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November 17, 2005

The Weekly Wrap

Our gray electorate
Plus: When is a Republican a Republican?

22 Questions for P. Scott Brown

The Weekly Wrap

TICKERTAPE: The Eureka Police Department arrested homicide suspect Richard Sanderson, 24, in McKinleyville on Nov. 10. Sanderson was wanted in connection with the Nov. 7 shooting death of Eureka resident Shawn Garfield. ... Eighteen-year-old Eureka resident Jacob Gabriel, a suspect in a robbery-by-bomb-threat of the downtown Eureka branch of US Bank earlier this month, surrendered to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office on Nov. 9. ... The Eureka Fire Department responded to a fire in a two-story house on W. Del Norte St. late Sunday evening. Firefighters were able to save the building; investigators later determined that the fire was started by someone who had been camping underneath the house.

As expected, Bonnie Neely announced last week that she would seek a sixth term representing the Eureka area on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. Neely is expected to face some competitors this time around; one is former Eureka Mayor Nancy Flemming. ... According to a story in Sunday's Eureka Reporter, the Republican Party of Humboldt County is in turmoil, with several long-time members jumping ship in protest at the leadership of Chairperson Lori Metheny.

Both Redway and Manila sent a message regarding the county's redevelopment plans: Keep us out of it, they said -- in both cases, by fairly decisive margins. In fact, before the polls closed that day the Board of Supervisors agreed, on a 5-0 vote, to drop Redway from redevelopment. But the board could ignore the Manila vote, and some residents in other areas that could be affected by the plan, such as Samoa, are also exploring ways to get their towns off the county's list. ... The Fortuna City Council last week began the arduous process of updating its general plan, which is expected to take as long as 18 months to complete.

A last-minute emergency vote at last week's harbor district meeting authorized a $20,000 expenditure of funds to send Commissioner Ronnie Pellegrini and Arcata businessman Fred Chien along on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's junket to China this week. Harbor District CEO David Hull said Tuesday that he had talked to Pellegrini, who will be meeting with port managers from Shanghai and Hong Kong, the previous day: "It sounded like she's doing great. She's made some good contacts already."

Congressman Mike Thompson (DSt. Helena) announced last week that he had secured $5.6 million for Humboldt County projects in a spending bill passed by the House of Representatives last week. If the bill is passed into law, about $1 million of the funds will go to restoration projects on the Salt River and the Trinity River; the remainder will fund maintenance dredging on Humboldt Bay. ... Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency last week awarded the Yurok Tribe $835,000 in watershed restoration funds. The money will be used to repair habitat on the Trinity and the Klamath.

GATES OF OPPRESSION?: Tempers flared in Arcata Thursday, as Humboldt State University students, faculty and staff staged a protest at the site of the university's new "gateway" entrance, at the intersection of 14th Street and LK Wood Boulevard. More than 40 people gathered to condemn plans to build two similar, smaller gateways on Granite Avenue and at the corner of 14th and Union streets.

Some called the signage program, which will cost an estimated $350,000, a waste of money; others argued that the mission-style architecture is offensive. A handful of demonstrators divided, arguing passionately over whether the gate was a symbol of racism. "The mission architecture is really offensive to a lot of native people here," said Patricia Rodriguez, anthropology junior. "And it's a waste of money."

A few of the students stood in the north LK Wood crosswalk, blocking traffic for about ten minutes. After a number of heated interactions with drivers, the crowd moved out of the street. Protesters chanted "Wiyot land," and held signs that read, "This is an HSU problem. Respect cultures on campus," "Taco Bell--$ Well Spent?" and "Honk if you don't like the gates." Within minutes of the 1 p.m. protest, every few cars began honking in support, some doing so emphatically, well down the street.

Many protesters were frustrated with a lack of inclusion in choosing the gate design. "We had an opportunity to be different and to involve the native community," said Marylyn Paik-Nicely, director of the HSU Multicultural Center, "And that didn't happen."

Joseph Giovannetti, Native American studies department chair and a registered Tolowa Indian held a "Mediterranean style my ass" sign over his head, referring to the HSU administration's description of the gate design. "I stand in solidarity with the students, staff and faculty who are highly offended at the lack of inclusiveness in picking the style of the gates," Giovannetti said. "This reminds people of the deaths of 100,000 Indian people in the mission system." -- Cat Sieh

FLA MOVE COULD KILL BILL: Everyone else retires to Florida, so why shouldn't Bill? Over the weekend Trinidad resident Mara Rigge rallied a handful of banner-wielding protesters (read: four) to publicly poopoo the 59-year-old chimpanzee's confinement at the Sequoia Park Zoo and demand he be relocated to a posh chimp camp in central Florida. The sanctuary, Save the Chimps, has agreed to let Bill hang at the sunny 150-acre compound with other aging chimpanzees as long as it's OK with Eureka zookeepers. Thing is, Bill's so old, staff are afraid that anesthetizing him and putting him on a plane could kill him. On top of health concerns, the zoo's oldest resident reportedly does not mix well with other non-human primates -- the result of working for the circus and living devoid of much chimp contact since his 1957 Eureka arrival. He's on the smallish side too, which could mean trouble if a rogue retiree got all up in his face. Bill will likely remain here, behind bars, flinging feces like he has for decades and attracting a steady number of tourists (100,000 visitors a year, they say).

Upgrades to his cage are under consideration, but, as always, cash is tight. The zoo's operating budget for 2005, funded through city taxes, is approximately $350,000. In 2004 improvements, namely a new pavilion and petting barn, were funded through donations most of which ($2 million) came from Rob and Cherie Arkley, Eureka's premier philanthropists. The couple also commissioned Yannis Stefanakis to create a 12-foot sculpture of Bill's likeness for the zoo's new digs. In a Eureka Reporter article from February posted on Rob Arkley's Security National website under the heading "corporate news," Cherie Arkley said of the prehumous statue: "I have never liked the whole concept of waiting until death to laud somebody or something." Bill, who escaped briefly last month when vandals opened his cage, declined to comment on his memorial, but said that Florida sounds nice and Security National owns the Eureka Reporter.

CUE THE Q TV: Queer TV junkies in these underserved parts will no longer have to scrounge for morsels of gay innuendo in reruns of "Xena Warrior Princess" or "Three's Company." This week, Cox Communications and Q Television Network (QTN) -- a cable television station that offers 24-7 queer-themed programming -- announced that Humboldt County will be the first Cox community to receive access to the GLBT station. Local Cox Communications Director of Public Affairs Wendy Purnell said that Humboldt County's queer population "indexes" at a considerably higher rate than the American average, meaning more people here identify as gay and lesbian.ºThe national index is 100; in Humboldt County, the lesbian index is 189 and gay male index is 140. "It just makes sense to offer programming that appeals to an important part of our community." QTN channel 399 launches Nov. 22, offering a veritable rainbow of gay programs, among them: "Brunch," a sitcom/talk show starring Honey Labrador, the lesbian from the ill-fated "Queer Eye for the Straight Girl"; "Flesh and Threads," a live show that "brings fashion and the gay beat to the dance floor; and "Gay Court."

FLU-CHOO!: Oh where, oh where, can my flu shot be got? Well, your best bet is to first ask your primary doctor for a shot, says Susan Wardrip, immunization coordinator for the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Branch. If your doctor doesn't have the vaccine, then maybe your employer's offering shots. If not, then you can wait and see if the county gets another shipment of the vaccine -- but those are only for seniors 60 years old and up, young children and other-aged people with medical conditions who get a prescription from their doctors. The county already held one round of flu shot clinics, and was going to host another round this week, but had to cancel when it heard the vaccines weren't coming in. Shipments of the vaccine from the manufacturer, Chiron, have been delayed or insufficient across the country this year -- a remnant problem from last year's flu shot fiasco, as well as, theorizes the Center for Disease Control, a higher demand for flu shots because of publicity over the bird flu.

"We will be closely monitoring the influenza vaccine situation in our county and working with medical providers to target high risk people to receive available vaccine," said a county news release. The influenza season starts in January and goes through March. Wardrip anticipates the county will receive another shipment of vaccine sometime in late November or early December and will notify the pubic when it comes. And she says getting a vaccine in December or even January "is perfectly OK."

Meanwhile, flu shot clinics at drug stores and markets have mostly already been held or, in the case of Longs Drug Stores, their remaining clinics have been canceled. "Our clinics have been canceled because there's no availability of the vaccine," said Lee Miller, pharmacy manager at Longs Drug Store on Harris in Eureka. "We were told not to anticipate any further clinics." Safeway has already held its clinics, as has Costco. And, the Mad River Hospital held its one and only on-site clinic this past Tuesday.

Aside from chasing down the elusive flu shot, there are other ways to avoid the disease, offers the county: "Wash your hands, especially before cooking and eating; cover your mouth when you cough by using a tissue or coughing into the bend of the elbow; stay home when you have a fever and cough."

GRIZ BE GONE: News flash! "Grizzly bears ... seem to be doing pretty well on the Yurok Reservation," says an article in a Nov. 14 article, datelined "Trinidad, Calif.," in Indian Country Today. Grizzlies -- extinct in California since the last one was shot in 1922 -- are credited in the article with "ripping siding off houses and breaking windows to gain entry, and leaving quite a mess in the kitchen."

Hmmm. The article probably meant to say "black bears," the less-menacing ursines still alive in the northern California woods. The black bear, Ursus americanus, is indeed a notably destructive forager, once she has become accustomed to the easy pickins' to be had from cars, tents, coolers and claw-friendly refrigerators. But at about 5 feet tall (when reaching for the cookies on top of the fridge) and anywhere from 125 to 400 pounds, she's still not as big of a bruiser as the grizzly bear, Ursus arctos horribilis, who can grow as long as 10 feet and weigh as much as 700 to 1,000 pounds -- that is, where grizzlies still exist in, say, Alaska, Wyoming or Montana.

Anyway, the story talks about the Endangered Species Act, under which, according to the story, "sea lions and grizzly bears in northern California are federally protected," and how some say the act has led to human unemployment and severe economic loss -- hence the efforts of Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, to gut the ESA. Technically speaking, since the grizzly is ESA-protected in the lower 48 states, it is protected in California. If it existed here.

In addition to resurrecting a species long extinct in California -- won't that lonely fellow on the state flag be happy! -- the article also implies that ESA protection has produced sea lion problems. But the only sea lion in the state protected under the ESA is the Steller sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus. There are only about 500 of them in California, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and they tend to hang far off shore. In the article, Yurok fisherman David Gensaw Sr. complains about sea lions stealing fish from his net. Probably it's the more abundant California sea lion, Zalophus californianus, who's picking off his catches. The California sea lion, like all marine mammals, is protected -- but under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act. And, as for the black bear -- the more likely house-raider on the Yurok Reservation -- while it is generally protected under state law, it is not protected, at least in California, under the ESA.

SODOOKIE: "Do You Sudoko? Try Our New Weekly Mind Bender Game." Thus, taking his customary shell-shocked stumble through the minefield of English grammar, did Humboldt Advocate Publisher/Editor/Advertising Director Shawn Warford announce to his "readers" last week that the Advocate would heretofore run Sudoku puzzles.

People given to dark, conspiratorial thinking (people much like Warford) might imagine that this new feature was hastily arranged in response to the Journal's introduction of Sudoku to Humboldt County a couple of weeks ago. We do not go so far. It is possible, we believe, that one of the Advocate P/E/AD's many Invisible Friends -- those helpful gremlins who pop up from time to time in the paper's letters to the editor page -- suggested Sudoku to him ages ago. (See the Journal's Sept. 1 cover story, "Web of Lies," for more background on these fascinating creatures.)

However it happened, the Advocate has discovered Sudoku; someday, maybe, Warford will also figure out how to spell it. So we turned to the relevant page, casting a professional eye at his wares. And then we chuckled, and then we roared, and then we sighed.

One of the principal pleasures of Sudoku lies in the elegant, crystalline symmetry of the initial clues. If you are of the proper turn of mind, the solutions that result from a unique clue-pattern can have a maddeningly delicious sort of wit --a beauty, even. Well, the Advocate Sudoku has all the elegance of a passel of hogs attacking the morning slop; as much, in other words, as the Advocate itself. Clues are slapped down willy-nilly, as if by a nihilist. It seems to have been composed drunk.

Of course, every Journal Sudoku is constructed by internationally renowned Pappocom© puzzlemaster Wayne Gould -- a scholar and an artist. They are crafty, clever and charming. By staring deeply into the simple snowflake mechanism upon which a Pappocom© Sudoku is built, one can, if one is willing, discern the universe, its solution. It is an aesthetic experience akin to dinner at Larrupin, or a Bach partita. Accept no substitutes.

And while we're at it, the same goes for crosswords. The Journal runs the incomparable David Levinson Wilk; the Advocate apparently believes it can delight its readers by asking them to think of a three-letter word for "feline."

CORRECTIONS: We've got some good ones this week. The Nov. 10 "From the publisher" column incorrectly identified the top vote-getter in last week's McKinleyville Community Services District election. Jeff Dunk placed first, Bill Wennerholm second. In the same issue, the story "Controversial arrests at Critical Mass" boneheadedly misstated the significance of Nov. 2, the date of recent anti-war protests in Eureka. It is the anniversary of President George Bush's reelection, not his second inauguration. Finally, and most confusingly, the story "Hatfields win?" should have said that Judge John Feeney defined a "public event" at the Arcata Educational Farm as one in which four people or more are invited to meet at any "time or date," not "time and date." Arguably, Feeney's phraseology could be interpreted to mean that a city event in which four or more people are invited to the farm throughout a particular day would run afoul of his injunction. The Journal rues the errors.



Our gray electorate
Plus: When is a Republican a Republican?


Graph of registered votersA few weeks after every trip to the polls, the Humboldt County Elections Department reports the outcome in fine detail, breaking down party registration, turnout and support for this candidate or that in every one of the county's 270 or so political precincts. These reports are eagerly awaited by future candidates or their campaigners, who hope to find buried in their details some hints on their chances, or where they will have to focus their energies.

But there are many things that the final reports won't tell them, even though the information is at the Elections Department's disposal. Perhaps among the most interesting and basic questions of all: How old are Humboldt County voters?

Just before last week's election, the Journal crunched the numbers on all 81,243 Humboldt County voters who were registered as of early October. We came up with some somewhat surprising answers.

First of all, the average age of a registered voter in Humboldt County is 47.5 -- a number that struck this reporter, at least, as a little high. But perhaps more interesting is the difference between how voters younger and older than the average choose to register.

If the Humboldt County electorate as a whole is a little on the silver side, the two-party system here is positively wrinkled. Of those older than 47.5 years, 83.2 percent belong either to the Republican of Democratic party; under that figure, only 57.9 do. The numbers are even more dramatic at the tail ends of the bell curve. Less than half (48.7 percent) of Humboldt County voters aged 30 years or younger are registered either Republican or Democrat, as compared with 88.4 percent of voters aged 60 or over.

Of those not registering with one of the major parties, by far the most popular option is not to register with a party at all -- to be a "decline-to-state" voter.

graphic showing Average age by party,  Humboldt County

Average age by party,
Humboldt County

Republicans: 51.6
Democrat: 51.0
American Independent: 41.2
Libertarian: 40.6
Peace and Freedom: 39.4
Decline to state: 38.3
Green: 37.2
Natural Law: 36.96

These demographic trends largely mirror those underway throughout the California. A recent fact-sheet issued by the Public Policy Institute of California, a San Francisco-based think tank, noted that the rapid increase in "decline-to-state" voters over the last 10 years is one of the most notable trends in California politics. The fact sheet -- entitled "California Voter and Party Profiles" -- noted that since 1994, the number of "decline-to-state" voters in the state has doubled, from 1.5 million to 2.9 million.

A separate fact sheet, "The Age Gap in California Politics," shows that the youth vote's abandonment of the major parties is, if anything, more dramatic in Humboldt County than it is statewide. The PPIC reports, 60 percent of voters in the state aged 18-24 are still registered Republican or Democrat. (Both PPIC reports are available on the institute's website:

Regionally, Humboldt County presents a great disparity in the age of its electorate. Voters in the Arcata-based Third Supervisorial District -- the one that just elected 37-year-old Mike Wilson, a "decline-to-state" voter, as its representative on the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District -- average 42.5 years in age. The Fourth Supervisorial District, which takes in downtown Eureka and Samoa/Fairhaven, is slightly older, with an average age of 46.8. The First District, encompassing the Eureka outskirts and Ferndale, and the Second, which takes in Fortuna and Southern Humboldt, both average slightly over 50. The Fifth District -- McKinleyville, Blue Lake, Trinidad, Orick, Willow Creek -- splits the difference, with an average age of 48.

Should we be concerned about the graying of the Humboldt County electorate? After all, age does have its advantages. The youngest block of voters in the county are the 113 citizens belonging to the Natural Law party -- the party that advocates mass adoption of transcendental meditation as a panacea for society's ills. They average 36.9 years in age.

But how much does party registration actually mean? As we pored through last week's election results, analyzing them this way and that, we happened upon a curious fact -- a couple of them, actually. Did you know that longtime Fortuna City Councilmember Mel Berti -- a staunchly conservative voice in a staunchly conservative town -- is, in fact, a Democrat? Or that prominent Gallegos supporter Micheal Twombly, one of the honchos of the progressive Local Solutions political action committee, is, in fact, a Republican?

Berti, 66, is in many ways the face of Fortuna, the incarnation both of its politics and its courtly, hometown manners. So when we reached him Monday with the goods on his political affiliation, he fessed up right away, if somewhat sheepishly. (When we quizzed him about this a few months ago, he was quick to call himself a Republican.) Berti said that his Democratishness was a long-standing thing with him, stemming from his youth ("I'm a Kennedy man," he said) but that it doesn't influence the way he votes. "I always pick the best man, I don't care if he's Democrat or Republican or what."

With the 58-year-old Twombly, apparently, the case is both more and less complicated. He was a Green Party activist in Sacramento before moving to Humboldt County, and he stayed Green after he got here. But Twombly said Friday that he recently switched his registration to Republican in a sort of electoral false-flag maneuver, one that would allow him to keep tabs on Gov. Schwarzenegger's campaigning for his recent (failed) slate of "reform" propositions, which Twombly strongly opposed. "I'm a Green, and I have been a Green since 1990," Twombly said. "But I wanted to receive Republican mailers." Twombly said that he's since switched his registration back to Green.

The two cases, taken together, suggest an interesting question for political philosophers. When is it proper to ditch your party allegiance? Whenever need arises, or ... basically, never?



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