North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

May 1, 2003

Medi-Cal cuts threaten local clinics

Declaring war: The bid to recall DA Paul Gallegos has begun

From SoHum to the Holy Land: A spiritual journey

Child abduction cases solved

HSU prof expelled from Beijing

Decrying PL ads

Be careful out there

Annual eco-auction Saturday

Mac Armstrong dies


Medi-Cal cuts threaten local clinics


Community clinics are among those scrambling to cope with potentially huge cuts in funding as California's budget deficit approaches one-third of the state's total budget by some estimates.

Because no one expects the Legislature to pass a budget by June 30, the state will be forced to borrow money to pay for things like Medi-Cal reimbursements for treatment of low-income patients. But the borrowing limit will be reached within two months, at which time the payments could stop, said Herrmann Spetzler, executive director of Open Door Community Health Centers.

"We would lose basically 80 percent of our income and it would make it very difficult for us to continue to provide services," he said.

The Open Door network, which includes nine centers and 20 to 30 outreach sites, saw nearly 35,000 patients last year one of every five residents in its service area (Humboldt County plus parts of Del Norte, Trinity and Siskiyou counties). Eighty percent of its patients are officially poor, by federal standards. Thirty-one percent are children.

In the long term, once the budget is passed, clinics like Open Door could see a 20 percent cut in funding.

Spetzler said the network has hired a grant-writer to seek money from private foundations, and officials are searching for ways to cut back. "We're trying to look at every aspect of our funding to make sure we are as efficient as possible," he said. "I think we provide no superfluous services. We're going to have to do some juggling."

He said the deficit's impact on other "safety net providers" organizations like Humboldt Women for Shelter and the Rape Crisis Team is also of great concern. "If we lose those programs, community clinics will have a double whammy: Their resources will shrink and the demand for their services will increase." This will be true, too, if Medi-Cal payments to private physicians are cut, as the governor has proposed.

Nevertheless, Spetzler remained optimistic. "California has weathered storms like this in the past. It is still the fifth-largest economy of the world," he said. "We're going to continue to make sure that people who come through the door have access to the health care that they need."

Declaring war
The bid to recall DA Paul Gallegos has begun


It's official. Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos is the target of a recall effort.

Last week Rick Brazeau, head of the Arcata-based MTC political consulting firm (which ran former DA Terry Farmer's re-election bid last year), served Gallegos with a "Notice of Intention to Circulate a Recall Petition."

The notice, a kind of a formal declaration of war, lays out reasons the petitioners believe Gallegos needs to go. As one of the signatories, Darrol Meyer of Eureka, put it Monday: "I feel that the guy is lax on crime and this marijuana thing is just inviting people to grow marijuana and I don't think that's right."

The first two charges assert he's letting criminals go with a slap on the wrist. The notice states that Gallegos accepted a one-count plea agreement in a recent Eureka drive-by shooting case, and that he initially offered probation for the alleged perpetrator of a sexual assault against a 12-year-old girl until law enforcement criticism forced him to go for a felony.

That's all hogwash, according to Gallegos.

"I guess I should be happy that their only criticisms are lies," Gallegos said, speaking by cellphone Tuesday. "These people are free to lie, they're not under penalty of perjury, but it's just freakin' false."

In the driveby case the plea that was accepted carried a 7-year prison sentence, provided restitution to every victim and prevented the guilty parties from ever owning a gun again.

"These people are going to prison, there's no getting around that," Gallegos said.

In the sexual assault case, the perpetrator, who is also a juvenile, is being charged as an adult. The route Gallegos initially considered was allowing him to present evidence to the judge and ask for probation. Even then, a determination by a psychologist that he was not a danger to the community would have been necessary, as would passing a polygraph test on the details of the crime. He also would have been registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Gallegos said he was offended that the case was even brought up.

"It's just so offensive," he said. "This case involves a young person who has a right to not have this bandied about in public."

The third reason cited in the recall notice is Gallegos's controversial marijuana policy.

"That's not a medical issue, that's a permit for commercial cultivation," said Randy Price, identified as a member of local law enforcement in a press release put out by the supporters of Gallegos' ouster.

Brazeau, spokesman for the recall campaign, had not returned multiple calls to his office as of press time Tuesday afternoon.

Gallegos' policy increases the marijuana a patient is allowed to possess from 1 pound to 3 pounds, and allows for up to 99 plants, so long as their canopies fit into a 10x10 area. Gallegos has contended that his policy conforms perfectly with state law, and that it requires a doctor's recommendation.

The press release cited other reasons Gallegos should be recalled, beyond those mentioned in the recall notice itself. They include the "weak and complex" fraud lawsuit against the Pacific Lumber Co. The press release also contended that they have yet to uncover a single criminal defense case Gallegos has won. That final charge set Gallegos laughing.

"It's because they haven't looked," he said. "There are a superabundance of cases I've won here and all over California."

The proponents of the recall have 153 days as of May 1 to gather the signatures of 15 percent of Humboldt County's registered voters, about 11,200 people. After those signatures are verified the Board of Supervisors has 14 days to schedule an election.

The clock is ticking.

From SoHum to the Holy Land: A spiritual journey


Stephen Lewis holding his sword, standing in the riverStanding on the stone steps leading up to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, surrounded by a throng of singing, palm-frond-waving Palestinian Christians, long-time Humboldt County resident Stephen Lewis was in ecstasy.

Tears were streaming down his cheeks as he brandished "pax-calibur" -- a sword turned peace symbol -- in time to the music, overwhelmed.

"I was near epiphany," Lewis recalled, speaking from his home in Rio Dell. "It was the highest moment in my life and I will treasure it forever."

For him the scene was the culmination of a 14-year "vision quest" that he believes will help bring peace to the Middle East.

It all started back in 1988 when Lewis was visiting his dying father. Depressed, he occupied himself by reading romance novels that featured the crusades of Louis VII of France. From the book, he got the idea of buying a sword to "visualize empowerment" for himself.

He ordered nothing less than a full-size replica of what 1,000 years ago was the ultimate weapon: Excalibur, named for the famed sword of the legendary King Arthur. It arrived by mail on his birthday, Feb. 11, 1989. As soon as he took it from its box, Lewis, a Gnostic Christian, knew it was no ordinary blade.

"When I got the sword in my hand I got this vision to do all these rituals with the sword to sanctify it in our local waters," he said. "Sort of the opposite of forging a sword in fire."

The ceremonies, consisting of dipping the sword in the water and saying prayers over it, were to be performed on seasonal turning points, the solstices and equinoxes, and include women as well as men to give the sword "feminine energies."

The first baptism took place on the March 21, 1989, the spring equinox, at dawn near Richardson Grove. The second was performed by Lewis's friend Susan at the Redwood Monastery along the Mattole River on the summer solstice in that same year; the third, on the autumnal equinox, by his friend Bridgett in front of the naval station at Centerville beach south of Ferndale.

"I was supposed to do the fourth in the Jordan in the winter of that year," Lewis said, referring to the sacred Israeli waterway, not the considerably less lauded Jordan Creek near Pepperwood. "I was also miraculously supposed to get the money [to travel there]. And I didn't."

He was also tied up in his role in the local activist community. Lewis was one of the organizers of the famous Redwood Summer of 1990, but after an Earth First! action that he felt violated their non-violence code he abandoned the project.

Disillusioned, he did the environmentalist equivalent of selling his soul when he went to work for the Pacific Lumber Co. as their liaison with the Garberville-based Environmental Protection Information Center. In 1995, he left that job to work for the Bear River tribe in Rohnerville, which was attempting to hold a lottery to buy the Headwaters forest. He became so consumed with that issue that he decided to do the fourth ritual there, in the midst of the old-growth, in the winter of `95.

Still, he kept waiting for the money he would need to take his trip to the Holy Land. Events kept getting in the way. Two small inheritances were wiped out when Lewis totalled his car and then lost his apartment. Twice, while working in "the underground economy," Lewis raised significant sums only to loan them away. He even tried gambling, once losing over $800.

But this March, he decided to try one last time. He played $75 on an internet casino all the way up to $1,300 and immediately bought a ticket for a six-day, there-and-back dash to Israel at Easter time.

"I count that to God's providence," Lewis said. "Because I'm not a gambler and when I do gamble I usually lose."

But there was still the problem of taking the sword with him.

The final stage of the plan, after baptism in the Jordan, had always been to turn turn the sword into a plowshare, as described in the Bible in the second chapter of Isaiah. But Lewis had learned a few years back that Israeli customs officials wouldn't let a sword into the country. So with his trip looming, he had a local metalsmith reshape the bottom half of the blade into the peace symbol; it was then mounted on a chunk of polished redwood burl. No longer a weapon -- and therefore no longer unacceptable to Israeli customs -- it was now "pax-calibur."

He flew into Tel Aviv, arriving on April 18, Good Friday. He had arranged to stay with an Israeli peace activist named Hagit Ra'anaan. The next day they both drove to the Jordan to complete the ceremony, 14 years after his original vision. [above photo: Stephen Lewis holds paxcalibur aloft standing in the Jordan River]

Afterwards, he and Hagit discussed where he could store it so that one day, perhaps, a Palestinian-Israeli peace group might come along and turn it into a plowshare. A church seemed appropriate and Ra'anaan knew a Catholic priest at St. Stephen's in Nazareth, so off they went.

The priest, or Abbuna, as Lewis called him, was impressed when Lewis related his story and presented the transfigured sword. So impressed, in fact, that he took pax-calibur and invited Lewis back for the Easter celebration the next day.

That morning Lewis took the bus to Tel Aviv, riding through across the Holy Land next to a nervous Filipino woman, who worried about suicide bombers.

St. Stephen's is a small, opulently decorated church in a shabby, Arab neighborhood of Nazareth. As he came through the door he was "propelled" through the crowded interior up to the front, where Abbuna was delivering the service.

At the end, the parishioners filed out, picking up palm fronds and olive branches from a pile near the door to wave as they proceeded down the street. At the bottom of the stack was pax-calibur. Lewis picked it up, and along with the father led the noisy march down the street accompanied by drums and bugle blasts as the Muslims in houses above the street showered them in flower petals and candy.

Nobody questioned why he, a middle-aged American, was there, or what he was holding.

"It just speaks for itself," Lewis said. "I didn't have to say a word."

The march ended on the steps of the basilica, and when Abbuna explained its significance and the crowd cheered, Lewis wept. He flew home two days later.

Lewis said he hoped that in some small way his visit and pax-calibur would improve the chances for peace. But he said the impression he got from peace activists was one of despair at even the possibility of an end to hostilities.

"They've given up on the peace process," Lewis said. "They don't think they can do anything until the Israeli people themselves wake up to the horror of too many deaths."

Child abduction cases solved

In June 1988, 5-year-old Christina Owen was abducted, allegedly by her own mother. The mother and her husband fled the state, leaving Owen's biological father with no idea as to the whereabouts of his child.

For 15 years off and on, investigators with the Humboldt County District Attorney's Child Abduction Unit worked on the case.

"This case has been hanging on for years in this office," said investigator Paul Blake. "Three or four investigators have worked on this case, with no success."

But earlier this year, Blake caught a break. Searching through phone records that had been seized on a search warrant, he was able to trace the girl, now 19, to a public phone in Indiana. The bureau then staked out the area, eventually finding not only the daughter, but also the fugitives.

The arrests were made on March 13. The alleged abductors are now sitting in Humboldt County Jail facing felony charges and up to four years each in state prison.

The Owen case is one of four that the Child Abduction Unit has solved this year, in an unprecedented run.

"We recover two or three kids a year, usually; parental abductions. But in the first four months this year we've had such good returns," said James Dawson, chief investigator at the DA's office.

The day after the arrests in the Owens case were made, another alleged abductor was arrested in Shasta County where she had fled in 1992 with her two daughters, attempting to avoid a custody proceeding.

And finally, a child who was abducted in March 2003 was found and returned to her legal guardian.

That leaves only one case left unsolved, where a child was apparently taken to Mexico.

The Child Abduction Unit has been a state-mandated part of the DA's office since 1985, the year Blake, the head abduction investigator, came on board. It is now in danger of losing its funding due to the state budget crisis.

"It is my hope that the current threat of loss of funding for the Child Abduction Unit will not materialize," said District Attorney Paul Gallegos in a press release.

HSU prof expelled from Beijing

A California State University program coordinated by a Humboldt professor was among the American university courses in Beijing suspended because of concerns about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Anthropology Professor Mary Scoggin was in charge of a study-abroad program called the Wang Family Scholars, which this year involved eight students from four CSU campuses -- San Jose, San Francisco, Northridge and Sacramento. The students had been studying at Peking University in Beijing since September. None have been diagnosed with SARS.

All American university students have been evacuated from Beijing, a CSU spokeswoman said.

HSU spokeswoman Elizabeth Hans McCrone said all of the Wang students left Beijing on Friday. Scoggin has not returned to the United States because her husband lives somewhere in China "well outside Beijing, so she's been evacuated to his house," McCrone said.

As of Monday, there were 5,462 reported cases of SARS worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Of those victims, 353 had died.

Decrying PL ads

A group of citizens have signed a letter addressed to Pacific Lumber Co. President Robert Manne and Maxxam Corp. CEO Charles Hurwitz decrying their recent ad campaign labeling tree-sitters as "terrorists."

The group, organized a week ago, largely by long-time environmentalist Patty Clary of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, presented the letter in a press conference Tuesday at Woodley Island Marina in Eureka.

"Our brothers and sisters who live here in this community are not terrorists," said John Lyons, a member of the county Human Rights Commission and former president of the local chapter of the NAACP. "Please don't split our community apart or divide us; love goes both ways."

About 60 people have signed the letter so far, according to Clary. Signatories include three Arcata City Council members and Supervisor John Woolley.

Be careful out there

Always put life jackets on children and take extra caution when you're out on the water this spring, officials advised.

"Spring snowmelt from high country areas, winter rainfall and increased water releases into the Trinity River have resulted in high water levels, swift currents, very cold water and submerged hazards on our North Coast rivers," said Lou Woltering, Six Rivers National Forest Supervisor.

Jumping or falling into cold water, because of the initial shock and rapid heat loss that follows, is especially dangerous and can lead to hypothermia, Woltering said. He recommended that all those using a watercraft at risk of getting wet or being tossed into the water should wear appropriate gear, such as a wetsuit and life jacket.

Anyone visiting a lake or river should check on the latest conditions before they leave, Woltering said. Contact Bob Hemus at Six Rivers, (530) 627-3291, or the U.S. Forest Service office closest to your trip.

Annual eco-auction Saturday

The Northcoast Environmental Center is holding its annual fundraising auction this Saturday.

The lavish affair at the Arcata Community Center, it is expected to bring in about 20 percent of the organization's annual operating budget.

The NEC lost its downtown Arcata building in a fire in 2001, but Sid Dominitz, editor of EcoNews, the organization's monthly newsletter, emphasized, "The auction proceeds don't go towards rebuilding, just operations."

The money supports NEC's mission to "educate the public on environmental issues" through its library, information and referral services, school programs, EcoNews, and EcoNews Report, a radio program that is the longest-running public affairs show on KHSU FM 90.5 (Thursdays at 8 p.m.).

The core of the auction is a collection of fine art and crafts donated by an A-list of local painters, potters, photographers, sculptors and jewelers including Jim McVicker, Terry Oats, George Van Hook, Bill Van Fleet, Robert Haynes, Frances Boettcher, Kris Patzlaff, Larry Ulrich, J. Patrick Cudahy, Mark Lufkin, Jay Brown, Annie Reid, Kathy O'Leary and Ann Anderson.

But there's more than just art and crafts. "There has been a lot of zany stuff, too," said Dominitz. "One donor offered to write your epitaph, another to organize your closets. Amid the art one year, one of the hottest sellers was a pickup load of organic horse manure."

This year auction attendees can bid on jet boat rides on the Klamath, a Chinese/Italian dinner for eight, a holiday in Hyapom, a collection of M&M dispensers, a used wedding ring set, a coffee drink every day for a year, handyman and painting services -- and some items that might seem incongruous, like 100-board feet of redwood lumber or a sculpture carved from a l,000-year-old tree.

For an advance look at the artwork go to or check out the preview show that's hanging at the Plaza Grill.

Doors open at the Arcata Community Center at 5 p.m. Saturday; a dinner catered by Abruzzi is served at 6; the auction begins at 7. Advance tickets are required. Call 822-6918 for details.

Mac Armstrong dies

Mac Armstrong, an early Humboldt State University basketball pioneer and Fortuna High graduate, died April 24 at the age of 94.

Armstrong played a key role in establishing scholarship funding for the HSU basketball program.

"He's been a good friend to our program and we're forever grateful," said HSU men's basketball coach Tom Wood.

From 1927 to 1929, Armstrong played basketball for what was then called the Humboldt State Teacher's School.

"When I played, the sport was in its infancy," Armstrong said not long ago. We were just learning what we could do. Today the players are much more proficient and have fantastic moves."


A news item in last week's Journal misstated a new rule on how health care providers may disclose patient information. Providers do not need a patient's written authorization before divulging information to other providers, insurance companies or friends attempting to visit a patient in the hospital; permission is implied when patients sign a "consent for treatment" form. However, a patient may request some restrictions on the disclosure of data.

[The original version reflects this correction.]



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