Did former HSU Professor Larry Angelel murder his wife, Lonna Raye Angelel, in December 1995? That question is being contested before Humboldt County Superior Court Judge W. Bruce Watson this month.
Prosecutor Max Cardoza and Angelel's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Christina Huskey, questioned hundreds of potential jurors last month. More than 55 jurors were in the final selection pool at press-time, according to the Times-Standard.
Angelel and his wife had separated in early 1995. The 47-year-old Lonna Angelel disappeared Dec. 17, 1995, while she was in the process of moving into a new home. Her body was discovered two months later in Fieldbrook.
County supervisors voted 3-2 last month to abandon plans to construct a $12 million "justice facility" at K Street between Fourth and Fifth streets.
Supervisors John Woolley and Stan Dixon cast dissenting votes, saying they were reluctant to cut short a project that had consumed so many taxpayer dollars already. Woolley sought a week's extension to explore other funding possibilities.
About $1.5 million has been spent on the project for land acquisition and architectural design.
Supervisor Paul Kirk said the county still has a valid set of plans and a location adjacent to the new jail should financing be found in the future. In the meantime, he suggested, the lot could be used for badly needed courthouse parking.
Board Chair Bonnie Neely, who had long doubted the funding projections for the facility and been on the losing side of at least one 4-1 vote on the project, said, "The question you need to ask is, Was the money ever there?"
Auditor/Controller Neil Prince said at one time there was a $600,000 stream of revenue from court fines that would allow the county to borrow $6 million but not in the last five years. More recently revenue in that account has been generating $200,000-$400,000 per year. And in the meantime, the estimated cost for the facility kept rising.
The Humboldt State University Marching Lumberjacks will not be trading in their hard hats for webbed feet.
In three days of balloting, 77 percent of students going to the polls voted against changing the name of the school mascot to Murrelet, after the marbled murrelet, a rare seabird whose protection by the Endangered Species Act has made it a symbol of the environmental movement.
Typical of university elections, most students appeared not to care one way or the other; only 1,580 students out of an enrollment of 7,100 voted.
Off campus the proposal was more controversial. Talk-show hosts and newspaper editors blasted the idea and its proponents. "What athletic team wants to be associated with a wimpy bird that ... hides in trees?" editorialized the Times-Standard.
"Why not just call (the teams) the 'tie-dye-wearing idiots who are partying on their parents' money while rebelling ...?'" grumbled Humboldt Beacon Sports Editor Brian Anthony Pado.
Coho salmon that spawn in Humboldt County streams and rivers are now protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The April 25 listing of coho -- sought by conservation and fishing groups, opposed by timber companies and other landowners -- may result in stringent restrictions on land uses near coho-bearing streams.
Or it may not. An ESA listing is only one step in the process of enacting and enforcing species protections.
As more species of fish and wildlife have been listed, resistance from property owners has increased, and the federal government has become more interested in cooperation with landowners. "A stroke of the pen does nothing," said one NMFS official. "The people who are managing the resources need to do the work, and the agency is trying to allow that to happen."
That means development of "habitat conservation plans" and "natural communities conservation plans" that allow logging, farming, development and other uses to continue in endangered species' habitat, with some protection measures.
What those measures are, what trade-offs will be made between economics and species protection, and how the conservation plans are monitored now become the key issues. And they'll be decided by federal and state officials, with lobbying and input from the diverse constituencies that have a stake in the issue. "I tell people who are interested in fisheries protection, 'Don't take your eye off the ball,'" said fisheries biologist Patrick Higgins.
Commercial salmon trollers will be advocating hard for tough habitat protections, especially after fisheries regulators issued the toughest restrictions on West Coast commercial salmon harvest in recent memory. "Banning ocean harvest does very little to restore fish if habitat problems on land and in the spawning streams aren't solved," commercial fisherman and habitat specialist Nat Bingham told the Times-Standard.
A disadvantage of being one of the 435 members of the House of Representatives is that your short two-year term means you can never stop running for reelection.
Just a couple months after beginning his second consecutive term, Rep. Frank Riggs is being publicly targeted for defeat by two Democrats: state Sen. Mike Thompson and 1996 Democratic congressional candidate Michela Alioto.
Thompson kicked off his campaign on April 23 with rallies in St. Helena and Eureka. Alioto and supporters organized a coffee-and-donuts reception for reporters a few blocks away from Thompson's St. Helena event, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
It's been a busy spring for the five elected commissioners of the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District.
After mounting a big public relations push to convince property owners to pay for deepening the harbor, their assessment proposal was withdrawn in late March. Many homeowners planned to vote against it because the cluttered and confusing ballot they received in the mail looked like a tax bill for $91 per year, rather than a one-time assessment payable over 10 years. A coalition of timber companies and other large businesses choked the last breath out of the proposal by announcing its intention to vote against the assessment. The district then cancelled the mail-in balloting.
The harbor district's case wasn't helped by unrealistic projections of the economic benefits that would arise out of the project. Their $425-an-hour economic consultant from UC Berkeley predicted a harbor busy with five times its current freight volumes within five years.
But the district still supports the project, relying on the more conservative 1989 study by the Army Corps of Engineers, which showed that the deepening would improve safety in the entrance channel and allow ships to navigate the harbor while fully laden.
On April 17 the commissioners committed $755,000 in district funds as a first payment on the project, which will be 65 percent funded by the federal government. Earlier in the month, the Eureka City Council voted $1 million to support the dredging. The harbor commissioners and district CEO Dave Hull are exploring other options for financing the remaining $5.2 million, according to a story in the Humboldt Beacon.
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