Wednesday, October 19, 2016

State: Sample Ballot on California Props in the Mail

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 12:59 PM

"I Voted" stickers. - MANUEL J. ORBEGOZO
  • Manuel J. Orbegozo
  • "I Voted" stickers.
If you haven’t received a sample ballot of the statewide propositions yet, a representative in the California Secretary of State’s Office says not to worry — it’s in the mail.

“The mailing of the Voter Information Guide concluded over the weekend, so voters should keep an eye on their mailboxes this week,” press secretary Sam Mahood wrote in an email to the Journal.

The guide is available online in 10 languages, he added.

There are 17 statewide ballot measures before voters on the Nov. 8 ballot, ranging from regulations on ammunition to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana to repealing the death penalty.

For those looking to get a jump start on researching the long list of initiatives, Mahood said the office recently released a “Quick Guide to Props” link on its website, which “provides voters a helpful list of the top ten campaign contributions, funding totals for each and every of the 17 statewide propositions, as well as brief nonpartisan analysis.”

The campaign finance elements, he noted, “are dynamic and will be updated daily.”

Not a registered voter? The deadline to become one in time for the November election is Oct. 24. For more information, visit the Humboldt County Registrar of Voters website.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

From Pulp Mill Ashes, Redwood Marine Terminal II Rises

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 2:23 PM

Jasmin Segura, with Humboldt Baykeeper, and Delia Bense Kang with Surfrider tour Marine Terminal II. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Jasmin Segura, with Humboldt Baykeeper, and Delia Bense Kang with Surfrider tour Marine Terminal II.
The buildings stand mostly empty and the work is far from done, but mood inside the Redwood Marine Terminal II last Friday was jubilant nonetheless. At long last, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District threw a grand opening party for the out-of-service pulp mill it bought for $1 back in August of 2013. After successfully saving Humboldt Bay from potentially disastrous toxic sludge, the district has continued to rehabilitate the site into what is now officially the National Marine Research and Innovation Park, a multi-use facility designed to house both research and commercial opportunities in aquaculture, biomass conversion and renewable energy.

State Assemblyman Jim Wood, on hand for the festivities, called the achievement “remarkable” and praised the efforts of both the pulp mill and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. State Sen. Mike McGuire admired the hard work of all involved. Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass recalled her childhood, during which the mill’s stink was known as “the smell of money.”

Virginia Bass. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Virginia Bass.
As an adult, Bass was employed to do public relations at the mill during its years under Evergreen Pulp, a task she confessed to being “ill-suited” for, in part, she joked, because she had to work with fellow Supervisor Rex Bohn, a man “hard to put a lid on.” Despite that, the “little space of earth” continued to be a prominent part of her life — she even recounted driving out to sit in the abandoned parking lot years later, sad to see such a “vibrant part” of the bay lying fallow. “How can we help?” she asked herself.

Opportunity arrived through the district’s purchasing of the site, which brought federal, state and local agencies, community partners, nonprofit organizations, the county and the city of Eureka into the “monumental” project, she said. And now, Bass finished, she’s confident “the Harbor District is up for the challenge.”

One of the most moving speeches came from Harbor Commissioner Richard Marks, who spent 30 years working at the pulp mill, “almost [all] in this building,” he said. He referenced the “ghosts of workers past” and noted that despite his longtime pride in the workers, “I was never proud of our bad environmental record.” Marks relayed an anecdote about bringing in a copy of the Northcoast Environmental Center’s EcoNews, telling fellow employees that they needed to do things right. This “new day forward” pleased him, he said, with the promise of “new jobs, clean jobs.”

Continuing the speechifying was Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (who takes a seat as a Humboldt County supervisor in January. “I don’t like the term ‘revitalization’,” he said, preferring to call the new chapter “vitalization.” He urged the district — and the community — to be “future-focused … Moving backward is so much more difficult.” To that beginning, Wilson noted, success of the NMRIP depends on an interim zoning change and update to Humboldt’s Local Coastal Plan.

Harbor District CEO Jack Crider wrapped up the event with a story of visiting the pulp mill site four years prior. “I did this crazy thing,” he said, “crawled around on top of all the tanks and buildings. I should have died that day.” Instead he took 500 or so photos to the Harbor Commission and showed them the disrepair — and danger — of the sludge tanks.

Afterward, Crider said, “Commissioner [Greg] Dale said, ‘Thanks a lot, Jack. Now we have to do something.’” That something turned out to solve a lot of issues, Crider continued, from removing the toxic sludge from failing tanks to providing dock access and future opportunities. This is his third experience converting a contaminated site, he said, and each time has meant putting his staff through significant challenges. This one, Crider finished, “was the biggest hurdle I’ve ever put anyone through.”

Byron Duty of Pacific Flake. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Byron Duty of Pacific Flake.
Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (left) talks to the crowd. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (left) talks to the crowd.
North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire (left) and Assemblyman Jim Wood (right) with Harbor Commissioner Pat Higgins. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire (left) and Assemblyman Jim Wood (right) with Harbor Commissioner Pat Higgins.
John Driscoll, the field representative for North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, addresses the crowd. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • John Driscoll, the field representative for North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, addresses the crowd.

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Eureka City Council to Discuss Butane Ordinance, New Homeless Sleeping Area

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 12:41 PM

Hundreds of mL butane canisters from a 2015 hash lab explosion. - HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
  • Hundreds of mL butane canisters from a 2015 hash lab explosion.
Two explosive topics are slated to come before the Eureka City Council this evening. City staff has recommended the council adopt an ordinance restricting butane sales within city limits. Butane is often used to make hash or honey oil with sometimes dangerous results, as makeshift laboratories in residential homes have been known to explode.

In response to a rash of butane hash lab explosions that damaged property and sent people to the hospital with severe burns, Humboldt Bay Fire Chief Bill Gillespie collaborated with the Eureka City Attorney's Office and county counsel to craft an ordinance that would limit the sale of butane within city limits. The language of the proposed ordinance restricts vendors from selling more than 600 mL of butane to any one person in a single transaction and a person from owning more than 600 mL of butane or buying more than 600 mL of butane in one calendar month. Vendors will also be required to track butane sales by recording the name and contact information of buyers. For more information on this issue, see previous coverage here.

Also on the agenda is the option to amend the existing Shelter Crisis Declaration to include a site at the foot of T Street in Eureka, adjacent to the Samoa Bridge. This amendment would allow city staff to prepare the site as a temporary overnight sleeping area for homeless people in the city of Eureka beginning on Nov. 1. As with previous sites, such as the city parking lot at Washington and Koster streets, at the foot of Del Norte and the Wharfinger building, the site would rotate every few weeks. According to the language of the agenda item, business owners in southwest portion of Eureka are concerned about the concentration of homeless people in that district, as the Blue Angel Village shipping container project will soon move to the Washington and Koster district.

The sleeping area, where individuals are allowed to erect tents and stay between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., was one of the stop-gap solutions that arose after the dissolution of the Palco Marsh encampment in May. But EPD Capt. Steve Watson said very few of those currently using the sleeping area seem to be from the original Palco Marsh campers.

"Last Wednesday we contacted 23 people," he said. "Only about seven were Palco Marsh people. This number is constantly in flux."

Watson added that the responsibility of his officers to visit the area and ask people to break down their tents in the morning, and to make sure that rules were being followed, has been "resource intensive."

"People are loitering, there is litter, there tends to be an increase in crime, particularly theft and break-ins, that seems to be related," he said, adding that six individuals identified in thefts had been arrested and banned from using the area.

Due to the recent storms, Watson said the strictures on disassembling tents in the morning had temporarily been relaxed. When the Journal drove past the area, currently at the foot of Del Norte, at 7:30 and again at 8:30 this morning, the tents were still up and people were still present in the parking lot. Councilmember Marian Brady referred to the Del Norte site as a "disaster" in a July council meeting, chiefly because it is public property and there is no mechanism to require people to disburse during daylight hours.

Neighboring business owners seem to agree with this assessment — complaining of break-ins, litter and scared customers. 

Dolores Blanc, owner of Bedliners Plus, on Koster Street, said she and her daughter now arrive early on Monday morning to pick up trash from their parking lot, a phenomenon she says is directly related to the sleeping area. There have also been issues with verbally abusive behavior and theft.

"One lady defecated right in front of a customer because I wouldn’t let her use the bathroom," Blanc said. "Our concern is people are going to turn more to the internet. I would rather turn to the internet than come and watch someone take a dump on the parking lot."

Blanc's company recently invested in a security system, as did their neighbors at Don's Rent All. 

"We put up surveillance cameras, put razor wire because they've been jumping in," said Meredith Biasca, manager of Don's Rent All, which recently spent $10,000 on security cameras and a new fence. "My feelings on having the homeless down there are mixed. I understand that they need to go somewhere. I don’t know why it’s the county or the city’s job to do that. I don’t know that it’s the city or the county’s responsibility to take care them."

But business owners on the other side of town are anxious about the hot potato being tossed in their direction as well. The idea of having a sleeping area at T street was raised earlier in the year, and voted down after many complaints. 

Cari Sharer, general manager of the Red Lion Hotel, attended the July 5 meeting to protest the idea, and said she plans to return to the chambers tonight to voice her concerns. The presence of homeless people, she said, has already cost her business. It is the "number one concern" for guests, she said, because it makes them feel unsafe, and the problem has escalated since the Palco Marsh eviction.

"It does seem that they’re everywhere now," she said. "And our heart goes out. We’re very sympathetic to the issues. You don’t want to see anybody in that position, but I also have a business to run. It’s hard to see them doing this because this is more than a once in a while thing our guests are seeing and it does leave a negative tone to the area, which is a shame."

Sharer said that she often encourages her guests to walk down T street with their dogs, a practice that will end if the camp goes in there.

"I have over 80 employees," she said. "I want to make sure my employees have a job. We want to keep people who live in Eureka employed."

Since May 2, the city has spent $60,000 on the temporary sleeping areas, including improvements to the sites and on-going costs for the portable toilets and dumpster. This figure does not include staffing costs from the Eureka Police Department or Parks and Recreation (roughly $2,000 a month). According to Capt. Watson, since May 1st to date, EPD officers have conducted 1,533 patrol checks at the city lots averaging around 9 minutes on scene.

Edie Jessup, with Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, said that AHHA will continue to ask the city for a more permanent solution, specifically a tiny house village.

"Moving people weekly from one site to another for 'sleeping' is not a solution for either the homeless or the community. It is inhumane and an attempt to wear the social fabric of the houseless community," she said.  "The investments applied to city ordinances, projects, and law enforcement to move people daily is not cost effective nor does it meet people's needs. Instead of only legal night sleeping in a parking lot, the city should address a clear pathway to stabilizing homeless in a legal 24/7 organized camp to Tiny House Village as Housing First. Until such time as there is adequate affordable permanent housing for all."  

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Public Defender to Retire, Judgeship Not Likely

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 9:20 AM

Kevin Robinson, center front, with the rest of the Public Defender staff. - FILE
  • File
  • Kevin Robinson, center front, with the rest of the Public Defender staff.
After a decade on the job, Humboldt County Public Defender Kevin Robinson has informed the Board of Supervisors that he will be retiring in January.

In a short letter sent to the board last week, Robinson says his last day heading the Public Defender’s Office will be Jan. 20 and offers to assist with training his yet-to-be-settled-upon replacement. Robinson has been with the office for 22 years, having joined as a deputy public defender in 1994.

In an interview with the Journal last week, Robinson said he’s looking forward to slowing down and spending some time with his 8-month-old granddaughter, who lives in Davis. Other than that, Robinson said he’s not sure what retirement will hold for him. Some time back, he applied to be appointed by the governor for the judgeship that has been vacant in Humboldt since Judge Bruce Watson retired at the beginning of the year.

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Starting the Conversation: HSU forum focuses on race, police

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 11:47 AM

A packed house at the Kate Buchanan Room. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • A packed house at the Kate Buchanan Room.
Against the national backdrop of a recent spate of high profile shootings of unarmed black people by law enforcement, students, police and community members gathered on the Humboldt State University campus Thursday evening for a far-reaching conversation on race and policing.

Local law enforcement and members of the HSU black community sat side by side in the Kate Buchanan Room, discussing topics that ranged from police escalation to racism on campus.

A 13-person panel that included both Eureka and Arcata’s police chiefs, members of the African American Center for Academic Excellence and campus faculty answered questions from audience members throughout the two-hour forum titled “Black and Blue Dialogue.”

The audience filled the room to capacity, with speakers voicing concerns about police brutality and sharing first-hand accounts of racial bias. Among those was Gloria Brown, a child development major who spoke about the fears she faces just being around police.

The 13 person panel at the Black and Blue Dialogue takes questions from audience members. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • The 13 person panel at the Black and Blue Dialogue takes questions from audience members.
“I’m very cautious when I’m driving next to a police officer,” Brown said. “I just seem to get instantly nervous even if I’m at church, I just don’t feel comfortable if I see that badge.”

Brown wasn’t the only one who shared these concerns. Amy Salinas-Westmoreland, director for the HSU Multicultural Center, said a fear of police has become a basic instinct.

“It’s like something is constantly chasing you and, as an African-American, I fear for my students and staff of color on a daily basis,” Salinas-Westmoreland said. “It's really concerning to see students afraid for their own well being.”

Questions directed at law enforcement ranged from how they deal with racial sensitivity to training protocols. University Police Department Chief Donn Peterson said the department has recently put an emphasis on de-escalation tactics and the topic is something he is constantly looking at.

“Thirty years ago, it was something that we never got training on but things have changed,” Peterson said. “We do an okay job of it but we know we can do a whole lot better.”

Students criticized some of the responses law enforcement gave, citing assumptions and misunderstandings that the black community constantly faces with police. Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills spoke about how the department is trying to grow and overcome those assumptions.

“We’ve got to do a better job at cultural sensitivity,” he said. “It’s a systemic problem that starts at the court and can’t continue to disproportionately stop people of color. It’s embarrassingly stark, but we can’t continue like this.”

The audience also included several members of local police departments who were there to support, as well as gain insight from, the forum.

HSU student Cameron Rodriguez and Humboldt County Sheriff's Sgt. Greg Allen sit next to each other taking questions about police brutality and race relations at Humboldt State. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • HSU student Cameron Rodriguez and Humboldt County Sheriff's Sgt. Greg Allen sit next to each other taking questions about police brutality and race relations at Humboldt State.
The biggest applause of the evening came in response to Salinas-Westmoreland, who called out HSU administration for its lack of presence at the forum. She also referenced University President Lisa Rossbacher’s email to students this week that stated “racism is not a norm on our campus,” which drew laughs from students in the audience. The MCC director said the email was a slap in the face to students of color.  

“How many people from administration are here?” she asked. “And how are they not being here helping these students? I’m fed up, quite honestly.”

The forum came to a close with a question to the panel asking what its members would take from the discussion going forward, and how they would apply it to their lives.

Corlis Bennett-Mcbride, director for the Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence at HSU, summed up the forum by tackling an issue many people agreed upon.

“Stop assuming,” Bennett-Mcbride said in reference to the tactics law enforcement have sometimes used on people of color. “If we can just stop assuming every black person is up to no good, we can cut half of the problems.”

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Early Prospects for Crab Season Look Good

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 2:52 PM

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and state Sen. Mike McGuire during today's hearing. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and state Sen. Mike McGuire during today's hearing.

So far, so good. That's the early word in today's extensively titled forum, "Crab Season Outlook for 2016-17 and Modern Aquaculture in California by the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture" taking place right now at the University of California Davis Marine Lab in Bodega Bay. Convened by the North Coast's own state Sen. Mike McGuire, who chairs the committee, and attended by our U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman, the hearing offers scientists and fishery experts a chance to give their take on the upcoming California crab season. 

After last year's disastrous crab season was delayed due to high levels of the toxin domoic acid, attendees were visibly relieved to hear relative good news from University of California Santa Cruz's Dr. Raphael Kudela, professor of ocean health, that while 2016 was "warm and toxic," the probability of a domoic acid bloom impacting North Coast crabs has decreased over the last month. This is "really good for crab and fisheries," Kudela said. Ultimately what things look like next year is highly dependent on winter storm conditions, he said, but right now, "good news!" 

Additionally, this marks the first time that the Joint Committee has focused primarily on aquaculture (aka “farming in water"). The farmed fish, oysters and seaweed industry continues to expand and so today's panelists will explore finfish, shellfish, inland production and perspectives from state agencies.  

Huffman noted his pride in the Second District's oyster farmers, noting the industry is not only "innovative" and "sustainable," but also "delicious." Representing that valued part of Humboldt's economy at the forum were Coast Seafood Company's Southwest Operations Manager (and Humboldt Bay Harbor Commissioner) Greg Dale and Hog Island Oyster Company co-founder and CEO John Finger.

The hearing will be live-streamed until 4 p.m. and then archived for future viewing. 

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fire Up the Chainsaws: Oak Woodlands Restoration Bill Signed

Posted By on Sun, Oct 2, 2016 at 3:30 PM

Firs swallowing a grove of black oak. - PHOTO BY LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Photo by Linda Stansberry
  • Firs swallowing a grove of black oak.
On Sept. 24, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1958, paving the way for landowners with conifer encroachment on oak woodlands to remove the invasive trees without replanting. The bill comes after more than a year of advocacy from small landowners and environmentalists who argued the existing rules by the state Board of Forestry were counter-intuitive to best practices in land management.

While slow-growing oak woodlands have been a dominant part of the Humboldt landscape for centuries, providing acorns and habitat for many species, the absence of fires has given quick-growing firs a chance to gain ground, shading out oaks and overtaking open ground. Previously the Board of Forestry has required an onerous timber harvest plan process to harvest and sell conifers. A.B. 1958 could ease these regulations, creating a seven-year pilot “exemption” to the THP process for smaller conifers and clarifying language around oak woodland restoration activities.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Eureka Takes Police Video Fight to the Supreme Court

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 3:18 PM

Since 2008, the Eureka Police Department has outfitted all of its patrol cars with Watch Guard cameras. Who gets to see the footage they collect remains up for debate. - PHOTO BY THADEUS GREENSON
  • photo by Thadeus Greenson
  • Since 2008, the Eureka Police Department has outfitted all of its patrol cars with Watch Guard cameras. Who gets to see the footage they collect remains up for debate.

The city of Eureka is trying to keep its recent appellate court loss from setting a statewide precedent.

In July, the First District Court of Appeals rebuffed the city’s effort to block release of a video depicting the arrest of a 14-year-old suspect, ruling that the video — and others like it — could not be considered a confidential police officer personnel record, which receive special protections against public disclosure. The appellate court published the ruling, meaning it would become case law and set a precedent throughout the state.

But the city has now petitioned the state Supreme Court to depublish the July decision, which wouldn’t impact the court’s order that the specific video in question be released but would keep the decision from becoming case law and guiding future court rulings. And, in a rare move, on its own motion, the Supreme Court has extended its deadline for deciding whether to take up a full review of the appellate case — a review that would venture beyond the publication question.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

UPDATE: Eureka Approves Containerville Move, $75k in Funding

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 11:54 AM

The shipping container village at the corner of Commercial and Third streets may soon find itself on the move. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • The shipping container village at the corner of Commercial and Third streets may soon find itself on the move.
The Eureka City Council voted unanimously yesterday to approve a new location and provide $75,000 in funding for the shipping container shelter project for the homeless.

After hours of discussion and public comment, the council voted to relocate the project that currently shelters about 40 people in a vacant lot on the corner of Third and Commercial streets to a city-owned lot at Koster and Washington streets. The new location will be in place for a year, pending the California Coastal Commission’s emergency approval and the city’s following through with a local coastal plan amendment in the coming months.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Klamath Dam Removal Takes a Step Forward

Posted By on Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 9:42 AM

  • Courtesy of American Rivers and Klamath Restoration Council
  • Irongate Dam on the upper Klamath River.
The newly formed nonprofit Klamath River Renewal Corporation and dam owner PacifiCorp filed applications Friday with federal regulators to decommission the four hydroelectric dams that clog the Klamath River.

The filings were hailed by proponents of dam removal as a milestone in refurbished plans to see the lower Klamath River dams removed in 2020. The dams block fish passage and contribute to the poor water quality on the lower river, which is currently seeing some of its lowest salmon returns in history. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will now determine whether to approve the license transfer and surrender applications, and will ultimately be the agency to decide whether to approve removal of the four dams.

“The deplorable water quality, back-to-back disease outbreaks and bottomed-out fish runs have taken a tremendous toll on our people,” said Yurok Tribal Chair Thomas O’Rourke Sr. “We welcome this major step toward restoring Klamath fish populations and providing salmon once again to our upstream neighbors, the Klamath Tribes.”

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