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October 19, 2006

 In the News

The Other Shoe


It's been at the top of Eureka's collective mind for the past six months. It's been the subject of intense media scrutiny. It played a part in the last election, and it's playing a part in this one. The actions taken that day formed the basis for a four-day inquest, which played out kind of like a hearing of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And now, likely as not, the Eureka Police Department's shooting of Cheri Lyn Moore, a mentally disturbed woman who lived downtown, is going to be the subject of a fierce and wide-ranging lawsuit.

Maybe. The first step toward such a suit was taken last week, as attorneys for Moore's family filed a claim for damages against the City of Eureka, just as a deadline for such a claim was approaching. If the city does not come back with an offer that suits the family, they will then have the right to sue.

The claim was filed by the Gordon Kaupp, a young attorney with Dennis Cunningham's San Francisco firm. It was Cunningham who led the "Pepper Spray" case against the EPD and the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, and he is to be feared. That particular case dragged on for five years in federal court, and ended with the the city and the county ponying up massive legal fees, to pay both its own attorneys and Cunningham's firm. Kaupp filed the claim on behalf of Moore's son, her granddaughter and her estate.

Kaupp said Monday that he didn't think a suit was inevitable -- there is always the chance, however slight, that the city's insurance carrier will simply decide to cut its losses by cutting Moore's family a check. Then again, he said, his clients might well prefer to see the matter handled though the criminal justice system, if District Attorney Paul Gallegos ever decides whether or not he wants to charge the police with misconduct. (He might well prefer simply to let the cops sweat a while longer.)

"The family would like to see how the district attorney handles the coroner's inquest, whether they bring charges," Kaupp said. "The family wants to see how the criminal system handles it up there before they file a lawsuit."

But as the claim against the city makes clear, the suit, if it comes, will be wide-ranging, as is typical of cases brought by Cunningham's firm. It charges the police with: wrongful death, assault, battery, false imprisonment, illegal search and seizure, "deliberate indifference to medical needs," deprivation of due process and violation of Moore's Constitutional rights. It names 11 individual EPD officers, from the chief of police on down, as defendants in the case. (For background on the case, see "Cause of Death," Sept. 21.)

As it happened, the claimed served as sort of a "Welcome to Eureka" present for new City Attorney Sheryl Schaffner, who started last week. Schaffner doesn't have much to do yet -- she simply forwarded it to the city insurance company, and will be checking to make sure Kaupp filed the claim in a timely manner.

"This is a very general claim -- it's only two pages long," Schaffner said Monday. "We'll get more detail from them as time goes on."

No doubt.

A few weeks ago, this space carried a short item that challenged the county's many cranky old Arcata-haters to either put up or shut their goddamn yaps. Truth be told, we asserted, Arcata is simply the best-run city in Humboldt County, and people who think otherwise are trapped in a hole in the fabric of the space-time continuum, unable to adjust their psyches to the fact that the year on the calendar no longer reads "1956." The world has moved on, people. The Commies gave up on their plans to subvert the American Way with "reefer" and Chuck Berry records quite some time ago, in case you haven't heard. No longer are the Reds trying to sap your precious bodily fluids through fluoridation of the municipal water supply. (Whoops!)

Fact is, Arcata is the North Coast's "can-do" city. As evidence, we offered the observation that residents' number one beef with City Hall is over potholes. This is proof positive, we said, of a healthy government -- when people have nothing else to complain about, they complain about potholes. And lo and behold, a scientific poll of Arcata residents conducted by a Sacramento firm a few weeks ago showed that potholes are, indeed, far and away the thing most on the mind of Arcatans this election season: An astounding 98 percent of the populace supported the idea of making pothole-filling one of the city's top high-priority issues. Eighty-eight percent "strongly" supported the idea. (For full results of the poll, which covers all kinds of fascinating questions, see this week's Arcata Eye. Beware the obvious typo in question number six, or go the the Eye's website for a corrected version.)

As further proof, we mentioned that Arcata's manufacturing sector is relatively healthy, unlike that of any other Humboldt County burg you could name. It was at this point that the anonymous blogger known as Anon.R.mous completely blew his stack. The notion of Arcata having any sort of manufacturing sector at all seemed to freak his head. It seemed to threaten his cherished picture of Arcata as a town run by and for the lunatics, a place hopped up to its head on LSD and flower power. "Are you kidding me, Hank, you have zero facts to back up your story," he fumed. "NONE. So far, you have posted ZERO FACTS."

Now, let us say up front that unlike most of the rest of the Humboldt County blogosphere, we thoroughly dig Anon.R.mous ("The Mouse") and his Super Happy Fun Blog! He enlivens his hippie-hating world-gone-mad shtick -- not unappealing in itself -- with a lively, bitter sense of humor. He can sometimes go overboard, as he did when he encouraged his readers to graffiti the home of a mural-lover a few months ago, but mostly he stays within the bounds of decency. As per expectations, though, The Mouse was wrong, wrong, wrong when he chose to step to The Dandy.

When we lauded Arcata's manufacturing sector, it seemed obvious enough. After all, Arcata is the home of Wing Inflatables, probably Humboldt County's only military contractor. It's got Wallace and Hinz, Sunfrost, Fire and Light. For Christ's sake, it's even got Amulet Manufacturing, makers of heavy bulldozer add-ons. And Eureka has ... ? But none of that overwhelming anecdotal evidence was good enough for The Mouse. Until we came up with some hard numbers, he said, he would continue to plug his ears and whistle.

Well, here you go, Mouse, courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau's North American Industry Classification System Zip Code Business Patterns Survey of 2004. In 2004, the Arcata zip code (95521) was home to 53 manufacturing firms, over one-third of the county's total. Of those 53 firms, 26 had more than 10 employees, and six had over 50 employees. Among the types of manufacturers represented: fabricated metal, rubber products, glassware, construction machinery, furniture, clothing, appliances, electrical fixtures, musical instruments and many others.

Now, how many manufacturing firms were in the Eureka (95501) zip code? Twenty-seven -- just about exactly half, in a city twice Arcata's size. Most of them were mom `n' pop places -- only nine had more than 10 employees, and only two had more than 50. What sorts of firms were they? The two big ones were Schmidbauer Lumber and Pacific Choice Seafoods. Moving down, we have: candy companies, a slaughterhouse, bakeries, a tortilla shop and some commercial printers. That's pretty much it.

And don't even talk to me about Fortuna (nine firms total, about a sixth of Arcata's) or McKinleyville (eight). Chump change for two Arcata-sized towns, both of them also-rans in this particular game. (At the time, Pacific Lumber was the county's largest single manufacturer by far, and it probably still is.)

So that's all for you, Mouse! Spin and sputter all you like -- we're sure you will -- but you just got served, son. There's another fun lesson about how the Arcata manufacturing economy was in fact built by the scrungiest group of hippies that ever ran the place -- including last week's subject, Wes Chesbro -- but that'll have to keep for another day.



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