North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

May 8, 2003

McKinleyville Spanish program expands;
some parents upset

Making Arcata more pedestrian friendly

Pepper spray trial postponed

Heads up! There's a trebuchet in Freshwater

Meserve makes headlines in Germany
by Arno Holschuh

The fur is flying

Accused killer caught

Arcata Plaza, no

School gets $90,000

Old Growth bill

Guard Utah bound

McKinleyville Spanish program expands;
some parents upset


Over the objection of some parents, the McKinleyville Unified School District Board of Trustees decided last week that a third Spanish immersion kindergarten class will be added to the 3-year-old program at Morris Elementary School, making three of the four kindergarten classes immersion classes.

Currently, approximately half of the students in grades K-2 at the school are taught in Spanish for half of each school day. Instead of creating a separate section for learning the target language, immersion students are taught subjects such as math and science entirely in Spanish, thus "immersing" them in a second language.

Morris School began the program in the fall of 2000 with one class of kindergarteners. Since then the school has seen a steady increase of interest and enrollment.

The decision to expand the program was not without controversy. Some parents who choose not to enroll their children in the Spanish program feel that their kids are being pushed aside in the board's effort to expand the language immersion curriculum.

School Board President Richard Woods said that in his 25 years of service in the school system he has never seen a more contentious issue than the language immersion program.

Often finding himself at the center of the debate, Woods has received several phone calls about the issue, a small number of which were threats from anonymous callers. "One person called me up and said, `If you teach them kids Mexican, you're gonna have to answer to me,'" Woods reported. "This whole debate is fraught with misinformation from parents and staff and I've witnessed a lot of underhanded tactics."

One rationale behind the program is that younger children, who are still learning to read and write, will learn a second language at a faster rate. Additionally, in line with the district's "strategic plan," school board members believe the program instills in the children an appreciation for diverse cultures.

On the flip side, however, is the opinion of some parents that the school's privileged children reap the benefits of the program at the expense of others. Next fall for instance, with the arrival of an additional immersion kindergarten class, those who choose not to sign up for the Spanish program may wind up being transferred to Dow's Prairie Elementary School if not enough students enroll by the Aug. 14 registration deadline.

For Shannon Medeiros, parent of a Morris School first-grader and an upcoming kindergartener, the program separates the haves from the have-nots.

"There's an elite status view of the immersion kids," she said. "A lot of them have educated parents with higher incomes. Those kids already receive more support at home in addition to getting more attention in school.

"I think that the immersion program is good for the kids who are in it. I just don't want to enhance the dividedness between the two groups," Medeiros added.

Alan Jorgensen, superintendent of McKinleyville schools, conceded that worried parents have legitimate concerns. But he believes the "haves and have-nots" complaint is unfounded. "We make sure that parents from all demographics are informed about the program so everyone has an opportunity to enroll," he said.

Since last Thursday's ruling, Medeiros has opted to enroll her children at Dow's Prairie School to insure that both her kindergartener and second-grader will attend the same school in the fall.

In terms of the current school year, the first 20 applicants were admitted to the immersion program for each grade, K-2. Remaining applicants were then chosen by lottery to form another class of 20 students. Those not chosen rounded out two all-English classes.

As of May 9, 70 students are registered for kindergarten at Morris; 60 students who live within the district have applied for the immersion program. Four kids whose parents have asked for interdistrict transfers to sign up for the Spanish program have been placed on a waiting list.

McKinleyville schools typically lose students to other districts though interdistrict transfers. This year 230 students from McKinleyville transferred out, while only 65 transferred in. Four of the 65 are in the Spanish program.

As interest in Spanish immersion continues to grow, it's possible Morris could become an immersion-only school with Dow's Prairie teaching students who choose an all-English curriculum.

Dow's Prairie's administration maintains that all student transfers will be welcomed at their school next fall. The only concern, it seems, is whether or not to hire another teacher in order to accommodate more children. Nothing is certain until registration closes in mid-August.

Making Arcata more pedestrian friendly

Drawing of plan for Arcata's Downtown streets, showing a 6 to 12-foot sidewalk cafe zone, 6 to 10 ft. pedestrian circulation area, 3 to4 ft. street tree, pole, and utility zone, 8 ft. parking lane and 5 ft. bike laneJohn Ash said the reason Arcata hired him as an architect, instead of an engineer, to redesign its downtown core was "probably because they wanted someone who colored outside of the lines."

The public gets its first exposure to Ash's coloring ability at a meeting Monday, May 19 at 7 p.m. at the Arcata Community Center.

Among his ideas are mid-block crosswalks, sidewalks up to 20 feet wide to accommodate outdoor cafés and parking structures near the plaza, possibly even one underneath the Arcata ballpark.

"These are all ideas -- very preliminary and very long-term," Ash said in a telephone interview Tuesday. Any changes would come "slowly and incrementally," and only after extensive public hearings and adoption by the City Council.

Certain to raise concern among business owners in the 18-block downtown core is a reduction in the number of street parking spaces, a narrowing of vehicle lanes, the rerouting of traffic onto one-way streets, the addition of "traffic calming" devices such as roundabouts -- all to reduce the space allocated to vehicular traffic.

That's the whole idea, Ash said: To make the downtown more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.

"A person becomes a pedestrian once they get out of their car anyway. We can create a nicer environment for them. Malls have been doing it for years and people love it," he said.

Ash will present some street section designs at the meeting. He will also ask for comments that could be incorporated into the final design. A second public session is scheduled for May 28, then the plan will go to the city's Design Review, and Transportation and Safety committees. By June the council will receive the report.

The project, from 7th to 11th streets and K through F streets, is divided into two phases. It is partially funded by money set aside for underground utilities.

Ash's firm, the John Ash Group, is working in conjunction with SHN Engineering, also of Eureka.

Pepper spray trial postponed

A federal appeals court panel has delayed the trial in the excessive force case brought by nine anti-logging protesters who were pepper-sprayed in 1997.

Attorneys for the protesters filed a motion to dismiss the judge on the case and move the trial back to San Francisco. On May 8, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the trial, which was to begin May 12 in Eureka. Counsel for the defendants, who include the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department and the City of Eureka police, have until May 20 to respond.

"I'm delighted," said Robert Bloom, one of the protesters' attorneys. "The fact that they're taking this seriously is very encouraging."

Bloom said the judge, Vaughn Walker, has displayed his bias against the protesters and that they could not get a fair trial in Eureka.

The nine activists sued the county and the city after local law enforcement used Q-tips to apply pepper spray to their eyes during sit-ins at Pacific Lumber's Scotia headquarters and a congressman's office.


Heads up! There's a trebuchet in Freshwater


"You see that metal roof out there?" asked Jackie Yarnall, pointing across the field in Freshwater to his neighbor's house about 200 yards away. "We could put that bowling ball right through the middle of that -- no sweat."

Jack Yarnall in front of his trebuchetHe grinned.

Standing next to him was his trebuchet, a sturdy contraption crafted from Pennsylvania hemlock and welded steel that can hurl a bowling ball, or just about anything else that's put in its sling-like pouch, hundreds of yards through the air.

"Your neighbors are awfully trusting," a friend remarked, looking at the machine, standing cocked and ready to fire.

"Not really," Yarnall replied. "But it's amazing how nice they are to me these days."

The trebuchet was the heavy siege artillery of the Middle Ages and one of the most powerful non-explosive weapons ever devised by man. They were large, up to 50 feet tall, so big in fact that they generally had to be assembled on site. But the effort was worth it. When completed a large trebuchet could hurl boulders weighing over 300 pounds with astonishing accuracy and power, literally shattering castle walls.

One legendary trebuchet, the "War Wolf" of Edward I of England, was reputed to be so powerful that defenders would surrender just at the sight of it, only to be led back inside so they could be fired at.

Perilous indeed. But in this day and age it's just good, clean fun.

"I don't know much about the history," Yarnall said. "I just build these things for toys."

For Yarnall, a retired Humboldt State University professor, medieval artillery is just one of his extreme hobbies -- several years ago he made his own hot air balloon so he could take friends up for joy rides.

He got the idea for the trebuchet last summer "back there in Pennsylvania," as he refers to his summer home back East. Every year he and a couple of friends, ironworkers Josh Cunningham and Andrew MacNeal, have constructed something special for Yarnall's annual Halloween party. The year before it had been an Edgar Allen Poe theme so they had built a giant pendulum, a little less than 20 feet high, in honor of Poe's famous story, "The Pit and the Pendulum."

Last year's theme was "Medieval," so over a few beers Yarnall, Cunningham and McNeal came up with the idea of building the trebuchet. They knew they wanted it about 10 feet tall, with a 12-foot base. Using those dimensions, one of them worked up the design on a computerized drafting program and they went to work, using beams of hemlock that had been cut on Yarnall's property in Pennsylvania.

Driving it back to California, Yarnall ran into a little trouble. A truck cut him off, forcing him onto the shoulder. The small open-bed trailer was upset, and the disassembled trebuchet was scattered, sliding all over Interstate 80 in the middle of the Ohio Turnpike. To make things worse, a glass jug of homemade maple syrup in the back exploded, coating everything in a sticky-sweet, shard-encrusted paste. The disaster was complete when a swarm of late-summer Ohio yellow jackets descended on the remains.

All of that was just a memory, though, as the machine (yes, he managed to recover all the parts strewn across the freeway) stood shining with a fresh coat of linseed oil on Yarnall's lawn beside the large log-cabin ranch house which he built himself.

Yarnall recalled that earlier in the year he happened to pass by the Freshwater Grange, where the Society for Creative Anachronisms -- a group that does medieval reenactments -- was meeting.

"I said, `You guys seem like you're having a pretty good time; would you like to see a trebuchet?'" Yarnall recalled. "`You have a trebuchet?' they said."

Yes, he did and does. And it was time to fire it.

Yarnall loaded a 12-pound bowling ball in the long trough that the sling sits in. The metal safety was taken off the long steel throwing arm. Everyone got out of the direct line behind; a firing trebuchet could take your head off. And then, with the pull of a rope, and a tug-whisk-snack, the machine fired. The bowling ball spun upwards into the blue sky only to land with a spray of dirt and an audible thunk into the far field.

Meserve makes headlines in Germany


BERLIN -- No matter where you go, there you are. I used to read that phrase on a lot of bumper stickers during my time in Humboldt County. What I didn't know is that the drivers were being very specific: No matter where you go, you're still in Arcata.

Absurd? Consider this: When I opened up my morning newspaper recently, I was confronted with a news story featuring Arcata City Council member David Meserve. That may not seem that strange; in the wake of the Arcata ordinance "banning" the Patriot Act, Meserve was in a lot of newspapers.

But my newspaper, die tageszeitung, is in German, and the article was in the international, not national, news section. Arcata's fame just successfully made the leap across the pond to the German capital.

The story is an outsider's view of the resistance to the Patriot Act. It details how civil liberties groups have tried to prevent the erosion of citizens' rights, and how there is a growing suspicion that the act may be unconstitutional. Arcata, writes American correspondent Michael Streck, "has gone one step further. The little town is the first city to pass an ordinance which forbids the execution of the Patriot Act." Arcata is described as being at the "forefront" of movements to stop global warming and the Bush administration's foreign policy.

It was a joy to read, as most Germans have a fairly one-sided perception of how Americans feel about politics. People here know that a majority in the United States supported the war, and for that reason, scorning America has become a favorite pastime. In their defense, many Germans also realize there is criticism -- of Bush, of the war, of the Patriot Act. But the idea of an American opposition remains abstract, while Bush's speeches are broadcast live. Most people here have a gut feeling that Bush is America -- even if they are analytically aware that isn't the case.

So I thank my lucky stars for Arcata, and for its 15 minutes -- and counting -- of fame. Here, in one of the country's important daily newspapers, was an image that would stick in Germans' minds, competing for space with the commander in chief: A gang of tough little freedom fighters holed up in a forested enclave in Northern California, determined to show the bullies what's what. It's an image that Germans, who for obvious reasons have a healthy distaste for strong-arm government, can fall in love with.

There is, of course, the nagging fact that the ordinance is unlikely to have any real impact. I know that Arcata is a very small town, and that the ordinance would probably have met with significantly less support in Eureka. In my experience, Arcata fosters not only idealism but a haughty moral superiority.

But in my present context, it doesn't matter. All that matters is that, thanks to the Arcata City Council, the current popular German perception of America as a country gone haywire has gained a few dents and scratches. The next time one of my German friends asks me what city they should visit on their American vacation, I know what to answer: The People's Republic of Arcata, of course.

Arno Holschuh is a former Journal staff writer.

The fur is flying

Accusations flew like fur in a catfight last week as District Attorney Paul Gallegos responded to what he described as Pacific Lumber Co.'s "unconscionable hubris" in asking the court for sanctions against him and the County of Humboldt.

"Welcome to the world of hardball," said Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen, who is handling the fraud case Gallegos has filed against PL. "This is aggressive with a capital A."

PL's motion, filed late last month, asks the court to throw out the case, which argues that PL fraudulently withheld information from the California Department of Forestry during the creation of the Headwaters Agreement. It also asks that Gallegos and the county be slapped with fines.

That last request raised a few eyebrows as District Attorneys aren't liable for any actions they take that are part of their job, even, according to a California law quoted in the DA's response, if he or she "acts maliciously without probable cause."

Nevertheless, the complaint asks for "all attorney's fees and costs" as well as "other monetary and non-monetary sanctions as appropriate."

"They're not immune," said PL attorney Ed Washburn, calling from his San Francisco office. "They're immune for damages but not for sanctions."

What's the difference?

"[Sanctions are] like a penalty for doing something they're not supposed to do."

In other words, PL is asking the court to penalize Gallegos, Stoen and the county for being bad lawyers. Washburn said DAs had been fined under similar circumstances in California, though he couldn't recall any specific cases.

That's hogwash, according to David LaBahn, Executive Director of the California District Attorneys Association. LaBahn said he couldn't think of any case where a DA was sanctioned for bringing a case.

"We have absolute immunity to bring cases," LaBahn said. "We're supposed to be in the business of protecting the public and personal liability is not supposed to be part of it.

"[This] sounds like blowing smoke to me," he added.

PL said its sanctions request is justified because the case has no lawful basis and was poorly researched; because PL didn't commit fraud; and because, even if it did, any fraud that was committed is protected by the company's First Amendment rights.

PL cannot be sued over the information it gives to the government when applying for permits, its lawyers argue, even if the information is "false and fraudulent."

"That's their basic argument in the case. This is a doctrine that doesn't even apply in this case," contended Stoen. "They're taking a tidbit here and a tidbit here and weaving it into something it isn't."

Stoen said that the entire motion, which his response describes as "specious," was just a big spin game by PL. Washburn characterized the DA's response as "grasping for straws."

Accused killer caught

The suspect in the Bridgeville murder of earlier this month has been arrested in San Luis Obispo County on suspicion of committing a separate crime there, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office said.

Officials believe Thomas Arthur Applegate, 40, of Paso Robles (San Luis Obispo County), shot and killed Joey Patrick Church, 34, of Bridgeville, on the evening of May 4 at Church's home.

The next afternoon, witnesses saw Applegate beat and attempt to kidnap a woman as she left a San Luis Obispo restaurant, according to the San Luis Obispo Police Department. An Atascadero police officer spotted the suspect vehicle and arrested Applegate.

Acting on a tip from a Humboldt County resident, sheriff's detectives here called San Luis Obispo County, learned of Applegate's arrest, and searched his Paso Robles home on Thursday, officials said.

There they found evidence that links him to the Bridgeville murder, the Sheriff's Department said.

Applegate will be returned to Humboldt County after his San Luis Obispo case has been processed.

Arcata Plaza, no

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday Travel section raves about Humboldt County, expounding on everything from the "silent cathedral of a redwood grove" to the "finest collection of Victorian mansions in North America."

The article by Chronicle writer John Flinn, a former Humboldt resident, is sure to drum up interest in this year's Kinetic Sculpture Race, which he describes at length.

"It will be a tremendous boost for us," said J Warren Hockaday, executive director of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce. "It will reinforce the decisions people are already making about us."

Flinn takes a shot, however, at the Arcata Plaza, which he writes is "home to a sizable tribe of street people [who] made me uncomfortable." He found Eureka's Old Town "much more congenial for browsing and window-shopping."

The Chronicle's Internet and print circulation is 1.7 million on Sundays.

School gets $90,000

Pacific Union School has received a $90,000 grant to help other area schools reduce their waste.

The grant comes from the Environmental Ambassador Pilot Project of the California Integrated Waste Management Board, which also gave money to seven other school districts across the state.

The $90,000 will be used for resource management and waste diversion, staff development and service learning.

Pacific Union received the grant because it has been on the cutting edge of waste management, said project coordinator and former Pacific Union board member Mary Lou Cook.

The purpose of the Environmental Ambassador Pilot Program is to support and expand sustainable elementary and secondary school programs for environment-based education and environmental science and technology.

Old growth bill

The state Legislature is considering a bill that would ban state purchases of old growth timber.

The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and sponsored by the advocacy group Environment California, would prevent state agencies and school districts from buying wood or wood products made from trees from ancient forests.

"Worldwide, only 20 percent of the world's ancient forests remain standing, and here in California less than 10 percent of our ancient forests remain," said Steinberg in a written statement.

A spokeswoman from Environment California said no one knows how much old-growth timber is purchased by the state each year.

The timber industry is lobbying heavily against the bill.

It is expected to come up for a vote soon in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Guard Utah bound

It's off for a year guarding the chemical weapons dumps in "Utahkistan," as one army source put it, for 22 of Eureka's Army National Guardsmen from the 579th Engineering Battalion.

The sites, situated around Provo, Utah, are getting a security upgrade as part of Operation Enduring Eagle Three, as a homeland security measure.

"These guys are going out there to guard sensitive areas," said Major Sam Wallis, who is coordinating the deployment. "We have some areas that used to have only four, five security guards. Now we're really going into overkill."

Some members of the 579th, which ranges all over northwestern California, may be going to the Middle East, specifically some landmine sniffing canine units from Lakeport, but none from Humboldt County, Major Wallis said.

Overall, 130 of the 325-strong 579th are being deployed.

Is it unusual for engineers to have to pull guard duty?

"Not particularly. There is no [military] occupational specialty that's guard," Major Wallis said. "Everybody in the army has to pull guard duty wherever they're stationed, so we're all eligible."




North Coast Journal Weekly

© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.