Friday, December 28, 2012

Gas Profits? Oh Yeah

Posted By on Fri, Dec 28, 2012 at 10:01 AM

Here's a nice piece of gasoline trivia. In a year when the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that gasoline retailers make an average of around 4 cents a gallon, a broker trying to sell two Arcata gas stations says that they routinely rake in 35 cents a gallon.

"Due to high margins in this area it generates a huge cash flow," AW Ackerman Commercial Real Estate Services writes about the Texaco station at 412 J St. in Arcata, which is on sale for just under $1.2 million. It sells around 70,000 gallons every month at 35 cent per gallon markup, the site says (h/t to a Humboldt Herald comment for a link to Ackerman's site).

Meanwhile, a Shell station at 1401 G St. in Arcata has claimed the exact same profit margin (funny, how that works) on sales of around 80,000 gallons a month. It was being offered for sale at $2.2 million on the Ackerman website on Thursday, but the ad was down on Friday.

Update: Bud Ackerman, the realtor on these listings, says both stations are still for sale, but one of the ads has temporarily expired. The stations are being sold by two different owners, and potential buyers would generally expect to see documentation of the past markups. Although 35 cents a gallon is "pretty good," Ackerman said, the volumes sold aren't great -- a better volume would be around 100,000 gallons a month. 

But a Redding-area realtor who also handles gas stations said a good station should be selling 50,000 to 65,000 gallons a month, at markups that can range from a few cents per gallon to 20 or 30 cents, depending on location. How good is 35 cents a gallon, particularly when selling 70,000-plus gallons a month?

"That's a very high markup," said Ron Largent of Sheldon Largent Realty. "He's making money. That's excellent. ... If he does have a 35 cent markup with that kind of volume, he's doing very well."

In the Central Valley, where Largent helps people buy and sell gas stations, markups like that could only be commanded at exceptional locations and likely would come with a tradeoff: selling a noticeably lower volume of gas, because consumers will shop around for lower prices if they can. In other areas though, "there's almost an unspoken rule" that stations do not undercut each other. When that happens, he says, "The consumers, what can they do? It's a captive market."

Now, nobody suggests that a gas station owner is the only one involved in gasoline pricing. The owners mostly have to pay prices set by their distributors, and in parts of California, markups are so low the stations couldn't survive without their convenience stores. In Humboldt, though, stations have a tradition of copying each other's lofty prices, and a couple of distributors dominate the market. (See "Gasoline Kings" in the July 7 Journal.) How powerful are those distributors? Good question, and there have been plenty of dark suggestions, but no proof.

If somebody wanted to find out a lot more, and possibly get some lower gas prices to boot, how about a giant Kickstarter campaign to buy an Arcata gas station? It could be a co-op. Mark that gas up just enough to pay expenses. See if anything bad happens, or if the thing just hums along and sells gas at more affordable prices.


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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What You Clicked: A 2012 Humboldt Year In Review

Posted By on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 at 1:34 PM

Yes, it's obligatory end o' the year list time. No media outlet can resist.

Thus, in this week's Journal print edition, once again we've imposed on you, our reader, what we think are the Top 10 most important local events and issues of the year -- 'cuz we think we're really smart, and stuff. So go pick up one of those.

But in an attempt to reflect what really drew your eyeballs this year, we went through Google analytics statistics for and compiled a Casey Kasem-approved Top 40 list of pieces that made you move your fingers an inch or so.

Did you miss any of the Humboldt year that was? Get to clickin'!

1. Details Emerge About Gruesome Shark Attack
Bite survivor and shark puncher Scott Stephens' late October surf session-gone wrong received worldwide exposure. A legend was born.

2. Downey Calls for Backup
Humboldt County's sheriff looked to the feds for help with ganja overwhelm.

3. So, Jimmy Kimmel Doesn't Think Humboldt State's New Weed Institute Sounds All That Necessary

HSU inevitably ended up the subject of a late night talk show for its Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research Institute. It was pretty funny.

4. Know Your 2012 Kinetic Sculptures!
Three days of continually updating colorfulness from this year's Kinetic Grand Championship. 'Twas glorious.

5. The Eureka Wal-Mart Has Been Blessed
A local pastor prayed for God's hand to guide the stewards of the low prices. Always.

6. Betsy Lambert Out at KIEM Channel 3
And did we ever find out who pooped and peed on the bank? No. No we did not.

7. Dave Chappelle Drinks "Regular Coffee and Cream" in Fortuna

The reclusive comedy megastar pulled his motorcycle over at the Friendly City's Starbucks. No, really.

8. Seemann Obituary Released
Relatives of the late Suzanne Seemann memorialized their loved one.

9. Arcata Planning Commissioner Accused of Drunken Door-Kicking
The tale of an unfortunate night for an Arcata business owner and freshly minted city planning commissioner.

10. This Week on The Marijuana Follies...
Humboldt County, where the streets are lined with marijuana ...

11. Old Town Sunbather John Tutuska Has Died
"The light in me recognizes the light in you." - John Tutuska

12. Capleton's Red Fox Tavern Show Canceled
After community outcry over violent homophobic lyrics, a local music venue canceled a Jamaican dancehall star's local performance.

13. How I Was (Temporarily) Banned from the KIEM News Channel 3 Facebook Page

Be careful whose news judgment you question.

14. Jogger in Fatal Crash Identified
In late September, a very sad day.

15. The Yurok Grift
A million dollar embezzlement scheme affecting the Yurok Tribe, and allegedly involving prominent biologists.

16. Homicide "Person of Interest" in Custody
Jason Anthony Warren, believed to be involved in a Hoopa homicide and a Freshwater hit-and-run, is apprehended.

17. Plaza Design Lockout
The bizarre end of one of the Arcata Plaza's most beloved retailers.

18. If You've Never Seen a Live Mudslide...
Wanna see some mud slide? We got video.

19. Humboldt's Wal-Mart Resistance
Impassioned protests preceded Eureka's newest big box.

20. Bohn Underscores Faith in Cops, Law
The newly appointed county supervisor responded to the arrest of his son on kidnapping and assault charges.


21. Drug Money
Spending records offered a rare glimpse into fiscal life of Humboldt's drug cops.

22. Jesus Christ, Chester Cheetah Invited to Wal-Mart Opening Ceremony Mega-Party Extravaganza Festivities
We were invited to Wal-Mart's grand opening! And it sounded epic!

23. Dancing Mascots Usher in Humboldt's Wal-Mart Era
We went to Wal-Mart's (second) grand opening! It was epic!

24. The Mormon Moment
Hanging out with Humboldt brethren of the Republican presidential nominee.

25. ‘Don't Bother Coming In'
Humboldt County paid a lot of employees a lot of money to not work at all.

26. Female Cage Fighter Tackles Eureka Transient
Sometimes badassary happens right outside NCJHQ when our smart phones are charged.

27. Former CR President on Verge of Dismissal
No one likes Jeff Marsee.

28. Arcata Plaza New Year's Eve: Meh
The inevitable overreaction to years of Mckinley face humping.

29. Senseless Tragedy
A community tried to make sense of the tragic loss of Suzie Seemann.

30. Your Dog Is Dead
Guest poster and animal lover Mark Dondero's letter to whoever abandoned Toby (a good dog) seven years prior.

31. The Rural Bar Crawl
Three days. Seventeen bars. Swastika. Bobcat Goldthwait. Hazy memories.

32. Surviving
Hank Seemann gave his first interview after the loss of his beloved wife.

33. LaRue Out At Redwood Curtain
The end result of No. 9 above.

34. Burlesque!
We exposed local boobies.

35. Freedom to Boycott
No one is oppressing your reggae, mmmkay?

36. On the Implications of Evangelical Prayer at the Eureka Wal-Mart Opening Ceremonies
Guest theologian Austin Roberts wasn't too keen on Jesus being co-opted for commercial purposes. Jesus wasn't that pumped either.

37. The End of Occupy Eureka?
Sheriff deputies attempt to end the non-stop courthouse party by enforcing the "urgency ordinance" passed in March. To answer the question, this was not the end.

38. Political Polling Shenanigans
Elections are rife with bullshit. We did some shoveling.

39. Picking a Bohn
According to numerous silly season political mailers, every person on earth supported Rex Bohn.

40. Karen Brooks is Bold
The third district supervisorial candidate debuted her groovy new website that used up all the local remaining color pink reserves.

Geez, are you really done (re)reading all 40 of those? OK, you've earned tthe right to revisit 2011's top click earners! Congrats!


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Pot and Pain

Posted By on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 at 12:15 PM

A study conducted by University of Oxford researchers indicates that cannabis -- specifically THC -- works as a pain reliever in some people not by reducing the pain, but by distracting the user from the pain, reports the University of Oxford:

"We have revealed new information about the neural basis of cannabis-induced pain relief," says lead researcher Dr Michael Lee of Oxford University's Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB). "Cannabis does not seem to act like a conventional pain medicine. Some people respond really well, others not at all, or even poorly. Brain imaging shows little reduction in the brain regions that code for the sensation of pain, which is what we tend to see with drugs like opiates. Instead cannabis appears to mainly affect the emotional reaction to pain in a highly variable way."

Also, only half the study participants felt any change in pain, indicating that THC's impacts vary widely among individuals. Lee says the small-scale study is but a piece of the puzzle of how cannabis interacts with pain, and there's much more to be learned.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

'Die Die Die,' Says Man Drenched in Gasoline

Posted By on Mon, Dec 24, 2012 at 11:58 AM

Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office:

On 12-23-2012, approximately 6:00 p.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office was notified of a man on top of the Shop Smart Grocery Store, 3430 Redwood Drive, in Redway. The caller said the man was pouring gasoline on himself and was attempting to light himself on fire. Deputies, California Highway Patrol Officers and fire personnel responded to the scene.

When deputies arrived on scene, they saw a crowd had formed in the parking lot. The suspect identified as Ricardo Guerra, 43 years old from Whitethorn, was standing on the roof with his two dogs. Guerra was holding a one gallon plastic jug filled with gasoline and was pouring over his body.

Deputies made verbal contact with Guerra attempted to talk him down from the roof. When deputies spoke with Guerra he held up a lighter and then began pouring gasoline down the west wall of the store while screaming he was going to burn the building down. He then picked up a concrete cinderblock and rocks which he threw from the roof towards the crowd below. He then began pacing back and forth across the roof edge.

He then threw the gasoline filled container at the deputy along with rocks. When firefighters attempted to put a ladder up against the building, Guerra came at them with a cinder block over his head. He then threw the cinderblock at the firefighters attempting to strike them with it.

Deputies and CHP Officers then accessed the roof using the fire departments ladder while fire personnel stood by with a hose in case Guerra lit himself, the law enforcement officers and the building on fire.

Once the law enforcement officers accessed the roof, Guerra ran at the officers with a jug filled with gasoline and threw gasoline on one of the deputies striking him in the chest and face, before running away from the deputy. Guerra then hung off the roof which was thirty feet above the ground below. The deputy and a CHP Officer grabbed Guerra and brought him back onto the roof. While they were doing this Guerra attempted to ignite a lighter he was holding against the deputy while screaming, "Die, die, die" and trying to ignite the deputy he threw gasoline on previously on fire. Once on the roof Guerra attempted to fight with the deputy and two CHP officers who were able to overpower him.

After Guerra was restrained, he was brought to an awaiting ambulance with the assistance of the fire personnel on scene. He was transported to a local hospital. After he was medically cleared he was transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility where he was booked for felony battery on emergency personnel, attempted arson, obstructing and resisting law enforcement by use of force and violence and being under the influence of a controlled substance. His bail is set at $50,000.00.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff's Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.


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Paying for Redevelopment's Funeral

Posted By on Mon, Dec 24, 2012 at 11:11 AM

All three of the Humboldt county cities that once had redevelopment agencies have been tussling with the state over how much money they should have to hand over and when, with millions of dollars at stake.

Arcata was told it owes $2.4 million, and it has only paid a little over $300,000, the Arcata Eye reported last week.

Meanwhile, Eureka also is being told it needs to turn over a similar amount, outgoing city manager David Tyson said in an email on Friday.

"I think just about every former RDA [redevelopment agency] in the state is in a similar position as Arcata," he wrote, although from Eureka's point of view, "we are not in 'dispute' with the state over the monies we are required to turn over as a result of the dissolution of redevelopment."

The issue has been contentious, though, and cities have not been quick pay the money the state says they owe, according to Humboldt County Auditor Joe Mellett, who is charged with keeping track of the various collections.

"The state is saying all right, we've had these audits, and we believe you need to disgorge X amount of dollars. And the cities are saying no, we don't have the money," Mellett said over the phone Monday morning. "They're trying to honor their commitments to their citizens to slow things down as much as they can."

If the state decides they are delaying too long, it can impose penalties.

It wasn't immediately clear how much money the state currently says is in arrears from each city. The state Department of Finance's external affairs office did not return a call on Friday.

The money at stake involves taxes that once flowed to redevelopment agencies, but now are supposed to be used two ways: paying off redevelopment agency debts, and then going back to local governments, schools and special districts that would have gotten the tax money in the first place if there were no redevelopment agency.

That's where it gets a little tricky, though, said Mellett. Schools are supposed to get a lot of the returning funds, but it isn't a windfall for the schools, because the state simply cuts its funding by an equivalent amount, he said. So it is the state, not the schools, that comes out ahead financially, he said.

As redevelopment agencies are dismantled, the money they once collected is moving among many different funds, including ones involving low income housing. For that pot of money, a Dec. 15 demand letter on the state Department of Finance website says that Fortuna owes $1.29 million. Another letter dated the same day outlines Arcata's $2.4 million obligation.

Fortuna paid $1.29 million in late November, according to Mellett.

Letters to those cities appear to have been written after a meeting among the parties to talk over differences, and no similar letter for Eureka is online. In what appears to be an earlier stage of correspondence, a Nov. 9 letter on the state finance website says Eureka owes $653,897.

That's exactly the amount Eureka paid with a check dated Dec. 21, according to Mellett.

While the process has been slow and sometimes tense, he said, "the cities are not going to go bankrupt over this, and the state is not trying to bankrupt them."

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Friday, December 21, 2012

NCJ intern's gun story in The Atlantic online

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 11:41 AM

Former NCJ intern and all-around stand-up guy Zach St. George wrote a cowboys-and-guns article and now it's been picked up by The Atlantic online.

St. George, originally from Alaska, left Humboldt earlier this year after graduating from Humboldt State University. He's now in graduate school at U.C. Berkeley.
The Atlantic piece, "What No One Wants to Admit About Guns: They're Fun," features single-action shooters -- recreational shooters who dress like cowboys and use old, Wild West-style guns:

Cowboy shooters -- or members of the Single Action Shooting Society, as their group is officially known -- are part of one of the fastest-growing shooting sports in a country of gun lovers. The men (and few women) who partake in it are not slick, like the crew-cut, law-enforcement guys who meticulously measure the distance between bullet holes they shoot in human-silhouette targets. The hats, the nicknames, the old guns -- the whole thing is a little dorky. But cowboy shooting, with no solid connection to either self-defense or hunting, is also unique among the shooting sports in its purity of purpose.

St. George doesn't downplay the seriousness of gun violence in our society, nor the divisiveness over what to do about it:

Less than two miles away from the Richmond Rod and Gun Club, in notoriously violent North Richmond, weapons are being wielded in earnest. According to the Small Arms Survey, a monitoring center in Geneva, Switzerland, Americans own roughly 300 million guns, or just under one gun for every child, woman and man -- the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. Advocates of gun control point to the roughly 10,000 Americans murdered with firearms every year. Gun rights advocates retort that Americans have a founder-given right to bear arms. Guns aren't the problem, goes the refrain -- it's the people who use them.

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One Big Billing Dispute

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 11:24 AM

The city of Arcata is being dunned for just over $2 million by the state of California for improperly winding down its redevelopment agency, the Arcata Eye is reporting.

The city has made a preliminary payment of $300,000 and is looking into ways of dealing with the rest, with Mayor Shane Brinton arguing the city should continue to fight, and Councilwoman Susan Ornelas urging cooperation, the article said.

The dispute, which involves what happened to redevelopment money after the state abolished redevelopment agencies, mirrors others going on in cities around the state. Some court battles have already been lost, and other cities are vowing to fight on.

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Apocalypse Now?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 11:00 AM

This morning, as in 12/21/12, the Mayan's last day, the Mendocino County Sheriff's office posted this photo of a cataclysmic rending of asphalt on Covelo Road, aka Highway 162, described by friend of the Journal Mike Wilson as, "Kind of like every scene in the movie 2012, only a much much smaller version."


Is this the beginning of end? Not exactly.

The Mendo Sheriff's Facebook post explains, "It appears storm run-off plugged a drain pipe under the highway, causing the water to flow over the highway eroding the roadway. A semi tractor-trailer made it almost across the area when the road gave way. The rear axles of the trailer fell into the hole and were ripped from the truck. The damage is approximately 20 feet wide by 30 feet deep, taking out both the eastbound and westbound lanes."

Cal Trans is working on it. In the meantime, "There is an alternate route of Laytonville/Dos Rios Road, which is a single-lane dirt road leading between Laytonville and Dos Rios, where traffic can then come back onto Highway 162."

Bottom line: Be careful out there. It might not be the end, but with this weather, the roads are treacherous.

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False Gun Report Tempts Fortuna High Students to Bring Guns to School

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Class was canceled at Fortuna High School yesterday after the Fortuna Police Department received a report that a student planned to bring a weapon to campus and possibly "engage in acts of violence." The report turned out to be false, but as the press release below reports, some Fortuna High students reacted by suggesting they should arm themselves and head off to school.

Here's the press release from the Fortuna Police Department:

On December 20, 2012, the Fortuna Police Department received information that a student was planning on bringing a weapon to the Fortuna Union High School campus to possibly engage in acts of violence. Upon receiving this information, the department met with high school and district administration and began working together to ensure the safety of students and staff.

To ensure student safety, Fortuna High School administration and Fortuna Police Department determined that canceling class at the high school today was the safest option and would give officials adequate time to conduct a thorough investigation.

The Fortuna Police Department and high school administrators worked late into the night to complete a thorough investigation and determined that the information was false. Through the course of the investigation, it was determined that other students had also became aware of this information and were discussing bringing weapons to school for self-protection should an incident occur on campus.

"Throughout this investigation, the safety of student and staff was the first priority of both the department and the school," said Sergeant Charles Ellebrecht. "Together, we decided that canceling class was the best option."

Despite recent events, schools are one of the safest places kids can be. The Fortuna Police Department works closely with all schools, public and private, within our city to enhance safety for students and staff.

Each school is required to have a School Safety Plan specific to that campus that addresses most types of incidents. Officers train for a variety of emergencies in strong partnerships with school staff, who are dedicated to the education and safety of children. There are procedures in place, such as shelter in place, evacuations, and lockdowns that can be implemented depending on the given situation.


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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Humboldt Sign Of The Apocalpyse: Bohn/Lovelace Old Town Bromance

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 11:07 AM


Think the all the hoopla surrounding the impending end of the Mayan calendar is a bunch of malarkey? Not so fast, skeptic! While we haven't seen any lions loungin' with lambs just yet, check this out this piece of local visual WTF-ness.


The Journal's secret Old Town telephoto lenses picked up some shared supervisorial sentimentality between Rex Bohn and Mark Lovelace recently. Freaky, right! Whether it was adorable tandem cycling, partaking in caloric delights, or sharing a chuckle over the general plan, the two county supervisors seemed to put politics aside for an afternoon to enjoy their own awkward rom-com movie montage. Cue up Herman's Hermits!


And that's not the only sign that the end is upon us! This week the Journal has collected numerous indicators of our coming demise in a special End of the World edition, being shoved into newsstands county-wide today and tomorrow.

Pick one up … while you still can.

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