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November 2, 2000


Safeway strike cuts supplies

FERC decision delayed

Arts education celebration

CAMP ends season

Judge closes logging hearing

Arcata poll released

Humboldt County parties

Fuel reduction meetings

Million-dollar boo-boo

Safeway strike cuts supplies

It's an old-fashioned labor fight, complete with strike, accusations of greed on both sides and some inconveniences for consumers.

More than 1,600 employees of Summit Logistics, the sole deliverer of groceries to Northern California's Safeway stores, went on strike Oct. 18 in Stockton. The workers are members of Teamsters Local 439 and had been in negotiations with Summit over wages, overtime and safety issues.

Some Humbolters have reported bare shelves in Safeway stores. Local managers declined to comment about what might be running low, directing all inquiries to the corporate office in Tracy.

"The impacts that the stores might be feeling are temporary and not widespread," said David Bowlby, director of public affairs for Northern California Safeway, in a telephone interview from Tracy.

Gerry Flanigan, business representative for Teamsters Local 137 in Eureka, said that Safeway was "trying to break the unions," and that individuals should shop elsewhere out of solidarity with the union.

But why punish Safeway for the fight with Summit?

"Summit is part of Safeway," Flanigan said. He claimed that Safeway had tried to get rid of unions by changing the name of its trucking division in the early '90s.

"I don't have any idea what he's talking about," said Martin Street, spokesman for Summit. He said in atelephone interview that Summit was part of a large corporation called the Tibbett & Britten group and even delivered to some of Safeway's largest competitors. He claimed the Teamsters were trying to prove Safeway and Summit were the same because that would give them the legal right to picket Safeway as part of a strike against Summit.

Street has said Summit's proposal was "quite reasonable" and "the most generous they will see." Flanigan blamed Summit for trying to do away with union labor. Negotiations have not resumed, but replacement workers are making the majority of Summit's deliveries.

FERC decision delayed

A long-awaited decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the amount of water diverted from the Eel River into the Russian River was postponed at least another three months last week.

FERC has proposed reducing the amount by 15 percent. The water supplies development and irrigated farms in Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin counties, but the lack of water in the Eel has been blamed for decimating the salmon and steelhead trout runs that once flourished.

As part of the Endangered Species Act, FERC cannot officially make its decision without a "biological opinion" from the National Marine Fisheries Service. That opinion should detail the proposal's effects on endangered salmon and steelhead in the Eel. In January NMFS scientists criticized the current plan for removing too much water, leaving the fish vulnerable. In June they backed away from the earlier opinion, saying they needed more time to study the situation.

Sonoma County officials have said that the plan does not remove enough of the Eel's natural flows to supply agricultural business interests and human developments during dry years. The Eel has been drained to feed the Russian River and produce a marginal amount of electricity since 1908.

A draft of the opinion is due Nov. 22. The final report should be out in January

Arts education celebration

The Humboldt Arts Council is putting on its annual auction, the organization's biggest fund-raiser of the year, Nov. 5 from 1-6 p.m. This year it is celebrating arts education.

Council Executive Director Debbie Goodwin said arts education is an especially important facet of the arts because it helps bring arts out of the ivory tower and down to earth. Art doesn't have to sit in a museum, she said. If taught widely, it can be used to help people deal with their lives. And that's not just being charitable, she said. Teaching youths to express themselves creatively can even help keep them out of trouble.

That's why there has been a resurgence of interest in and funding for arts education.

"I think traditionally funding for the arts has always been about traditional audiences and doing what we've always done, but as foundations have become thoughtful about how they are advancing public good, they put more emphasis on community."

Humboldt County is leading the way with innovative programs that teach people to use art as a creative outlet. One such program will be receiving the Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Award -- the Humboldt Docent Council. Council volunteers have provided arts education to Humboldt children for 25 years.

There will be young people on hand to drive home the value of arts education. Music will be provided by three youth ensembles.

For more information, see this week's Calendar or call 442-0278.

CAMP ends season

Deer season in California ended Oct. 21, but the hunting season for Southern Humboldt's most sought-after quarry finished two weeks earlier.

The annual Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, a $250,000 federally funded search for pot growing in the hills, ended Oct. 3.

This year's results? More than 18,000 plants from 266 outdoor plots. That's in spite the fact that CAMP had a shorter stay than usual. The helicopter and personnel used for spotting and destroying the gardens were needed in Southern and Central California, said Phillip Daastol, a public information officer with the Sheriff's office.

Daastol said that the continued pressure CAMP puts on growers has them moving -- although not necessarily in the geographic sense.

"Our impression is that they are moving (more) indoors," he said.

Statistics seem to bear him out: 23,000 plants have been found indoors by the county's drug enforcement unit this year.

Judge closes logging hearing

Some environmental activists were hit with a double whammy Oct. 26.

A large group gathered at the Humboldt County courthouse to support a request for a temporary restraining order that would have blocked logging by Pacific Lumber on land in the Mattole River valley.

The request was denied by Judge Anthony Edwards of Trinity County, clearing the way for logging. But many courtroom visitors were upset by Edwards' decision to exclude the public when he heard the request in chambers.

"It was a shock," said one activist, named Sawyer of the Mattole Forest Defenders. He said that many made the drive from Petrolia just to see attorney Dan Ehresman ask for the order.

"It was not only irregular but unlawful," said Terry Francke, general counsel for the California First Amendment Coalition in Sacramento.

Francke said that in order to justify holding the proceedings outside public view, Andrews would have to "make specific findings as to why it furthers the public good."

PL General Counsel Jared Carter has said there is nothing unusual about Andrews holding the proceedings in his chambers.

The case concerns a rare lichen, Usnea longissima, which the Mattole Forest Defenders claim to have found on land that PL planned to harvest. The Defenders notified the California Department of Fish and Game, which in turn wrote an e-mail to the Department of Forestry, which regulates logging -- and had approved the PL timber harvest plan for that plot of land without knowing that Usnea was present.

Spokesperson Mary Bullwinkel said the company has since sent a botanist to locate the lichen and has mitigated any possible damage to it. She said no Usnea was found on the THP itself, but that there was some on an adjacent piece of land.

"One hundred-foot buffers have been marked around the lichen in which no equipment will be operated," Bullwinkel said.

William Condon, an environmental specialist with the California Department of Fish and Game, said that while the lichen could "potentially be affected by the harvesting," PL had "provided an analysis of potential effects" with which he was satisfied.

Local residents and activists from the Forest Defenders say they plan to confront loggers when they come to harvest, Sawyer said, but no treesits or other more extreme tactics are planned at this time.

In related news, an attempt by the Environmental Protection Information Center to get a preliminary injunction stopping logging on another piece of PL land in the Mattole Valley was denied. The case concerns the amount of analysis PL was required to undertake in the 53-acre parcel. Judge Cissna ruled Oct. 25 that in all likelihood enough analysis was done and a injunction was not justified.

The case has yet to be tried on its merits, but EPIC contends that unless a preliminary injunction is issued PL could harvest the land before the court could make a decision.

EPIC had originally scored a victory when it won a last-minute stay Sept. 8 that stopped PL from harvesting the land until the case for a preliminary injunction could be heard.

Paul Mason, an attorney with EPIC, said the organization was going to take the case back to the Court of Appeal, where it originally won the stay in September.

Arcata poll released

According to a poll of Arcata voters taken last week, the race for City Council should be a horse race, at least for the place and show positions.

The telephone survey by Professor Mark Larson's empirical research class at Humboldt State University showed Mayor Connie Stewart favored with 45.7 percent, incumbent Bob Ornelas in second with 26.6 percent, and challengers Dwayne Goforth and Michael Machi tied for third place at 19.1 percent.

Larson said that the error margin for the random sample is plus or minus 5 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent -- meaning a statistical tie for second between Ornelas, Goforth and Machi.

The other three candidates in the race polled a few points lower. Susan Brinton had 15 percent, Ron Hagg 12.1 and Donn Filbert 7.2 percent. Looking at third place with the margin for error factored in, Brinton is statistically tied with Goforth and Machi.

The poll is based on opinions of 387 randomly selected registered voters who said they are "likely to vote." Over a third of those polled, 36.4 percent, said they still didn't know who they would vote for.

The voters were also asked about Measure P, Arcata's 3 percent Utility Users Tax, and according to poll results its passage seems likely. Only 28.2 percent said they would vote against the tax, 43.7 percent said they would vote yes, another 28.2 percent were still undecided. Since it is not a property tax like a school bond, passage of Measure P requires only a simple majority, not two thirds of the vote.

Humboldt County parties

Humboldt County residents enjoy some unusual parties -- and we're not talking about raucous festivities here.

Statistics from the Humboldt County Board of Elections show 11 percent of Humboldt County's 77,830 voters belong to parties other than the Republicans or Democrats. That's more than twice the statewide percentage.

Greens lead the way with 5,259 voters, then the American Independents with 2,009. There are 811 registered Libertarians, 318 Reform Party members and 91 Natural Law members. Some 411 other Humboldters are members of even smaller parties.

Of the two major parties, Democrats continued to hold the statistical edge over Republicans, 32,965 to 23,501.

Fuel reduction meetings

The 1999 Megram fire near Willow Creek cost Humboldt County a lot of blood, sweat and tears to put out -- but extinguishing the fire was only part of the work.

The Forest Service is planning a fire-prevention effort that will thin fuels to prevent another blaze so catastrophic.

The proposal is to reduce fuels in burned stands and create fuel breaks. The Forest Service is asking citizens attend public meetings Nov. 8 at the Trinity Valley Elementary School in Willow Creek at 7 p.m. and Nov. 9 at the Redwood Acres Turf Club in Eureka.

For more information, call Julie at 441-3561.

Million-dollar boo-boo

When Congressman Mike Thompson announced Oct. 24 that the King Range National Conservation Area had received a $1 million grant, he stated the money would "go a long way toward ensuring that future generations will continue to enjoy these lands."

Hope we've got a backup plan. It seems that sometime last week, that grant was nixed.

Chris Chauncey, a legislative assistant in Thompson's Washington office, said "He wasn't sure how it all fell out," but that some key congressional approval had been withheld.

While the mechanism may remain obscured, Chauncey said the result is clear: "The money that had been set aside is no longer set aside."


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