March 24, 2005
GET CONTRACTS: The Eureka City
Council approved three-year contracts with the three unions representing
its employees last week. Susan Christie, the city's personnel
director, said that it is unusual to negotiate all three contracts
-- one each with the police, fire and other municipal employees
-- at the same time, but that everyone felt good that they were
able to get a new deal inked without too much strife. "It's
nice for the city and it's nice for the employees -- we both
know what's going to happen over the next three years,"
Christie said. There had been some debate over who would pick
up the tab for recent increases in the police officers' and firefighters'
health insurance plan; in the end, Christie said, the city ended
up paying for the hiked rates.
It was a cold, rainy day Saturday, March 19, but a dedicated crowd of protesters, estimated by event organizers at more than 2,000, donned rain gear or brought out their umbrellas to march through Eureka, marking the second anniversary of the beginning of the armed conflict in Iraq.
Above, marchers carried a faux flag-draped casket commemorating more than 1,500 American military personnel lost in the war.
The rain stopped briefly as the march returned to Halvorson Park on Eureka's waterfront.
The umbrellas came out again and a peace flag became a shawl as the rain returned, drowning plans for an activist recruitment fair following the march.
by HANK SIMS
Despite selling nearly 300 million board feet of timber in 2004, the Pacific Lumber Co. lost $49.3 million last year and may soon face a serious financial crisis, according to two annual securities reports filed by the timber giant's parent company, the Houston-based Maxxam, Inc., last week.
The reports, filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, state that Palco actually made a profit of $5.4 million on its operations last year, which included the sale of timber and generation of electricity at its Scotia cogeneration plant.
However, that small profit does not take into account around $55 million in payments made last year on the company's long-term debt. Through its subsidiary, Scotia Pacific, Pacific Lumber owes around $750 million to bondholders. The majority of that debt stems from Maxxam's takeover of the company in 1985.
In the reports the company states that its high debt load makes it more seriously threatened by changing external conditions, including increased environmental regulation of the type that the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board seeks to impose on its operations in the Freshwater and Elk River watersheds.
"Due to its highly leveraged condition, the Company is more sensitive than less leveraged companies to factors affecting its operations, including low log prices, governmental regulation and litigation affecting timber harvesting practices on the Company Timberlands, and general economic conditions," states Scotia Pacific's annual report to bondholders.
The reports show the company's financial losses are starting to have serious, on-the-ground effects on its ability to operate. The company defaulted on a short-term line of credit at the beginning of the year and has seen its credit rating plummet to CCC+. The company openly expresses concern about its ability to meet an upcoming debt service payment in June, and fears that it may be forced into large layoffs, bankruptcy or other extreme measures.
On Feb. 28, the company's attorneys informed four regulatory agencies that it did not have the funds to comply with terms of its Habitat Conservation Plan, the environmental protection agreement that it has operated under since 1999.
The annual reports were submitted to the SEC on March 16, the same day that Pacific Lumber officials appeared in Santa Rosa at a meeting of the Water Quality Control Board. The officials, including Palco CEO Robert Manne and chief counsel Jared Carter, warned at the meeting that the company would soon go broke unless the board allowed more logging in Freshwater and Elk.
On a 5-3 vote, the board passed McKinleyville attorney John Corbett's motion to allow Pacific Lumber to log up to 75 percent of its California Department of Forestry-approved timber harvest plans in the two sediment-impaired watersheds. New board member Lyle Marshall, chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, voted against Corbett's motion.
The action overturned a decision by the water board's scientific staff. In February, Catherine Kuhlman, the water board's executive officer, issued an order that allowed the company to harvest up to 50 percent of the CDF limits in the two watersheds, saying that the science showed that only 50 percent of the timber harvest plans could be harvested if the watersheds were to be placed on the road to recovery.
The Humboldt Watershed Council and the Environmental Protection Information Center have appealed the Water Quality Control Board's decision to the State Water Resources Control Board. EPIC attorney Sharon Duggan said Tuesday the regional board exceeded its mandate by making a decision based on the company's economic condition, not environmental science.
"The science as we understand at this point clearly indicates that 50 percent would be the maximum," she said. "That's the staff's position, and the regional board exceeded that without having a basis in science -- in fact -- for doing so."
Manne, in a press release, stated that Palco was "very disappointed" the board had approved only 75 percent of the harvests, and that it was not sure if the amount of timber released by the board last week would be enough for the company to avoid layoffs and bankruptcy.
by BOB DORAN
You may have seen the film crew for A Story Never Told Before at work last week on the Arcata Plaza, which they used to represent the town square in Auschwitz, Germany.
Or perhaps you came across them while they were shooting an elevator full of dreadlocked locals, in Jacoby's Storehouse, along with the film's protagonist, Gregory Goodwin, played by Jackson Kuehn, an actor from San Diego. Gregory, a fictional Arcata resident on a spiritual journey, also showed up in a final scene filmed last Thursday evening at the Arcata Theatre, where the action involved his purchase of a ticket to the film A Story Never Told Before, the movie that he stars in.
"There's a film within the film," explained Karl Langer, co-editor and one of the film's producers, who recently moved from San Diego to Arcata to attend Humboldt State. "He's in a film but not aware that he is."
The convoluted story, written by Jon Poznanter, gets even more complicated when you know that the production, funded by shares in the film sold here and in San Diego, is also tangentially connected to a museum of world religions envisioned by the screenwriter.
One of the sequences was shot earlier that day in Arcata's Redwood Park, where a large, burned-out stump festooned with candles provided a backdrop for a conversation between Leonardo Da Vinci (played by ASNTB director Glen Quaranta) and one of Leonardo's muses, Ginevra (played by Erica Gabrielle), regarding the manipulation of Gregory's consciousness through psychedelic drugs. Gabrielle also plays the driver of the bus to Auschwitz; and her character is the faux director of the film within the film about Gregory's journey.
"What we're doing right now is a short," said Langer in a conversation on the Redwood Park set. "We're going to pump it into a lot of festivals when it's done. What we want to do eventually is produce a full-length feature. What we're doing [for financing] is selling shares in the film. We have 10,000 shares and we're selling 3,000 to the general public. The first 1,000 are $20 apiece. We'll use that for the short."
So far the company has sold "around 300 shares" said Langer, most of them in the San Diego area, but some in Arcata, where the crew set up shop on the plaza during Arts! Arcata, March 11.
Needless to say, the production is operating on a shoestring budget, made possible in part because everything is shot digitally, which means there is no costly film processing involved.
Another cost-saver is the fact that most of the crew is being paid in shares. Langer sees the shares as an investment that will grow with the film. "After 1,000 shares the price goes up to $100 a share," he explained. "That comes after the short is done, from people who want to see it become a full-length feature. You get in early and it's more valuable in the end. Of course it's more of a risk in the beginning but don't forget, you get a free T-shirt."
According to Langer ASNTB will premiere at the San Diego Film Festival in September. He noted that "it's a shoe-in," in part because the film's director of photography/cameraman Karl Kozak co-founded the festival.
To learn more about A Story Never Told Before go to the production company Web site: www.dorothytours.com.
Photo above right: Karl Langer on the set for a Story Never Told Before, a scene in which actor Jackson Kuehn purchases a ticket from Erica Gabrielle. Photo by Bob Doran
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