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November 26, 1998

Report tallies 'boomer' needs

Storms stacked up

Pepper spray guidelines due

Election results final

HSU faculty file grievance

What's next for measure F?

Social Security mails statements

Railroad awaits funding

Report tallies 'boomer' needs

Humboldt County's working baby boomers are more concerned with maintaining active, financially independent lives than with what sort of government assistance they might eventually receive, a report from the Area Agency on Aging shows.

Of more than 1,450 employees interviewed in May, 94 percent said it was very important they remain financially independent and mentally active in their retirement years, while just 7.8 percent said it was moderately to slightly important that they receive support from the government after they quit working.

The report, "Much Ado About Nothing? Retirement Values and Needs of Baby Boomers," was compiled by the Humboldt County agency in conjunction with Humboldt State University sociology Professor Paul Crosbie as a "small step toward a better understanding of the values, needs and expectations that Baby Boomers have of retirement."

That's important, said Area Agency on Aging Executive Director Patty Berg, because the nation's 78 million baby boomers are expected to have a significant impact on the senior service delivery system in the next century.

"We wanted to assess the Baby Boomers' retirement values and to compare them with the values of the generation that preceded them and the generation that will succeed them," the report stated.

The workers, picked from 12 public and private organizations in Humboldt County employing from 185 to 1,600 people, gathered information on marital status, ethnicity, education level, home ownership, health insurance and household income, among other questions. Researchers admit the sample was biased, in part because all respondents were employed, a majority (70 percent) were women and 89 percent were white.

Nevertheless, results of the survey were surprising, the researchers said.

For example, just 8.8 percent of respondents rated participating in senior center events as important, and even then they said it was only moderately to slightly important.

"Boomer retirees might want computers and Internet connections instead of typewriters in their resource centers, and they might want more vegetarian foods at their lunch sites," the report stated. "But fundamentally, they still seem to want independence/automony, health and economic self-sufficiency, just like their parents before them and their children after them."

And while their shear numbers will surely impact the retirement system, the report finds no indication support for retirement services will increase in coming years.

"Indeed, support may well diminish as this large segment of the labor force leaves the tax roles and lives longer than any generation before them," it concludes.

Storms stacked up

Humboldt County was belted with its first serious storm of the season last weekend causing flooding and power outages particularly in the north.

Although Eureka recorded slightly more than five inches in a 24-hour period Nov. 20-21, total rainfall was higher in some areas.

"Bayside reported 4 inches as of Saturday morning and another 2.5 inches during the day," said Bill Forwood, a meterologist for the National Weather Service in Eureka.

Gasquet, in Del Norte County, reported 10.48 inches in a 24-hour period and one weather spotter in the King's Range reported 9.5 inches.

Some streets were flooded in Elk River, Bayside, Arcata, McKinleyville, Orick and Fieldbrook. All county roads were reopened by Monday with the exception of Elk River Road.

Highway 101 north of Orick and two miles north of Redcrest was closed and later reopened. The Smith River in Del Norte County was the only one to reach flood stage as a result of the deluge.

A spokesman for the sheriff's department said the local street flooding was due mostly to plugged culverts keeping county public works staff busy.

Power outages over the weekend were few and scattered but Monday's high winds knocked out power to 3,500 customers in Eureka for two hours in the morning and another 4,700 homes throughout the county for about seven hours during the day, according to a spokesman for Pacific Gas and Electric.

Storms are expected to continue to roll through the county with the next one due Wednesday night and Thanksgiving Day.

"There's lots of cold air behind this one. The temperatures are going to drop," said meteorologist Forwood.


Pepper spray guidelines due

The approximately 550 law enforcement agencies throughout California including the Eureka Police and Humboldt County Sheriff's departments are expected to receive state guidelines before the new year addressing "use of nonlethal chemical agents," including pepper spray, and 13 other issues related to civil disobedience and crowd control.

The long-anticipated controversial guidelines do not, however, specifically recommend use of pepper spray on non-violent protesters.

A draft copy states: "The application of nonlethal chemical agents, including (pepper spray), has proven effective in a wide variety of civil disobedience situations. Use of nonlethal chemical agents during civil disobedience may be reasonable depending on the totality of the circumstances. Each agency should consider when, where, and how nonlethal chemical agents may be deployed."

Adopted by the 14-member state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training at its Nov. 5 meeting in Fresno, the Crowd Management and Civil Disobedience Guidelines set forth 14 recommendations from use of force to mass arrest and booking, said POST spokesman Tom Hood.

The guidelines most of which are not new to law enforcement were written in response to legislation authored by state Sen. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, instructing POST to come up with standards for dealing with civil disobedience following Humboldt County's pepper spray controversy.

But pepper spray opponents said the guidelines "suggest the direct application of chemical agents to nonviolent protesters."

A press release issued just prior to the POST meeting from attorney Brendan Cummings, who is representing pepper sprayed protesters in a lawsuit against Humboldt County law enforcement, said, "California may soon lead the way in shredding civil rights by approving direct application of caustic pepper spray on nonviolent, peaceful protesters."

But Hood said the decision of how and when pepper spray might be applied remains up to each police agency.

"The point is that the way in which the chemical agents are deployed is up to the individual agency or officers on the scene based on the totality of the situation," he said. "I don't think there's anything new in here. It's just designed to be a resource document."

The pepper spray lawsuit filed on behalf of nine Humboldt County protesters was thrown out of federal court in San Francisco last month, but attorneys for the protesters are in the process of appealing that decision.

Election results final

Fifth District Supervisor Paul Kirk narrowly retained his seat and attorney Christopher Wilson was elevated to Superior Court judge as final votes were tallied Friday from the Nov. 3 election.

Kirk's re-election was a major upset for supporters of challenger Sara Senger, who was in first place by about 100 votes before absentee ballots were counted. Kirk was re-elected by 41 votes.

Wilson defeated Eris Wagner for a seat on the Humboldt County bench by a 318-vote margin.

This will be Kirk's second four-year term on the Board of Supervisors. The 54-year-old former salesman has said he would not seek a third term.

He faced three challengers in the June primary and took a majority of votes, but not enough to prevent a runoff with Senger. The two candidates ran a clean campaign, but were at opposite ends of the political spectrum on many issues.

Kirk is conservative and a staunch supporter of business, while Senger promised to advocate for seniors citizens and the poor and was a vocal supporter of improved community planning.

The issue that most divided Wilson from Wagner was experience and the question of just how long the winner would sit as the court's family law judge. Wagner wanted to remain the family law jurist for her tenure on the bench, while Wilson said the position was for just two to three years after which the family law duties may rotate to other jurists.

But the family court, which must deal with issues such as divorce and child custody, is not popular among the sitting jurists, and none of them have expressed an interest in filling the seat following Wilson's term.

Superior Court judges are elected to six-year terms, although they rarely face election-year challenges. Wilson replaces Judge John Buffington, who opted to retire after attorney Jeanne Tunison-Campbell challenged the sitting judge.

Tunison-Campbell lost in the primary.

HSU faculty file grievance

A Humboldt State University faculty union filed a grievance against the institution based on denial of mail privileges.

University administrators would not allow the professors to use the on-campus mail system to distribute a magazine prior to the election because it contained political endorsements.

The grievance was denied by the university and now goes to the Chancellor's Office, Professor Milton Boyd said Monday. Boyd is on the executive committee of the HSU chapter of the California Faculty Association.

If the grievance is denied by the Chancellor's Office, it would go to arbitration by an arbitrator chosen jointly by the faculty and the Chancellor's Office.

Boyd said HSU, with action by Vice President Don Christensen, was the only campus to refuse to distribute the California Faculty magazine to faculty members. The fall issue was rejected because it contained political endorsements for the Nov. 3 election.

Before making his decision, Christensen said he checked with the Chancellor's Office general counsel and was advised the endorsements were unlawful.

According to a memo sent to faculty Oct. 14 by Ken Fulgham, chapter president, distribution of the magazine is specifically endorsed in the collective bargaining agreement. Fulgham was out of town this week and unavailable for comment.

An administrator at the Chancellor's Office is cited in Fulgham's memo as maintaining that state law forbids the use of public funds or other public resources for political advocacy.

Meanwhile, faculty at the 22 campuses in the California State University System are working without a contract. Faculty want a multiyear contract, a 6 percent pay raise and a change in the merit pay system, according to the Associated Press.

The two entities have not talked since Oct. 14. The contract expired last July 1.

No talks are scheduled.

What's next for measure F?

Three weeks after Arcata voters adopted Measure F, aimed at ensuring corporations are subjected to democratic controls, the future of the legislation remains vague.

Passed with 61 percent of the vote, the measure called for town hall meetings and establishment of a City Council committee designed to create "policies and programs which ensure democratic control over corporations conducting business within the city."

Measure F champion Paul Cienfuegos admits the committee's plans are vague, but he doesn't think a lack of specific goals hurt the cause.

"I'm stressing the openness of it. We have no present goals or objectives," he said.

But Jody Hansen, executive director of the Arcata Chamber of Commerce, thinks the measure simply represents "more government control" in Arcata without much oversight.

Cienfuegos envisions the Measure F committee analyzing the city's relationship with corporations like Louisiana-Pacific.

"Do we need this giant corporation to make the fiber they make? Can we do this just as a local business?" he asks.

Social Security mails statements

Over the next six months Humboldt County residents between the ages of 40 and 47 will be receiving a statement in the mail from the Social Security Administration detailing retirement benefits.

Nationwide, these "Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statements" are being mailed to 33 million people, said Nancy Schwarz, Social Security Administration district manager in Eureka. The statements outline estimates for retirement, disability and survivors benefits from Social Security.

Schwarz said information on the number of social security recipients in Humboldt County was not available.

Social Security began mailing benefit statements in 1995 in response to legislation which requires the agency do so. It started with older Americans, age 60 and older, the first year and has been slowly phasing in other groups, Schwarz said.

By Oct. 1, 1999, the agency is required to send statements yearly to all workers age 25 and older. The agency obtains addresses from the Internal Revenue Service.

Workers receiving statements this year are advised to examine them carefully and report any discrepancies to the Social Security Administration. Phone 1-800-772-1213 or check out the administration's website at

Railroad awaits funding

As torrential rains pound the North Coast Railroad's already damaged tracks in the Eel River Canyon, the company that runs the beleaguered line is continuing to await long-delayed federal funding.

With a two-year audit of the North Coast Railroad Authority's books finally complete, authority representatives say they are optimistic FEMA might now release up to $7 million in funding for repairs the agency has been withholding pending completion of the audit, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

The audit, which found substantial mismanagement of the railroad, recommended that FEMA turn down funding for nearly $2.4 million of the $10 million in repairs claimed by the railroad authority between 1993 and 1997. Some of the allegations in the report include inadequate documentation and overcharges.

Between 1993 and 1997, flooding caused by four major rain storms resulted in nearly $15 million in damage along the 300-mile track stretching between Eureka and Schelville near Sonoma. The authority has been unable to make necessary repairs without the FEMA funds, and rail officials worry that winter storms could wash out tracks where drainage is still blocked from last winter's storms.

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