Monday, February 13, 2017

Eureka Rallies Behind Planned Parenthood

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 1:37 PM

A crowd of more than 200 pro-choice and pro-Planned Parenthood supporters carry signs, chant and wave to passing drivers on Fifth Street outside the Humboldt County Courthouse on Saturday afternoon. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • A crowd of more than 200 pro-choice and pro-Planned Parenthood supporters carry signs, chant and wave to passing drivers on Fifth Street outside the Humboldt County Courthouse on Saturday afternoon.

The Humboldt County Courthouse lawn was filled Saturday with more than 200 people waving signs and chanting in a show of support for Planned Parenthood, which has come under threat with the new administration and Congress. Many passing motorists honked and waved in shows of support, though some offered a thumbs-down condemnation. Local photographer Mark Larson was there and shared the following slideshow.

Eureka Planned Parenthood Rally
Eureka Planned Parenthood Rally Eureka Planned Parenthood Rally Eureka Planned Parenthood Rally Eureka Planned Parenthood Rally Eureka Planned Parenthood Rally Eureka Planned Parenthood Rally Eureka Planned Parenthood Rally Eureka Planned Parenthood Rally

Eureka Planned Parenthood Rally

By Mark Larson

Click to View 16 slides

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

HumBug: Winter Pygmies

Posted By on Sun, Feb 12, 2017 at 3:00 PM

A 1/2-inch grouse locust on my garage door. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A 1/2-inch grouse locust on my garage door.

Today, on the front garage door was the tiniest grasshopper you are ever likely to see, its body measuring about ½ inch long. Its general body shape, short antennae, and large hind legs, were unmistakably those of a grasshopper (sub order Caelifera). Its size, coloration and the fact that it was out in the middle of winter told me it was a member of the Tetrigidae family or grouse locusts also known as pygmy grasshoppers. Both regular grasshoppers and their pygmy cousins are members of the order Orthoptera, which also includes crickets, camel crickets, Jerusalem crickets and katydids (all of which have long antennae).

A 1-inch shield backed katydid. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A 1-inch shield backed katydid.
Unlike most other grasshopper families, adults of this group are known to survive through winter. During the summer I've seen many of these tiny hoppers along river bars, where they feed on algae on rocks. With the river swollen from recent rains, I guess they've headed for higher ground. This is the third one I've seen lately at my house which is about half a mile from the nearest river.
An immature katydid (about  3/4 inch long) eating one of my roses. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • An immature katydid (about 3/4 inch long) eating one of my roses.

Once I get my fly tying paraphernalia back together I may try to imitate these. Since they live so near the water, the fish may well see them as a tasty and familiar morsel.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Journal News Editor Wins Freedom of Information Award

Posted By on Sat, Feb 11, 2017 at 10:51 AM

  • Thadeus Greenson

The Society of Professional Journalists Northern California officially announced yesterday that Thadeus Greenson, the Journal's news editor, won a James Madison Freedom of Information Award. It's an award Caroline Titus of the Ferndale Enterprise took home in 2016, and the Journal's then staff writer and editor Hank Sims and Emily Gurnon won in 2005.

Greenson is being recognized for his "years long battle with the city of Eureka over the release of police camera footage of an arrest." (That arrest by then Eureka Police Sgt. Adam Laird and the departmental drama that followed it are, coincidentally, the subject of next week's cover story on stands Wednesday.) The end result of Greenson and the Journal's pursuit of the video, in Humboldt County Superior Court and then in the California First District Court of Appeals, was a state precedent-setting opinion that kept the city — and any others in California — from treating police camera footage as confidential officer personnel records.

Particularly in our current climate, with heightened awareness of police misconduct and the potential abuses of power, that ruling in favor of transparency is a win for journalists throughout the state, the public and those police departments working toward trust in the communities they protect. We could not be more proud of Greenson's work on this story and in every issue of the Journal.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Building a More Inclusive University

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 2:29 PM

  • File
Richard Boone walked back and fourth in front of a group of campus community members who gathered in Humboldt State University’s Goodwin Forum on Thursday. Behind Boone, the university’s dean of natural resources and sciences, was a large projection screen that read, “Campus wide discussions: Inequalities, justice and inclusion.”

Boone, who was recently appointed to his post in July of 2016, led the discussion on creating a more inclusive and safer campus community. All students, staff, faculty and administrators were invited to have a dialogue on how the school can be more inclusive to undocumented students, people of color and the LGBTQ community.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Downey Set to Retire in May

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 2:05 PM

  • Courtesy of the sheriff's office
  • Sheriff Mike Downey
Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey is stepping down from his elected office in May.

In a brief press release making the announcement today, the county said Downey, who was first elected in June of 2010, “is humbled and honored to have served as the Sheriff of Humboldt County for the last 6 years.”

Downey’s term is up in 2018. He ran unopposed in 2014.

While the release didn’t outline the process for his replacement, the county Board of Supervisors will now need to decide whether to appoint someone to serve the remainder of Downey's term or call a special election.

Read the full release from the county of Humboldt below:
Sheriff Michael Downey would like to take the opportunity to inform the citizens of Humboldt County of his intent to retire as Sheriff of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, effective Saturday, May 6, 2017.
Sheriff Downey stated this decision has been the most difficult he has had to make in his 31 plus years as a member and Sheriff of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Downey is humbled and honored to have served as the Sheriff of Humboldt County for the last 6 years.    

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Federal Court Rules in Favor of Salmon

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 11:21 AM

A coho salmon carcass observed during a spawner survey, in which dead adult fish and salmon nests, or redds, are assessed. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BOB PAGLIUCO
  • Photo courtesy of Bob Pagliuco
  • A coho salmon carcass observed during a spawner survey, in which dead adult fish and salmon nests, or redds, are assessed.
A U.S. District Court judge has sided with those trying to protect coho salmon in the Klamath River, ruling yesterday that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the National Marine Fisheries Service must release more water from the Klamath dams. The release of the water is intended to mitigate the death of coho from a parasite,Ceratanova shasta, which causes cell decay in intestinal tissue, severe inflammation and death. Large percentages of the endangered species died from infection in 2014 and 2015, a phenomenon fisheries experts have blamed on low river flows and warm water, where the parasite thrives.

Judge William H. Orrick ruled that the Bureau had mismanaged the river, causing "irreparable" harm to the salmon. The Hoopa and Yurok tribes filed two different suits in 2016 alleging that the government had failed to adhere to the Endangered Species Act as it did not commit to mitigation measures when it became clear that low flows and warm water were causing immense salmon die-offs, impacting the long-term health of the species and the ability of the tribes to continue traditional fisheries practices.

The court has ordered the Bureau to release "flushing flows" of water in the winter and early spring that should flush out C. shasta worms. Additional mitigation measures will also be taken.

The legal decision is being hailed as an important first step as tribes and other groups work to remove the remaining dams on the Klamath.

Reached by phone this morning, Konrad Fisher of the Klamath Riverkeeper said his group was pleased with the judge's decision, but more work remained.

"This litigation was specifically about disease management, ultimately we need to not only manage disease but restore populations," he said.

In a press release, Thomas P. O'Rourke Sr., chairman of the Yuroke tribe, said that the ruling will give the salmon a "fighting chance until we can get the lower four dams out."

Louis Moore, of the Bureau of Reclamation's Sacramento office, stated that the agency was reviewing the court decision to "assess what it really means," adding that the the Bureau "always complies with the law."

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Customers Rally Behind El Pueblo Market Hit by Fire

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 5:14 PM

Customers took to Facebook to show support for the El Pueblo Market, which was destroyed in an early morning fire. The store was known for its authentic Mexican pastries. - JENNIFER FUMIKO CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Customers took to Facebook to show support for the El Pueblo Market, which was destroyed in an early morning fire. The store was known for its authentic Mexican pastries.
Traffic was snarled along Broadway in Eureka for several hours this morning as 30 firefighters battled a massive fire that destroyed the El Pueblo Market, which was known for its authentic Mexican pastries and other traditional foods.

No one was injured in the early morning blaze, which caused an estimated $750,000 in damage to the store. The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to a Humboldt Bay Fire release. Crews were still at the scene this afternoon working with the Humboldt County Arson Task Force to determine the fire's origin.

Several customers took to El Pueblo’s Facebook page to offer their sympathies and let the owners know they are behind the business that started in 1993.

‎ “I am sorry for your loss and Eureka's. I have wanted to stop and buy pan dulce. I will drop by when you rebuild,” Laura Eaton Zerzan Jones wrote on the El Pueblo Market page.

Another, by Heather Bergen, read: “So sad to learn what happened to your business. Hope you are back in business soon. Thank you for being a part of our community.”

The fire came on top of what was already a difficult start to the week for the business. According to the Eureka Police Department, officers responded to the store on Monday and Tuesday due to break-ins.

Read the Humboldt Bay Fire release below:

At approximately 5:30am on February 8th Humboldt Bay Fire was dispatched to a structure fire at 3600 Broadway Avenue with smoke coming from the building. The initial dispatch included two duty Chiefs, a squad, two engines and a truck. The first arriving unit reported heavy smoke visible from the door of a commercial market.

Units set up for fire attack and deployed multiple lines to attack the fire. A primary search was conducted to determine if any occupants were inside the building. The tiller ladder truck was set up to access the roof and coordinate venting the heat, smoke and gases from the interior. A second alarm was requested to move another HBF unit to the fire scene and an Arcata Fire Protection District engine into Eureka to assist in coverage. Fire conditions rapidly changed and it was apparent this was a well-established fire toward the rear of the building. Interior access was very difficult. A commercial second alarm was called for to bring in another engine and truck from mutual aid agencies.

Smoke conditions changed rapidly and indicated a deterioration of interior conditions, accompanied by fire ventilating through the roof away from ventilation crews. All units were removed from the interior of the building to attack the fire from the exterior in case of structural collapse and significantly high heat and no visibility.

Additional fire apparatus from Arcata and Fortuna responded to the scene to assist with water supply and attacking the fire. Samoa Fire units provided station coverage to maintain emergency response services to the Eureka area. The fire was controlled after approximately two hours with areas still actively burning due to collapsed structural members and debris. Crews are still on scene overhauling the fire and investigating the cause and origin working with the Humboldt County Arson Task Force. A total of 30 firefighters from four agencies operated on the fire scene, and several more provided station coverage.

Property damage is estimated at $750,000 as the building and contents are a total loss. Adjoining occupancies were not directly damaged by the fire but did require assistance in smoke removal.

No injuries to occupants or firefighters were reported.

Rapidly growing fires can occur in any structure at any time of day or night due to accidents, negligence or gross disregard for the safety of others. Working alarm and suppression systems including fire alarms and sprinkler systems are a great benefit to individuals, businesses and the community as they protect property, contents and assets. Please call 441-4000 to learn more!

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Board of Supervisors Talks 'Band Aid' Funding for Roads

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 3:06 PM

A section of Wilder Ridge Road that has washed into Honeydew Creek. - TERESA DAVEY
  • Teresa Davey
  • A section of Wilder Ridge Road that has washed into Honeydew Creek.
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to direct $575,000 in leftover Measure Z money to the county public works department rather than rolling it over into the next fiscal year.

The decision came after a long discussion among the supervisors and public comment by a resident of the Petrolia area, who shared concerns from residents that the Wildcat Road from Petrolia would soon be unnavigable due to potholes and slides.

The remote Mattole Valley is only one of many rural areas that have been impacted by winter storms that have compounded around $200 million worth of deferred maintenance.

Supervisor Ryan Sundberg, who seconded the motion to give the money to public works, said he had received quite a few emails about road issues in his district but it was important for the public to have “realistic expectations” about how the money would be spent.

“We have to figure out how to make that fair between all five districts,” said Sundberg.

Rex Bohn, who drove out to Honeydew on Saturday to visit a collapsed section of Wilder Ridge Road that is preventing residents from accessing the nearest post office, school and store, said many of his constituents would like to see more funding for roads, which he said are a public safety issue. At least seven schoolchildren, as well as a teacher and teacher’s aide, have had their school schedule disrupted by the failed road, which has been sliding out for several years and finally collapsed last Friday. Wilder Ridge residents currently have only one access route – through Redway – and emergency services have been interrupted by the road failure. Bohn praised the public works department and Bureau of Land Management for working through the weekend and acting proactively to find a solution.

Thomas Mattson, director of public works, said in an email that a temporary detour, the construction of which will take a week, is in the works. It would require access agreements with BLM and a private property owner.

“It is not the permanent fix but should be operational soon,” said Mattson.

In the meantime, other roads continue to experience intermittent closures due to flooding. Estelle Fennell, who said her “main concern” for the extra money is that it go into roads, cautioned that the public should be aware that the fixes were like “using Band-Aids.”

“There are not going to be any amazing transformations,” she said. The county currently accrues about $10 million in deferred maintenance every year, and Mattson has said the current public works budget is inadequate to address ongoing issues. In the 2016-17 fiscal year, roughly 13 percent of the
$12 million Measure Z funds went toward road maintenance.

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Why Some Feel the Deck was Stacked for the Prosecution in HumCo's Public Defender Hiring

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 8:54 AM

  • Thinkstock
After a process that some perceive as deeply troubling, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors announced Tuesday that it is tapping David Marcus, a Florida attorney, to be the county’s next public defender.

The three-month search to replace recently retired Public Defender Kevin Robinson, who packed up his briefcase in December, caused controversy in local defense attorney circles because of its reliance on input from a prosecutor, police and others who traditionally find themselves in adversarial courtroom roles with the public defender’s office. And the hiring of Marcus seems unlikely to allay the concerns of some who believe the county stacked the deck.

“It’s absolutely appalling,” said Arcata defense attorney Jeff Schwartz about the makeup of the panel, which included District Attorney Maggie Fleming, Undersheriff William Honsal and Probation Chief Bill Damiano but not a single defense attorney. “It’s the fox watching the hen house. It wasn’t a fair process. It’s a sad day for criminal justice in Humboldt County.”

Marcus’ last stint as a public defender in Lassen County was shrouded in controversy, a large part of it centering around what was perceived as an overly cozy relationship with the district attorney’s office.
If you look at national guidelines for public defense work, you’ll find that independence is a guiding principle. The American Bar Association lists “professional independence” as one of its core standards for criminal defense work and its single most important principle of public defense work.

The concept is integral to citizens’ constitutional protections, explained Ernie Lewis, executive director of the National Association for Public Defense, a 15,000-member national organization.

“The public defender stands between a person accused of a crime and all the mighty power of the state,” Lewis explained, adding that if a public defender loses his or her independence from the prosecutions’ office then the entire system is rigged against a defendant.

In Lassen County, a rural area home to about 32,000 people east of Redding where Marcus served as public defender from 2005 to 2011, some felt he failed to live up to this awesome responsibility.
Just prior to Marcus’ arrival in Lassen, his predecessor, Toni Healy, filed a legal challenge against Lassen County Superior Court Judge Ridgely Lazard, alleging he was biased and prejudiced against Healy and the public defender’s office. A visiting judge ultimately heard the case and ruled in Healy’s favor, finding “court records, transcripts of recorded arraignments, official transcripts, court minutes, sworn statements of defendants and others, all of which indicate that Judge Lazard actively prevented the public defenders from properly representing clients entitled to representation,” according to an Aug. 23, 2011, story in the Lassen County Times. The decision disqualified Lazard from hearing any cases involving the public defender’s office but, just about a year after taking over Healy’s job, Marcus agreed to let Lazard once again preside over those cases.

Marcus later sparked a controversy by contracting with out-of-state defense investigators, telling the Lassen County Board of Supervisors he did so because the district attorney’s office felt local investigators in Susanville lacked credibility. Local investigators were outraged.

“The public defender seems to have lost sight of the fact that his office’s primary responsibility is to assist public clients and not facilitate the district attorney’s prosecutions,” one local investigator, Ron Wood, told the board of supervisors, according to a 2011 report in the Lassen County Times. “Why should the district attorney be consulted concerning the hiring of the public defender’s investigators? The truth is a less than rigorous public defense investigator benefits the district attorney but doesn’t always serve the public or justice.”

The dissension surrounding Marcus extended beyond his relationship with prosecutors. In its 2010-2011 report, the Lassen County Civil Grand Jury issued a scathing report on Marcus, saying he “appears to only spend an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the day at work.” Further, the grand jury alleged Marcus was not actively engaged in the office’s caseload other than handling felony preliminary hearings. The report also alleged that Marcus used funding allotted by the board of supervisors for continuing education for his office solely on himself, forcing his deputy public defenders to pay out of pocket to attend trainings, seminars and courses to keep them abreast of changes in the law and developments in legal theory.

The Lassen County Times reported that Marcus left the county’s employment to become the CEO of a dental lab company in Virginia. It’s unclear how long he stayed in that job, or what exactly he’s been up to since. The California State Bar website lists his practice’s address as a residence in Jacksonville, Florida. The answering machine there indicates the place is his family home, and makes no mention of a legal practice. Marcus did not return multiple messages left by the Journal in recent days, and we couldn’t find any indications online as to what he’s been up to since leaving Lassen County in 2011, other than settling in Jacksonville.

While Marcus’ resume likely only adds to concerns about the county’s hiring process, many maintain it would have been flawed no matter its outcome.

Robinson, now retired, said he was “somewhat aggravated” to learn a panel consisting of Fleming, Honsal, Damiano and representatives from Child Welfare Services and the county Department of Health and Human Services would be advising supervisors on hiring his replacement. Robinson — who is widely respected both as a defense attorney and for the public defender’s office he built up — said he was not consulted and, instead, actively reached out to the board to give his unsolicited input. He told the Journal back in October that he would recommend Greg Elvine-Kreis, his office’s supervising attorney and the current interim public defender, as his successor. Elvine-Kreis and Deputy Public Defender Kaleb Cockrum reportedly joined Marcus as the three finalists for the job.
Humboldt County Human Resources Director Dan Fulks said he personally put the interview panel together, dubbing it a “subject matter experts” panel. “These are subject matter experts, these are people that have dealings with the public defender on an ongoing basis,” he explained. Asked why there wasn’t anyone from the defense side of the courtroom involved, Fulks said he felt it would have been impractical to get a private defense attorney to take a day off work to sit through interviews.

But the county has done just that in the past. Local attorney Patrik Griego said he has happily served on two hiring panels for the county — one for a defense investigator and another for an office manager for the public defender’s office — including one about two years ago. Griego added that he did decline a panel invite in September of 2016 due to a planned vacation. He was not invited to participate in the public defender hiring process. “Private attorneys are willing to do this and have at least as much time as the DA to do this work,” Griego said.

Fulks said both the “subject matter expert” panel and the Board of Supervisors interviewed a batch of finalists culled down from the initial 19 applicants for the post. Then, Fulks said, the supervisors got a chance to meet with the other interview panel and “seek input on their viewpoints on the candidates.”

He disputed the notion that a panel laden with a prosecutor and law enforcement officers may have skewed the process. “They’re independent,” Fulks said of the supervisors. “You don’t tell the board what to do. They heard what they heard and made their own decisions from that.”

Supervisors Estelle Fennell and Mike Wilson declined to comment for this story when reached prior to Tuesday’s announcement of Marcus’ hire, noting the process was conducted in closed session. In an email, Supervisor Virginia Bass said the board had an “excellent pool” of candidates to choose from and dismissed the notion that there was any bias among members of the advisory panel.
“I believe that all members of the panel recognized how important the position of public defender is and put any adversarial bias aside,” she wrote, adding that after the interviews the panel members “spoke of the pros and cons they felt each candidate possessed based upon their interviews and provided us with a non formal ranking.”

Bass said "passion, integrity, professionalism, flexibility" and "an ability to think outside the box" were the most important qualities she was looking for in the county's next public defender, emphasizing "passion" as the most important.
For his part, Lewis, who directs the National Association for Public Defense, said there’s little uniformity across the nation in how public defense is provided, much less in how public defenders are hired. But he said there are standards — including that a hiring panel should never have a sitting judge or prosecutor included on it. Sometimes that standard is ignored, such was the case when a controversy erupted in San Diego County in 2009 when a sitting assistant district attorney sat on a public defender hiring panel, joined by probation officials, representatives from the superior court, a law professor and others.

But, Lewis said, Humboldt County’s panel being filled with people who “have an incentive to select a weak chief public defender” is “nothing like what we see across the country.”

“I’ve never heard of an advisory committee so skewed toward law enforcement,” Lewis said.

Editor's note: This story was updated from a previous version to include the comments of Patrik Griego.

Journal staff writer and assistant editor Kimberly Wear contributed to this report.

Thadeus Greenson is the Journal’s news editor. Reach him at 442-1400, extension 321, or Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

HumBug: An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

Posted By on Sun, Feb 5, 2017 at 6:00 PM

Striped willow beetle, about 1/4 inch long. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Striped willow beetle, about 1/4 inch long.

The great geneticist and evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane once said, “The creator, if he exists, has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles.” It is believed there are more species of beetles than any other order of animals on the planet. They fill so many niches in the environment it is no surprise to happen across one in an unexpected place.
Predacious diving beetle about 3/4 inch long. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Predacious diving beetle about 3/4 inch long.

I recently stopped to chat with a friend near a puddle; it was an inch or so deep and as large as the shadow under a pickup truck. I was distracted from our conversation by strange ripples on the water's surface. When I looked I found a predacious diving beetle. Adapted to an aquatic life, they have paddle-shaped hind legs and often hang head-down with just the tip of their abdomens touching the surface to replenish the air supply they keep trapped under their wings. (And we thought we invented scuba diving.)

These beetles are good fliers, allowing them to escape a drying pool but having only a bug's brain, they often land on shiny, dark cars.
A western tiger beetle standing tall. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A western tiger beetle standing tall.
Beetles fill so many different roles in nature it is impossible to catalog them all and entire books are devoted to this one order. Two excellent volumes from my collection of entomological books devoted to just this one order are Field Guide to the Beetles of California and Peterson Field Guide to the Beetles.
Like Cruella DeVille: "You come to realize you've seen her kind of eyes watchin' you from underneath a rock!"  A pretty common ground beetle hereabouts. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Like Cruella DeVille: "You come to realize you've seen her kind of eyes watchin' you from underneath a rock!" A pretty common ground beetle hereabouts.

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