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April 6, 2000


Theater to shine again?

Arcata manager 'on vacation'

Salmon book wins award

Good economic tidings

Activist must pay fees

'Holy catastrophes!'

Nonprofits celebrate this week

Theater to shine again?

If the Save the Eureka Theater Committee has its way, the 1,700-seat theater next to the Carnegie Building will soon be restored to its former glory and then some.

Committee President Bob Rickard, caretaker of the building for its owner, Signature Theaters, said the restoration is a challenging project, one that will need a lot of support from the community.

Mayor Nancy Flemming suggested the city may help the committee form a nonprofit organization to apply for grants to restore the building, according to Rickard. Flemming, he said, "would like to see the big sign that says `Eureka' on at night and that she will propose to the council that the city might pay the electric bill.

"We (want to) raise money to restore the building to its original condition -- a one-screen movie theater with a balcony and loge section upstairs -- so it could be used for classic movies, film festivals, concerts, dance or theater performances, meetings, anything the public has in mind."

Rickard may already have some significant financial help on the way.

Rob Arkley, owner of Security National Corp. and husband of Eureka City Councilmember Cherie Arkley, confirmed that he is in preliminary negotiations with George Mann II of Signature Theaters, and hopes to reach an agreement soon on price. If the purchase goes through, the Arkleys plan to donate the building to the Humboldt Arts Council.

Arkley told the Journal Tuesday he thinks the building has great potential for a theater or a performing arts center. The theater could be used for performances by the Redwood Concert Ballet and music concerts.

"Old movie theaters are popular in some cities and have become a significant tourist attraction," he said.

The newly formed committee is holding a public meeting Wednesday, April 12, at 7 p.m. in the Eureka Theater, 612 F St.

Willis and Disiere Realtors list the art deco movie house at $375,000. The 15,000-square-foot theater has a storefront on either side of the entrance and a three bedroom apartment upstairs.

The Eureka opened its doors on March 3, 1939, built by George Mann Sr. of Redwood Theaters. In 1978, when multiplexes changed the nature of the business, the Mann family reconfigured the Eureka, closing off the balcony and splitting the upstairs into two screening rooms.

In 1996 Redwood Theaters merged with a theater chain to form the Signature Theaters. Facing increasing competition from the Minor Theatre Corp.'s Broadway Cinema 8, a decision was made to focus on The Movies, the multiplex at the Bayshore Mall, and the Eureka closed its doors.

The Eureka is Signature's only remaining Humboldt County holding since January when Minor Theater Corp. purchased The Movies.

One unanswered question is how the restoration of the Eureka would effect Humboldt State University's plans for the renovation of the State/Sweasey Theater in the Daly Building complex. The HSU Foundation purchased the building with a $700,000 loan from the Eureka Redevelopment Agency.

"The University is currently in the process of raising the funds for rehabilitation," said John Hamby, head of the HSU Foundation.

Arcata manager `on vacation'

After announcing two weeks ago that they would not be renewing City Manager Keith Breskin's contract, the Arcata City Council has evidently granted Breskin an indefinite vacation.

Contacted at his home, Breskin would not comment on his job status. Asked March 29 if he knew when he would be returning, he replied, "As of today, I don't."

The council directed Arcata Police Chief Mel Brown to take over city administrative duties during the week of March 22 through April 2.

Brown said, "My charge this week is to kind of shuffle some papers and keep the ship running (while Breskin) takes some time off." Brown called himself the "acting manager" rather than the "acting city manager."

This week Steve Tyler, director of environmental services, has taken over the duties.

The council has already made it clear that it is looking for a permanent replacement for Breskin. An agenda for a recent city council meeting included a request for proposals for an executive search firm.

Breskin was hired in 1997 with a two-year contract. Last year the council voted unanimously to extend his contract one year.

The Eureka City Council in February voted to renew its contract with City Manager Harvey Rose.

Rose was criticized by some in the community last year over a plan to locate a WalMart store near the waterfront. That proposal was defeated by city voters.

"(Rose) is our employee," said Eureka Councilmember Connie Miller. "It's not his job to bring WalMart in or keep WalMart out. It's the council's.

"There was some grumbling. There's always been grumbling about every city manager in recent history," she said. "It's got to be one of the hardest jobs in the world."

Salmon book wins award

Freeman House, author of Totem Salmon: Life Lessons from Another Species, was awarded the annual best nonfiction award by the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association March 15 in San Francisco.

The association looks to highlight the best of the year's books by northern California authors and to strengthen the vitality of the region's writing and publishing.

House, a former commercial salmon fisherman is cofounder of the Mattole Watershed Salmon Support Group and of the Mattole Restoration Council. Totem Salmon was his first book and was published in 1999.

House will read from Totem Salmon today from 4-6 p.m. at HSU's Goodwin Forum. The event is sponsored by the English department's Visiting Writer's Series. It also features another Petrolia author, Seth Zuckerman, the editor of Salmon Nation.

Good economic tidings

Humboldt State University Professor Steven Hackett had the pleasant duty of being a bearer of good tidings this week when he released his latest report of Humboldt County economic indicators.

The indicators show modest growth through the month of February, with the economy in Hackett's words "pretty much doing exactly what we would expect it to do."

Although employment growth remained "modest," Hackett said the situation is much improved.

"Humboldt County's unemployment rate is considerably better than it has been at almost any time in the last 20 years." He suggested that the upswing was due to both gradual economic growth and a change from lumber-based manufacturing to the service sector.

There was one big surprise in the report -- the jump in home purchases in Humboldt County. The number of home sales was 30 percent higher than at this time last year and 102 percent higher than in 1998. This is in spite of an increase in mortgage rates due to raises in the borrowing rate for banks by the Federal Reserve.

The jump may be due to another bit of good news for Humboldt County residents: Home prices here remain relatively low. Deborah Keeth, assistant director of the economic indicator study, reported that the median home price in Humboldt County was $125,000. By comparison, the national median price is $131,000, and the median price of a home in wealthier parts of the state was as high as $890,000.

Activist must pay fees

Local activist Bob Martel received an expensive setback this week in his ongoing battle against Pacific Lumber and its parent company, MAXXAM. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Martel's appeal to an earlier decision in MAXXAM's favor and ordered him to pay the company legal fees of more than $110,000.

The case concerns the failure in 1988 of a savings and loan association in which MAXXAM and its chairman, Charles Hurwitz, were investors. Martel contends that Hurwitz exercised control over the company; Hurwitz denies the charges. Related cases are still pending, but the court ruled that Martel's case was "frivolous."

Martel disputes that claim, saying that the suit cost him $250,000 and took five years of research. That, he said, "doesn't actually fit the definition of frivolous."

As to how he might pay the legal fees awarded by the court, Martel said he hasn't earned "more than six thousand dollars in a year in recent memory"

MAXXAM spokesman Josh Reiss said that the corporation intends to pursue the claim.

`Holy catastrophes!'

Could it happen? Could a large asteroid crash into the Earth within the next 10,000 years? Or even tonight?

College of the Redwoods astronomy professor Bob O'Connell will be answering questions like these in his presentation titled "Cosmic Catastrophes!" The free lecture will be presented at CR's Forum on Friday at 8 p.m.

O'Connell has been teaching at CR for 27 years and in his presentation he will look at the big bang theory, the sun metamorphosing into a Red Giant, supernovae phenomena and the possibility of asteroids crashing into Earth.

Nonprofits celebrate this week

Maybe they got help learning to read through a literacy program, maybe they got help in overcoming drug addiction, or maybe they were given the chance to save a life with the CPR they mastered.

More than 800 nonprofit organizations in Humboldt County are celebrating California Nonprofits and Philanthropy Week this week.

That's over 85% more nonprofits per capita than the state average, according to Barbara O'Neal of the Humboldt Area Foundation.

Nonprofits contribute over $115 million to the local economy, bring more than $85 million in grant money to the area, and employ 12 percent of the county's workforce, according to Barbara O'Neal of the Humboldt Area Foundation.

O'Neal said that the challenge for nonprofits in the future is going to be finding ways to work with sometimes unfriendly government and private business sectors of the economy.

"Working out the relationships and territories among those different players is going to be the big challenge," she said.

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