Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Restraining Order Blocks Budget Motel Evictions

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 4:23 PM

  • Thadeus Greenson
The city of Eureka’s efforts to shutter the Budget Motel on Fourth Street have been put on hold.

This afternoon Bradford Floyd, a local attorney representing the Budget Motel’s owner, David Kushwaha, received a temporary restraining order to halt the city’s plans to clear the property tomorrow. On the heels of a recent code inspection that turned up 341 violations, the city served Kushwaha and his tenants on Monday with notice that it would enforce a notice to vacate the property at 8 a.m. tomorrow.

Eureka Chief Building Official Brian Gerving, who’s also serving as acting city manager while Greg Sparks is on vacation, said the city feels the property poses an immediate threat to the health and safety of its residents, first responders and the general public. Specifically, Gerving said widespread bedbug and cockroach infestations, open and unpermitted electrical wiring, rot and mold render the place unfit for habitation. Additionally, Gerving said, inspectors noted missing plumbing fixtures — like toilets and sinks — in some rooms and unrepaired fire damage in others.

This afternoon, the Journal contacted Kushwaha in the office of the Budget Motel and he declined to comment, other than a brief statement: “We got a restraining order against the city. We are not going anywhere.”

The case is set for a hearing at 8:45 a.m., at which point a judge may determine whether the city can follow through with its plans to clear each of the hotel’s 44 rooms, board them up and fence off the property.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

A 'Moral Obligation': Eureka Celebrates Family Shelter Opening

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Betty Chinn gets a standing ovation at the grand opening of her new family shelter on Friday. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Betty Chinn gets a standing ovation at the grand opening of her new family shelter on Friday.
A host of elected officials and community members turned out Friday to catch a first glimpse of Betty Chinn’s new family shelter, which will be up and running in the next couple of weeks.

“I’m here as your congressman, but I’m also here like all of you, as a fan of Betty Chinn,” said North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, adding that the breadth of those in attendance speaks to Chinn’s ability to bring people together and a communitywide recognition that Chinn “understands the needs of the most vulnerable.”

Huffman was one of a parade of officials to take the podium Friday in front of the newly renovated building, which will provide transitional housing for 14 families and convalescence care for 10 people recently discharged from the hospital. Mayor Frank Jager said Eureka is blessed to have Chinn’s “tireless” advocacy on behalf of homeless people, noting that the city doesn’t have any social service funding to build housing on its own. “The city supports her because we know Betty will do the right thing,” Jager said.

Humboldt County 4th District Supervisor and former Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass said Chinn has an “uncanny ability to somehow remove the word ‘no’ from people’s vocabulary,” marveling at how Chinn is able to bring people together to support her cause. But Bass also recognized that wasn’t always the case, making passing reference to a period in the not-too-distant past when Chinn was blamed by local business owners and city leaders for “enabling” the local homeless population.

“I look at that now as a very dark time in our recent history,” Bass said.

First District Supervisor Rex Bohn expounded upon that sentiment, noting that some to this day maintain that if local homeless services were cut, these people would leave the area. Bohn disputed that notion. “If they’re here,” he said, “it’s our moral obligation to help them.”

When Chinn took to the podium, she attempted to deflect the praise that had been directed her way over the course of about 45 minutes from a half dozen speakers. “What can I say,” she asked. “Look at that beautiful building.”

“You made that happen, not me,” she told the crowd, noting all the donated funds, materials and labor that enabled the project.

For more on Chinn and the new shelter, see last week's Journal cover story here. And for those wanting to help, find out ways to get involved by visiting and see the following wish list was distributed to those in attendance Friday.

Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation Wish List

Bunk bed frames (twin sized)
Twin mattresses
60 storage bins (soft plastic Hefty storage bins)
Sheets and comforters (twin sized)
Trash cans and trash bags (30 gallon)
Door mats
Bulletin and dry erase boards
Housekeeping items: toilet paper, mops, brooms, mop buckets, dust pans, etc.
Bus tickets (city and county)

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman presents Chinn with a plaque of congressional recognition. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman presents Chinn with a plaque of congressional recognition.
Humboldt County 4th District Supervisor Virginia Bass refers to challenges Chinn's outreach faced from local business owners and the city of Eureka as a "dark time in our recent history." - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt County 4th District Supervisor Virginia Bass refers to challenges Chinn's outreach faced from local business owners and the city of Eureka as a "dark time in our recent history."
A bunk bed sits in the newly remodeled family shelter, which is decorated with donated art and furniture. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • A bunk bed sits in the newly remodeled family shelter, which is decorated with donated art and furniture.
Chinn with her grandson, Benjamin. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Chinn with her grandson, Benjamin.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Opioid Prescription Rates Falling in Humboldt

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 2:03 PM

Humboldt County is making progress in addressing its sizable pill problem. - FLICKR
  • Flickr
  • Humboldt County is making progress in addressing its sizable pill problem.
While Humboldt County still has more opioid prescriptions than people, the county reports it is making headway in battling what has become a nationwide epidemic.

The Humboldt County Department of Human Services reported this morning that the amount of opioids prescribed in the county has dropped by 23 percent since 2010, falling from 1.29 prescriptions per person to 1.14. This is obviously good news, especially for a county with some of most dire addiction problems in the state.

DHHS attributes the decline to a number of factors, including more local prescribers using a medication tracking system and the work of Rx Safe Humboldt, a community coalition focused on “reducing harms from opioids.”

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Pride Parades in the Face of Violence, Mounting Tensions

Posted By and on Sat, Sep 10, 2016 at 3:52 PM

Parade marchers prepare to roll out from C Street. - JENNIFER FUMIKO-CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko-Cahill
  • Parade marchers prepare to roll out from C Street.
Humboldt Pride got underway in Halvorsen Park this morning but a shadow of violence hung over the event.

“Our hearts are heavy after hearing of the violent acts against members of our community,” a post on the Humboldt Pride Facebook page read. “In light of tehse events, we have increased security at (today’s) parade and festival.”

Yesterday morning, someone with a BB gun took aim at two homes associated with active members of the LGBTQ community, shooting out at least two windows, according to Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills. No injuries were reported and EPD isn’t treating the shootings as hate crimes at this point, Mills said, despite the fact that it’s Pride weekend locally.

Part of the reason for that, apparently, is that there’s growing speculation the shootings came as part of an escalating feud within Humboldt Pride and the local LGBTQ community.

Discontent had already been brewing when an anonymous open letter signed “32 Queers” arrived in the email inboxes and Facebook feeds of community members and media outlets on Aug. 21. The letter expressed frustration with the current Humboldt Pride board of directors and claimed its members had excluded and ignored input from the community, particularly those who are transgender, disabled, people of color, under 21 and sober.

A sprayed and graffitied Humboldt Pride poster in Old Town. - JENNIFER FUMIKO-CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko-Cahill
  • A sprayed and graffitied Humboldt Pride poster in Old Town.
In response, and amid a flurry of online speculation and vandalized posters advertising today’s event, Humboldt Pride and other community members have organized a moderated open forum for Sept. 23 in Humboldt State University's Great Hall to discuss grievances and potential solutions.

However, more defaced posters have appeared around Eureka, and Arcata Main Street's storage unit, which it shares with Humboldt Pride, was damaged by vandals, its locks and moving parts glued shut. Then, the BB shootings yesterday further heightened already existing tensions.

According to a post on the Humboldt Pride Facebook page, Friday’s shootings targeted someone suspected of being a Pride “dissenter.”

At the foot of C Street, where the crowd of Pride paraders gathered this morning, the disappointment over yesterday’s violence was evident.

“Our hearts are broken that anybody was targeted and we’re doing everything possible to make this a safe and supportive space,” said Fuscia Rae, a Humboldt Pride board member. “The queer community constantly deals with the threat of violence; to have to deal with that the day before Pride ... It's just a really, really, really interesting coincidence.”

Others lamented reports that this was an act of LGBTQ-on-LGBTQ violence.

“We end up taking our safe spaces away from each other,” said Anita Lemonparty. “That it’s coincidental, I don’t even entertain that notion.”

Mills said that while the shootings occurred yesterday morning, they weren’t reported to EPD until last night. He said there are currently no suspects and the investigation is ongoing. Meanwhile, Mills said the parade "went well."

As the parade neared this morning, some took the opportunity to call for unity. “If we don’t support each other, nobody else will,” said drag performer Nova Six.

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Sunday, September 4, 2016

DHHS Wants You (to Foster Parent)

Posted By on Sun, Sep 4, 2016 at 11:39 AM

The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services is desperately seeking some good homes looking to make a difference.

Humboldt County has nearly double the state rate of children in foster care —1.2 percent of children ages 0-17 compared to .68 percent statewide, according to — and the high rates have been stretching the system. While there’s no single factor that explains why our local rates are so high, officials say it’s not a surprise given Humboldt’s preponderance of substance abuse and poverty.

DHHS is looking for foster homes for kids of all ages, but the department is especially in need of people willing to take in teenagers.

“Older kids coming into care can be just as scared and shut down as the little ones,” said Michele Stephens, deputy director of Child Welfare Services for DHHS, in a statement emailed to the Journal. “They’ve experienced some form of trauma and as a result sometimes act out as a way of coping. We need caregivers who understand this and are willing to provide safe and supportive homes for teens.”
Helping young people transition into adulthood is another role foster parents can play, Stephens added. “Youth in foster care don’t often have the opportunities to learn basic life skills other kids are taught at home — how to balance a checkbook, find an apartment, apply to college, find a job,” he said.

DHHS is looking for caregivers who can teach these skills in a home setting and in an effort to stir up more interest in fostering, the department recently hired Malcolm DeSoto and his Runaway Kite film company to create the eight-minute documentary embedded above. Be warned, watching it may make you want to immediately foster 17 children.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sheriff IDs Shooters in Deadly Standoff

Posted By on Sat, Aug 27, 2016 at 3:35 PM

Fulton - FILE
  • File
  • Fulton
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has identified the officers who shot and killed David Allan Fulton after a tense Aug. 18 standoff in McKinleyville as being from Mendocino County.

During the 17-hour standoff, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office sent an armored personnel carrier and its SWAT team north to aid its neighboring agency. It appears the Mendocino SWAT team was the one that responded when Fulton allegedly came out of his second-story apartment shooting at about 2 a.m. on Aug. 18.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office on Friday identified Humboldt County deputy James Mowrey as the officer who exchanged gunfire with Fulton shortly after 9 a.m. on Aug. 17. The office identified those involved with the fatal encounter 17 hours later as Lt. Jason Caudillo, Sgt. Joseph Comer, deputy Ze Manuel Lima and deputy Corey Bender, all from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, and Ukiah police officer Jason Chapman.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Controversial "I Like Eureka" Logo Given New Heart

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 at 10:44 AM

I Like Eureka: 2016 version. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • I Like Eureka: 2016 version.
Live music? Bounce houses? Balloons? Face painting? Emergency management training? Sounds like quite a time at next month's Neighborhood Watch Block Party! But, wait, what's that in the far right corner of this jam-packed flyer? Yes, it's the latest iteration of the "I Like Eureka" campaign, now tinted a badge-proud blue and festooned with a tiny little heart. 

Almost exactly a year ago, Eureka's Neighborhood Watch organization began printing its own stickers with the timid motto "I Like Eureka," capitalizing on what had formerly been an underground campaign of anonymous sticker bombing. The black and white bumper stickers began to appear on the backs of squad cars and on t-shirts at public safety rallies, with profits from the sale of said stickers going to benefit Neighborhood Watch. (For a more complete history of the slogan and its original, anonymous promoters, "The Westside Sanguine Society," check out this article.)

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Three Skilled Nursing Facilities May Close

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 1:31 PM

  • File
Rockport Healthcare Services, the management company for five of Humboldt County's six skilled nursing facilities, announced today that they have filed relocation notices for three sites: Pacific, Seaview, and Eureka Rehabilitation and Wellness Centers. The relocation notices, filed with the California Department of Public Health, are the first step in closing these facilities, which collectively contain 258 beds, and relocating their patients.

Stefan Friedman, spokesperson for Rockport, said in a statement that the company is continuing to work with community partners to "find a solution to [a] severe staffing crisis," but it is possible that after public health approves their relocation notice they will shut down the faciltiies.

That, said Area 1 Agency on Aging ombudsman Suzi Fregeau, would be "catastrophic."

Although many patients stay only briefly in skilled nursing facilities, receiving rehabilitation after leaving the hospital, the facilities are often the last stop for patients who cannot afford in-home healthcare professionals and need 24-hour care. Their vital role in the continuum of care was felt last year, when the facilities — five of which are owned by the same company, Brius Healthcare — stopped accepting patients. Hospital administrators, hospice workers and families all felt the pinch, and many North Coast residents had to go to facilities far away from Humboldt County. Fregeau said the potential closure will be even worse.

"It means that residents are going to be placed in facilities a minimum of 150 miles away," she said. "People are going to be dying in communities they’ve never lived in."

Last week, Rockport confirmed that the company has been unable to recruit qualified local nursing staff to meet the requirements of such facilities. California requires at least 3.2 hours of total nursing time per patient per day. The shortage of skilled medical staff is a countywide problem, affecting even the tiny eight-bed Jerold Phelps, in Garberville. Matt Rees, CEO of Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District, confirmed that, even after raising wages, the facility has had trouble recruiting staff.

"When Humboldt State (University) shut their nursing program down, it really hurt our area," he said in a phone interview. "We need more nurses, more CNAs, more clinical lab scientists, just more certified people in the healthcare industry."

Rockport spent $5 million last year to bring in staff from outside the region, a practice it says is "not financially sustainabile."

In its press release, the company said it "remain[s] hopeful that [it]can avoid these measures."

When the relocation process begins, the company says it will "reach out to individual patients and their families to ensure every displaced patient is placed in a California skilled nursing facility."

"The staff employed by these facilities work incredibly hard every day," the release continues. "Each and every one of them would be offered employment with one of the buildings to which Rockport provides professional services at Granada or Fortuna. This is a painful possibility for all involved. We will continue to meet with any and all partners to develop alternative resolutions as we simultaneously prepare for this scenario."

What those alternative resolutions may be — a community buy in, a nonprofit, a financial bailout — is unclear. 

Humboldt County First District Supervisor Rex Bohn has been in meetings with the Rockport and other county officials to discuss the potential closures.

“The operators have assured me that they will work with families and DHHS to place all individuals, if not locally, to facilities in California, said Bohn in an email. “If this issue passes they will be 1st to move back when/if facilities reopen. All remaining staff have employment opportunities at the still open local facilities.”

Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass, also reached by email, added that she was “disappointed” that the company appeared to have settled on closing three facilities.

“Conversations are ongoing and that the number of closures could change,” she said.

Editor's Note: This article originally misstated the amount of nursing hours per patient per day required by the state of California. The correct amount is 3.2 hours, not 3.8. It has also been updated to include quotes from Bohn and Bass.
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Friday, August 19, 2016

UPDATED: Bay Billboards No More

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 10:16 AM


The Humboldt County Association of Governments just issued a press release noting that removal of the 10 billboards won’t just be good for scenery enthusiasts, but also for the Humboldt Bay Trail and the Safety Corridor Improvement Project. See the press release copied below, along with a billboard map.

Motorists on the Safety Corridor will soon have a clear view of the bay.

Caltrans announced this morning that it has reached an agreement with Outfront Media, formerly known as CBS Outdoor, to remove the 10 billboards the company owns along U.S. Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata. The billboards are slated to come down by the end of the year, according to Caltrans, which would bring an end to years of wrangling that, at one time, saw a billboard bandit take matters into his or her own hands by sawing down several of the signs.

See the full release from Caltrans copied below:

EUREKA – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has come to an agreement with OUTFRONT Media (formerly CBS Outdoor) to remove ten billboards along U.S. Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata by the end of the year.
The negotiations were initiated as part of the development and eventual permitting of the Eureka-Arcata Corridor Improvement project.  More information about this project is available at
The Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG) is pleased to learn that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has reached an agreement with OUTFRONT Media (formerly CBS Outdoor) to remove ten billboards along U.S. Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata by the end of the year. Removal of these billboards will help Caltrans meet one of the California Coastal Commission’s conditions for permitting the Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project. The Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project is a safety project to reduce collisions at intersections on Route 101 and has been a regional priority for over ten years. The Coastal Commission,
in its Consistency Certification, required removing billboards in the Coastal Zone, to the maximum extent feasible, to mitigate the proposed project’s visual impacts at Indianola Cutoff. Some of the billboards to be removed are located on publicly owned land, without permission of the underlying landowner.

This agreement will also benefit the Humboldt Bay Trail, as some of the billboards subject to this agreement conflict with the location of the proposed trail. The Humboldt Bay Trail is an active transportation and “complete streets” project to build a safe, multi-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists, ADA accessible, and separated from cars and trucks. The City of Arcata plans to begin constructing the northern segment of the Humboldt Bay Trail in 2017. The County of Humboldt has initiated the engineering and permitting phase for the southern segment; there is as yet no funding secured for the construction phase.

The Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project also remains in the engineering and permitting phase. Construction funding has been authorized by the California Transportation Commission, but construction will likely not begin for at least three to four years.

The Humboldt Bay Trail is being collaboratively developed by HCAOG, County of Humboldt, City of Arcata, City of Eureka, Caltrans, State Coastal Conservancy, North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA), and a variety of other agencies and organizations. For more information on trails, see the “State of the Trails Report: Expanding Regional and Local Trail in Humboldt County” (June 2016) at

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Election Council Seat Roundup

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 1:13 PM

Election season is officially upon us. - FILE
  • FILE
  • Election season is officially upon us.
With the dust settled after Wednesday’s filing deadline, local city council races have solidified.

There was some movement — with one Eureka candidate, Allen McCloskey, bowing out due to health reasons and someone stepping in to take his place on the ballot — at the 11th hour, and it seems most cities will have at least one contested race on their ballots come November.

Here’s the rundown:

Trinidad has two candidates running unopposed for two seats: incumbent Jack West and Humboldt State University Director of Admissions Steve Ladwig.

Arcata has five candidates vying for three open seats: incumbents Michael Winkler, Susan Ornelas and Paul Pitino, along with challengers Daniel Murphy, a local chef, and Valerie Rose-Campbell, a playgroup facilitator for the city.

Eureka will see Eureka Faith Center co-pastor Heidi Messner running unopposed for the city’s 2nd Ward seat, while local accountant John Fullerton and St. Joseph Hospital employee Austin Allison will square off on the race to represent the city’s 4th Ward.

Blue Lake has one qualified candidate for three open seats on the city's council: Adelene L. Jones – an incumbent who is listed as a retired educator on her ballot designation. City Clerk April Sousa said the council will be deciding how to move forward at its next meeting.

Fortuna will see two candidates — former Councilmember Dean Glaser and local business owner Tami Trent — running unopposed for its two open council seats.

Ferndale will see a pair of contested races. Vying for an open council seat are incumbent Daniel Brown and challenger Patrick O’Rourke, who lists his occupation as educator. For the mayor’s chair, incumbent Don Hindley will see a challenge from Steve Nunes, who is retired.

Rio Dell has three candidates going after two open council seats, with challengers Bryan K. Richter, a contractor, and Susan Strahan, a local business owner, taking on incumbent Frank Wilson, an electrician.
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