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April 29, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

The Cost of Freedom

Eureka Marine 'not a hero'

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Eureka native leading Portland mayoral race
Jim Francesconi


 T H E  W E E K L Y  W R A P

PLAYING HURWITZ: mPixx Entertainment, Inc., an independent film concern out of Sherman Oaks, in Southern California, was in town last week doing preliminary research for a feature film on the whole Pacific Lumber Co. saga -- from the mid-80s when Texas financier Charles Hurwitz seized the company from the Murphy family in a hostile takeover, to the recent bankrolling of the failed effort to oust District Attorney Paul Gallegos, and beyond. Filmmaker Monte Christiansen said the company is seeking to buy the option to Bay Area journalist David Harris' 1994 book The Last Stand, the definitive work on the takeover and the initial years under Hurwitz. Christiansen is all too aware that a single account of the period from 1995 to the present does not exist. "There's so much information. It's going to be a complicated project," he acknowledged. One thing keeping him going: the hope, and at this point that's all it is, that a high profile actor will portray Hurwitz. "We have an obligation to history, but we also have an obligation to drama," Christiansen said. His top choice? Kevin Spacey.

EUREKA MURDER: Sandra Santana, a 30-year-old resident of Eureka and mother of three, was found dead in her Henderson Center home at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, presumably a victim of murder. The next morning, police in Skagit County, Wash., arrested the only suspect in Santana's death -- her husband, 31-year-old Abraham Dejesus Santana -- after he flipped his car on a county road. Detective Ron Harpham of the Eureka Police Department said Monday that at the time of Santana's arrest, Skagit police noted that he was suffering from self-inflicted wounds. Harpham also said that Santana had recently lost his job. While he declined to give many specific details on the crime, Harpham noted that all three of Santana's children, whose ages he gave as 2, 3 and 5, were alone in their home on C Street with their mother's body from the time she was killed -- which police believed happened Friday night or Saturday morning -- until they were found by relatives late Saturday night. They were unharmed, at least physically. Sandra Santana was pregnant at the time of her death.

BARI SETTLEMENT: Darryl Cherney wishes people would stop congratulating him. Yes, last week the SoHum Earth First! activist and songwriter, together with the estate of the late Judi Bari, signed a $4 million settlement agreement with the FBI and the Oakland Police Department -- two years after a jury found that the two agencies deprived Bari and Cherney of their civil rights following the still-unsolved bombing of their car in 1990. But Cherney, citing broken federal treaties with Native American nations, would prefer people to hold their applause until the money is actually in the bank. Still, since the money is scheduled to be paid in the next couple of days, Cherney was willing to give a preview of his reaction. He said that in the post-9/11, post-Patriot Act era, it is more important than ever that police power be kept in check. "Local police agencies have to be held accountable for violations of civil rights," he said. "And our trial showed that they are quite capable of violating them." Cherney said that no individual involved in the case -- activist or attorney -- would receive more than $500,000 (after taxes) from the settlement.

HOT CHASE IN FERNDALE: Ferndale police, spotting a car April 18 that had been reported stolen out of Fortuna, attempted to pull over the driver, who did not care to stop. In police-speak, "A vehicle pursuit ensued." The suspect, Beau Jackson McCabe, 22, of Fortuna, drove up to 80 miles per hour in the oncoming lane on State Route 211, kept driving on a flat tire, crashed through a closed metal gate, plunged over a cliff and rolled the vehicle near Fernbridge, police reported. McCabe then ran from the car and swam across the Eel River. Alas, cops were waiting on the other side. He was arrested on suspicion of being in possession of stolen property, evading police and driving on a suspended license, and was booked into Humboldt County Jail.

PEACEMAKER PRIZE NOMINEES: The Humboldt County Peacemaker Prize committee has chosen seven nominees for its $4,000 biennial grant. The prize is given to a local community member working toward peaceful solutions to issues and conflicts. Local residents send in nominations, and the award is administered by the Eureka Interfaith Fellowship in partnership with KEET-TV. It is funded by a grant from the Andree Wagner Peace Trust. Nominees are: Cliff Berkowitz, who has promoted dialogue on subjects such as domestic violence on his radio station, KHUM; Pamela Millsap, the county's homeless coordinator; Magdeline Pereira, who has worked to spread the message of inspirational speaker Prem Rawat; Fhyre Phoenix, a community activist responsible for the Community Currency Project; Scott Sattler, a local physician who directs the Humboldt Sufi Choir; Russ Shaddix, former director of special services for Eureka City Schools who has worked professionally and as a volunteer to help families in need; and Linda Sorter, a former sixth-grade teacher who instructed her students in such subjects as altruism and world hunger. The winner of the prize will be announced at a ceremony at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the First Congregational Church, 900 Hodgson, Eureka.

GALLEGOS FUND-RAISER: The campaign is over, but the fund-raising continues. On Friday, the Friends of Paul Gallegos will throw a party at Fortuna's River Lodge to help the campaign retire a "small, but not insignificant" debt -- about $25,000 -- left over from the recall campaign. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and a ($25) dinner catered by Eureka's Avalon restaurant will be served at 6. Entrance without dinner will be on a sliding scale, no-one-turned-away basis, and with seven local bands and four featured speakers -- including Mendocino County DA Norm Vroman and, of course, Gallegos himself -- organizers expect the party to roll on until the wee hours of Saturday morning. For more information, call 845-8210.

REMEMBERING SCHAUB: There will be a celebration of the life of Victor Schaub, former Arcata mayor and beloved member of the community, on Sunday at the Arcata Community Center. The event will begin at 2 p.m., and all are invited to come and contribute their memories of the man many knew as "Mr. Arcata." Schaub drowned in Hawaii two weeks ago (initial reports indicated he'd had a heart attack), after he dove into the ocean in an attempt to rescue his grandchildren, who were briefly drawn out to sea. His wife, Sondra, asks anyone who may wish to make a charitable contribution in Schaub's name to contact any organization "that benefits children or serves the goal of world peace."

ALLEGED POT GROWER BUSTED: While serving a search warrant on a residence in the 1500 block of L Street in Fortuna on Tuesday, police there found evidence of an indoor marijuana grow, including 65 plants, Fortuna police reported. Ernest Eugene Smith, 33, of Fortuna, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale. He was released with a signed promise to appear in court.

The Cost of Freedom

These photos were part of a group of 288 images posted on the Internet last week by a Web site dedicated to combating government secrecy. Called the Memory Hole (, the site obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act request that sought any pictures of coffins arriving from Iraq at the Dover Air Force base in Delaware. The Pentagon, which has a ban on the media taking images of dead soldiers' homecomings at all military bases, said the decision by the Air Force Air Mobility Command to release the photos was a mistake. But that didn't prevent news organizations across the country from making them public.

The photographs were released one day after a Pentagon contractor and her husband were fired after photos they had taken of coffins of war dead being loaded onto a transport plane in Kuwait were published in the Seattle Times.

The Bush administration has argued that the policy forbidding media organizations from photographing soldiers' caskets is an extension of a ban that was in place in the Persian Gulf War and is simply meant to protect the privacy of military families. But critics say not allowing the media to visually portray the human cost of the Iraq War is a form of censorship.

[photo of soldiers covering coffins with American flag]  [photo of inside airplane-- flag-draped coffins, military personnel saluting]

Eureka Marine 'not a hero'


U.S. Marine Pfc. Kelly Miller doesn't like the fact that he's been getting a bit of attention lately in his hometown. The 21-year-old Eureka native was badly injured in an explosion in Iraq earlier this month, but told his family, "I'm just a Marine over there taking care of business." He didn't do anything any of his fellow Marines wouldn't also have done in the same situation, his sister Holly Miller quoted him as saying.

A member of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms, Kelly Miller was on patrol with his unit in the Anbar province in Iraq shortly after Easter when the group was fired on by a rocket-propelled grenade, said his brother, Humboldt County Sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Miller.

"They went on a search for the people who fired," Kevin Miller said. "They were searching cars. One of the passengers in a vehicle jumped out and started assaulting his team leader. That led to a struggle, and sometime during the struggle an explosion went off -- it blew back the team leader and my brother."

The explosion was later attributed to a suicide bomber. Miller was taken by helicopter to Baghdad, then to a military hospital in Germany, before being moved to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.

The blast sent shrapnel into both of Miller's arms and his face. "He's pretty banged up," said Kevin Miller. "It's gonna take some time, but he's going to recover pretty well." Miller's sister said it wasn't clear whether he would regain the use of his left arm, but he is walking and talking normally.

The local media focus on Miller may be particularly difficult for him now, since he received the news that two of his buddies who were also hurt in the explosion, Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, 22, of Allegany, N.Y., and Christopher A. Gibson, 23, of Simi Valley (Ventura County), died of their injuries.

"My mom called and told him that this morning," Holly Miller said Tuesday.

Kelly Miller, a 2001 graduate of Eureka High School, worked at the Safeway store at Harris and Harrison in Eureka before joining the Marines about a year ago, Kevin Miller said. He'd been in Iraq only about two months when he was injured.

His family said they didn't know when or if Miller would be returning to Iraq or to active duty. It's too soon to tell. They're just happy he's alive.

Holly Miller, a nursing student at Humboldt State, has been motivated by the trauma to gather donated supplies for a care package for Marines. Earlier this week, she was busy loading up two boxes filled with "every kind of American snack you can think of -- Kool-Aid, Fritos, peanuts, Mother's cookies, Oreos, Mike and Ike's, every Debbie's cake, every Twinkies thing" -- as well as socks, Visine, playing cards, T-shirts, toothpaste and underwear for the troops.

Holly and Kevin Miller, along with their parents, Charles and Linda Miller of Eureka, and Kelly Miller's girlfriend, Shannon Hiscox of Eureka, all visited the injured Marine at his hospital in San Diego this past weekend.

"He was smiling a lot because we made a lot of jokes," said Holly Miller. "We made it good for him. I really don't know how he is. He'll be all right, but it's still so overwhelming right now. How can you put words on it right now?"

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Eureka native leading Portland mayoral race
Jim Francesconi


[Yearbook photo of Jim Francesconi]When residents of Portland, Ore., choose their next mayor on May 18, there's a good chance that they'll pick one of Eureka's favorite sons. Jim Francesconi, graduate of St. Bernard's High School and son of local residents Leo and Ida Francesconi, is the clear front-runner in the race to replace retiring mayor Vera Katz.

And though Francesconi, 51, has spent the last 30 years in Portland, many of his Humboldt County friends and family members are following his campaign, remembering the exceptional young man who is reaching the heights they always expected of him.

"He's an unbelievable character," said Eureka resident Joe Botkin, a former classmate. "He's just tremendous. He gives so much, and expects so little in return. Everybody liked him, and he always had the eternal smile. He's still smiling."

Reached between campaign stops last week, Francesconi, who is now married and has three children, said he has always felt that Eureka and Portland have much in common, culturally -- much more than Eureka and the Bay Area do.

"There's just more of a connection to the land up here," he said. "Portland is a city of neighborhoods. It's like 25 Eurekas in one."

Francesconi said that if elected, a top priority for him would be to improve Portland's moribund business climate, which has harmed the city's famously high -- and expensive -- standard of living.

"I have the opportunity to lead what is potentially one of the greatest cities in America," he said. "[However], our public schools, our public parks, our transportation systems are threatened by the loss of 45,000 jobs in the region over the last three years."

A lawyer and a seven-year veteran of the Portland City Council, Francesconi's experience and his platform of helping Portland businesses, as well improving its schools and public services, have won him endorsements from The Oregonian, Portland's daily newspaper, and from many business, labor and education groups.

On the downside, Francesconi has taken some heat for his aggressive fund-raising effort, which has included donations from some of the city's most powerful business interests.

The Francesconi campaign has raised over $850,000 -- the largest amount ever in a Portland mayoral election, and more than 10 times the amount raised by his closest competitor. (If no candidate wins a majority on the May ballot, there will be a run-off election in November.)

When Francesconi made the official announcement that he would seek the office, his main rival, former Police Chief Tom Potter, released a statement excoriating him for seeking contributions from big donors.

"After spending most of the last year writing political IOU's to big donors, I'm glad that Commissioner Francesconi has finally decided to formally let the people of Portland in on the worst-kept secret at City Hall," Potter said.

But in an interview last week, Francesconi offered no apologies.

"I'm very proud of the business support we're receiving," he said. "We need jobs. I'm also getting a tremendous amount of support from small business, and I'm receiving all the labor endorsements."

That wide variety of support seems of a piece with Francesconi's career and his long list of accomplishments in both private and nonprofit sectors. After graduating from Stanford University, he volunteered to serve as a community activist in an impoverished Portland neighborhood. Later, after receiving his law degree from the University of Oregon, he founded a nonprofit organization that worked with employers to find jobs for former gang members. In the 1980s Oregon's governor named him to a commission charged with reforming the state's workers' compensation system, which at the time was the most expensive in the nation.

Francesconi appears to have always been something of a go-getter. In his senior year at St. Bernard's (Class of '70), he was the valedictorian, the student body president and the editor of the school newspaper, in addition to playing on the varsity football and baseball teams. But locals who know him say that even as a kid, there was always more to Francesconi than what would appear on his school transcripts.

Cutten resident Harry Kavich, who was a year behind Francesconi at St. Bernard's and served as his student body vice president, called his old friend a "very concerned, very involved, very spiritual person."

"You know, the kid who always seems a little older and wiser?" Kavich said last week. "That was Jim. If I needed someone to talk to, if I needed someone's opinion, Jim was the guy I'd always go to."

Kavich said that Francesconi -- who still cites Robert Kennedy as a major political inspiration -- was deeply influenced by the Vietnam War and by events like the shooting of students at Kent State University.

"We were up here in Northern California, but we did as much pseudo-activism as we could in conservative Eureka," he said. "We got together and decided -- are we going to close school, are we going to strike? We had long talks about this, as students and just as individuals. Jim was certainly in the middle of all that."

Debra Kingshill, Francesconi's cousin and personnel director at the Humboldt County Office of Education, agreed that he took the social issues of the late `60s very seriously. Kingshill said that Francesconi's politics often placed him at odds with his father and his uncle Larry Francesconi, Kingshill's father and the former owner of Redwood Bootery.

"We were always at my Italian grandmother's house, having these loud dinners," she said. "Jim would be the one initiating all these good-natured arguments."

But Kingshill said her cousin was never one to confuse talk with action.

"Some people are very supportive of different causes and will say so, but their actions won't show it," she said. "Jim really follows through with working on causes he believes in. If there were a park initiative in Portland, he would be in there digging the dirt, planting the flowers. He has that kind of energy."

When reminded of those contentious family dinners last week, Francesconi laughed.

"Uncle Larry and my dad took a pretty conservative approach," he said. "They got more conservative the more glasses of wine they had."

Despite their political differences, Francesconi credits his extended family with instilling values -- family, humility, hard work -- that have made him what he is today. (His mother, Ida Francesconi, died a few years ago.)

In recent months, as the press has portrayed Francesconi as the candidate of the establishment, at least some of his campaign platform probably could have come straight from his father's mouth at those dinners 35 years ago. Acknowledging the irony, Francesconi threw down a challenge, which is sure to be taken up at the family's next get-together.

"I came to appreciate my uncle Larry's and my dad's points of view -- at least some of them," he said. "I willing to admit that I'm learning. I'm not sure those two can!"



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