North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

February 14, 2002

Civil Rights inspector at HSU

Nurses vote March 15

Lang skates this weekend

PL pulls Allen Creek plan

Economy levelling off?

Candidate forums this week

Civil rights inspector at HSU

In recent years, Humboldt State University's softball, cross country and basketball teams have brought the school national rankings, trips to championship tournaments and prestige -- but there's a problem.

Complaints of gender inequity in the school's athletic program have triggered an investigation by the federal Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. Under Title IX, a department rule, the university is required to follow strict guidelines ensuring women's athletics programs are as robust as men's.

The investigation, triggered by a student complaint, is focusing on four areas of the athletic program: budget, scholarships, facilities and proportionality. That last item refers to a Title IX requirement that the ratio of female to male athletes be close to the ratio of female to male undergraduate students.

"I think they will raise some issues about facilities, which we have indicated we are in the midst of upgrading," said Steven Butler, HSU's vice president of student affairs. Butler pointed to two projects -- the conversion of open space into a softball field and the remodeling of the women's locker room -- as examples.

It is an issue that HSU has been dealing with for almost a year. The school hired a consultant last year to advise the athletic program on compliance with Title IX.

The results from the inspection, which occurred from Jan. 29-31, will be used to generate a report. The university then has the opportunity to respond. If the office finds HSU in violation of Title IX, it will be required to formulate a compliance plan -- and the whole process will occur above board, Butler said.

"These are issues we are trying to resolve right now, and we will publicly disclose how we are trying to resolve them," he said.

Nurses vote March 15

Nurses seeking to organize at St. Joseph Hospital reached agreement Feb. 8 on the terms and conditions of a union election, setting the date for March 15.

Management scored two key victories during negotiation: Redwood Memorial Hospital in Fortuna will be considered a separate bargaining unit and charge nurses will not be eligible for union representation.

Redwood Memorial will now have to file for its own election. The move is seen as a win for management because of the perception that union support is stronger at St. Joseph's two Eureka facilities. Charge nurses have been at the center of the union debate from the outset. When the charge nurses learned last fall that they would probably be considered management and therefore ineligible for representation, nearly all stepped down to become regular nurses.

The concessions were made to facilitate a speedy election process, according to the California Nurses Association, the union seeking to represent the nurses.

Lang skates this weekend

Members of the Karuk tribe and dozens of other relatives will be glued to the television this weekend as Humboldt County native Naomi Lang takes to the Olympic ice.

The four-time national champion Lang and her ice-dancing partner Peter Tchernyshev will begin the first of three days of competition Friday, Feb. 15, from 7:30-8:30 p.m. and 9:15-10 p.m. They will execute two compulsory dances worth 10 percent each toward their final score.

Lang and Tchernyshev will perform in the original dance portion of the competition Sunday, Feb. 17, 9:30-11 p.m. Teams are given a prescribed rhythm with a defined tempo range and must create an original version of the dance. This portion counts for 30 percent of their final score.

Monday will be the finals, a free dance combining technical skill and artistry to music of the couple's own choosing. The program is scheduled to air on Channel 3, the NBC affiliate, from 9:45-11 p.m.

Lang was featured in a North Coast Journal cover story Dec. 20, which described her early years in Humboldt including her training with the Redwood Concert Ballet. Her mother graduated from Humboldt State University in nursing and left to accept employment in Michigan when Naomi was 7.

By her father's heritage, she is a Native American and a member of the Karuk Tribe. She is the first Native American woman to participate in the Winter Olympic Games.

PL pulls Allen Creek plan

Pacific Lumber Co. announced last week it was withdrawing a controversial timber harvest plan for stands that harbor the endangered marbled murrelet.

The plan would have allowed selective harvesting on approximately 70 acres of a marbled murrelet conservation area near Allen Creek north of Carlotta. PL officials maintain that the harvesting would foster better habitat for the murrelet by thinning out the stands, encouraging the remaining trees to grow into mature forest.

That would seem to be consistent with the company's habitat conservation plan, which allows for harvesting out of murrelet nesting season if it encourages mature forest characteristics. But the Headwaters Agreement, of which the plan is only one part, includes more stringent language about the conservation areas. PL is forbidden from engaging in any harvest activity that would hurt the bird or its habitat in the short run even if there were long-term benefits.

A broad range of environmental interests had urged the California Department of Forestry not to approve the plan, including State Sen. Byron Sher, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private environmental groups.

Economy levelling off?

The Humboldt economy, which suffered a significant drop in activity following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, may be improving. Numbers from the latest Index of Economic Activity for Humboldt County show the decline in logging industry employment juxtaposed with rising retail sales and job creation.

"There are signs we are levelling off," said Steve Hackett, a professor of business and economics at Humboldt State University where the Index is produced.

Optimists point to three items --sales, retail sales and the leading indicators. Home sales have been on the rise in Humboldt over the last year and continued erratic but strong growth with a 17 percent increase. Retail sales, which account for almost a fifth of Humboldt's jobs, increased 12.9 percent. Finally, the leading indicators all came up positive for the first time in a year.

The Index uses four indicators: The amount of help-wanted advertising in the Times-Standard, the number of unemployment claims, the volume of manufacturing orders and the number of building permits. While all experienced double-digit improvements, the 36.5 percent increase in help-wanted ads is especially encouraging, Hackett said.

"That has been one of our most accurate predictors of future performance," he said.

Not all was rosy in Humboldt County, however. Two sectors vital to the continued health of the economy experienced setbacks -- hospitality and lumber manufacturing. The two industries are especially important because they bring new dollars into the community rather than "reusing" dollars like the retail or service industries.

Their decline raises an interesting question, Hackett said. "What's driving the economy if it's not people with jobs? If the people here are doing so poorly, who's buying all the houses?" One possibility is that Humboldt is attracting more retirees and self-employed individuals who do not show up in labor statistics but still have the income to buy houses and goods.

The slide in timber manufacturing employment experienced a new wrinkle last month. Pacific Lumber Co. announced that, as part of its reorganization plan, logging operations will be farmed out to independent contractors. The move eliminated 125 positions at the company. Many of those workers may find jobs with the subcontractors, but those jobs probably won't be as well paid.

"These contract logging companies may not offer the same wages or benefits," Hackett said.

The advantages to Pacific Lumber are significant. By shifting a seasonal workforce dependent on government approval of timber harvest plans to a subcontractor, much of the risk is eliminated, Hackett said. "If there's a logging shutdown because a [timber harvest plan] is held up, then PL doesn't have to carry the unoccupied loggers."

The strategy isn't limited to logging. Last month St. Joseph Health System Humboldt County announced it was farming out its medical transcription operations to an independent subcontractor. Eleven employees were affected by the layoff.

"It's pretty common for a lot of industries," Hackett said.

Candidate forums this week

Feb. 14 .......... Auditor, KINS 980 AM, 4:10 p.m.
Feb. 15 .......... 5th District supervisor, KEET-TV, 7 p.m.
............ ............ All Republicans, Eureka Inn, 11:30 a.m.
............ ............ Sheriff, KMUD 91.1 FM, 7 p.m.
............ ............ State propositions, KINS 980 AM, 4:10 p.m.
Feb. 18 .......... Schools superintendent, KINS, 980 AM, 4:10 p.m.
Feb. 19 .......... Schools superintendent, KEET-TV, 7 p.m.
............ ............ Sheriff, Eureka Inn, noon
............ ............ Sheriff, KINS 980 AM, 4:10 p.m.
Feb. 20 .......... 5th District/Corbett/Geist, KINS 980 AM, 4:10 p.m.
Feb. 21 .......... 5th District/Pierce/Harvey, KINS 980 AM, 4:10 p.m.
............ ............ 5th District, Azalea Hall, McKinleyville, 7 p.m.
Feb. 22 .......... 5th District/Shepherd/Taylor, KINS 980 AM, 4:10 p.m.

County residents who are not registered to vote in the March 5 election may do so by mail using a form available at post offices or the Department of Motor Vehicles in Eureka. Applications must be postmarked by Feb. 19, or register online at

Absentee ballots are available to voters who are already registered by submitting name, address, signatures, birthdate and telephone number. Applications must be received (not postmarked) by Feb. 25.

Registration and absentee ballot requests should be sent to the Humboldt county Elections Office, 3033 H St., Eureka, 95501. Call 445-7678 for more information.



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