STORY | CALENDAR
March 13, 2003
Faced with a roomful of loggers,
Supervisors nix DA's bid for outside help in PL suit
story and photos by ANDREW EDWARDS
SPRAWLED ON A LEATHER COUCH,
DISTRICT Attorney Paul Gallegos admitted to being "just
a little tired." Papers lay stacked in piles on every available
surface around him. He was in the office of Assistant District
Attorney Tim Stoen, who seemed undeterred. "The truth is
a hammer," Stoen said. "We have a hammer. We're going
to win this case."
"I have strong convictions
that we did the right thing and, if anything, that was strengthened
today," Stoen added, after a marathon session of the Humboldt
County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
Brave words after a meeting
that couldn't have been much worse.
After hearing testimony from
citizens ranging from a geologist to an Indian chief, from a
Pacific Lumber Co. lawyer to a logger's wife, the Supervisors
voted against allowing Gallegos to hire a Bay Area law firm to
assist him in his controversial lawsuit against PL. The firm,
Cotchett, Pitre, Simon and McCarthy, specializes in corporate
fraud, and Gallegos is charging PL with exactly that, fraud to
the tune of $250 million, deceiving state logging regulators,
with false data.
The only supervisor who didn't
vote against Gallegos was John Woolley, who said he wanted more
time to consider the case.
Logging trucks parked
outside the Humboldt County courthouse
Before the meeting started the
street outside the courthouse was lined on both sides by the
logging trucks of Steve Wills, a PL contractor who spoke at the
meeting. On the steps of the courthouse milled a crowd of men,
many in loggers' traditional baseball caps, thick suspenders
and Ben Davis shirts. They stood in groups, talking and watching
passers-by. Inside the chambers the room was packed. People mobbed
around the doors trying to hear. Early on loudspeakers in the
lobby were turned on so people not in the room could follow the
The tension mounted as the Supervisors
plodded through their opening business (like declaring March
Jazz Festival Appreciation month). They all knew what the crowd
was there to see. Finally, Gallegos and Stoen came and sat at
a table before the board. Stoen was doing most of the talking.
He said he was there to request that the Supervisors allow the
district attorney to hire the Cotchett firm, based in Burlingame.
Under the terms of agreement the firm, Stoen explained, would
receive 14.5 percent of any money recovered from the lawsuit,
covering all their own personnel costs and taking a loss if the
Responding to a question at
one point, Gallegos inadvertently referred to a supervisor as
"your honor." Laughter. Then the main event kicked
When Board Chairman Jimmy Smith
asked if there were comments a line formed immediately stretching
from the front of the room out the back door.
Though different perspectives
were represented, many of the statements were confusing and emotional,
decrying Gallegos for suing a company as philanthropic and economically
important as PL.
A sampling of the first several
Larry Kramer, geologist from
If this lawsuit goes through
what we will really be doing is shooting ourselves in the foot.
We'll be pushing out the middle class.
Assistant District Attorney
Tim Stoen addresses the Supervisors.
Larry Olsen, area resident since
It's time for the Board of
Supervisors to stand up. Are we going to lose our largest employer
in Humboldt County because our DA chooses to sue. For what? For
something that isn't really in his jurisdiction. I believe here
the state Department of Forestry should be taking up this angle,
not our District Attorney.
Nadananda, Friends of the Eel
Workers are here in mass
today because they are concerned about their jobs and their future
as well they should be. But irregardless of whether they continue
to be employed by this company or another it is not their employment
that is before you but the kinds of business practices that are
tolerated in Humboldt County.
Jim Branham, PL's director of
We're convinced that it's
a complaint without merit, without any real factual basis. It
fundamentally misunderstands what has taken place with the Headwaters
agreement and what is happening out there on the landscape. It's
affecting people's lives already. That's why these people are
here; they'd rather be doing something else today.
Throughout, Supervisor Smith,
in a baby blue dress shirt, admonished the crowd to address the
board not the D.A. and to stick to whether or not outside counsel
should be hired; but most speakers strayed far afield, from attacking
the case itself to extolling the virtues and history of the logging
company. More than one of the speakers said they had been born
in the company hospital in Scotia before it shut down.
Many people cautioned the board
against hiring outside help, as they saw it as a waste of tax
money, despite the fact that it had already been made clear that
the firm would be paid from any civil penalties a judge awards.
Others predicted dire consequences
if the suit succeeded.
"I really think if there's
no more people and a whole lot of trees what good is that?"
asked Rod Sanderson, a self-described community leader and part-time
Some mentioned the $5,000 that
Robin Arkley Sr., of Arcata has offered to anyone who wants to
begin a recall campaign against Gallegos.
Others defended Gallegos and
Longtime PL critic Ken Miller
called the case "very factual and very simple" and
questioned why the board wouldn't back up a district attorney
that had been elected by the people.
"It's inconceivable that
you wouldn't allow the district attorney to have the best legal
counsel available," Miller added. "Joe Cotchett is
no ambulance chaser."
Loggers listen to the proceedings in the Board of Supervisors
After three hours, the stream
of speakers slowed to a trickle, most of the woodsmen had filtered
out and finally, Chairman Smith declared a 10 minute break.
The gruff Roger Rodoni, brandishing
a four-page letter from the Fair Political Practices Commission
stating that he doesn't have a conflict of interest when it comes
to PL (he leases ranch land from them), started off the debate.
He questioned Cotchett's reasons for wanting to get involved,
suggesting he wanted a park named after him. He immediately motioned
for the DA's request to be denied.
Bonnie Neely quickly seconded.
Fifth District Supervisor Jill
Geist seemed confused about the parliamentary procedure involved,
and wanted to make sure that if another request for outside counsel
was made that it would be heard.
Woolley wanted more time.
They all questioned why the
DA had laid his case out to the local Bar Association in a luncheon
last weekend, without making their case to the Supervisors first.
Neely quoted a letter submitted
the day before from the California Department of Fish and Game's
lead attorney, which said the case contained factual errors.
Smith said he'd looked into
it, and it looked as if the DA's office was standing alone in
defending the facts of the case, while every other agency was
lined up on the other side.
Stoen fielded questions, somewhat
impatiently, later complaining that the Supervisors failed to
ask him the only two relevant questions: Did PL give false information
for inclusion in the final Environmental Impact Report? And when
they got the corrected information did they send it to the director
of CDF so he could recirculate it?
The meaning of the vote was
stark: the DA's office is alone in its prosecution, something
Gallegos characterized as unfair; after all, he said, PL's is
almost definitely going to hire a San Francisco law firm to help
them with the case.
Stoen said they'd been prepared
to act alone from the beginning, and the level of resistance
they saw Tuesday was a measure of just how seriously PL takes
"I think Palco knows in
its heart of hearts that they have a fight on their hands,"
dying breed: Eureka is down to two cobblers
BRUNO RAVELLI HAS BEEN MY COBBLER, or shoe repairman,
for countless years now, but what never ceases to amaze me is
the casual clutter of leather shoes and boots stacked seemingly
haphazardly around his Eureka shop at 312 West Harris St. On
a recent visit, I asked: "Why do you have those shoes all
over the place?"
"I don't know -- something
to look at, I guess," he says, with a wide grin.
"There's a few here that
don't belong to anybody. Like these old ones here" -- holding
up a pair of once-fashionable ladies boots. "I found them
up in my mother's attic. But these are customers', customers',
customers'," he goes on, pointing out various modern leather
shoes or boots. "Well, yeah, that's my business; you've
gotta have shoes. Five pair ready for next week. These are all
done. Whatever. It pays the rent; that's the main thing."
Ravelli, now 71, has a gnarled
look about him; you can see it especially in the hands that have
worked a lot of leather over the years. He was wearing his usual
working garb: flannel shirt, jeans, with sturdy black apron and
a small baseball cap on his head. He has a short, scraggly grayish
beard, which he says he's "about ready to cut it off and
start over again." He talks in a gravelly voice, and he
frequently punctuates sentences with a hearty laugh.
Bruno learned the trade when
he was 8 or 9 from his father, Antonio (Tony) Ravelli, who emigrated
here from Italy, resuming his shoe repair trade in Eureka, downtown
on Fifth Street.
"You know, the old-timers,
they'd start you out when you're this high," Bruno said,
holding his hand about belt level. "I had a block of wood
to stand on so I could reach the machinery."
Even though he worked in his
father's shop, Bruno managed to go through high school in Eureka.
"We had our 50th reunion recently," he relates, "and
that was the first one I went to." He didn't remember how
big his class was. He adds, "I know 49 of them had passed
Before opening his Harris Street
shop in 1977, Ravelli worked in the San Francisco Bay area for
"And I was still connected
with the leather and shoe repair business," he relates,
"because I worked with what they called a `shoe binding
place.' That's where they sell all the stuff to the shoe repair
shops. I did that for five years, and I knew shoe repairmen all
over -- shops in Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek. I didn't know
it at the time, but I knew a lot of things that these guys in
The City didn't. My name was good and shoe repairmen were calling
me from all over.
"I worked in San Francisco
in the Marina area for an Italian guy, who had a good business
going -- Frank's Shoe Service -- and he'd watch me work, and
he'd say, `Who showed you how to do that?' And finally I said,
`Look, Frank, if you're happy with my work, I'll come back tomorrow;
if you're not happy, I won't show up.' `Oh, no, no, no, you gotta
come back.' And then it got to the point where he was asking
me, `Bruno, you think it's okay to do it this way?'" Bruno
cracks up. "It was kind of comical, because he'd been in
the business a long time too, you know."
Those days were golden for shoe
repairmen. It was a time when leather shoes were de rigueur
for would-be fashion plates. Today, however, the market is flooded
with ersatz shoe materials, and of course the turn away from
leather shoes has had its impact on the old-time cobblers.
In Eureka, for instance, there
are now just two, the 71-year-old Ravelli and the 56-year-old
Mike Grundman, whose shop is at 3127 F St., on the fringe of
Henderson Center. Like Ravelli, Grundman started out in the business
when he was 8 years old, learning from his father as Bruno did
Mike Grundman shows the canvas bags he makes and sells in his
Henderson Center shop.
here probably 48 years now," says Grundman. "It's almost
like a landmark, you know."
The two are friendly competitors,
"Oh yeah," Ravelli
says. "I go up and visit with him, and sometimes if I can't
handle a job here, I tell them to go up there (to Grundman's).
If they don't agree with me, on price or whatever, I tell 'em
to go up there and get a second opinion."
Ravelli is reminded of when
he bought the shop of a cobbler in Rheem Valley, in the Bay Area.
"I didn't look at his books,"
he says. "A lot of guys, you know, want to see how much
money you made, and yada, yada, yada. I had enough confidence
in myself. If a person has enough enthusiasm or whatever you
want to call it, you can make it, you know. I think it's up to
But admittedly, these are hard
times for leather shoe repairmen.
"It's a dying trade,"
says Grundman. "We're too much of a throwaway society."
"Well, sure it is,"
agrees Ravelli. "I've seen it die over the last 25 years.
When I opened this shop in '77, there were five shops in Eureka,
and only a couple left now. And when I'm gone, and when Grundman
goes, that's gone, too.
[Below left: Bruno
behind the counter of his Rheen shop, 1977]
"It's definitely a dying business," Ravelli
adds. "It's almost like the blacksmith. You know, where
do you find one of those?"
Grundman says, "Oh, years
and years ago -- probably in the late '30s, early '40s -- there
used to be 22 shoe repair shops here in Eureka. Everybody had
their shoes repaired then, you know. You just didn't go out and
buy a new pair of shoes, with the economy back then. And they
were pretty good leather shoes then, too.
"Nowadays, it's been Bruno
and I," he added. "But it just kind of stagnated right
there; I mean, the volume of business isn't what it was 10 years
As a sideline, Grundman has
started making and selling canvas duffel bags. But the main business
still is shoe repair. Grundman notes: "People that are buying
good shoes, it still definitely pays to repair them."
What's more, showing that he's
a with-it guy in this modern high-tech age, Grundman says that
he's "working on a website now to get this stuff on the
Ravelli too has other angles
"You know, you get a little
bit of everything here," he says. "I get purses and
I get luggage and I get wallets to sew or holsters to sew. You
get all that kind of leather work. It all blends in.
"I used to be heavy into
dyeing shoes for a shoe store called Annie's Shoes," he
goes on, "and I used to do all her dye work on fabric shoes.
They were for matching gowns -- like weddings, proms and graduations.
There were times I did about 120 pair a month. Then I quit doing
it because it got to be too much. I was doing most of it in the
evenings, because you can't dye any shoes while your customers
come in. You can't stop once you start on a fabric shoe, you
gotta dye the whole thing quick.
"It can get to you. There's
times that I used that whole piece of material before I got the
color that I wanted. It's pretty tricky. Then if you add too
much of one thing, sometimes you have to pour the whole thing
out and start all over again." Just the thought of it sends
him into an outburst of laughter.
The Ravelli shop is open only
three days a week now, Wednesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4
p.m., or make that five minutes to 4. "I leave five minutes
to 4, to make sure I get out of here in time," he adds the
usual laugh. A laid-back kind of businessman.
"I used to be open five
days a week, and I'd stay here 'til 6 or 7 at night," he
recalls. No more. "I got my apprenticeship in a long time
Ravelli with his father, Antonio, in front of their Fifth Street
shop, Square Deal Shoe Repair.
It was two or three years ago
that he decided to shorten his work week. "I think it was
a long holiday one weekend or something, and I liked it so well
that I just kept doing it."
A customer came in to pick up
his shoes, and after he left, Ravelli told me: "You know,
that guy, he's a mailman. So he wears his heels out. So what
I do is put a new section in there for him, not a whole heel.
He's been very happy with it."
Bruno shows me the sole he put
on the shoes, a kind of rubber. "It wears like crazy."
Reminds me of the time he put a new kind of sole on my shoes.
When I asked him what the material was, he quipped. "I don't
know. Could be leftover lasagna, for all I know."
It's hard to think of that shop
without the affable Bruno Ravelli behind the counter, but he
confides that he is thinking of retiring. In fact, he's dickering
with a shoe repair guy from over in Paradise, the other side
of Chico, as they say, who wants to escape the hot summers there.
The deal is "all verbal
so far," Ravelli says, and it could fall through. He notes,
with some amazement -- or amusement, whatever -- of the prospective
buyer: "He's my age! And he wants to go back in the business."
And what would Bruno Ravelli
do if he were to retire? He pauses a moment, then says, with
a laugh, "Sleep a lot."
"No," he adds getting
serious. "I have hobbies. I've got a '67 Chevelle that I'm
And then there's still the chance
that the buyout may fall through and Ravelli may have to postpone
His answer to that is: "Who
cares!? I'll be here anyway." He ends it with a laugh.
Longtime Journal contributor George
Ringwald lives in Eureka.
loom at HSU
Humboldt State University has
until March 15 -- this Saturday -- to come up with a plan to
deal with an anticipated $8 million cut in its budget for the
2003-04 school year.
It is almost certain that the
plan will include layoffs.
The cut, nearly 10 percent,
is the result of Gov. Gray Davis' proposal to cut $326 million
out of the budget for the entire California State University
system. Davis says a cut of that magnitude is required due to
the record $35 billion-plus deficit that the state government
is operating under.
Last weekend, HSU President
Rollin Richmond held a summit with his executive committee trying
to nail down just where the money is going to come from.
"It's rough; it's rough,"
said Elizabeth Hans McCrone, director of community relations.
McCrone has been asked to cut her department's budget by almost
13 percent. "Everyone's going to have to take a cut."
McCrone said that though nothing
is finalized -- the state budget still has to go through several
more draft forms before it's approved -- if the cut remains at
$8 million the results will be devastating. And that means for
"Only so much of the university
is operating expenses and the rest is personnel," McCrone
She declined to comment on how
many lay-offs, if any, might take place.
She did say that the last time
the university went through such a big budget crunch, in the
early `90s, no permanent personnel were laid off and most of
the part timers that were, were rehired as soon as the situation
Last week, Pacific Lumber Co.
contract climber Eric Schatz shimmied up trees all over the Freshwater
watershed serving papers on tree-sitters that ordered them to
appear in court in two days.
They were told to show why Humboldt
County Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtzen shouldn't issue
a restraining order barring them from trespassing on PL property.
The treesitters appeared as
ordered, Reinholtzen was evidently unconvinced. On Monday, he
decided that a restraining order was justified for a simple reason:
the protesters are likely to be successfully convicted for trespassing.
PL has until Friday to deliver
the judge's order, either by presenting it directly to activists
up in trees, or by nailing the order to trees that are currently
being occupied. Once that's done, the activists will have 24
hours to vacate their perches.
Remedy, an activist who has
spent nearly a year in a tree she calls Jerry on Greenwood Heights
Road, said this latest legal development doesn't change anything
"I don't plan to come down
because of this. I don't know anyone who's planning to do that,"
she said, speaking by cell phone. "It's a little intimidating,
but it's more intimidating to have the salmon go extinct or drink
diesel fuel in your water. Really, things seem to be coming to
She said that even if climbers
come they won't be 100 percent successful. "They never are,"
she said. Even if they were more activists would go up, she added.
She admitted to being worried
for her fellow tree-sitters' safety.
"I'm really afraid that
someone is going to get hurt," she said.
Though the eBay auction for
the town of Carlotta ended Sunday with one bid at the minimum
price of $1.065 million, the existence of an actual buyer is
still in question.
"They're qualified to buy
it, but they're still going to fly up here, and they have to
put something in writing" before the deal can go through,
Realtor Sandra Spalding said. The buyer is a corporation located
in the Los Angeles area, she added.
The deal for the sale of Bridgeville
was still in escrow as of late last week. It was expected to
close, for an amount somewhat less than the high bid of $1.78
million, any day.
Meanwhile, the Arcata Theater's
eBay listing ended March 7 without attracting a sufficient bid.
The highest bid, $225,100, was well below the reserve amount,
set between $455,000 and $485,000.
not the root of the problem
A California Department of Forestry
investigation has concluded that three redwoods in Humboldt Redwoods
State Park which fell when their roots were undercut by turbulent
runoff in December were not helped along by recent Pacific Lumber
"There is no evidence that
harvesting conducted within the past three years has adversely
impacted the lower part of the channel at the Quigley Grove site,"
the report said.
Environmentalists had claimed
that logging upstream was to blame -- and, according to the report,
that may be the case. But only logging that took place prior
to the rainy winter of 1996-97. According to CDF, stricter logging
rules since then do not allow the sorts of logging practices
that were associated with earlier landsliding.
That has been challenged by
the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office, which has charged
PL with hiding scientific data prior to the signing of the 1999
Headwaters agreement. The information could have led to a curtailment
of logging on its timberlands once the agreement took effect.
Debbie Goodwin, the former executive
director of the Humboldt Arts Council, has been named interim
director of advancement for Humboldt State, the university's
top fund-raising position.
For the past year Goodwin has
served as a senior advancement officer. She replaces Maggie Hardy
who recently resigned to accept a position with the California
As part of an administrative
restructuring, the directors of university advancement, community
relations, and diversity and compliance will all report directly
to HSU President Rollin Richmond. Previously those functions
were under the vice president for development and administrative
services. That position is being split.
The search for a vice president
for development is being put on hold due to the state's budget
crisis, a university spokesperson confirmed Tuesday. However,
the search for provost/vice president for academic affairs is
in progress. Plans are also in the works for Richmond's inaugural
reception May 2, according to the university's website.
Bob Rickard, general manager
of the Eureka Theater, received a preservation award from the
Art Deco Society of California during a ceremony last weekend
The theater was built in 1938
by George Mann's Redwood Theater Corp. and closed in 1993 for
regular film showings.
Rickard, a former usher, successfully
negotiated with the owners to form a volunteer organization to
run the theater for community events. A fund-raising effort is
underway to restore and reopen the theater for live performances
with an expected seating capacity of 1,200.
The Art Deco Society honors
persons who have helped preserve and restore buildings and memorabilia
from the Art Deco era, which flourished from the 1920s to early
A scientific conference on the
last fall's Klamath River fish kill is being held this weekend
at Humboldt State University.
The keynote speaker is Rep.
Mike Thompson, D-Napa, who blames the Bush administration for
the fish kill in which 33,000 adult salmon and steelhead perished
over a 16-mile stretch of the lower Klamath River in late September.
Thompson says that too much water was reserved for farmers in
the upper Klamath basin while too little was released downstream.
The scientific consensus is
that low water flows mandated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
led directly to the kill.
Speakers include Mike Belchik,
a fisheries biologist with the Yurok tribe who will talk about
"suitable" flows for salmon; and Scott Foott of the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who will focus on the diseases
that killed the fish.
The conference, sponsored by
the Humboldt chapter of the American Fisheries Society, begins
at 9 a.m. in the Kate Buchanan Room. Call 822-9607, ext. 203,
for more information.
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