On a hill overlooking Arcata, Humboldt State University plans to build a five-story building that would be one of the tallest in Humboldt County.
Arcata's mayor, members of the town's General Plan Task Force and some citizens strongly oppose the project. "It's the wrong building in the wrong place," said Mayor Jim Test.
But Arcata's elected officials and citizens have no say in the matter. Like all California State Universities, HSU is not subject to local land-use and zoning laws.
Director of Physical Services Ken Combs said the $18 million Behavioral and Social Sciences Building is needed to accommodate a growing student body and replace aging temporary structures. "We're charged by the taxpayers of California to provide the best education we can for its citizens. This building helps us do that."
Construction will begin in 2000 at the earliest, and only if voters approve a capital bond measure.
The university finalized the building's design several years ago. Neighbors were invited to a public meeting but the school's "plans were pretty much firm by then," said Thea Gast, a former Arcata mayor who sits on the General Plan Task Force.
"I think the university ought to meet with interested citizens and have hearings on their plan for a new building before they get to that point," she said.
In Berkeley, where a series of building projects by the University of California has provoked intense local opposition, the university recently agreed to create a "city-university planning advocacy group." "It took a decade of people pushing on the university, trying to embarrass them, talking to the chancellor whenever they could," said Stephen Barton, senior planner for the city of Berkeley.
While Aurelio Chacon, 62, was in jail last month for terrorizing his Old Town neighborhood and threatening officers, his 51 cats and two dogs faced an uncertain future.
Some 23 cats were rounded up by the Eureka animal control officer, and others were brought to the Humane Society Shelter at King Salmon by people interested in their fate. But as the bill for the cats' board mounted, Eureka Police Chief Arnie Milsap set a deadline of 11 a.m., Aug. 14 for the animals to be rescued or put to death.
With television coverage and friendly persuasion, two friends of Chacon's cats -- who wished to be identified only as Tanya and Marilyn -- managed to get the deadline extended until 5 p.m., then through the next day, Aug. 15.
They found homes for all the cats, but at the Journal's deadline, two dogs were still awaiting adoption.
Tanya told the Journal that of Chacon's 51 cats, a few may still be lurking in the rafters of the H.H. Buhne Building on G Street. Three died of illness; perhaps four disappeared in transit; four were adopted by individuals; 10 went to a man in Ferndale, and an undetermined number went to a woman elsewhere.
The last nine were driven Aug. 16 to the Milo Foundation east of Willits to join some 150 other rescued cats living among the oaks and greasewood.
Helicopters and cops in camo gear are searching the hills of Humboldt County again in the perennial drive to eradicate marijuana plantations before harvest time.
For many years a vocal contingent of citizens has sought to stop the harvest-time sweeps, and in the last year they've gained new ammunition and allies: a more activist supervisor representing the 2nd District, the legalization of medical marijuana and growing public sentiment that hard drugs like methamphetamine seriously outweigh pot on the scale of social problems.
On June 3 the winds seemed to shift in their direction. After speeches from southern Humboldt civil libertarians and business leaders, the Board of Supervisors voted to accept a $45,000 federal anti-pot grant on the condition that the sheriff (an independent official whose funds are controlled by the supervisors) agree to target hard drugs instead of marijuana.
But the appearance of victory for the anti-anti-pot forces was fleeting. The "memorandum of understanding" agreed to by Sheriff Dennis Lewis and the supervisors promised nothing.
"We don't have the power or authority to dictate to the federal government how we'll use the money," said Chief Deputy Gary Philp. "The purpose of the money is marijuana suppression. You need to use it for that or you don't get it."
At the Journal's deadline, the supervisors were slated to consider on Aug. 26 a grant of more than $200,000 for similar purposes. Opponents promised to continue their fight. But Ed Denson of Garberville's Civil Liberties Monitoring Project said he believes local drug-enforcement would only change with new policies at higher levels.
"The state and federal government pay the entire cost of marijuana suppression. What they get back for that is control of the programs," he said.
Despite widespread local opposition, the Federal Aviation Administration will replace its weather and air traffic observers at the Arcata/Eureka Airport in McKinleyville with an "automated surface observation system" (ASOS) on Sept. 13.
But the FAA made a major concession in August. The ASOS will be staffed by weather observers for at least six months, and local pilots will have a voice in deciding if ASOS provides enough safety before the last of the human observers are pulled out.
The FAA is automating flight service stations at small airports across the country. After it announced last year that McKinleyville's station would meet the same fate, North Coast pilots, business and political leaders condemned the decision.
In June Rep. Frank Riggs brought Rep. James Duncan Jr., R-Tenn. -- chair of the House subcommittee overseeing the FAA -- to McKinleyville where pilots told him how crucial the human observers are for safe landings in foggy or cloudy conditions.
Riggs, Duncan and the chair of the House committee in control of FAA funding urged the agency to reconsider. A concessionary letter from the FAA soon followed.
How pilots will be involved in evaluating ASOS isn't clear. What is clear is that pilots believe the automated system will be a poor substitute for live weather observers.
"Today if we come in and (runway) visibility is lower than 1,800 feet, we call them up and say, 'We're holding outside Kneeland.... As soon as visibility comes up will you let us know?'" said Gary Miranda, a flight instructor and pilot.
With ASOS, pilots will have to wait for 2,400 feet of runway visibility before landing, and pilots will only get hourly updates. "In that hour visibilities could change, but we will not be aware," said Miranda. The result, in his opinion, will be delays, cancelled flights and aborted landings.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer made a rare visit to Humboldt County Aug. 6. A friendly crowd of about 300 greeted her at the Eureka Inn.
In a 75-minute question-and-answer session Boxer emphasized her differences with Republican lawmakers who have tried, she said, "to repeal every single environmental law, all health and safety laws."
But she also declared herself alarmed at the Clinton administration's stance on some issues.
Saying that Clinton had only recently acknowledged that "global warming is real," Boxer lamented the lack of a national energy policy and Americans' renewed preference for low-mileage mini-vans and sport-utility vehicles. "Is it going to take another gas crisis (before) we stop losing our edge in energy efficient vehicles?"
On medical marijuana, she was bluntly critical of the administration, which has threatened to prosecute doctors who prescribe marijuana. "I think they just don't get it. We have some real problems with drugs in this country. Medical marijuana is not one of them."
The future of 25 acres of coastal property in McKinleyville will be decided Sept. 9 at the Eureka Inn. The California Coastal Commission will meet to consider, among other things, the 63-unit Sand Pointe project proposed by developer Steve Moser.
Commission staff will recommend denial of a coastal development permit for Sand Pointe.
"There are a lot of background issues, but the primary reason is that we feel that the setback from an earthquake fault to the designated building sites is inadequate," said coastal planner James Muth.
Eureka Mayor Nancy Flemming is one of the 12 commissioners. If the commission follows its typical protocol, Flemming will be asked to make the motion denying or approving the project, according to Muth.