North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

January 24, 2002

Gov. picks Woolley again

Cellular tower in the Bottoms?

Trade zone taking shape

Presbyterians vote on
gay clergy

Fewer clients, gibber problems

More firefighters needed

Interior chief in Humboldt

New ordinance, old problem

Gov. picks Woolley again

John Woolley, 3rd District Humboldt County Supervisor, has been reappointed to the Coastal Commission by Gov. Davis for a second two-year term.

The Coastal Commission, created in 1972 by a voter initiative, regulates all land-use activities on the coast. Its 12 members are appointed by the governor and the Legislature. Davis used one of his four picks on Woolley.

Woolley, who lives in the coastal-zone town of Manila, said working for the commission is rarely fun but often rewarding. "It is like a five-day marathon planning commission meeting," he said. "It has moments of joy, but it is always work."

Cellular tower in the Bottoms?

A good site for a cellular telephone tower is hard to find. You need a willing landowner and a spot that will provide good coverage to your service area -- a rare combination.

You also need the approval of local government, something that a new cellular tower proposed for the Arcata Bottoms may not have.

U.S. Cellular is proposing to construct the tower at the former Simpson lumber mill site, now owned by Sun Valley Floral Farms. The Arcata Planning Commission has voted unanimously to recommend the application be denied because the tower would disturb the rural character of the surrounding agricultural landscape.

The commission and the city won't have the final say on the issue, as the property is outside city limits. But because the property is part of the city's sphere of influence, Arcata will have input into the county's decision.

"They have to take the aesthetic impacts on the landscape into account, and a 150-foot tower with six satellite dishes on it could be pretty ugly," said Kathleen Stanton, an Arcata resident who enjoys walking the Bottoms.

But Gary Gundlach, North Coast manager of Cal-North Cellular, said that questions of aesthetic impact were subjective. "I feel it would be an insignificant addition in the long run -- certainly less obtrusive than the mill that has been there for years and years," he said.

And the tower is needed to provide coverage to cellular users, Gundlach said. His company uses U.S. Cellular towers and there are several "holes" in Arcata where service is poor. "Humboldt State University, Giuntoli Lane, downtown -- they do not have good coverage," he said.

The Humboldt County Planning Commission is scheduled to begin its discussion of the cell-tower issue at its March 21 meeting.

Trade zone taking shape

The governing board of Eureka's foreign trade zone held its first meeting Jan. 16, creating an outline for what many hope will be a new engine for job growth on Humboldt Bay.

The foreign trade zone was approved last April by U.S Customs. It includes Dock B in Eureka, the Arcata Airport and parts of Fields Landing and the Samoa Peninsula.

"The bottom line is that we are trying to create new jobs," said Charles Ollivier, foreign trade zone board member and Humboldt Bay harbor commissioner.

That can happen when business decide to locate in the zone because of savings in trade tariffs, Ollivier said. The zone works as a tariff-free area where importers can store or manufacture items without paying duties until the goods leave the zone.

The trade zone has many benefits for industrial companies. If a car manufacturer imports mufflers, for instance, the tariff on the shipment would be 4.5 percent. If, however, the mufflers were imported into the zone and then put into a car, they would be considered part of an imported automobile -- and cars face only a 2.5 percent tariff.

"The idea is to bring in products that you can use here and create jobs and tax revenue," said Stanwood A. Murphy Jr., president of Humboldt Bay Forest Products and a board member.

His company, located at Fields Landing, imports logs from other countries for local mills. He said he could see a mill wanting to locate in the zone, because they would not have to pay a tariff on logs until after they had been manufactured into consumer products. The longer a company can wait to pay a tariff, the better, he said, because that money can be used for other investments in the meantime.

The zone's board has discussed borders and the fees that would be charged to businesses that wanted to locate in the zone. Now the board just has to find some customers.

"We're just starting the search for tenants," Murphy said.

Presbyterians vote on gay clergy

A gathering of North Coast Presbyterian ministers voted in Napa Jan. 18 to allow homosexual members of the church to be ordained as clergy, putting themselves in the minority on an issue that threatens to split the denomination.

Up for vote was Amendment A, which would strike the section in the church's guiding document that states that Presbyterian ministers and elders must adhere to a life of "fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." The Presbytery of the Redwoods voted 102-49 to pass the amendment.

That does not mean North Coast churches will have gay pastors in the near future. The decision about allowing gay and lesbian ministers in the church is made on a nationwide basis and the overwhelming majority of American presbyteries that have voted are against allowing those with alternative lifestyles to the pulpit.

The denomination's churches are organized into 173 regional groups or presbyteries. So far, only eight have voted to allow homosexual members to be ordained while 35 have voted not to. The remaining 130 presbyteries have until June to vote.

"To be honest, we are tired of discussing it," said Timothy Doty, who leads the Arcata Presbyterian Church. "I, as a pastor, and we as a congregation are not interested in taking strong, high-profile political stands on social issues."

But he has been forced to. The Presbyterian structure demanded that Doty cast a vote on behalf of his congregation and conscience, because gay clergy ordained at a church in Marin would be entitled to recognition as clergy at churches in Mississippi, Idaho and Ohio.

Doty said the issue of gay clergy would at best distract attention from his spiritual mission and at worst carry the potential to split the 2.5 million-member church.

"Denomination-wide, this is a dangerous issue. I strive for it not to be, but it is." Doty said he has argued for tolerance of different ideas, as "sincere, dedicated Christians find each other in conflicting positions on the issue."

"If my fellow pastors want to [ordain homosexuals], I want to support them in doing that, and if other pastors do not, I want to support their right not to."

While that attitude is hardly radical, is often portrayed as a "stand in favor of gay rights," he said, "because the issue has been polarized."

He declined to comment on how he had voted, saying that it could only further strain his congregation over an issue that has already been discussed to the point where few will be convinced.

"Our denomination is almost equally divided on this, slightly leaning against," he said. As an individual -- outside of his role as the church's representative -- he leans slightly in favor, he said.

"Part of being a Presbyterian has been to allow liberals and conservatives to be together, organizing together and loving each other. But this issue may not make that possible."

Fewer clients, bigger problems

When Proposition 36 was first implemented last July, members of the treatment and criminal justice communities believed it would completely change the way law and rehabilitation interact. Now, more than six months into the measure's implementation, those same communities are expressing surprise at how few new drug treatment clients the law is producing -- and how severe their problems are.

The law, which gives nonviolent drug offenders the choice of going into treatment rather than incarceration, has not produced many potentially clean and sober converts. Those who have availed themselves of Proposition 36 are "older, with much higher levels of drug and alcohol problems and a lot more criminality," said Bill Damiano of the Humboldt County Probation Department.

Most are reporting that methamphetamine was their drug of choice, he said, and most require intensive treatment. Only 5 percent of those in the program were suitable for the least intensive, education-based therapy approach.

"We expected the majority could be assisted with a treatment program, but they have higher level problems and require more treatment," said Ann Lindsay, Humboldt County's public health officer and an Arcata physician.

A fringe benefit is that the treatment community prepared itself for more hardcore users and has the space to treat them, she said.

"There was a tremendous response after Prop. 36 was passed. The treatment capacity increased by about a third in anticipation of the new clients," Lindsay reported.

But first you have to get the hardcore users into treatment -- and that is proving hard to do. Only 50 percent of those referred to treatment under the measure actually show up at their assessment meeting, Damiano said.

That poor follow-through has a lot to do with language in Proposition 36 that puts some valuable tools out of reach. Mike Goldsby, director of Family Recovery Services at St. Joseph Hospital, said the new program had weaker systems of reward and accountability than Humboldt's established drug court.

Humboldt County already has a specialized court for drug offenses. When that court sentences an individual, they are regularly subjected to urine tests. When those urine tests come up positive for drugs, the addict gets shuffled back to jail. If, however, urine screens come up clean, the offender can earn more lenient probation terms.

Jail time isn't part of the Prop. 36 process and urine screens are specifically excluded from the program's funding, Goldsby said. "There seems to be much less of a stick and carrot here," he said.

But Goldsby, Damiano and Lindsay all said they remain hopeful the program will blossom into wider application as the county becomes more familiar with it.

"I think they're working out the bugs and will get more referrals soon," Lindsay said. And even at its present level, the program is still bringing treatment to some people in need.

"Anytime people get into treatment for their substance abuse problems, I think that's a good public health result. We're just learning how to make it happen."

More firefighters needed

With job losses mounting across the country and in Humboldt, it's good to know there's at least one area left where there's substantial job growth -- wild land firefighting.

The number of employees in his jurisdiction has more than doubled in two years, said Rob McClellan, fire management officer for Six Rivers National Forest's Lower Trinity Ranger District.

"We'll even be putting a fire engine here in Willow Creek," he said. "We haven't seen that since before the days of [President] Reagan."

The hiring process for next year has already begun with a national search for able bodied individuals. The qualifications are basic: sound body and mind, U.S. citizenship and 18 years of age or more.

That's not to say that the application process is easy. Would-be firefighters have to undergo a physical readiness test, carrying a 40-pound pack three miles in 45 minutes.

"Well, you do have to be in pretty darn good shape to fight a fire," McClellan said.

Interior chief in Humboldt

Interior Secretary Gale Norton visited Humboldt County Sunday, touring the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Norton has come under fire from some in Humboldt County for her handling of river issues. She expressed sympathy for farmers in the Klamath basin who tried to claim water for irrigation that was legally committed to endangered species of fish, including Klamath salmon. She has also been less than enthusiastic about returning water to the Trinity River under a decision made in the closing days of the Clinton administration.

Her visit last week was centered on a less controversial topic, however: Richard Guadagno, the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge manager killed Sept. 11 in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. President Bush signed a bill Jan. 16 naming the refuge's new headquarters after Guadagno.

New ordinance, old problem

The Eureka City Council took up a new seismic ordinance that would extend the deadline to strengthen buildings for another two years at its Jan. 22 meeting.

Previously the deadline to renovate unreinforced masonry buildings to earthquake safety or have them demolished was Jan. 1, 2003 -- already an extension of a 2000 deadline set in a 1990 ordinance. When it became clear that many of the remaining 16 such buildings in Eureka would not meet the deadline, a new ordinance was drafted to delay.

The ordinance was introduced at the Jan. 15 meeting and was up for adoption Jan. 22, after press time.

There is little doubt that the council will end up giving building owners more time, said developer Kurt Kramer. He has been dealing with the problem of earthquake-retrofitting the unreinforced masonry in the Professional Building, and knows how difficult it can be: It's a $500,000 investment that no bank will loan you money to complete.

"You just don't get banks to fund them, because they are a major liability. In the event something would happen to the building -- like an earthquake -- the lender's main asset is gone." The bank would have nothing to foreclose on but a pile of rubble.

Kramer has to finance the Professional Building project -- "out of my back pocket," as he put it. To make matters worse, a retrofit usually means that the interior has to be gutted to complete the work, meaning that tenants and rental income disappear.

The city's redevelopment agency has responded with a seismic retrofit loan program. Kramer is participating and will receive a low-interest loan for $300,000. He said the program isn't a panacea.

"It isn't like they just cut me a check. I have to do all the work, about half a million bucks worth and then at the end, without any space tenanted and just a shell of a building, I get a loan," he said.

Kramer still supports the ordinance to force developers to retrofit. "The reality of the situation is as follows: If you have a plane but cannot afford to do regular maintenance on it, do you fly it? No."

Enforcing an earthquake ordinance is only fair to landlords like himself, he said. "Here I am spending all this money to add capital to these buildings. If there are no teeth to these ordinances, why am I doing this?"


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