North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

May 5, 2001

Coastal Commission status?

Waste winners announced

HSU people of year

Don't pick them mussels

KEET's fund drive

Gang activity on North Coast?

CR's new four-day week

Prop 215 in court

K-SLUG hits airwaves

Coastal Commission status?

The California Coastal Commission, which has regulated development along California's shoreline for 30 years, was ruled unconstitutional April 24.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Charles C. Kobayashi said the commission's appointment structure violated the state's constitutionally mandated separation of powers doctrine. The commission is part of the executive branch, which appoints a third of its members, but each of the state's legislative bodies selects another third of its membership. The appointment system was designed to ensure the commission would not be controlled by any one interest and could remain independent.

The ruling is not a death sentence for the commission -- yet. The decision will be appealed and while the issue raised is serious, the commission has weathered dozens of legal challenges from developers unhappy with its often strict environmental decisions. But it is the first time that a judge has agreed with developers about what they claim is an overpowered agency.

Mark Bassara, an attorney with the Sierra Club, said in a Press Democrat report that the commission was widely supported by California citizens. The commission "ensures the vast majority of California residents, the ones who cannot afford to live on the beach, are ensured continued access to it."

Waste winners announced

Necessity is the mother of invention -- and in an ever-smaller world, Humboldt County residents are inventing new ways to reduce the amount of resources they consume and waste they produce.

Humboldt County's Waste Reduction Award winners, announced last week, include such innovators as the Humboldt State University dining service, which has started to use food scraps as pig feed; St. Vincent De Paul, which takes appliances and mattresses out of the stream of waste heading into the landfill and rebuilds them for sale in its thrift stores; and Peter Bloom, who has instituted a program at the Humboldt County Hazardous Waste Facility that identifies reusable toxic substances, like paint, and makes them available to the public.

The awards are given out every spring by the county's Integrated Waste Management Program. For a complete list of recipients, call 268-2217.

HSU people of year

"I do a lot of volunteer work," said Mimi Black, Humboldt State University's Woman of the Year in what has to be the understatement of the year.

Black founded the Court-Appointed Special Advocate club at HSU, which helps foster the work the children's advocates. Of course, she is an advocate herself in addition to being an educational surrogate parent for children with developmental disabilities, running a career fair for women in science, teaching a science class at Sunset Elementary, serving as president of the pre-med club and EMT-1, a club for emergency medical technicians, and being the captain of a Relay for Life team. She's also a full-time -- that's 40 hours -- worker and the adoptive parent of a child with a developmental disability (See cover story, Feb. 4, 1999.)

And when she's got a spare moment she does genetic research.

How does she do it?

"I do my 40 hours a week at night working at a group home," she said. "Sometimes, I get to sleep!"

Joining Black as the HSU Man of the Year is Panama Bartholomy. As an active environmentalist and a member of student government, Bartholomy is an advocate for energy conservation, increased recycling and fossil fuel reduction.

Bartholomy is being honored not only because he raises his voice; he also dirties his hands. He was one of the brains behind the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology's biodiesel lab, a project that began producing vegetable oil-based fuel.

"He is not afraid to challenge the status quo, but listens carefully to arguments both pro and con," said Associated Students General Manager Joan Tyson, who nominated Bartholomy for the award.

Don't pick them mussels

The annual mussel quarantine has been issued by the state Department of Health Services. The order is established for all species of mussels found along the California shoreline including all bays, inlets and harbors.

The harvest of mussels, in effect from May 1 through Oct. 31, is prohibited due to the possibility of a naturally occurring substance that is highly toxic. Harvest of mussels for bait is allowed, however they should be broken open at the time of harvest and adequately labeled.

A warning has been issued in addition to the mussel quarantine advising the public that the dark part of all clams and scallops must be discarded and not eaten because any paralytic shellfish poisoning toxin present would be concentrated in the dark parts. As will all shellfish, clams and scallops should be taken only from areas free of sewage contamination and should be thorough cleaned before cooking.

For further information, call the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, 445-6215.

KEET's fund drive

Say you're watching a public television documentary on World War II and you get curious about Gen. Douglas MacArthur. You'd probably head to the library or the Internet to find out more about the man with the corncob pipe. Within a couple of years, you can just press an interactive button on the TV remote and find all you want to know.

That's because KEET-TV is preparing to be the first television station in Humboldt County to switch to digital broadcasting. The new technology allows several data streams to be broadcast simultaneously. That could mean either different programs or programs and complementary information like biographies.

The new technology doesn't come cheap. The switchover, mandated by the Federal Communications Commission, will cost $4.6 million. KEET-TV is starting a capital campaign to fund the project; $2.9 million will come from government grants, but the station needs to raise the additional $1.7 million from the community.

The station received a boost last week when a locally produced program was honored with an Emmy nomination. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences nominated KEET-TV for its "Engineering Is Everywhere" program, which looked at engineering feats on the North Coast. The nomination, for a public service community program produced in Northern California, is the first the station has received.

Gang activity on North Coast?

"You know how things work themselves up to a point and then explode? That's where we are right now," said Simona Keats, coordinator of the Gang Risk Intervention Program (GRIP) in Humboldt County.

Gang activity on the North Coast was back in the spotlight last month after 13 arrests were made at the conclusion of a gang investigation known as Operation Black Widow. The FBI and Sonoma County law enforcement cooperated in a three-year $5 million investigation into activities of a gang run by inmates of Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County. The gang is believed to have been responsible for at least seven deaths as part of a rivalry with another gang over the drug trade. Their ground forces were actively operating in Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

Keats said that while Operation Black Widow did not involve Humboldt County, (District Attorney Terry Farmer declined to comment), that doesn't mean an absence of gang activities.

"What I am seeing is more students getting involved in gang activities," Keats said.

What type of activities? "More drug trafficking, more assaults and more activities to get themselves initiated into gangs."

Keats said while the potential had been there, an increase in activity was triggered by "people coming in from out of town and getting these kids a mindset about becoming more violent and more open to substance abuse." Now she sees kids wearing certain colors that signify gang affiliation, often to gangs from outside the area. Even the gang targeted by Black Widow -- the Nuestra Familia -- has been claimed by some here, Keats said.

Prior to this year, Keats said, "Kids were `grouping' but not being violent. Now it is much worse within the groups." The substances abused have gone from alcohol and marijuana to cocaine and heroin, she added.

State Sen. Wesley Chesbro wrote a letter to Gov. Gray Davis in the wake of the Operation Black Widow arrests, asking for state funding for an anti-gang task force. The task force would coordinate law enforcement efforts in Sonoma, San Jaoquin, Monterey, Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda, North Santa Clara, Merced, Madera, Tulare, Fresno and Kings counties -- but not Humboldt.

"I plan on calling Wes Chesbro myself about that [omission]," said Keats.

In addition to the GRIP program to provide alternatives to gang activity, Keats said she and police chiefs are pursuing a gang-suppression grant from the federal government.

"We have gang prevention and intervention components but we don't have the suppression component, which would be cooperation between probation, police and the district attorney."

Some suppression of gang activity exists at the school level.

"We do what any other school does," said Pat Faeth, principal at Zoe Barnum Continuation School in Eureka. "We don't allow the wearing of colors, bandanas or hairnets. We don't allow students to wear certain types of jewelry, like one with dollar signs or Uzis on them," because they are signs of the drug trade.

Faeth meets with other high school principals and Keats once a week to compare notes, and Zoe Barnum hosts midnight basketball every weekend to give kids something to do besides hang out on the streets.

And although he acknowledges there is a problem with gangs in Humboldt, Faeth said it isn't the same as in other parts of the state. Coming to Eureka from Hayward, he said gang activity is "light compared to where I came from" and the differences between groups of kids "are as much culturally based as gang-based."

He said the system at Zoe Barnum has been successful. He said he can't convince kids to leave gangs -- and they may participate in gang activities after school -- but he does make the school safe.

"You just have to lay down the law," he said. "We say, `This is the last stop, there isn't anyplace to go if you can't make it in continuation school.'

"We've had members of various gangs be in the same classroom together. That's life: You have to be able to get along and function in society without going after your enemies all the time."

-- reported by Arno Holschuh

CR's new four-day week

As Humboldt businesses look at how they can minimize the effects that rolling blackouts will have on them this summer, College of the Redwoods is looking to what it can do to help prevent them.

The college will switch to a four-day workweek this summer as part of its energy conservation program. Employees will work nine- or 10-hour workdays Monday through Thursday to compensate for the loss of Friday.

Joe Porras, director of facilities and maintenance for CR, said that even though workers will be spending the same number of hours at work, the new scheduling will allow for conservation. The computers and lights employees need to work don't draw that much energy, he said, but heating a building up in the morning does. That energy is lost when everyone goes home at night.

"On Friday when we aren't here the boilers will not operate at all," Porras said. He said that would save about one-fifth of CR's energy consumption this summer.

CR already has an efficient computer-controlled heating and ventilation system, but has still seen energy costs rise almost 60 percent --$800,000 -- in the last year.

Prop 215 in court

The debate over medical marijuana in Humboldt County continued in Judge Bruce Watson's courtroom last week as Sheriff Dennis Lewis was held in contempt of court.

Lewis has refused to follow Watson's order to return approximately one ounce of pot to medical marijuana patient and provider Chris Giauque. Giauque had the marijuana confiscated during a traffic stop in 1999. Under Proposition 215, he was not convicted of any crime.

Lewis said his refusal to return the pot is due to fear that he would be breaking federal law.

Watson suspended the contempt charge until June 8 in order to allow a federal court to hear a complaint Lewis has filed. Lewis has said he wants the federal court to decide what he should do with the marijuana.

As the debate over what 215 means for law enforcement continues its way through the courts, some debate on the merits of marijuana as a medicine will take place May 6 at 8 p.m. on channel 12, Arcata's public access station. The program Community Health Watch will host a discussion between District Attorney Terry Farmer, Dr. Jay Davis of Mad River Hospital, Lt. Randy Mendosa of the Arcata Police Department and Mike Goldsby, director of St. Joseph's Family Recovery Center.

K-SLUG hits airwaves

If you are 18-34 years old and feel like no radio station in Humboldt County suits your musical preference, twist your dial to 94.1 FM, KSLG-FM -- aka K-Slug.

The new "alternative rock" station began broadcasting officially at noon Tuesday, May 1, from studios in Ferndale. It's owned and operated by Lost Coast Communications, the same company that runs KHUM-FM, "radio without the rules."

Lost Coast Communications Music Director Mike Dronkers describes the new format as "kind of alternative rock. It's a hybrid because the actual genre called `alternative' has become quite the opposite. We hesitate to use the term. But if you look on the alternative charts, that's the kind of bands we'll be playing."

Among those on the play list so far: Radiohead, Weezer, Green Day, Moby, G-Love and Special Sauce, Cold Play, PJ Harvey and U2.

The 94.1 frequency became available three years ago. "We applied for it and so did Eureka Broadcasting, KEKA-KINS-KWSW," said Cliff Berkowitz, Lost Coast's program director.

The two applications came at a time of transition for the Federal Communication Commission. When the papers were filed, new licenses were awarded on the basis of community service. Then a new system based on the highest bidder was put in place. But, as Berkowitz explained, "Those who had already applied were left in limbo land. There were no rules for us, so they decided to go to a private bid process."

That left it up to the two applicants to decide who would get the station. Berkowitz paid $70,000 to Eureka Broadcasting to withdraw its bid and came away with the frequency.

Lost Coast was given three years to begin broadcasting. "We had to scramble to get investors. At the time we were in pretty tough financial shape, but since then we hired R.J. Blount as our general manager/sales guru and we were able to raise the funds from local investors. We got it together at the last possible second."

So far K-Slug has hired two deejays. John Matthews, who used to work at KPFK in Los Angeles, will be on from 6 a.m.-noon. Then Joe Butterworth takes over.

"He's going by the moniker, Dr. Sid Reagan III, bastard child of nine Republicans," said Berkowitz.

Dronkers explained that the new station utilizes a new music format. "We're not using CDs. The whole thing is actually on MP3s. We have our entire music library on seven MP3 data CDs. We're starting with about 500 songs. MP3s are not just for music pirates any more. Basically our entire library will be on a hard drive so we can call stuff up instead of having to put a CD in the player."

This allows the staff to preprogram hours of airtime so they don't have to remain at the controls. For the time being the "live" deejays like Matthews will only be in the studio for four hours out of a six-hour shift. The rest of the time the station is run by a computer.

According to Berkowitz Lost Coast Communications will expand its radio empire some time soon.

"The plan is to purchase radio stations in small and medium markets," he said. "We're looking at places that need good local live radio. We're bucking the trend of buying a group of stations and hooking them all up to a satellite."


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