North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

Oct. 16, 2003


Republicans rising?
Humboldt said no to recall, but GOP's appeal may be growing




BUDGET CRUNCH LEADS INSTRUCTORS TO TEACH FOR FREE A handful of Humboldt State instructors in the Environmental Resources Engineering Department are teaching fall classes for no pay, university officials said. Four lecturers -- two of whom retired last year and two part-timers who have taught in previous years -- agreed to teach gratis when the department said it could not otherwise offer the classes.

Robin Meiggs, HSU chapter president for the California Faculty Association, said that, although some club sports have previously been taught by volunteers, "This is probably one of the first times we've seen such a widespread teaching of academic classes." The union doesn't like the practice. "It sets a poor precedent," Meiggs said. "If you look at the CSU [system], over 50 percent of the work force are part-time temporary lecturers." (In the interest of full disclosure, wrap reporter Emily Gurnon is one of them.) "These are people who don't get paid very much to do the bulk of the work," Meiggs continued. "Pretty soon, people are going to be asked to teach the classes for free. What is it saying to the chancellor? That we can teach more students with fewer resources."

Environmental Resources Engineering Department Chair Beth Eschenbach said four spring classes are also slated to be taught by volunteers.

The university does not have an official position on the matter, said spokeswoman Jane Rogers. But it does have guidelines: No instructors should be asked to teach for free (the initiative should come from them); the courses must be ones the university wants to offer; and the instructors must be qualified.

KAYAKING CLASSES SUNK? Just as HSU wraps up its first annual Paddlefest, a celebration of water sports on the bay, word comes that next semester's kayaking classes have been canceled. "It's vulnerable to cuts because it's an elective," said HSU's Jane Rogers, who added that a final decision has not been made.

HORSES OUT OF HEADWATERS The aspirations of local equestrians were dashed last week after the final Environmental Impact Report for future management of the Headwaters Forest Reserve was released. The document, which lays out plans for public access to the reserve over the next several years, denied the wishes of several state and national riding groups by banning horseback access.

"Not being able to go there at all -- that's against the public interest, as far as we're concerned," said Carole Polasek, former president of the local Back Country Horsemen of California chapter. But the staff in the Bureau of Land Management, lead agency for Headwaters management, insists that horse access would interfere with the reserve's primary purpose: conservation of old-growth habitat.

At the same time, the bicycle lobby was partially accommodated; bikers will be allowed to ride a trail on the north side of Headwaters, near Elk River Road on the outskirts of Eureka. Bicycling groups had pushed for more, including a through trail that would connect the Elk River entrance with the Salmon Pass Trailhead outside Fortuna. That didn't happen, but as Polasek bitterly noted, "They're getting something, at least."

Next stop for the plan is the U.S. Congress, which is expected to give the thumbs-up early next year.

EMBEZZLER SENTENCED A former Department of Social Services worker who illegally claimed Medi-Cal benefits for her grandmother has been sentenced to five years felony probation and one year in county jail for stealing more than $100,000 in county funds.

Denise Clair "Dee Dee" Landry, 40, was convicted earlier this year of embezzlement by a public officer and sentenced Oct. 7.

As an eligibility supervisor with the county's social services department, Landry created a computer record that authorized long-term care Medi-Cal benefits for her grandmother, who was not entitled to them by state law, the District Attorney's office said. The grandmother then received $98,950 in benefits until her death in April 2001.

In addition, Landry embezzled $13,241 in Special Circumstances funds from the social services department between November 2000 and December 2001, the DA's office said.

Following her jail term, which she began serving after her sentencing, Landry will be expected to make restitution payments to the county, Deputy District Attorney Nandor Vadas said.

MEDICAL POT CENTER BURGLED Someone broke into the Humboldt Patient Resource Center in Arcata last month and left with "a large amount of marijuana," reported Arcata Police Chief Randy Mendosa. The complexity of the case led officers to turn it over to the county's Drug Task Force for investigation. "It was much too complicated for our patrol division to handle," Mendosa said. He declined to specify the amount of pot taken. Further information on the break-in was unavailable at press time. Lame-duck Gov. Gray Davis signed the aptly numbered Senate Bill 420 last week -- the new law gives medical marijuana clubs official state recognition, creates a voluntary registry of patients and institutes a statewide medical marijuana ID program.

ALIENS AMONG US Don Leonard, executive director of the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that tourism in the county was up 12 percent from the previous fiscal year. The only downside: poor economic conditions mean that tourists are spending less. Leonard also told the supes that the bureau was facing the same belt-tightening budget problems as other public agencies, but that it was recently in receipt of two substantial federal grants, which provided some relief.

ASSEMBLYMEMBER PATTY BERG also dropped by to give the supervisors a "legislative update" on her doings in Sacramento. Berg gave a short description of the successful bills she introduced during her first year in the Capitol: They addressed issues ranging from health care to fisheries. She said that in the coming year she would continue to call for a special legislative session to deal with workers' compensation reform.

Berg then unveiled a new program she hopes will help citizens provide input on her future work -- a one-stop "proposed legislation" form for people who wish to see new state laws or to amend old ones. The form contains spaces for the identification of a problem, how the problem has been addressed in other states, a proposed solution and likely supporters of the solution. "What I hope to have in January is a legislative program that will truly reflect our community," she said. Forms are available at Berg's Eureka office, and the assembly member promises to personally review each proposal she receives.

Republicans rising?
Humboldt said no to recall, but GOP's appeal may be growing


Local Republicans held their election night party at O-H's Town House in Eureka last week, and, needless to say, it was a rollicking affair. Mike Harvey, chair of the Humboldt County Republican Party, stood behind the bar pouring wine while 30 or so partygoers watched the results coming in on the Fox News Channel.

Almost as soon as polls closed, it was clear that it was going to be a Republican evening. When Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante appeared on the screen to give his concession speech, former Eureka City Council member Cherie Arkley was elated. Holding a thumb and forefinger in the shape of the letter "L," she raised her hand to her forehead and chanted "Lo-ser!" Many of the celebrants, including current City Council member Virginia Bass-Jackson, laughed in appreciation.

Harvey, while by no means immune to the merrymaking happening around him, was nevertheless in a more thoughtful mood. When asked what the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the governor's office would mean for the county, he seized upon its political effects.

"It's going to energize our volunteer base," he said. "This is a stepping stone to the next level, to becoming a player in some district elections."

This has been a good year all around for the local Republican Party, which, like the party statewide, has been in something of a slump the last few years. The local Republicans recently opened a party office in a prominent Eureka storefront, and a long-dormant student Republican group at Humboldt State University has come back from the dead. But last Tuesday was perhaps the biggest and most surprising advance of the year. While the county did vote against the recall -- by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin -- it overwhelmingly chose the Republican Schwarzenegger to replace Gov. Gray Davis.

This in a county that is still, by a wide margin, Democratic. The county has 32,425 registered Democrats, compared to 23,006 registered Republicans. But Cruz Bustamante, the Democratic replacement candidate, received only 15,433 votes, suggesting that few Humboldt Republicans crossed over to support him. Meantime, Schwarzenegger, the leading Republican, got 17,947 votes -- suggesting he attracted a fair number of non-Republicans. (A breakdown of the vote by party affiliation was not available.) In a surprisingly poor performance, the Green Party's Peter Camejo placed a distant fourth, behind conservative Republican Tom McClintock.

On Monday, Brian Mau, chair of the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee, downplayed the idea that the Schwarzenegger sweep represents a possible Republican ascendancy.

"This is not an ideological thing, it's just people being angry about the state of our country and our economy," he said. He added that President Bush would likely be getting a taste of the same discontent next year.

When asked if the Republican victory would cause the local Democrats to rethink their strategy, Mau said, "Absolutely not." He noted that Democrats control three of five seats on the county Board of Supervisors, as well as majorities on the city councils of Arcata and Eureka (although the positions are nonpartisan).

It is unlikely that the overwhelming Democratic advantage in registered voters will change any time soon. But Harvey is quick to point out recent gains. Between February and the end of September, Humboldt County Republicans registered 857 new voters. Democrats registered only 121.

But apart from the numbers, Harvey thinks that by putting Schwarzenegger in office, Republicans have shown that the historical division in the state party -- between the social moderates and the religious or conservative right -- has been put to rest.

"This election shows that conservative people can unite behind a candidate that they don't agree with 100 percent, but maybe agree with 80 percent," he said. "It shows that the Republican Party is focused on success, and with the right candidate we can succeed."

The other big surprise of the recall is the stunning fall in fortunes of the Green Party's Camejo, who got 5,170 Humboldt County votes in last year's gubernatorial election. This year, he got only 3,121 -- a loss of roughly 40 percent in a year, a result that was mirrored statewide. Green Party members put a brave face on the result last week, saying that fear of Arnold outweighed the Greens' party loyalty.

"There was a big surge of Democratic voting in the last few days, when people began to see the big numbers for Arnold," said local Green Party member and Arcata City Councilmember Dave Meserve. "A lot of people who supported Camejo thought it was in their best interest to vote for Bustamante."




North Coast Journal Weekly

© Copyright 2003, North Coast Journal, Inc.