Aug. 25, 2005
GALLEGOS DISCLOSURE VIOLATIONS:
District Attorney Paul Gallegos
and his one-time campaign treasurer, attorney Stephen Arnot,
have agreed to pay a $10,000 fine to the state Fair Political
Practices Commission for violating campaign finance disclosure
laws during Gallegos' initial 2002 race for the office. According
to FPPC documents, on Feb. 26, 2002 -- just a week before the
March 5 election -- Gallegos' campaign committee received a $2,500
contribution from Trinidad resident John Frame. By law, a contribution
of that size received so close to election day must be reported
within 24 hours; Frame's donation was not reported until well
after the election. In addition, the committee failed to provide
employer and occupation information for donations totaling $6,835.
FPPC spokesman Jon Matthews said Tuesday that Arnot and Gallegos
have both signed a stipulated agreement with the commission's
staff to settle the matter in exchange for an admission of wrongdoing
and payment of $10,000. The full commission will approve or deny
the agreement at its regular meeting on Sept. 1. Arnot said Tuesday
that he could not speak to the issue while the matter was still
pending. But Gallegos said that he and Arnot have agreed to split
the fine, and that there was no attempt to deceive the public.
"All the numbers are valid, it was just a clerical error,"
Gallegos said. "It was just sort of a snafu, I guess --
a very expensive oversight." Last year, Gallegos' office
attempted to prosecute an accusation brought by the Humboldt
County Grand Jury against Fortuna City Councilmember Debi August,
one count of which centered on similar disclosure violations.
Judge John Feeney dismissed the case earlier this year.
Neighbors protest controversial Van Duzen mining site
DOWN ON THE VAN DUZEN RIVER, JUST A COUPLE OF miles up from the confluence from the Eel, bulldozers and other pieces of heavy machinery last week worked the grounds of Jack and Mary Noble's Van Duzen River Ranch, preparing for the yearly harvest of rock from the river.
Meanwhile, the ranch's neighbors -- a small community known as "Starvation Flats," located just off Highway 36 on Riverbar Road -- are preparing for battle.
Back in April, when the Nobles' application to install an on-site gravel crusher at the site first came before the Humboldt County Planning Commission, the neighbors succeeded in setting the project back until Sept. 1. The planning commission asked the Nobles and county staff to come back with additional information on the crusher's likely effect on the surrounding community.
Now, those same residents are hoping that another strong showing at the Sept. 1 meeting of the planning commission will not only smash plans to put a crusher at the site, but scale back an operation that has a long, controversial history and that they say is out of scale in their small, quiet community.
Two of those residents are Carlos Quilez and Jessica Puccinelli, who retired to their Starvation Flats rental property from the San Jose area a couple of years ago. Both are careful to distance themselves from the stereotypical image of a Humboldt County environmentalist -- tree-hugging, anti-business -- but both say that when it comes to the Nobles' gravel mining operation, enough is enough.
"No one cares about Jack the lumberman," Quilez said at his Riverbar Road home last week. "No one cares about Jack the rancher. But Jack the miner is a pain in the ass."
Quilez is not alone. He has collected almost 50 signatures from River Bar Road residents on a petition that asks the planning commission to deny the Nobles' application for a crusher, an admittedly noisy device that would allow the Van Duzen River Ranch to process its own river rock on-site rather than hauling it away to a third party for crushing.
In the petition, Quilez and fellow signatories charge that the noise, dust and traffic problems associated with a full-scale crushing operation would place an unacceptable burden on people who live near the ranch. But if Quilez had his way, he would also like to see the amount of rock harvested near his home drastically reduced.
Most of the gravel trucks coming in and out of the Van Duzer River Ranch must now pass down Riverbar Road, an extremely narrow, one-lane passageway that passes over a small bridge. When gravel season is in full swing, Quilez said, there is little room for any other traffic -- including emergency vehicles.
"I've seen up to six trucks at a time backed up behind that bridge," Quilez said.
The problem is helped somewhat by a mile-long access road that Noble has built above the Van Duzen, which allows the gravel trucks to bypass about half of Riverbar Road. But the access road -- wider in some spots than the main road itself, and passing just a few feet above the river's summer water levels -- presents its own problems, as it passes behind the homes of Quilez and other local residents. It's not clear which governmental agency, if any, authorized its construction.
Apart from all that, residents say that historically, their community has not been notified when changes to the operation have been before regulatory agencies, such as the planning commission.
At its April hearing, the commission ordered county staff members to notify residents along Riverbar Road when matters concerning the operation came before the planning commission. Though county staff insists that such a program is now in place, Quilez insists that receipt of such notices is still spotty.
Michael Wheeler, a county planner who is working on the project, said Monday that installing a crusher would actually decrease the amount of traffic on Riverbar Road, as it would mean that trucks would not have to haul rock off to another crusher, only to haul it back as gravel for stockpiling.
He added that his department has no say over the access road to the gravel mining site as a "road," in planning terms, must be a route that leads to two or more houses. In any case, he said, only the impact of the crusher will be at issue at next week's meeting.
"Unless they want to try to petition the planning commission to review the [entire] gravel operation -- that isn't up what's up for hearing on Sept. 1," he said.
The Van Duzen River Ranch mining operation has engendered significant opposition from other neighbors on two previous occasions ºonce in 1997, when the county first authorized a permit for gravel extraction and again in 2000, when the authorized take from the river was increased from 40,000 to 100,000 cubic yards per year.
Humboldt County has around 20 permitted gravel-mining operations. The county is reportedly one of the largest producers of gravel in the state.
But gift fair's sluggish sales depress many
by ANDREW EDWARDS
The New York International Gift Fair was beginning to wind down when I arrived at the Jakob Javits Center for the close of the five-day marketing marathon to hunt for the Humboldt contingent. The center is a monstrosity, about the size of a professional football stadium, and it was filled to capacity with hundreds of booths presenting housewares from across the nation: everything from a throw pillow to a spatula to a candleholder. And, in the prestigious "Hand Made" area, there was Humboldt.
Just to attend the show is quite an honor. Attendees must be juried in by a panel of their peers, and then, as years pass, sit on a wait list for a spot to open up. This year Arcata had a strong contingent with Fire and Light, Hot Knots, Baroni Designs and Holly Yashi all attending.
Holly Yashi is a veteran attendee. It's been coming for six years. Tisha Macky, after initial shock that the NCJ had someone in New York, said that this hasn't been a very good show.
"It's been real slow," Macky said. "There's not a lot of buyers walking the halls."
She was making the best of it, she said. Taking in what the city has to offer. She said she was looking forward to attending a reading by Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho, and had a copy of Time Out New York, the local entertainment guide, tucked away under her counter.
Holly Yashi, which employs about 35 artisans in Humboldt County, does 11 or 12 shows a year all over the United States. The week before, many of the Humboldt representatives had been in Philadelphia for a similar event.
The general mood among them was fairly downbeat. Several said that this show wasn't bad, comparatively, but that the whole festival circuit has been drying up.
"The trade shows are dying," one Humboldt presenter said, declining to be quoted by name. "It's being taken over by the Internet. It used to be bustling. The halls were filled. [This year] the San Francisco show was a ghost show."
Just down the hall from Holly Yashi, Tara Petersen from Baroni Designs was wrapping up. Baroni started coming to the show just two years ago. It had been juried in years before, but ended up stuck on the wait list for five years.
The season had been lackluster for her as well, but repeat buyers and new business through Baroni's website had been keeping things going.
Several of the people I talked to continued the theme of the decline of the tradeshow industry. There aren't any wait lists to get in anymore. The convention centers themselves are falling apart. Macky told me that earlier in the week, during a heavy summer squall, a leak in the roof had caused a section of the ceiling to collapse, all but taking out one of the booths just 10 yards away.
John and Natali McClury from Fire and Light had set up just a bit down the hall. This was their third show in a row. They'd been on the road since mid-July.
"The Atlanta gift show was awful," Natali said. "This one has been fairly good but only when compared to the other two. The whole handcrafted industry is going through a lot of changes."
John said that most of the other presenters he'd talked to had felt the same way.
There were several reasons cited for the change: the general downturn in the economy since 9/11, the Internet, which, with sites like wholesalecrafts.com, has sucked up a lot of the traffic and, interestingly enough, outsourcing to China.
"[Big stores] send people to take pictures and samples and then have it made overseas, directly knocked off," John said. He told a story about one of the other craftsmen who discovered a knockoff on sale that was so exact it fit into his own molds. He said one of his own pieces, a votive candleholder, had been copied almost exactly by furnishings giant Crate and Barrel -- once again, manufactured in China.
But it's not like everything was terrible.
"Don't make it sound too doom and gloom," John said.
Finally, as everyone in the hall was beginning to pack up, I made my way down to Hot Knots, where things were far from doom and gloom. As I arrived co-owner Andrea Shackleton was wrapping up a deal, and apparently had had a stellar show. As she put it, "Knitting is getting very big now."
Hot Knots sells hand-knitted garments and accessories. Their Tara line is made by a cooperative of Nepali women who create the items Shackleton and her sister Gayle design. She said she had been fielding requests for new orders all day.
"It's been really up in
the trends for the last few years, great knitted gifts,"
Shackleton said. "We've had a very big show."
Well, at least someone did.
As the day closed and workers started arriving with pallets and
hand trucks to ship all the goods, they were off to the next
Andrew Edwards is the Journal's New York correspondent.
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