of Proposition 84 will enable the development of the Jefferson Park and Community Center located at 1000 B Street in Eureka, CA. This will enable WCIA to pay for the purchase of the parcel, and for RCAA to manage the construction of a playground, community garden, walking paths, basketball court, bocce court, open space and landscaping, and ADA-compliant restrooms and parking. It will also allow for the renovation of existing buildings into a community library, multi-purpose room, infant/toddler center, community recreation room, kitchen and restroom.
WCIA board president Heidi Benzonelli said "Westside Community Improvement Association is grateful to have the opportunity to make such a difference in our community. A new public park and community center will restore common-ground to the Westside.
"The Westside Community Improvement Association grew out of a citizen's group known as the Jefferson School Committee. WCIA spent six years developing broad community support to restore the abandoned Jefferson Elementary School to once again become the hub of the Westside neighborhood.
RCAA executive director Val Martinez said that: "We are very pleased that the Parks and Recreation Department recognized that this is a necessary and important project for Eureka's citizens, and in particular the residents of the Westside community."
The Westside Community Improvement Association and Redwood Community Action Agency wish to thank First District Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro and State Senator Noreen Evans of the 2nd District for their support and shared vision for this project. Chesbro, a former member of RCAA's Board of Directors said, "This project is a tremendous example of how community partnerships can work for the greater good and demonstrates how community action agencies are leaders in creating these solutions."
For more information contact the Westside Community Improvement Association at (707) 444-2988 or P.O. Box 5315, Eureka, CA 95502; their website: http://jefferson-project.org/ or their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Jefferson.Project.
It has been on the ropes over the past week, but now the deal to start twice-daily service between the Arcata-Eureka Airport and Los Angeles International in June has been officially and indefinitely postponed.
American Airlines subsidiary American Eagle announced March 23 that a deal had been struck, but the announcement proved to be premature. County officials hadn't yet lined up a funding source for the $1 million revenue guarantee required by the airline, and despite concerted efforts by the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, the board of the Headwaters Fund and county staff, that proved to be a fatal stumbling block.
Part of the problem was a lack of community buy-in, said County Supervisor Mark Lovelace. Like many people who have voiced concerns over the last few weeks, Lovelace said he, too, was skeptical after Delta Air Lines came and went, taking county revenue with them. But eventually he was convinced that the American deal was sufficiently different, and offered enough potential for economic benefits, to be worth exploring.
"We didn't have adequate time to really kick the issue around and explain it to folks," Lovelace said. He said American Eagle officials are open to considering an agreement in the future, possibly starting service next Spring.
Below is a press release from the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission:
The Redwood Region Economic Development Commission announced today that negotiations with American Airlines for a revenue guarantee agreement have been deferred into the future to allow more time for all parties to come to an equitable agreement in advance of the start of service.
The parties had been working towards the goal of starting service this June, and American had begun to take reservations for flights from ACV to LAX in advance of any signed contracts in order to capture summer travel customers in anticipation of an agreement. American Airlines will work with all customers who have been affected by the service change.
At this time, the parties will continue discussions with a goal of starting service next Spring. Should these discussions prove successful in the future, multiple agreements will need to be signed with the County Aviation Division, the Headwaters Fund and RREDC, a process that normally takes several months due to the public processes required.
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Just my Freedom of Speech in America.