April 17, 2003
by JUDY HODGSON
Rob and Cherie Arkley are buying the Daly complex in downtown Eureka.
Humboldt State University officials are expected to announce later this week that they have agreed to sell the property to businessman/philanthropist Arkley and his wife, a former Eureka City Council member who was narrowly defeated in her bid for mayor in November. The sale price is $315,000 -- $135,000 less than the $450,000 outstanding balance, according to sources.
"It'll be a fast escrow. We are expected to close in a day or two," Rob Arkley said in a telephone interview Tuesday. Two of the three buildings will be resold for an undisclosed amount to developer Steve Strombeck to house the new Redwood Capital Bank. Strombeck, who could not be reached for comment by press time, is also a director of the bank.
The $315,000 figure was not the highest offer, but was chosen because university officials believe the Arkleys are committed to restoring the historic Sweasey Theater, the third building in the complex.
"Cherie and I are going to do the theater ourselves," Rob Arkley said. It is expected to cost between $1.5 million and $2 million, but "it could be more. It's a tough project," he added.
"It will be used as a venue for performing arts, with a stage and wings. It will be a restored theater like the old Paramount Theatre in Oakland," said Cherie Arkley. Once restored the theater will be donated to a community nonprofit and available for use by all theater, dance and music groups.
"It will not be owned by one [performing arts] group, but by an entity with the capability to run a theater and do all the scheduling," she said.
Last month Robert Schulz, HSU director of physical services, told the Journal the university had been looking at three bids on the Daly complex, all below the amount paid by HSU in 1998. He said the HSU Foundation was favoring the lowest bidder because of the developer's ability and commitment to the theater project.
When the HSU Foundation purchased the property, the intention was to revamp the building into a state-of-the-art center for performing arts. Seismic and architectural studies were done, resulting in estimates as high as $8 million, causing the university to abandon the project in 2000. (An audit last year by the CSU Chancellor's office concluded that the costs of the project were not adequately explored before purchase by the HSU Foundation.)
The city of Eureka, a third party to the Daly transaction, agreed last month to discount a note it holds on the property by up to $100,000, provided the theater is restored. City officials say having the property back on the tax rolls will more than make up for the lost revenue. HSU officials estimated the university has lost $168,000 so far on the project.
The Daly buildings are not the only property purchased by the Arkleys of late. They recently bought half a block at Fifth and E streets, across from their business, Security National Corp. That property was leveled last month to make way for storefronts along 5th Street and parking in the rear of the lot.
The Arkleys have been involved in other highly visible property restoration and philanthropic efforts in recent years. They were partners with Kurt Kramer (currently restoring the Professional Building at Fifth and F streets) in the Vance Hotel in Old Town and a building on F Street occupied by North Coast Dance. They are also major donors to the Eureka Zoo and gave $2 million to the city of Eureka to advance the timetable on the Eureka Boardwalk.
by ANDREW EDWARDS
State natural resource agencies are bracing themselves as the state budget sags under the weight of a dire fiscal crisis.
"Let's just say we're very worried," said Norm Hill, lead counsel for the California Department of Forestry.
In his budget proposal, Gov. Gray Davis is calling for an $855 million reduction in state employee salaries, a good chunk of which will come from resource management agencies such as CDF and the Department of Fish and Game.
Some programs have already been cut.
One of the first to go was the North Coast Watershed Assessment Project. It was a pilot interagency program that began with high hopes in 2000. Its purpose was to assess nine key Northwest California watersheds, including the Mattole and Redwood Creek basins in Humboldt County. Studies were completed on the Mattole and the Gualala watershed in Mendocino County, and the Redwood Creek evaluation is just about done. But six others projects, among them a study of the giant Klamath River basin, have been shelved.
Fisheries biologists, geologists and foresters worked side by side in what participants described as a truly unique environment.
"We really thought we were part of something special," said Jim Falls, a geologist who worked on the project. "It was a shame to see it go under the budgetary knife."
The project's Fortuna headquarters has been shut down and office supplies carted away. Fortunately, no one was fired, just shuffled around into new positions.
Each state resource agency is handling the budget crisis in its own way.
In response to a nearly $2 million hit, CDF is closing its Ukiah fire airbase and decommissioning its 22 Northern California forest fire lookouts, saving about $1.4 million dollars.
Agency officials stress that the cuts will have no effect on public safety -- most forest fire reports come in over cell phone now -- and even if the Ukiah air base is closed they guarantee a 20-minute air response time anywhere in the state. But those same officials acknowledge that people are skeptical.
"Those opposing [the closures] say it really is going to cost you more because it will take you longer to get to a fire," admitted CDF's Deputy Director for Natural Resources Ross Johnson.
So far, though, almost everything is speculation. What is clear is that, in addition to the $855 million in personnel reductions, the governor has asked all departments to prepare for a 10 percent cut.
"To say we're going to take a big cut seems probable, but we're unsure," said Mark Stopher, an administrator at Fish and Game's Redding office. "I've been with the state for over 20 years and I've seen reductions and I've seen increases, but they almost never work out the way it looks like they will" early on.
One step Fish and Game has taken is to reduce the number of game wardens -- from three to two -- policing the state's northwest corner.
The governor will be looking over the departments' proposed cuts and factoring them into the revised budget due out in mid-May. After that even more changes will occur as the budget twists and turns its way through the Legislature on its way to approval. Given the contentious nature of this year's situation nothing is expected to be finalized until at least September.
"We're really just waiting to see what the Legislature does with the budget," said Frank Reichmuth, assistant executive director of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board.
Luckily, Californians have passed several bond measures in recent years that will help make up this year's budget shortfall. Propositions 13, 40 and 50 all authorized money for resource management projects, including grant funds for restoration contractors that may have been out of work otherwise.
"Many of the restoration businesses around here would, in fact, have had a serious reduction in funding if not for those propositions," said Sungnome Madrone of the Redwood Community Action Agency, which facilitates many local restoration grants.
Whatever the final impact, it will be one that the environment can ill afford, according to local activists.
"The budget has been anemic for environmental enforcement for many years going back as far as the Reagan administration," said Tim McKay of the Northcoast Environmental Center. "[Whatever happens] it's going to be very bad."
by EMILY GURNON
There's a battle raging in Humboldt County. It has nothing to do with redwood trees or logging companies or the conflict in Iraq.
Call it the Kindergarten Wars.
School districts throughout the county -- large and small -- are fiercely competing for students in the face of a steadily declining population. Many have taken out ads in this and other newspapers, extolling their virtues: "small class size," "dynamic science and outdoor curriculum," "all-day kindergarten," "weekly beach walks."
It didn't used to be this way. Years ago, it was highly unusual for parents to ask that their children be allowed to attend a school outside their home district. Instead, parents who could afford it would make sure to buy a house in the "good" school district. Most parents throughout California still keep their children in the home district, but here in Humboldt County -- more than almost any other county in the state -- it has become increasingly popular to move outside of one's own district, for a variety of reasons.
The competition has been triggered by an overall decline in the number of school-age children in the county -- a phenomenon that spells trouble for Humboldt schools.
"It's caused a lot of problems, really painful decisions about reducing programs and closing schools," in some districts, said Janet Frost, a spokeswoman for the county's Office of Education.
The reason is money. The state funds public schools based on the numbers of students in attendance. "What we figure is [we lose] a little over $5,000 per kid per year" for every child that goes to another district or moves out of the area, said Greg Aslanian, associate superintendent for Eureka City Schools. "So, you lose 10 kids, that's a teacher's salary right there."
The numbers are dramatic.
This year, in the county's 32 public school districts, there are 20,734 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. That's 1,469 fewer students than there were just four years ago -- a decline of more than 6.5 percent. Private school enrollment is down, as well. "And we project that there will be fewer every year until about 2010," Frost said.
Some districts are suffering more than others. The Southern Humboldt District, which includes Garberville, has seen a 21 percent drop in its student population over the last four years. Ferndale has lost 16 percent, and Trinidad a whopping 33 percent.
The demographics reflect a sour economy and rising home prices. The median sale price of a single-family home in Humboldt County reached $186,000 in the first quarter of 2003, up from $150,000 in the same period a year ago.
Arcata has seen first-hand what that means for its district. "The biggest threat to us is affordability of housing," said Steve Kelish, superintendent of the Arcata Elementary School District, which includes two elementary schools and a middle school. "We're just not getting the kids moving in here because their families cannot afford to live here. Many, many of the students that we have tracked have either moved out of Humboldt County or moved into other school districts," such as McKinleyville or Fortuna, he said. To make matters worse, Humboldt State students compete for the limited housing, and homes that go up for sale are being purchased by investors or retirees, he said. "We're not going to get many kids out of retirees."
Kelish said his district is averaging about 45 fewer students each year. "A loss of a child is a loss of revenue. And that's what we all need to survive."
Beyond the demographics, changes in state law have made it easier for parents to switch districts. A growing movement for parental choice prompted three laws in 1993 that spelled out how districts could allow for student transfers. Parents who want their children to attend a school closer to their job, or who need a school with after-hours child care, for instance, have a good chance of getting the OK.
Humboldt parents use the transfers more than parents in almost any other county in the state. Among California schools that receive students from other districts, transfer students make up an average of 2 percent of the enrollment. In Humboldt County, that number is 7.4 percent, according to the state Department of Education. Only Orange County has a transfer population as high.
Districts are not required to approve transfers. Some local districts have denied them -- only to face stiff resistance from parents. Last year, 11 transfer requests denied by a family's home school district were appealed by the parents to the county board of education, which hears such appeals, Frost said. But the vast majority are simply accepted by the home district. Eureka, for instance, has approved all transfer requests.
Parents have other reasons for moving their children to outside districts. Jobs and child care may be the ones they cite; other factors -- the things people don't want to talk about -- may be more important. Schools with large numbers of low-income kids, or greater numbers of minorities, may turn off affluent parents who have the time and energy to search for the "best" school for their child. Schools with very high test scores or beautiful campuses or unusual arts programs often win out.
Those who go elsewhere "tend to be the parents that have the resources, a car that works and the interest to take [the child] every day," said Aslanian, the Eureka associate superintendent. "A parent who is more involved... that child is going to do better. They're usually taking kids who will perform higher academically," so the home district loses that child from the test scores pool. It becomes a "self-fulfilling prophecy," he said.
So how are districts coping? Eureka instituted all-day kindergarten at all of its schools because "that was one of those things that was causing interdistrict transfers," Aslanian said. "Another thing that's a real draw is after-school programs." Freshwater, which saw its enrollment fluctuating until 1999, turned things around when it added a seventh- and eighth-grade charter school. It is now one of the few districts with a growing population. Jacoby Creek turned itself into a charter, which means parents from anywhere in the county can apply to it without getting permission from their home district.
Nearly everyone is holding kindergarten open houses, visiting weeks, school fairs. And yes, many are advertising.
"None of us really enjoy having to do that," said Kelish of the Arcata elementary district. "I think we'd rather be spending the money on something else."
by JIM HIGHT
photos by Don McCombs
AT ABOUT 9:45 A.M. LAST SATURDAY, THE STRESS LEVEL sharply in College of the Redwoods' woodshop.
The girls were arriving early, and the crew of instructors for the Women in Construction (WIC) event wasn't ready. We were still pawing through supplies, checking tools and testing our setups.
But with girls already waiting at the door, Bill Hole, the CR teacher running the show, figured it was time to get started. He gathered the 40 volunteers in a circle, thanked us, told us where the food and bathrooms were, talked about safety and then delivered this advice: "Make sure you take a break. That will be the hardest thing because once we get started, you won't want to leave your station."
There was a momentary lull as the first arrivals signed in and received earplugs and information packets. In a few minutes, the shop was filled with a joyous noise: girls and women scraping, sawing, drilling, nailing, gluing, troweling, wiring, jackhammering and running a backhoe in 32 separate projects.
Hole was right: It was difficult to leave, even for a moment.
Bob Borck, Ingrid Bailey, Terry Reed and I were working a station where young builders could turn small pine boards and clothespins into desktop "note-holders" to take home.
Bailey and I had both taken woodworking at CR, and we were recruited by our teachers. Borck is with Carpenters' Local 751, one of the WIC sponsors. And Reed is the husband of Elaine Reed, head of the Sierra Cascade Girl Scouts, another sponsor.
After prepping each girl for safety -- sleeves rolled up, watches and bracelets off, safety glasses on -- we guided them assembly-line fashion from chop saw to router table, fashioning the base. With a hand saw, they cut the upright pieces, then measured and marked the base for drilling.
"Hold your left hand here, your right hand here. This turns it on and off, and you have to hold it straight," said Borck as he guided a 7-year-old through her first experience with a power drill.
After applying glue to the bottom of the upright and hammering in a couple of finish nails through the pilot holes, the final step was using fast-drying hot glue to attach the clothespin.
"Mommy, I get to keep this," said the girl proudly.
By 11, we had a line of six or eight people. There were 6-year-olds who had to stand on wooden boxes and be helped with every step, and there were teenagers who did all the work with their own hands.
And they weren't all girls.
Two women who looked to be over 60 came through our line. After they were done, one of them pointed at the chop saw and said, "My husband has one of those, and now I know how to use it."
Whatever their age, our apprentices were eager, attentive and grateful. I remember one teenage girl who looked uninterested while waiting in line with her younger sisters. But when I asked who wanted to go next, she jumped the highest.
Their enthusiasm and pride in accomplishment was infectious, and with a steady stream of people awaiting their turn, I didn't want to miss a minute.
But by 1:30, my aching back and growling stomach could be ignored no longer, so I told my partners I was taking a break.
Over a sandwich and potato salad, I asked some other volunteers why they thought the Women in Construction event was important.
"Even with equal rights and less sexism, you still learn from your parents," said Cori Reed, a member of Soroptimist, another sponsor. "A lot of mothers might not know these skills or might be intimidated by them."
"I'm here to learn, too," she said. "A lot of the tools being demonstrated I've seen only on TV, like a nail gun. My husband has a router and he has a drill, but no nail gun. Where else could I learn to use a nail gun?"
"Or a jackhammer," chimed in Connie Meisner.
"Or putting out a fire with a fire extinguisher," said Reed. "Where else can you go to practice that?"
Frank Trocki, dean of special and technical programs at CR, said that Women in Construction is part of the college's efforts to encourage gender equity.
"Women are very underrepresented in construction technology and the other trades," he said. "In the construction and building program, there are about 40 students and only three or four females."
Wandering outside after lunch, I saw girls manhandling (womanhandling?) huge jackhammers and concrete drills.
On the grass by a pond, the California Conservation Corps was running a demonstration of how to move rocks in the back-country. Two 80-pound girls worked in pairs to flip a 600-pound rock with iron bars. "It's all about the leverage," said Larry Evans of the CCC.
When I saw the backhoe demonstration, a couple of young boys were gripping the levers. "Their sisters were their ticket in," joked their father.
WIC organizers say that boys are welcome, but they also believe it's important to keep the event -- in its fourth year -- focused on females.
"I kind of have the feeling that there would be competition between the genders [with more boys present]," said Elaine Reed of the Girl Scouts. "It also might intimidate the girls that are maybe a little older and concerned about what boys think of them.
"That's one of the reasons Girl Scouts promote all-girl environments, so there's not that boy-girl kind of competition," she said.
I returned to my station at about 2:15. Around 3:15, the last note-holder was made and we started to clean up. I was bone-tired, but full of an indescribably sweet feeling from the experience. I talked with Jeremiah Bratcher, the CR student running the wiring station, about it.
"I was having a really good time, even though I'm tired," he said, echoing my thoughts. "I really enjoy letting the little kids do all this stuff. It's like I'm living vicariously, seeing it for the first time through their eyes. It was really exciting."
Note: In addition to the groups mentioned, Humboldt Builders Exchange also co-sponsored this event. Twenty-six local companies donated labor and materials.
story & photos by GEORGE RINGWALD
When Claire Josefine calls on a prospective client, the best words she can hope to hear are: "Oh, my God! Do I need you!"
Josefine is a professional organizer, a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), headquartered in Norcross, Ga. Josefine figures there are "at least 300 members" in California, and she goes to their annual seminar in the Bay Area every October.
Now in her sixth year as an organizer, she had earlier careers as a computer worker; editor and proofreader for small publishers; bookkeeper; and office manager. She was also an elementary school teacher for four years.
A short, chubby woman of 44 with an exuberant laugh, she said, "I had gone through my 30s with the angst, and wondered what to do when I'm grown up. I want to do something that's meaningful. And here is God saying, `Well, you've got to do something else.'"
The suggestion to become an organizer, however, came from a friend. She started doing it in Marin County, and continued when she moved up to Humboldt County. She lives in the Elk River valley, along with her four cats, and the occasional visits of skunks, raccoons and at least one fox.
Clothes and paper
She figured her organizing clientele is "over a hundred by now -- I stopped counting." And what do her clients want organized? Everything from books and papers to clothes and wardrobes.
"One woman (Josefine doesn't reveal names) was a compulsive buyer. She realized she had a problem, went into therapy, and the therapist suggested she might want to get some help. That's the one I spent a year with; we just went through every single drawer in every room of her house.
"We started with her clothes; they were just piling up on beds," Josefine went on. "And we got rid of everything she didn't wear or that didn't fit or she didn't like. She got rid of dishes she didn't use, or decorations she didn't like anymore, books that she'd read and didn't want anymore. She gave away a huge roomful of stuff, gave it to a church auction. And it was just a wonderful experience for her, to be de-cluttered. And to create order out of what was left."
Josefine does a lot of work helping people set up their home offices. "Very few people are actually taught how to manage paper. Almost every time I get a phone call: "Oh, paper, paper! I can't deal with the paper. What do I do with all this? How do I handle the mail? How do I set up files? Where do I put this and make sure I don't lose the bills?'"
So, Josefine said, "I help set up paper management systems, for people with small businesses.
"I have a client down in Marin County who's a fairly well-known author. She's a researcher and a scholar, and everywhere you turn in her house, it's piles of paper. And one of the things we finally did, I said, `Okay, we need to start setting up designated file drawers. For example, one for the book you published, another for legal aspects and contracts and agents. So we can at least know where to start putting all this paper.' Just teaching her how to set up the files is important."
She added, "I have clients who have rooms full of closets full of clothes. And I just wonder how anybody could need that much."
Josefine estimated that about 90 percent of her clients are women.
"Every now and again," she said, "I get a man brave enough to face his clutter. There's a man I worked with just recently, a retired attorney who now manages a bunch of Web sites, working out of his home. His place is a disaster. His words were, `If a policeman had come, he'd think there were signs of a struggle.'"
She laughed and added, "He never had a secretary, so I came and worked with him, got his desk set up, and we went through and set up some basic files; got all of his tax stuff together. We found thousands of dollars of tax deductions that had been buried. He was very happy about it, and I'm going to be going back there to work with him in April, as a follow-up."
Josephine had an explanation for why more men don't want to get organized. "I think it might be something like not wanting to look at the map. You know -- how guys don't look at maps on the road? `I can find my way.' I think it's that male thing. Or maybe being disorganized doesn't bother them as much." Anyhow, she added, the few she's had were "wonderful" clients.
'Clutter is deferred decisions'
So nobody ever gets rid of everything?
"Not voluntarily, no," Josefine said, laughing. "I think there's actually a fear that people have, that I'm going to come in and make them get rid of things. And I will never do that. There are some organizers who say, `Oh, you haven't used this in six months or a year; let it go.' But I don't want to come in with some kind of arbitrary measurements. I want people to make decisions. There's a little truism within the industry that clutter is deferred decisions."
Flipping through her clientele file, she said, "Here's someone else, an attorney. She's setting up her own office and said, `I have no idea how to do a filing system or how to set up my desk.' And at the beginning of the new year, I came in, showed her how to close out the one year and start up the next. She's been doing it on her own now for a year and a half. She's fine."
Josefine noted that one of the attorney's files was labeled "Heartwarmers." No problem with that, said the organizer. "Just the things that make her smile, maybe a little `I love you' letter from her daughter, or a joke she cut out of a magazine. This is how we all have little things. I stick mine on the fridge.
"It doesn't matter what you call your files," Josefine explained. "What matters is that you can access the information when you want to. `Where do I put these?' is what people always ask. It's not about storage; it's about retrieval. How am I going to be able to find it when I need it?"
To Josefine, getting rid of clutter is almost a spiritual thing. In fact, she referred to "The spiritual art of being organized," which does seem a bit of a stretch. One has to wonder if she is acting as a therapist or an organizer.
She sighed (perhaps the question has arisen before) and said, "Fundamentally, I'm a teacher; and as a teacher, I'm approaching the person as a whole. I'm listening to their emotional needs, listening to their physical needs. No, I'm not a licensed therapist; I'm not practicing therapy. But certainly that kind of intimacy comes in; not always, but often."
As part of the spiritual thing she also includes four of her 12 principles of being organized: Slow down, adopt an attitude of gratitude, base decisions on love instead of fear, and remember that we have choices that are crucial to living an organized life.
Are there backsliders in organizing?
"There are two kinds of backsliding," she replied. "One is the client who is constantly disorganized and who doesn't really want to get organized. No matter what I do, they're never going to get to a level that is functional.
"And then there's the temporary backslider. You know how you go on a trip and you come back and your life is chaos for a while. You're catching up on the mail; you have to put everything away. So for a while it feels like a backslide. Or people might get sick and things will fall behind, and then they have to catch up and rebuild the habit."
There are the graduates and there are the dropouts.
"Some people use me once; some once a month for years," Josefine explained. "I recently acquired a woman I've been seeing every two weeks for a year, and she graduated, doesn't need me anymore."
And then there was the demoralizing experience with a woman who burst into Josefine's life, flamed briefly and then faded.
"The first time I met this woman, she was so funny," Josefine recalled. "I guess a friend of hers had told her about me. She was a secretary for some office in this town, and I knock on her door, tell her my name, and she pulls me in, closes the door and said: "Come in here! I need you!"
And indeed she did. "She had decided never to deal with paper," Josefine recounted. "Didn't want to think about it, so the mail was just lined up in piles, and when people were coming over, she threw it all in paper bags, to get it out of the way so the house would look nice. We spent months meeting once a week for two hours, going through paper bags. `Oh, look, here's a check you never cashed.' And I'm trying to teach her what's to be tossed immediately, what's a priority, how to make sure the bills don't get lost.
"This particular woman decided never to go ahead and change her behavior, even though I worked with her on how to do it. She had the systems in place, but she wasn't willing to actually do it herself. And it comes to a point where it's ridiculous for her to pay me to come in once a week because of the mail."
That is the downside of an organizer's life.
The organizer is organized
If one goes by the law of opposites that governs our lives -- for example, I remember once having for a neighbor in Palm Springs the city's parks director, who had a front lawn that was barren except for weeds -- then you might expect to walk into total dishevelment in a professional organizer's home.
Forget it. The Josefine abode, a small duplex off Elk River Road, is neat as that proverbial pin. Spic-and-span. Dishes all neatly stacked in the cupboard -- like with like as she suggests to clients -- spices in the rack arranged in alphabetical order; her computer area obviously well organized, reference books at hand, and the tickler file readily available for bringing up things-to-do.
Josefine has lived in the duplex for two years now, but it required "a huge remodel job." In fact, she turned an old run-down house -- "the place was a dive," she admitted -- into a pleasant, light and airy home.
Josefine also teaches classes on organizing, one currently for the College of the Redwoods in mid-April. She gave a one-hour lecture on organizing kitchens at Pacific Flavors in Eureka's Old Town last month.
"I love organizing kitchens," she said. It bothers her that "many people just shove everything into the cupboard. And they have to idea what they have, so they wind up buying duplicates and triplicates, which wastes money. And it makes it very hard to find everything. It also makes it very hard to put things away because they have no idea where it's going to go."
Mess = stress
Are there people stressed out by being disorganized?
Immediately, Josefine thought of her author/client in the Bay Area.
"She's constantly under deadline, and because she can't find things, this is very stressful for her. `Oh, my God, where did I put that?' Or the scary thing is when she opens a file, and screams, `That's where I put that! Oh, my God! I've been looking for that.' And then she sets it down some place else that doesn't make sense, and we'll go all over it again."
Well, it's just possible a lot of writers are like that. It's nice to think we make a little work for professional organizers.
Longtime Journal freelancer George Ringwald lives in Eureka.
© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.