Sunday, March 12, 2017

HumBug: Falling Blossoms

Posted By on Sun, Mar 12, 2017 at 4:35 PM

A flower fly on an ornamental plum blossom.
  • A flower fly on an ornamental plum blossom.

It's been a long rainy spell and my plum trees have been waiting in full bloom for a warm day. I kept expecting them to lose their petals but despite sometimes heavy rains and occasional hail, they kept them. I think they're like orchids. The flowers of most orchids can hold for weeks or even months so long as they're not pollinated. On the very day they achieve pollination they start to wither. Once the flower's beauty has served it's purpose, seducing some critter into performing the deed for them, the petals are discarded, nectar production shuts down; the real work of building seeds and fruit gets under way.
An angelwing butterfly photobombed by a bee. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • An angelwing butterfly photobombed by a bee.
Wednesday started out wet, but by afternoon it warmed up. If the sun didn't actually peek through, the sky lit up and flies and bees were out in abundance, accompanied by a single anglewing butterfly. Along with the nectar sippers came predators, as well. One of North America's smallest birds, a ruby crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula), took a honeybee right in front of me, landed and repeatedly smacked it against a branch before swallowing it in one gulp. It happened too quickly to even get my camera up. To a bird not much bigger than my thumb, a bee sting must be a terrible danger. But the bees were the largest and slowest moving prey I saw, so I guess it did a quick risk /benefit calculation and went with it. A golden haired dung fly snatched a fly nearly its own size out of the air and dragged it to the grass.
A dung fly dining on what looks to be a flesh fly. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A dung fly dining on what looks to be a flesh fly.
Two days later my trees are starting to leaf out and the ground is littered with petals like tiny discarded petticoats.
A green Gage plum tree - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A green Gage plum tree

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United Changes Schedule, Drops a Flight

Posted By and on Sun, Mar 12, 2017 at 2:43 PM

The new, bigger jet that will be coming into the Arcata-Eureka airport. - UNITED
  • United
  • The new, bigger jet that will be coming into the Arcata-Eureka airport.
United Airlines is dropping one of its daily flights between Arcata-Eureka and San Francisco but is switching to a larger plane for the route and will still be able to accommodate the same number of daily passengers.

Jonathon Guerin, a senior manager for United Airlines, said the reason for reducing the number of flights is efficiency. The airline is switching to a larger jet for the route, which will be able to transport 400 passengers daily spread across three flights — just four passengers fewer than the route used to be able to accommodate with four flights.

Of course, fewer flights means less flexibility for travelers.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Humboldt County Grand Jury Wants You (to Serve)

Posted By on Sat, Mar 11, 2017 at 10:27 AM

The Humboldt Chapter of the California Grand Jury Association is currently seeking applicants for the next year of service.

The county Grand Jury does lengthy investigations of different issues related to local government. Reports on these investigations, which usually come out in May or June, are archived on the county’s website under dry titles like “Best Practices in Purchasing/Procurement” or “Americans With Disabilities Act,” but if you actually read the reports you’ll find sometimes blistering prose that would be at home on the front page of any newspaper, such as “Humboldt County Leadership and a Trail of Broken Promises,” and tales of fiscal mismanagement that could curl any taxpayer’s lips.

Without the deep digging of the grand jury, who would have known, for example, that there was little-to-no oversight of some third party contractors hired by the county to make sure the money spent actually correlated to services performed? Other past reports have found that the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office had “evaded” its responsibilities by not informing indigent detainees of their right to transportation after serving jail time (2015), and that the Humboldt County Planning Department had lousy customer service (2012).

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Griego Files Suit Challenging Public Defender Hire

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 1:29 PM

  • Screenshot from the Lassen County Times digital archives
  • David Marcus
Local attorney Patrik Griego followed through this morning on his threat to file a petition with the Humboldt County Superior Court asking a judge to step in and block the county’s recent hire of David Marcus as its next public defender.

The petition for a writ of mandate, filed as a public interest lawsuit, alleges that Marcus does not meet the minimum qualifications for the position required by the state as outlined under Government Code Section 27701. The code specifies that a public defender hire must have spent the year preceding his or her appointment as a practicing attorney in all the courts of the state.

Marcus served as Lassen County’s public defender from 2005 to 2011, when he left, reportedly to take a job as CEO of a dental clinic. In his resume submitted to Humboldt County, he indicates he worked for the Walnut Creek law firm Cella, Lange and Cella from 2012 through 2016 as a contract attorney while living in Florida. But it’s unclear exactly what he did for the firm, and Griego alleges he doesn’t meet the minimum qualification of having been a practicing attorney in all the state’s courts for a year prior to his hire.

Specifically, Griego alleges Marcus has not practiced in any criminal, juvenile, family law or conservatorship court — or any other in the state — since his departure from Lassen County.

After meeting in closed session Tuesday to discuss Griego’s threat of litigation, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors issued a press release touting Marcus’ more than 20 years of experience in criminal law — in Lassen County and as a deputy public defender in San Bernardino — and stating that he “has significant criminal law experience and meets all statutory requirements for the position.”

In his filing, Griego points to a letter of opposition the California Public Defender’s Association submitted to the state Legislature back in 2011, when it was considering a bill that would allow superior court judges to be eligible for public defender appointments.

“While each office of the public defender in California is unique, two things are consistent,” the quoted portion of the opposition states. “Entry level deputy public defenders are not assigned cases for which more senior level public defenders are more adequately qualified and every chief public defender has at a minimum several years of practicing in criminal cases immediately prior to being appointed or elected chief public defender. These consistencies are not coincidental, bur rather necessary to ensure that indigent defendants we are tasked with representing are providing zealous advocacy required by the Constitution.”

Griego’s petition is filed on behalf of John Does 1 through 10, unnamed people currently represented by the public defender’s office. Unless the board of supervisors is “compelled to comply” with the government code, Griego argues, the petitioners will be deprived of their due process rights and right to counsel guaranteed under the 14th and Sixth amendments to the Constitution.

Attempts to reach Marcus for this story were unsuccessful.

If Griego's suit is successful, the county could be deemed liable for his attorney fees.

See past Journal coverage of Marcus’ hire and the controversy surrounding it here. And find a copy of Griego’s court filing here
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Fatal Hit and Run in Downtown Eureka

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 3:54 PM

Shirley Hoyt - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Shirley Hoyt
Shirley Hoyt, 56, was crossing U.S. 101 at Fourth and S streets at 11:14 a.m. when she was struck by a Toyota pickup driven by Blue Lake resident Larry Nielsen, also 56.

According to a press release from the California Highway Patrol, all other vehicles were stopped at the crosswalk to let Hoyt cross. Nielsen, who was driving at a speed described by witnesses as about 50 miles per hour, according to CHP, passed the stopped traffic and struck Hoyt. He then attempted to flee the scene, but a witness gave chase, pulling in front of Nielsen and stopping him at the intersection of N and Third streets. The witness, who CHP has said is from out of the area, detained Nielsen until officers arrived.

Hoyt was transported to St. Joseph Hospital and later died from her injuries, becoming the county's ninth traffic death of 2017.

Nielsen was also examined and found not to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, although the CHP report states that a medical condition may have been a contributing factor. He was booked into the Humboldt County jail on suspicion of felony hit and run and vehicular manslaughter.

See the release from CHP here.

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Update: Bodies of Mother, Girls Recovered From Klamath River

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 3:52 PM

Elizabeth Palmer, with her two daughters, Lizzie and Victoria. - GOFUNDME
  • GoFundMe
  • Elizabeth Palmer, with her two daughters, Lizzie and Victoria.
Update: The CHP confirmed today that the bodies of Elizabeth Palmer and her two young girls have been recovered after their car crashed into the Klamath River over the weekend.

A diver working alongside the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department this morning found a car in the Klamath River that is believed to contain the remains of Elizabeth Palmer and her two young daughters.

The car slid off of State Route 96 and into the rain-swollen river Sunday evening. Jose Paredes Chavez, the father of the two girls, 4-year-old Lizzie and 15-month-old Victoria, was also in the vehicle, which was swept away as he tried to unbuckle one of his daughters from her carseat, according to a GoFundMe page established by Palmer's sister. Chavez then climbed up the 500 foot embankment to find help.

The California Highway Patrol, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Trinity County Search and Rescue, and U.S. Coast Guard searched for the vehicle but were not able to safely continue rescue efforts, according to a press release from the CHP on Tuesday, which said they would continue to search when the weather abated.

Citizens in the small town of Orleans decided to act. A community member who is an experienced diver volunteered to go to the site where they thought the car could be found, a back water eddy near where the vehicle left the bank, leaving marks along the shore. Penny Eckert, a member of the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors, did not name the community member, but said he and a friend with a jet boat were able to put in about a half mile from the site, and that the fire department stood by as shore support.

A rescue diver was also on scene in case something went awry. It took the team less than 40 minutes between leaving the fire department and arriving at the site to find the car. They used cables to secure it to several trees before calling the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. Eckert could not confirm that the bodies of the family were in the car, although they have been presumed dead since Tuesday morning.

"Our greatest hope is that we are able to give closure to this family that has already suffered so much," said Eckert. "This tragic event has really helped our community focus on how important we are to one another."

The GoFundMe crowdfunding site for the family's funeral expenses has already reached $19,795 of its $20,000 goal, with 323 people donating in one day.

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The Political Climate With Jill Stein at HSU

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 2:33 PM

Jill Stein speaking at the Kate Buchanan Room at Humboldt State University on March 8 at 6 p.m. - SAM ARMANINO
  • Sam Armanino
  • Jill Stein speaking at the Kate Buchanan Room at Humboldt State University on March 8 at 6 p.m.

Jill Stein stepped on stage as a welcoming crowd of more than 300 community members clapped and cheered. She raised a peace sign in the air, which brought people in the Humboldt State University lecture hall to their feet.

Stein, the Green Party presidential nominee, came to campus to discuss a wide array of political topics yesterday. Although subjects ranged from vaccinations to Russian agents, there seemed to be a few general themes throughout the night.

Indigenous rights and solidarity, environmental activism, political establishment and the future of the American people were recurring themes that dominated questions and discussion more than over three hours. The discussion was followed with questions and praise from community members and students.

“Bernie Sanders could have beaten Donald Trump,” Stein said. “Hands down, if he wasn’t sabotaged by the DNC.”

Just before Stein came on stage, she was introduced and welcomed by a handful of students and community members. Nicola Walters said she was honored to have put her body on the line at Standing Rock and Stein won her vote by doing the same.

“I was honored to stand alongside Indigenous elders, Veterans for Peace, activists from the American Indian movement and water protectors from across the country for something that was bigger than myself,” Walters said.

Walters is a student in the middle of her thesis in Southern Humboldt focusing on environment and communities. She said the only reason she picked up a ballot this year was to vote on local races and measures, but she ended up filling the bubble for the Green Party as a vote for the environment.

Another community member welcomed Stein by playing a song she wrote and composed titled, “Water is Life,” which was inspired by Standing Rock before the election.

Sarah Torres, one of the people who introduced Stein, began by saying she wanted to acknowledge that everyone present for the event was on Wiyot land. “You took my land from so long ago,” she sang to the slow acoustic sound of her guitar.

According to the Humboldt County Election's Office, Stein received a little more than 3,000 votes in the county, which saw a 73 percent voter turnout. In comparison, Hillary Clinton took more than 33,000 votes in Humboldt and Donald Trump took about 18,300, while Gary Johnson finished with with about 1,200 local votes. But nationally, Stein has been criticized for siphoning votes away from Clinton in what proved to be crucial battle ground states, like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where she received more than 1 percent of the vote, according to CNN.

Stein's low Humboldt County vote total didn't seem to diminish her enthusiasm for the county. “For me,” she said, “this is where I get my batteries recharged.”

Erik Rydberg wearing a jacket that reads "#NoDAPL" at the Jill Stein discussion held at Humboldt State University on March 8. - SAM ARMANINO
  • Sam Armanino
  • Erik Rydberg wearing a jacket that reads "#NoDAPL" at the Jill Stein discussion held at Humboldt State University on March 8.

A long line of people lined up to ask questions of Stein during the event and when time started to run short, organizers instituted two lightning rounds were people got only a minute to ask Stein whatever was on their minds.

Questions ranged from her view on vaccinations, indigenous rights and our present political climate took up the last hour and a half. Responding to a handful of community members, Stein said she was never anti-vaccination, though she said she questioned big pharmacy companies and their research on vaccinations.

In a little more than three and a half hours, Stein and the gathering discussed topics that ranged all over the political spectrum. She spoke of climate change, the democratic party, Bernie Sanders supporters, DAPL and urged the younger generations to get involved.

“No pressure,” Stein said. “But it’s always the younger generation to make the transformative change.”

The event was organized by Climate Crisis and HSU's Green club. Banners were displayed inside the KBR while Jill Stein discussed politics on March 8. - SAM ARMANINO
  • Sam Armanino
  • The event was organized by Climate Crisis and HSU's Green club. Banners were displayed inside the KBR while Jill Stein discussed politics on March 8.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Updated: Last Chance Grade Losing More Ground

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 4:02 PM

The lasted  slip out at Last Chance Grade. - CALTRANS
  • Caltrans
  • The lasted slip out at Last Chance Grade.
Update: Motorists traveling along the Last Chance Grade on U.S. Highway 101 south of Crescent City should expect up to 20 minute delays - day or night - as Caltrans works to stabilize a section of roadway there that slipped out on Wednesday.

Caltrans District 1 Facebook post:
TRAFFIC ADVISORY / UPDATE: Motorists using U.S. Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade in Del Norte County (~10 miles south of Crescent City) should anticipate one-way traffic control via temporary traffic signal with 10-to-20 minute delays at ALL HOURS.
Delay lengths are subject to change, and we will update the public with any new changes to delays or work schedules.
Originally, we had anticipated that 60-minute delays would be necessary at this location during nighttime hours only. However, our engineers, field staff, and contractors have found a way to further minimize impacts to traffic while performing the work in a more efficient manner. As the nature of work changes, however, the delay schedules may change as well.
A Caltrans spokesperson said today that experts are working on an emergency plan to shore up a section of Last Chance Grade that hasn’t moved in a few years but yesterday lost another 10 feet of roadway.
In the meantime, the geologically active portion of U.S. Highway 101 — located approximately 10 miles south of Crescent City in Del Norte County — remains open to one-way controlled traffic.

“Our priority is to keep the roadway open as long as it’s safe,” Caltrans District 1 public information officer Myles Cochrane said.

He emphasized that the area is currently under 24/7 monitoring during inclement weather along with “near real-time monitoring equipment” to keep a close eye on any movement.

With a long history of instability, the segment of 101 is down to 18-feet of roadway in that section and any further loss could lead to a highway closure, Cochrane said, adding that construction crews were headed to the site this morning. The current plan, he said, is to drive in “left over piles from the Willits bypass project to shore up the area so it doesn’t slide any further.”

"Of course, we will close it down if we have to,” Cochrane said.

That status of the roadway is subject to change and Caltrans will be posting updates. The approximately 9-mile stretch is the subject of a major replacement effort due to the frequency of roadway failure and mounting maintenance costs to keep the vital highway connection open.

According to Caltrans Economic Impact Study, the closure of 101 at Last Chance Grade would result in: $1.3 million per day in travel costs for commercial and passenger vehicles — $450 million each year, as well as $300 to $400 million in reduced economic output in Del Norte County, 3,000 to 4,000 jobs lost, and $130 million in lost wages annually.

Caltrans District 1 Facebook post:
U.S. Highway 101 about a half mile north of Rudisill Road (Last Chance Grade) is experiencing the failure of a retaining wall. This is at the location where 24/7 one-way traffic control with a temporary signal has already been in effect.
The highway lost another 10' of width and is down to 18' for the one lane of traffic. Caltrans staff believe the highway is still safe and the highway remains open at this time. Staff will remain onsite 24/7 to monitor the highway to ensure public safety.
We will provide updates as needed until repairs have been completed.

Updated Caltrans District 1 Facebook post:

UPDATE: U.S. Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade in Del Norte County will be under intermittent full closures during NIGHTTIME HOURS ONLY to accommodate equipment working at the side of last night's slide on the south end of the grade.

The closures are to allow large equipment to drive "micro-piles" (steel rods approx. 8 inches in diameter which will be filled with concrete) into the ground below the remaining lane to ensure that it stays stable. Crews will drive one pile at a time, remove the equipment to allow traffic to clear, then resume driving piles.

This work will be done between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. until this portion of emergency repair work is completed. Motorists should anticipate 60-minute delays during nighttime hours. Daytime traffic remains under one-way traffic control, but should not experience further delays as a result of this work.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Supes Support Marcus, Face Lawsuit by Week's End

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 4:25 PM

  • file

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is standing by its newly hired public defender, even if it’s a stance that will soon land it in court.

The board met in closed session this morning to discuss a local lawyer’s threat that he would ask a Humboldt County Superior Court judge to step in and block the county’s hiring of David Marcus as its new public defender unless the board backed away from the hire or proved Marcus meets the state’s minimum qualifications for the post. Immediately after adjourning from closed session, the board sent out a press release defending Marcus and his qualifications.

“Mr. Marcus has significant criminal law experience and meets all statutory requirements for the position,” the board stated. “We look forward to working with him as our public defender.”

Marcus' hiring has come under a spate of fire from local defense attorneys, who first criticized the hiring process — in which the board sought input from an advisory panel made up primarily of law enforcement officers and the county’s chief prosecutor — and later took aim at Marcus’ resume. Marcus, who served a controversial tenure as Lassen County’s public defender, has not practiced criminal law in five years, during which time he reported working as a contract attorney for a Walnut Creek firm while living in Florida.

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Fart Smell to Linger in Elections Material

Posted By on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 3:47 PM

McClure holds a prop as he waits for his case to be heard. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • McClure holds a prop as he waits for his case to be heard.
Judge Timothy Cissna ruled this afternoon that the phrase "insert fart smell here," will remain in special elections material to be distributed to Southern Humboldt voters this spring. The phrase was written by Scotty McClure as a rebuttal to arguments in favor of Measure W, a parcel tax intended to fund the rebuilding of the Jerold Phelps Community Hospital in Garberville.

Representing the county elections office, Deputy County Counsel Joel Ellinwood said the county registrar of voters, Kelly Sanders, found the language inappropriate to be distributed to taxpayers with taxpayer money, and was asking the court to rule on whether or not the phrase could be deleted.

"A ballot pamphlet is not an unobstructed forum for free speech," argued Ellinwood. "It is a limited forum."

Ellinwood cited state elections code section 9380, which says a judge may issue a "peremptory writ of mandate or an injunction ... upon clear and convincing proof that the material in question is false, misleading, or inconsistent."

Ellinwood then attempted to convince Cissna that the phrase "insert fart smell here" met that criteria.

"Mr. McClure's rebuttal ... is a vulgarity that expresses contempt for the whole process," Ellinwood said, explaining that McClure's original statement against Measure W, which cited a history of over-taxation in Southern Humboldt and dismay at the measure's 45-year shelf life, could stand alone. The fart joke, he says, does not add anything to the process, and it was unfair to ask the elections office to distribute pamphlets using taxpayer money that had the word "fart" in them.

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