North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

July 17, 2003

Targeting soda pop:
A proposal to ban the sweet stuff from schools is before the state Legislature

Rabid box bites child

The life of the upper class

Grandma sentenced

Mill A back on track

Rock shop owner dies

To pay or not to pay

Bike lane brouhaha

Don't be duped

Targeting soda pop:
A proposal to ban the sweet stuff from schools is before the state Legislature


With child obesity on the increase, politicians and children's health advocates want to ban soft drinks from schools.

State Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) is pushing a bill that would make it illegal to have soft drink vending machines in California public schools. She says such a step will promote better nutrition.

Lobbyists with the California-Nevada Soft Drink Association assert that soda pop is not the cause of child obesity; they say the main culprit is lack of exercise.

Ortiz's bill passed the Senate in late May. If the Assembly also gives the bill a green light, and Gov. Gray Davis signs it, elementary and middle-school kids in Humboldt and elsewhere in the state will not be purchasing soda on campus come 2005, nor will high school students by 2006.

Some school officials have sided with the industry, noting that thousands of dollars in sales from the vending machines go back to the schools, funding educational programs and after-school sports. Others, however, have declared their discomfort at being fiscally dependent on fizzy drinks. Last year, Los Angeles County, with the second-largest school district in the United States, made headlines when the board unanimously voted to stop selling soda to their students beginning next year.

Until recently, some Arcata schools didn't even have vending machines. But then students at Sunny Brae Middle School mounted a campaign for them, and the school board agreed -- on the condition that the machines dispense only juice and bottled water.

In Eureka, school officials are drafting a policy that would prohibit the purchase of soda, candy and high-fat potato chips on middle school and high school campuses where they are currently available.

Northern Humboldt High School District Superintendent Brian Stevens argued that if Arcata High students can't buy soda on campus, they'll simply buy it elsewhere. With an open campus, students can leave the school for their lunch hour and head to the market, where the food and drink options are limitless. Keeping the soda dispensers, Stevens says, keeps kids on campus.

"I don't think that you can legislate what people want to drink," Stevens said. "I know that some health food advocates would think I'm a nut, but to what extent should schools play the role of mom and dad and at what point is a person responsible for their own weight?"

Stevens added that the vending machines bring in $2,000 to $3,000 a year, which goes towards activities for the student body.

Joyce Hayes, a Eureka school board member and a supporter of Ortiz' bill, argued that banning soda would encourage students to make healthier food and beverage choices. She also challenged the fiscal objection, citing Ortiz' claim that school vending machines that dispense healthy items generate similar revenue to machines featuring pop and candy bars. Hayes added that bottled water is a "hot item right now."

"Eating habits are developed at a young age and it's a fact that health is influenced by diet," Hayes said. "We don't want to eliminate vending completely, we just prefer that nutritious food is offered instead."

Rabid fox bites child

A fox that attacked a child in the Carson Woods area of Fortuna is the seventh within a 5-mile radius of that town to test positive for rabies in the last three months, the Humboldt County Public Health department reported.

Although rabies is normally present in local wildlife, it is very unusual to see such a high concentration, officials said.

The rabid foxes all had encounters with humans or domestic animals, and several were unusually aggressive. In the most recent incident, on July 6, a fox attacked and severely bit a child on the leg and an adult on the boot. It was killed the following evening in a fight with the neighbor's dog.

The child, a 6-year-old boy who was playing ball in his backyard with his father, received rabies shots and is recovering, officials said. In another recent attack, a fox bit a man who was in his garage removing a frozen steak from an ice chest.

"They lose that fear, that natural fear they have" of humans, said Brent Whitener, the county's Vector Control Officer.

Rabies is fatal to humans if it goes untreated. For that reason, there is a strict legal requirement to vaccinate pets against the disease, lest they contract it from a wild animal and then pass it on to humans. A pet that is not current on its vaccinations and encounters a rabid animal may have to be euthanized.

County officials urged all pet owners to make sure all their animals' rabies vaccinations are up to date. Many vets offer low-cost shots.

Officials also warned people to avoid contact with wild or stray animals, report animal bites to an animal control officer, tell children not to touch a wild or stray animal, and wash bites immediately with soap and water, then seek medical attention. Keep wild animals away from your home by bringing pet food indoors at night.

Questions about rabies should be directed to the Vector Control Desk of the health department, 268-2203.

The life of the upper class

Humboldt high schoolers who will be juniors or seniors in the fall and have yet to pass the state's challenging -- and controversial -- exit exam can relax; they don't need to pass to graduate.

Next year's freshmen and sophomores, however, are still on the hook. They will have to pass the test -- which gauges math and language skills -- to get a diploma.

That's the net effect of last week's decision by the state Board of Education to suspend the exam as a graduation requirement until the 2005-06 school year. The board took the step under pressure from critics, including many teens, who have maintained that the exam tests students on material they have not yet been taught.

Some questioned whether a two-year postponement was enough time to give teachers a chance to better prepare students. Board officials, however, said a longer delay would be a step backward as the high-stakes test is forcing schools to improve instruction.

The board last week made the test somewhat less demanding, trimming the exam time from three days to two and eliminating a writing test.

Humboldt students have done better on the test than their counterparts elsewhere in the state, with slightly more than half passing the math portion and 70 percent passing the language section over the past two years. That compares to the statewide average for the same time period of 40 percent for math and 61 percent for language.

Grandma sentenced

Dianna Mae Preston, the Trinidad woman who gunned down Kevin LaPorta in what she claimed was defense of her granddaughter, was sentenced Monday in Humboldt County Superior Court to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Preston, 59, told the court "I easily pay this price" for LaPorta's murder.

Preston waited for LaPorta, 47, in the parking lot outside his Eureka acupuncture office last July, fired several shots at him, then followed him into the kitchen of Liu's Chinese Restaurant, where she shot him again.

She later said she believed LaPorta was molesting her 19-month-old granddaughter, who is also LaPorta's daughter, though she had been told several hours before the shooting that DNA tests exonerated LaPorta.

Mill A back on track

After being shut down for two years, Eel River Sawmills reopened this week under the ownership of Eel River Lumber Products, a division of the Eel River Acquisitions Corporation.

Mill A, which previously employed 100 people, now has 35 workers, although another shift will be hired within the next six weeks, a company official said.

Also in upcoming months, though no date has been set, Mills B, C and D are scheduled for purchase by the Eel River Acquisitions Corp. While Mills B and D are not expected to reopen, Mill C, which houses the log chipping operation, may run once again. The equipment from Mills B and D will be used in Mill A.

At its height in the late 1980s, Eel River Sawmills had 450 employees.

Rock shop owner dies

Warren "Buzz" Chapman, co-founder and longtime owner of Chapman's Gem and Mineral Shop, died July 9 -- his 75th birthday -- of complications from heart surgery, his wife, Charlotte, said.

Chapman, who also worked as a masonry contractor until his retirement five years ago, had been interested in rocks since he collected beach agates as a young child. A native of Santa Rosa, he moved to Humboldt County with his family in 1944 when he was a sophomore in high school. It was there, at South Fork High in Miranda, that he met his wife-to-be.

After they married, the Chapmans decided to go into the rock business; they bought their first shop in Rogue River, Ore., in 1950 and their second one in Miranda. But neither site proved adequate for Chapman's dream: to open a rock museum along with the store. So they kept searching.

"We looked all over the West Coast and even Nevada," Charlotte Chapman said.

The current location -- four miles south of Fortuna on Highway 101 -- has attracted thousands of tourists. Some come from as far as San Francisco just to see the collection.

Geologist Don Garlick, professor emeritus at Humboldt State, called the store "arguably the best rock shop on the West Coast."

The Chapmans themselves visited every continent and all 50 states in search of new treasures. Among their finds: a slab of rock from Morocco containing fossil ammonites, marine mollusks that are now extinct; a polished sphere of amethyst-bearing agate from Brazil; a 700-pound thigh bone from a brontosaurus; and a foot-long egg from an elephant bird, a species native to Madagascar that became extinct in the 17 th century. The shop also houses a large collection of cut and polished stones, polished wood and a "fluorescent room" where fluorescent lights turn drab stones into sparkling gems.

The day before his surgery, Chapman was in the shop, putting in steel for the walls of the new addition, which will house his crystal collection.

"My son will finish it, and then we'll get it arranged the way (Buzz) wanted it," Charlotte Chapman said.

The Chapmans' daughter and son-in-law, Sharon and Lyle Brown, will continue to run the rock shop.

Chapman is survived by his wife, his son Stephen Chapman of Ukiah, his son Jerry Chapman of Honeydew, his daughter Sharon Brown of Hydesville, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service was held July 12.

To pay or not to pay

Property owners north of Humboldt Bay are voting on whether to pay more money to keep year-round fire and emergency services.

The mail-in ballot, due Aug. 5, asks whether property owners in Westhaven, the Trinidad area, Big Lagoon and Orick favor an additional assessment over the next several years to keep the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Trinidad office open 24 hours a day from November through May.

State taxes pay for the office's operation during the summer months, but during the other half of the year the community "rents" the staff and equipment, said Battalion Chief Allan Gradek.

The necessary funds, projected to be as much as $72,927 for the coming winter season, enable emergency personnel to assist with fires, car accidents, rescues and medical emergencies in the rural area. From November 2002 though May 2003, they responded to 159 such incidents. The extra money is needed to cover rising staff costs, Gradek said.

Approximately 1,400 ballots have been mailed to property owners, whose assessments vary depending on how many and what type of parcels they own.

Bike lane brouhaha

A proposal to create bike lanes along Myrtle Avenue was both praised and criticized at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

Project engineer Robert Bronkall of the county's public works department told the board that the lanes on either side of the street would be 5 feet in width and would be located along a 1.2-mile strip between Harrison and Hall Avenues.

Some residents and business owners claimed that the bike lanes would reduce parking availability and cut off access to delivery vehicles. An Arcata resident maintained that since the establishment of bike lanes in Arcata, property values there have increased. Bronkall said that large trucks could briefly pull into the bike lanes to make their deliveries and that property owners could simply use their driveways.

The board is expected to make a decision on the matter by Aug. 5.

The long-term plan is to have a safe bike route from Arcata to Eureka via Old Arcata Road, which connects to Myrtle Avenue.

Don't be duped

A bogus e-mail is being sent to computer users in Humboldt County, among other places, in an attempt at identity theft, the District Attorney's office warned.

The e-mail is from a man calling himself Paul Komo, who claims to be the minor son of a wealthy cocoa merchant in the Ivory Coast. He writes that he needs a foreign bank account into which he can safely deposit $5 million his father left him when he died.

Once an unwitting recipient gives him a bank account number and other personal information, the thief can then use the information to withdraw all money from the account, obtain new credit cards and loans, and mortgage the victim's home.

"This e-mail is part of a criminal fraud, one of many Internet scams," the DA's office said in a written statement. "Do not respond to this or similar e-mail if you receive it."

If you have responded, notify local police immediately.



North Coast Journal Weekly

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