North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

June 6, 2002

Home prices leap

Headwaters plan released

Are small school
districts endangered?

Un-hyphenated name

Co-op convergence

Chesbro to work on
a balanced budget

Summer swimming holes

Home prices leap

The median price for an existing home in Humboldt County jumped 6.5 percent in April and is currently $159,500, according to the May edition of The Index of Economic Activity, published by Humboldt State University.

The lumber manufacturing industry also appears to be on the mend, according to the Index. Production has increased, bouncing back after falling this spring to its lowest level since 1994.

The Index, which keeps track of the local economy, is the work of economist Steve Hackett and his students.

The current strength of the national real estate market, according to Hackett's publication, relies on the construction of new housing to keep pace with an ever-growing population, continued appreciation of the market and low mortgage rates keeping the demand for housing greater than the supply. In April, the number of home sales increased by 3.9 percent from the previous month, with most indicators pointing toward continued growth.

The trend in home sales is expected to continue as long as demand outpaces the supply, the Index says. Since last year the average statewide price for an existing home has risen 26.1 percent to $321,950.

The Index notes that there is some concern that the current statewide growth in home sales will not sustain itself.

In May, the county's lumber-based manufacturing showed improvement. Managing director of the Index, John Manning, believes this is partly due to the recent tariffs placed on imported Canadian softwood lumber.

Although the economic forecast looks good for home and lumber sales, claims for unemployment insurance in the county leaped by 31.0 percent last month, while the number of help-wanted ads rose by only 19.1 percent, the Index said.

Headwaters plan released

A draft plan that will govern management of the Headwaters Forest Reserve near Fortuna was released last week and is available for public comment.

The plan is the work of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the California Department of Fish and Game, which jointly manage the reserve. The two agencies will be accepting input from the public until Aug. 29.

The 7,500-acre reserve, purchased by the government in 1999 after years of controversy, contains stands of thousand-year-old redwoods. It also provides habitat for a number of imperiled species, including the northern spotted owl, marbeled murrelet, chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout.

The plan details several management alternatives that are consistent with preserving the area and at the same time allowing it to be used for recreation, Lynda Roush of the land management bureau said in a press release.

The plan can be viewed on the Internet at

A public meeting will be held on the plan at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16, at the Humboldt County Library, 1313 Third St., Eureka.

Are small school districts endangered?

Twenty-six of Humboldt County's 32 school districts could be required to consolidate with neighboring districts under a reorganization proposal before the state Legislature.

Additionally, the state's draft Master Plan for Education, released last month, calls for removing much of the authority of the state superintendent of public instruction -- an elected post -- and transferring that power to a new position appointed by the governor.

The purpose of the plan is to streamline and improve the delivery of education services to students from kindergarten through college.

"Our recommendation is that the governor appoint the person who runs the Department of Education and that there be a clear line of accountability," said Janet Holmgren, president of Mills College in Oakland and chair of the Governance Working Group, one of seven groups that presented the draft Master Plan to the Legislature in early May.

Holmgren said her group stopped short of suggesting the publicly elected schools chief be eliminated entirely.

"We did not want to get into whether or not to abolish that office," she said in a telephone conversation Tuesday. "There is a role for state superintendent -- a watchdog role, the public's advocate to monitor and evaluate programs but not to run the department."

California currently has a system with overlapping responsibilities. It includes an elected superintendent of public instruction, an appointed state Board of Education and an appointed secretary of education -- plus a governor who can fund or eliminate programs with his line-item veto.

The group also looked at and shelved the idea of statewide collective bargaining to reign in expenses.

"We didn't get very far, but all districts need some help in the negotiating arenas because it takes up an inordinate amount of time."

Regarding the small school district proposal, Holmgren said it is potentially a hot issue.

"I'm not sure how controversial it will be, but I am hopeful it will not be a bottleneck," she said. "We received strong support [for reform] from those legislators who attended various hearings."

"Since Proposition 13 passed [in 1978 limiting property tax revenue], California has fallen dramatically behind. We are among the least well funded and the least successful in the delivery of K-12 education. It's dreadful," Holmgren said.

In a phone call from Sacramento, Assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin said it is now up to the joint legislative committee to sort through the recommendations and adopt the plan. She said consolidation may prove impractical in the 1st Assembly District where the population is thin and distances great.

"I'm not sure I can support it at this time. Perhaps more consolidation of services -- yes," Strom-Martin said.

Superintendents of small schools -- defined as the smallest one-third of the schools, those with under 1,000 students -- are wary.

"I feel it would be really unfortunate," said Ron Pontoni, superintendent of the 510-student independent Cutten Elementary. "There are lots of wonderful things happening in schools less than 1,000. There are districts of 400-500 students that are pretty efficiently run."

Marie Twibell, superintendent of Fieldbrook Elementary with 98 students, said her school is already consolidating some services with other small schools.

"We share a food service program with Blue Lake and a resource teacher with Cuddeback," she said. "Consolidation ... homogenization is not the answer."

Humboldt County Superintendent of Schools Louis Bucher is already firing off letters of protest to Strom-Martin and Sen. Wesley Chesbro.

"These districts reflect their small, rural communities. Parents are involved and students feel connected. As reflected by the state's Academic Performance Index, children is these small districts tend to perform well on state tests," said Bucher.

Strom-Martin, a former teacher who is leaving office due to term limits, held meetings throughout the district early in the Master Plan process, however, the nearest opportunity to comment in person on the draft plan will be at Sonoma State June 28. The joint committee plans to adopt the plan by late August.

Strom-Martin urges citizens to read the plan online -- -- and submit written comments or they can register to participate in a website dialogue on specific topics related to the plan. To learn more about the on-line dialogue, visit or contact Laurie Maak (510) 527-6474.

-- reported by Judy Hodgson

Un-hyphenated name

Don't look for Green Party candidate Doug Riley-Thron on the November ballot under the letter "R."

The Assembly candidate is getting divorced from his wife, Karen Riley. Since the two hyphenated their last names when they married, they are choosing to unhyphenate them.

Election codes allow for marriage-related name changes.

Thron faces Democratic candidate Patty Berg from Humboldt County, and Lake County Republican Rob Brown for the seat being vacated by Virginia Strom-Martin.

Co-op convergence

They're coming from all over the country for the 46th annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association Conference, an event hosted by Humboldt County's own Northcoast Co-op.

Over 300 people arrive this week. Between Thursday and Saturday they will attend workshops, lectures and forums on all things cooperative and take tours exploring local farms and businesses working toward sustainability.

Frances Moore LappeWhile the conference is aimed at co-op managers, there are events open to the public, in particular two keynote speeches: first a talk on Friday by Harvey Hartman, author of Marketing in the Soul Age: Building Lifestyle Worlds, and a Saturday morning speech by Frances Moore Lappé, [photo at right] author of Diet for a Small Planet and its recent sequel, Hope's Edge: the Next Diet for a Small Planet, written with her daughter, Anna.

Hartman is founder and chairman of the Hartman Group, market researchers specializing in natural products. Hartman will discuss what he sees as a trend in marketing, targeting customers with "a deep cultural longing to find a more soulful way of living."

Lappé began research for the groundbreaking book Diet for a Small Planet while a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley where she was studying community organizing. That was put on hold while she looked at something bigger: the ramifications of food distribution.

"I wanted to get to the roots of the suffering in the world, suffering that seemed so needless," she explained in a call from her office in Boston. "I started with the question: Why is there hunger in the world? That soon grew to, Why is there hunger in a world of plenty? The experts were telling us that we'd reached the Earth's limits to feed people and famine was inevitable."

After poring through reams of data she discovered something even more unsettling: There is in fact plenty of food in the world, but much of it is misdirected because of our meat-centric diet.

"What I learned was that humans are creating the scarcity that we feared. We had turned ruminants, livestock, particularly cattle, into protein factories in reverse. Throughout history ruminants had taken inedible grasses and waste and turned it into high grade protein. But since World War II, when we had so much grain and it was so cheap, we created this factory model that turned livestock into units of productions into which we now feed close to half the world's grain."

Since Diet for a Small Planet was published in 1971, Lappé has founded two organizations: Food First, a think-tank examining world hunger, and the Center for Living Democracy, an initiative aimed at involving regular citizens in the decision-making process.

With her new book, Hope's Edge, she resumes her exploration of the impact of our food choices on the world, this time with a focus on positive solutions around the world.

"Amazing things can happen when people make the right choices. That's what Hope's Edge is about, how on every continent people are breaking out of the notion of simply focusing on food production without asking who has access to it.

"We talk about everything from the landless worker's movement in Brazil where a quarter million people are settled on 17 million acres of land to urban gardens in the Bay Area."

What does all this have to do with co-ops?

"The co-op principle is at the heart of everything I talk about. To me it means we're all in this together. The notion of what I call `living democracy' is co-responsibility. We can't just blame irresponsible politicians. You can't look to others for solutions. You must become the solution yourself."

There are a limited number of tickets available for the keynote speeches. For further information call 442-6441. To learn more about Lappé's work go to

-- reported by Bob Doran

Chesbro to work on a balanced budget

State Sen. Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata) has been chosen as one of six legislators appointed to the Joint Conference Committee responsible for negotiating a balanced budget for California.

Because California is operating under a deficit, balancing the budget is certain to entail budget cuts.

"With the size of the deficit, it's going to be a challenge to get a budget that protects the state's vital needs, spreads the pain around and treats all Californians fairly," said Senate President John Burton, who appointed Chesbro to the conference committee.

Chesbro is currently chairman of the Senate's Budget Subcommittee on Health, Human Services, Labor and Veteran Affairs.

Summer swimming holes

Benbow Lake will be nonexistent this summer while its eroded seasonal dam undergoes repairs. Another swimming hole however, Freshwater Pool, will be re-opened, and will include a new floating platform funded by Pacific Lumber Co.

A dam that will create the pool, along with an accompanying fish ladder, are to be put in place by June 15. Last year, drought prevented Humboldt County from installing the dam out of fear that young salmon would be stranded in the lower creek.



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