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October 20, 2005

The Weekly Wrap

Rollin ain't rollin'
HSU's president unfashionably disses pot in 'drug haven

12 Questions for Jacob Kevan

The Weekly Wrap

WATERFRONT FIRE: Old Town resident Gina Prows and her husband, Dave Machuga, weren't sure where the fire was at first, but they knew it was nearby. When they looked out their second story window, around 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, the billowing black smoke was funneling up F Street and pouring into their apartment. They could hardly see the road below. Machuga immediately called 911 and minutes later they knew for sure that the fire was coming from the construction site on the boardwalk. "It was an inferno within minutes," said Prows. The blaze was made worse by a 20-knot north wind. Fire crews were on the scene almost immediately and spent approximately 40 minutes extinguishing the initial blaze, then hours more monitoring hot spots and combing rooftops of nearby buildings for stray embers. "The saving grace was the rain we had late last week," said Eureka Fire Chief Eric Smith. "Had conditions been drier this could have been a real catastrophe. Old Town is a tinderbox of very old buildings, very close together." Smith could not provide details about the cause of the fire that destroyed the Bayfront One project, nor could he pin down how long an investigation could take. "We're going through it layer by layer to gather and sort the facts." On Tuesday, EFD workers sorted through the rubble and inmate crews hauled away debris in wheelbarrows. Security guards have been stationed outside of the site at all hours since the blaze was extinguished. The project is owned by Larry and Lisa DeBeni, Greg and Sharon Pierson, Catherine Dunaway and Susan Rasmussen. Anyone with information concerning the fire is encouraged to call the EFD at 441-4000.

PALCO/WATER BOARD SHOWDOWN: One of the many long-standing disputes between the Pacific Lumber Co. and state water quality agencies is headed to the California Supreme Court. Last week, the court ordered the case, Pacific Lumber v. Water Resources Control Board onto its calendar, with a hearing date set for Nov. 9. The case concerns the most fundamental issue in the many battles between the company and the various arms of the State Water Resources Control Board --- do water quality regulators, in fact, have the right to limit logging? On March 18, 2005, a state appellate court assured the agencies that, in fact, they do --- it is this decision that will be reheard by the Supreme Court next month. A number of environmental groups --- including the Humboldt Watershed Council, the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisheries Associations have filed a friend of the court brief in the case, asserting that the agency can halt timber harvest plans. "This is really huge," said Mark Lovelace of the Humboldt Watershed Council Tuesday. "What this suit is really about is whether Water Quality has the authority to regulate water quality. It should be pretty obvious." In the past, Palco has argued that the California Department of Forestry should have the final say on the approval of timber harvest plans.

THAT'S MY TREE: On Tuesday, treesitters accused of trespassing by Pacific Lumber Co. gained momentum in their counter-suit against Palco, accusing it of trespassing. "Fun was had by all," said treesitter Remedy (aka Jen Card), who spent a year in a tree without touching ground (March 2002-March 2003) before being hauled out by Pacific Lumber. Back in September 2002, following a series of interrupted tree sits in Freshwater, Palco sued the treesitters in Humboldt County Superior Court. Activists allege it's a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), "used by corporations to quash protests against their operations," said Remedy. Last year, seven of the treesitters sued back, accusing Palco of assault, battery, kidnapping, inflicting emotional harm, distress, negligence and false imprisonment, among other things. They recently added three new charges: trespassing, forcible entry and invasion of privacy. "We were alleging that they committed trespass, because we were in possession of the trees," said Remedy. "Pacific Lumber alleges, and we agree, we were occupying the trees. Well, if you look up 'possession,' it means 'occupy.' I, therefore, had possession of the tree. And Judge Quentin Kopp found that to be true." Semantically speaking, that is. But Kopp threw out the treesitters' trespassing charge, because "we had not shown we had a right of possession," said Remedy. Kopp allowed the forcible entry and invasion of privacy charges to remain. "We are arguing they came onto the property by force, in a menacing way, to remove us," Remedy said. "The law says, right or wrong, even if you don't have a right to possession, people cannot resort to 'self-help' do-it-yourself removal. They have to go through a legal process and get the Sheriff." The invasion of privacy charge stems from Palco's extraction crews having hidden cameras in their helmets. Another nuance of the trespassing charge remains unclear, however. "The location of the trees occupied by the activists is in the county right-of-way, directly adjacent to a public road," Remedy said. "Pacific Lumber has long snubbed the activists' requests for proof of ownership." Palco had "promised it would provide 'simplified' proof'" at Tuesday hearing. "But it did not," according to Remedy.

CRABILL STAYS PUT, FOR NOW: Is College of the Redwoods President Casey Crabill looking around for a new job? Not at the moment, she says --- this despite a recent report in the Orlando Sentinel that listed her as one of the finalists chosen by a committee headhunting for the post of the presidency at Florida's Polk Community College. Crabill said that she has since withdrawn her name from consideration. But the popular president, who has become a community fixture since taking the reins at CR a few years ago, seemed to indicate Monday that she might, at some point, look to a future beyond Humboldt County. "I think that sometimes you can get a lot of things done, and you get to a point where you might start thinking about whether someone coming in behind you might be able to get more done," she said. "What's good for the institution is what you have to be thinking about. The last thing you want to do is stay too long." Last year, Crabill was one of three finalists for the presidency of the Hudson Valley Community College in her home state, New York.

AUGUST'S BILL: After months of deliberation, the Fortuna City Council decided this week to shell out for Councilwoman Debi August's legal fees, which stem from the suit brought against her by the Humboldt County Grand Jury for an alleged conflict of interest. The council agreed, 3-1, to give their colleague $52,000, which covers roughly a third of the $158,000 bill. Voting for the reimbursement were Mayor Odell Shelton, Mel Berti and Dough Strehl. Dean Glaser voted against.

WHAT'S THAT RED THING? OK, so most of you probably already know that the red torpedo jutting at a jaunty angle from the recently dolled-up median between the 101s (4th and 5th streets) on R Street in Eureka is actually a big ol' channel buoy. The buoy, the clusters of pier posts and the lengths of hawser, all planted prettily amid small boulders, were donated by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District to CalTrans as visual aids to what once was a languishing wreck of an ugly median. CalTrans is in charge of fixing up that particular stretch of road because it's also Route 255, which takes the northwest-bound traveler to the Samoa Peninsula and other points before and beyond. Ann Marie Jones, CalTrans spokesperson, says the harbor district "regards the R Street portion of Route 255 as the gateway to their facilities and an extension of the entrance to their Woodley Island Marina." Jones says the harbor district and the Keep Eureka Beautiful committee requested improvements to the dilapidated approach to the district's domain, and so CalTrans obliged, with the district's consultation. Eureka community development staff reviewed and supported the makeover, and it fits in with future redevelopment in that area, says Jones. She likens it to another beautification of an ordinary CalTrans rehab project, the McCullens Street wall with a seaport theme on South Broadway. "We're always looking to be context-sensitive," Jones says.

DEADLINE TO REGISTER: The deadline register to vote in the upcoming Nov. 8 election is Monday, Nov. 24. Registration cards, which are available at area libraries and other governmental facilities, must be delivered to the Humboldt County Elections Office at the corner of H Street and Harris Avenue in Eureka by that date (if you're mailing your card in, just be sure that it's postmarked by then.) In addition to the eight statewide ballot measures up for vote this time, numerous local offices --- including school districts, community service districts and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District --- will be decided at the polls. Please register and vote, and be sure to check out the Journal's coverage of local races next week.



Photo of Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond.Rollin ain't rollin'
HSU's president unfashionably disses pot in 'drug haven'


Humboldt County residents generally might be eager to "subvert the dominant paradigm," as that old bumper sticker commands --- until, that is, someone comes along and tries to subvert their dominant paradigm: The embrace of pot, especially medicinal pot. But that's what Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond's been doing lately, and town's been abuzz since his latest denouncement.

Left: Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond.

A couple of weeks ago at the Arcata City Council meeting, after a desultory discussion among council members as to whether they should bring the city's ordinance in line with county guidelines governing medical marijuana, Richmond scolded the council in a long and passionate speech about the ills of the weed, and urged the council not to make Arcata "more of a drug haven."

"There is a very big elephant in this room, and the elephant is your efforts, or at least the efforts of some of your members, to essentially move toward the partial legalization of the use of a drug that can have significant and negative consequences for a number of people," Richmond said.

"This is an issue for the health and safety of this community, both for the university and for the city," he continued. "Don't be misled by using the argument that this is a medicine. It is indeed not. Don't be misled by the argument that you're somehow being compassionate."

Again --- to some residents, them's fightin' words. But what's behind such vehemence? Where's the president coming from? Does he maybe have a point?

For Richmond, the issue does seem to center around health and safety. At the meeting, he railed against the easy availability of drugs in town. "Last Friday night, the university police arrested a juvenile for selling marijuana and LSD... a drug that was responsible for killing a young person who was my friend when I was an undergraduate at San Diego State University. His connections and his sources of those drugs came from the Arcata Plaza."

In an interview in his office last Friday, Richmond emphasized this concern. "I'm worried about young people," he said. "Young people, by nature, want to experiment, they want to try new things, and if you make drugs readily available --- allowing anybody to carry around three pounds of marijuana or to grow 99 plants wherever they want, as long as they've got a medical card that they can buy from any physician who wants to make a few hundred bucks --- then you are going to create an opportunity for some young people to get into serious trouble with drugs. And marijuana today is a potent drug, it's seven times stronger than it was in the early '70s. It does, in some cases, act as a gateway drug to other, really very much more dangerous drugs. That's a concern of mine."

Steve Butler, vice president for student affairs at HSU, also said that health and safety are HSU's chief concerns, and that the HSU police department "makes no moral judgment about marijuana, whether it's medicinal or not." The university system is allowed, under Title 5 of the California Education Code, to make laws more restrictive than regular state law --- including, for instance, greater prohibitions on alcohol consumption on campus. Besides, Butler said, both county law and state law (Prop. 215) disallow marijuana on or near school campuses.

But, the clash and entanglement of county and state laws with university codes (not to mention federal law) notwithstanding, why is Richmond so adamantly opposed to allowing medical marijuana on campus?

"It's not a medicine," he said. "I do believe there are some people who use it primarily for medical purposes, but I think there are other ways to alleviate the pain that they feel. What I would like to see is our government do a lot more research into the physiological consequences of marijuana and its analgesic properties which really has not been done yet. There is some research, but it needs to be followed up."

Richmond will defy anyone who accuses him of lacking compassion for those who do use marijuana for medicinal purposes. "I am a compassionate man. I don't think this is a case of compassion, I think this is a case of using people's ills as a mechanism for escaping the consequences of breaking the law."

He pointed to a piece written by local neurosurgeon Denver Nelson and published in the Oct. 12 Times-Standard, saying pot isn't a medicine. And Richmond, a geneticist, has studied the genetic influences on cocaine, using insects as subjects. "One of the things that I think most people don't realize is that all of us are genetically different from each other, and we differ from each other in our propensity for the actions of psychoactive drugs. You might be a college student watching your neighbor smoke pot and seeing relatively little effect besides what looks like a pleasant experience, but you might not realize the same experience as a consequence of having a different set of receptors in your brain. I do know that, from the research that has been done, it's quite clear that regular use of marijuana does change the number and distribution of receptors in the brain." (Shortly after this interview, a Canadian team reported that compounds found in marijuana actually stimulated the production of certain brain cells in rats, according to news reports.)

Richmond's also jittery about enrollment these days. HSU is not meeting the enrollment goals set by the state university system. "And one of the reasons we're not reaching those goals," he said, "is because of the perception and some of the obvious information that people get when they come to Arcata and see people dealing drugs on the Plaza, when they learn that it's a tolerant community that permits drug use for a variety of reasons and where the police often times are not supported by the community and by the authorities that they report to. It's damaging the community, in my view, and it's also damaging the university."

One wonders, almost, if Richmond has a personal vendetta against pot. He insists not. His kids didn't --- to his knowledge, anyway --- do drugs. And the one time he tried it he was underwhelmed. "Once, when I was a beginning assistant professor, some of my graduate students invited me over one evening and they had some marijuana that they were smoking and they said, 'Rollin, you should try this.' I did, I took one puff on it --- I don't like to smoke, I'm not a smoker. I didn't think it had any effect and I said, 'I'd prefer to drink beer, rather than marijuana,' so that's my only experience with it, which was a long time ago. I'm guessing I was 26-ish."

But pot these days, he repeats, is different.

So, agree with him or not, Richmond's sticking by his very unArcatian stance against pot, medicinal or otherwise. And yet, with the rest of the world seeing Humboldt County as synonymous with pot, does he perhaps feel as if he's swimming upstream?

"Yes," Richmond said. "But like the salmon, perhaps some of the eggs we lay will grow up and be successful, and go out to sea and come back as a big successful fish that will change the future."

When asked how much time he was going to give it, Richmond laughed and laughed. But seriously, he said, he doesn't think he's alone in his views. "What's interesting to me is how many people have come up to me and said how much they admired my courage," he said. "Frankly, I think there's more support for trying to pay attention to the consequences of drug use than most people in this community realize." l


12 Questions for Jacob Kevan


Photo of Jacob Kevan. Photo by Kyana Taillon.For a short period of time this year 19-year-old Hydesville resident Jacob Kevan was Pvt. Jacob Kevan --- a new Army recruit stationed at Fort Knox. In his first few weeks, his company's drill sergeants were arraigned for abusive behavior and Kevan deserted.

Right: Jacob Kevan. Photo by Kyana Taillon.

1. What happened when you enlisted?

I was sent to boot camp in Fort Knox, Ken. I left here Jan. 28 of this year. I think it was Feb. 3, when we actually started boot camp. First day, I realized something wasn't right. There were inconsistencies from the stories recruiters told --- their biggest thing recruiters do is to tell you what boot camp is about.

2. What were you expecting?

I knew it was going to be tough physically and mentally, but I didn't actually expect to get struck or any of the other hazing going on. I guess I expected it would be more professional. It was the complete opposite.

3. What hazing, what happened in boot camp?

The first day, as soon as we got off the bus, you had the typical yelling that you expect, but then when they took us inside, that's when it got interesting. The first thing was they force-hydrated us, made us drink our whole canteen. One kid puked. The drill sergeant made him do pushups right on top of his puke. At first he refused to do it; that's when they threw him up against the wall locker, then he finally got down there and did pushups in his own vomit.

Then, after that, it was just a lot of intimidation.

4. Did there seem to be a purpose for all this?

They tried to drill in our heads constantly that the reason they acted like this was because Echo Company was the toughest, hardest training at Fort Knox, and that they had zero combat casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. Later after we switched companies, after the allegations came out, we learned that pretty much every company had that same motto, that they were all proud that they didn't have any combat casualties.

5. You say "after the allegations came out." What allegations?

About the fourth day one of the privates went to sick call and tried to tell some of the civilian doctors and nurses about what was going on. They didn't believe it.

There was another company next door to us. They had actually heard the drill sergeants keeping us up 'til all hours in the morning, screaming and yelling, spying on us from their side of the barracks, things like that. They went through their chain of command and told them about it. It finally made its way up to the battalion commander who, as soon as he heard about it, came over and got our testimonies.

All of this happened in the first week.

6. What happened when time came to testify against your superiors, the drill sergeants?

Well, it had been pretty hush-hush after that. The drill sergeants were suspended and we switched to a different company with new drill sergeants and just continued training. We didn't hear anything about it.

7. Were things different in the new company?

They were. It went from one extreme to another. I think they were definitely concerned about a lot of us going AWOL, so they gave us a lot more leniency. I'd describe it as the Army playing kiss-ass to us. We were talking with the defense and the prosecution for JAG [the Judge Advocate-General].

Then the first day after boot camp was over the first trial began against [Sgt. 1st Class David] Price, which is where I testified that I saw him choke a private when he fell asleep during some classroom briefing. He fell asleep and the sergeant came up behind him twice and put him in a chokehold on both occasions.

8. What were the results of the trial?

They came up with a verdict that same day. We found out that he was only demoted one rank in grade. Everybody was frustrated and extremely upset and mad because that was just walking away.

I knew it was over for me; there was no way I was going to serve in an Army that acted like this.

The judge was quoted saying he doubted the seriousness of the charges. The defense attorney said he was happy with the outcome and that the Army was not a social club. The way it came out made us look like a bunch of crybabies and wimps, but in reality, it was brave that we brought up the allegations to begin with.

9. What happened next?

At that point I wanted to get out. My mom had been talking with people on the GI Rights Hotline, getting advice. My commander told me he couldn't let me out just because I wanted to leave the Army. [I ended up] calling a taxi, rode in it to a Wal-Mart to get some civilian clothes, went into Louisville and bought an airline ticket and flew to Seattle.

I spent 40 days AWOL. I found out from the GI Rights Hotline if I was gone over 30 days I would be dropped from the rolls in my platoon, which meant after I turned myself in I would be automatically discharged.

10. At that point you are considered a deserter?

That's right. So I flew back to Kentucky and turned myself in, then I spent 2 1/2 weeks at the SPCPCF, the Special Processing Company Personnel Control Facility.

11. Then they just let you go?

They gave me a bus ticket and I rode the bus for almost a week all the way from Louisville to Rio Dell. They gave me my release papers and that was the end of my involvement with Uncle Sam.

12. What do you have to say to someone who's thinking about joining the military?

I wouldn't say the military is bad. I just think some people just aren't meant for it. I know if I hadn't gone through what I experienced in boot camp, I'd probably still be in.

I'd just say they need to get the facts. Recruiters are extremely good at what they do. They're good at telling stories and making it sound great, like they'd seen the world and had a blast doing it. Especially with the Army and the Marines, they have to ask what are the chances that they'll go to Iraq or Afghanistan.

You definitely have to be prepared and not let the recruiters talk you into anything. You hear about all the money you can get, bonuses and school money. I don't think they tell you all the costs. l



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