Dec. 23, 2004
| PUBLISHER | STAGE DOOR | THE HUM | CALENDAR
On the cover, clockwise from
District Attorney Paul Gallegos, the Grand Jury transcripts in
the Debi August case,
Wiyot Indians preparing to mark Indian Island transfer, budget
Chris Kerrigan (left) and Rex Bohn, local soldiers, Green Party
presidential candidate David Cobb,
demonstration in Klamath Falls, Humboldt Bank bought by Umpqua,
an LNG freighter.
Once again, the Journal
offers its top 10 stories of the year, and as usual,
those of us on the editorial staff didn't always agree on the
topics or their order.
Here's what we came up with -- and here's wishing you a good
Gallegos beats recall attempt
It's no surprise that the biggest
local story in 2003 also became the biggest story of 2004: the
attempt to recall District Attorney Paul Gallegos. The recall
failed big-time, of course, as voters came down 61 percent versus
39 percent against Measure F in the March 2 election.
Opponents of the liberal DA
-- who made enemies early on with his revision of the county's
medical marijuana guidelines -- didn't waste any time in organizing
against him; rumors of a recall had surfaced as early as March
2003, two months into Gallegos' term of office.
Much of the campaign rhetoric,
of course, centered around the issue of "safety" and
whether Gallegos was soft on crime. Scores of police and sheriff's
deputies, and even a good many of Gallegos' own staff, had genuine
concerns about how well this former defense attorney with no
prosecutorial experience was going to go after the bad guys.
Indeed, the strongest "replacement" candidate was Deputy
DA Worth Dikeman, a longtime prosecutor solidly backed by law
Though the "Safety Yes!"
committee repeatedly banged the soft-on-crime drum, it was the
involvement of the Pacific Lumber Co. -- the target of a fraud
suit filed by Gallegos early last year -- that surely tipped
the scales on this election. The company, along with its parent
Maxxam, contributed more than $313,000 to the recall effort in
cash and nonmonetary donations, according to the California Secretary
of State's office. As close as we can figure, that was about
80 percent of the total spent to try to dump Gallegos, though
the total contributions figure is not available -- the recall
committee failed to submit a final report on Aug. 2 of this year
to the county's elections office.
The pro-Gallegos forces also
raised a hefty war chest, pulling in about $300,000 -- making
the race the most expensive in Humboldt County's history. But
the Gallegos funds, mostly small donations, came from hundreds
of individuals contributors.
Even for some who had questions
about whether Gallegos was up to the job, the appearance of a
large, powerful corporation trying to buy its way out of a lawsuit
was too much to take. Humboldt County progressives rallied around
Gallegos as their corporate-crime-fighter hero.
Gallegos' troubles didn't end
with the recall election. The 42-year-old DA continues to be
plagued with internal strife; a DA investigator, Christine Cook,
filed a suit against the county earlier this year alleging that
she was subjected to racial and gender discrimination. Two prosecutors,
veteran employee Rob Wade and newcomer Ed Borg, resigned to take
jobs outside the county. And Gloria Albin Sheets, who ran as
a replacement candidate in the recall election, filed suit against
the DA's office for alleged discrimination involving the fact
that she was laid off from her job shortly after filing a workers'
The lawsuits, as well as the
fraud case against Pacific Lumber, are pending.
> > See
the COVER STORY:
"Just another day... Shadowing Paul Gallegos" - Feb.
> > See
the NEWS STORY: "Jubilation at the brewery: hundreds celebrate
the DA's easy victory " - March 4, 2004
No LNG for Humboldt Bay
The San Jose-based energy company
Calpine Corp. first expressed interest in building a large liquefied
natural gas (LNG) plant on the Samoa Peninsula over a year and
a half ago. But it was this spring that the company was unceremoniously
run out of town.
Like the Gallegos recall --
with which it was roughly contemporaneous -- the LNG proposal
evoked strong feelings on both sides of the aisle. Supporters
thought that the facility would make a substantial contribution
to the county's moribund economy. The company promised the county
between 60 and 100 new full-time jobs, and many hoped that such
a large industrial development on the bay would attract more
investment to the port of Humboldt.
LNG detractors, on the other hand,
thought that the Calpine plant would be a disaster. They had
concerns about the safety and security -- concerns that were
only intensified when an LNG plant exploded in Algeria in January,
killing 22 -- but they also thought that Calpine would hurt,
not help, the local economy. They feared that the 900-foot ships
that would enter Humboldt Bay to unload the fuel would tie up
traffic on the bay, leaving fishermen unable to get to sea.
Debate over Calpine proposal
fell to the city of Eureka. The company decided that the best
spot for the facility would be the old Eureka City Airport, located
near the town of Fairhaven. The airport was owned by the city,
and the company wanted to get an "exclusive right to negotiate"
(ERTN) on a sale of the property. Activists warned that if this
step were taken, the federal government would step in and the
city might lose the power to say no to LNG. The company mounted
a pro-ERTN ad campaign, listing the names of prominent local
The issue came to a head on
March 16, two weeks to the day after the recall election. The
City Council had convened a town hall meeting at Eureka's Municipal
Auditorium to hear what residents had to say on the proposal.
Nearly a thousand people showed up that evening, a large majority
of them anti-Calpine. The next day, company officials abruptly
announced that they were pulling out of the deal.
Calpine's withdrawal gave the
county's progressives their second big win of the month, and
left them with the feeling that the tide had turned in county
politics -- the so-called "good old boys network" was
no longer in charge. Meanwhile, those who supported a longer
look at LNG ---among them future City Council candidate Rex Bohn
-- decried the "mob rule" that they said killed the
deal and worried about the chilling effect that episode might
have on future businesses interested in setting up shop in the
The local opposition to Calpine
may have had some part in a federal backlash against anti-LNG
activists. A clause in the fine print of a budget bill signed
by President Bush earlier this month gave the federal government
sole jurisdiction over where future LNG facilities are placed.
> > See
the NEWS STORY:
"900 show up for Eureka Council meeting on LNG project"
- March 18, 2004
More penny-pinching for local government
The bell has been tolling for
so many years now that residents may have grown accustomed to
its doleful song. Local government is going broke -- costs are
rising, while the similarly strapped state government continues
to take more and more away from cities and counties.
This year, the rubber met the
road. Fourteen county employees -- eight of them with the sheriff's
office -- were laid off when the Board of Supervisors passed
its 2004-05 budget in June. The library moved to a reduced schedule,
closing its doors completely for a week every three months. The
county had reached rock-bottom. For a few weeks -- until Gov.
Schwarzenegger came through with some money -- the county was,
on paper, nearly completely broke, with cash reserves of only
Perhaps because of the cutbacks, the budget crunch
busted out of spreadsheets and staff reports into local politics.
Just after the budget was approved, the Humboldt Taxpayers League
launched a campaign against the "benefit allowance"
package that the county pays some elected officials and management
level employees. The league argued for the suspension of these
so-called "perks," saying that it would save the county
upwards of $800,000 annually.
County officials fought back.
The benefit allowance was a device designed to save money for
the county, they said. Unlike regular salary, money paid to employees
under the benefit allowance did not require additional contributions
from the county to employees' retirement plans. And members of
the Board of Supervisors pointed out that the county's top managers
had taken voluntary pay cuts that together added up to many times
the amount paid in "perks."
Some of the bitterness left
over from this fight may have spilled over into the fall, when
the county began campaigning for its solution to the budget crisis
-- Measure L, a 1 percent local sales tax increase designed to
undo some of the cuts made in budget years previous and to rebuild
the county's cash reserves. Revenues from the tax hike were to
be split between county government and local cities.
The Taxpayer's League came out
strongly against the measure, running an expensive media campaign,
including billboards and ads in newspapers and on television.
There was some backlash against the league after it refused to
reveal who had contributed to the No on L campaign -- an apparent
violation of the law, which is being investigated -- but in the
end, the measure was crushed at the polls, with 70 percent of
the county voting against a tax hike.
> > See
the NEWS STORY: "Feeling the pinch" - June 3, 2004
> > See
the NEWS STORY: "Measure L" - Oct. 28, 2004
Wiyots reclaim Indian Island
It was a monumental occasion,
one loaded with symbolism -- for the Native American people whose
ancestors have lived around Humboldt Bay for thousands of years,
and for the descendants of immigrants who now outnumber them.
On June 25, a brilliantly sunny day, Cheryl Seidner, tribal chair
of the Table Bluff Wiyot Reservation, and Eureka Mayor Peter
La Vallee signed papers transferring ownership of 40 acres of
city land on an island in Humboldt Bay back to the Wiyot people.
Seidner and a contingent including
representatives from a number of local tribes had paddled in
dugout canoes from Indian Island to the Adorni Center for the
The 40-acre gift,
described by Eureka City Councilmember Mary Beth Wolford as "long
overdue," consolidates the tribe's ownership of the eastern
portion of the 275-acre island. The Table Bluff Wiyots purchased
1.5 acres in 2000, taking over an abandoned ship repair facility
constructed around 1870.
Before the white settlers came,
the Wiyot people held dances on the island, considered a sacred
site -- the center of their world. There was no more dancing
after Feb. 27, 1860 when a group of settlers paddled out to the
island in the dark of night and massacred dozens of men, women
and children who were there for a ceremonial dance.
Today, with help from a $200,000
"brownfield" grant from the federal Environmental Protection
Agency, the tribe is partway through the long process of restoration:
cleaning up remnants of old ships, paints and other toxic material
on the land, while drawing up plans for rebuilding an area they
call Tuluwat Village, including a revived dance circle.
And in another major event celebrated
by local Native Americans, on Sept. 21, representatives of the
Hupa, Yurok, Wiyot, Karuk and Tolowa tribes of the North Coast
traveled to Washington, D.C., for the opening of the newest and
last major museum on the National Mall -- the National Museum
of the American Indian. Inside the museum, part of the Smithsonian,
is a major exhibit curated by Merv George Sr. and others of the
Hupa tribe that will remain at least through 2006.
> > See
the COVER STORY: "The Return of Indian Island" - July
> > See
the COVER STORY: "Pride of Nations" - Sept. 30, 2004
Humboldt Bank, Watermark exodus
Humboldt County's white-collar
job market took a hit this year as two companies, Umpqua Bank
and WaterMark, shifted jobs out of the area. And, as the year
comes to a close, the fate of the county's remaining pulp mill
is highly uncertain -- putting another 165 jobs in possible jeopardy.
In May officials from Humboldt
Bank and its parent company, Umpqua Holdings Corp. confirmed
that 150 workers -- most of them employed at the Humboldt Bank
Plaza in Eureka -- would be laid off or shifted to new jobs.
The cuts took place after Humboldt Bancorp and its principal
operating subsidiary Humboldt Bank were acquired by Umpqua Holding
Co., based in Portland, Ore. The $340 million merger was completed
The local job base took another hit
in September when Arcata-based outdoor sports equipment manufacturer
WaterMark, Inc. announced that it is shifting corporate headquarters
to Portland, Ore. With the move, about half of the company's
147 employees, those in sales, marketing, product development
and demand planning, will be offered positions in Portland, company
officials said. Sixty-five workers will remain in Arcata. Around
a dozen positions will be eliminated.
WaterMark had initially moved
its headquarters to Arcata in 2001 after acquiring Yakima Products,
the manufacturing company started in 1979 by local entrepreneurs
Don Banducci and Steven Cole.
The job shift is not the first
for what was once an important Arcata employer. Company founder
Banducci and his partners sold their successful roof rack company
to the Kransco Group in 1994. That company moved primary assembly
operations to Mexico.
Though the loss of local jobs
hit many individuals and families hard, the county is holding
fairly steady on employment, according to Dennis Mullins, a Eureka-based
analyst with the state Employment Development Department.
Over the last several years,
"Our population has stayed relatively flat, our labor force
has stayed relatively flat," and though jobs have been lost
in areas such as manufacturing, they've picked up in other sectors,
such as construction and transportation, he said. "So overall,
the county's holding its own."
> > See
the NEWS STORY: "Taking over" - March 18, 2004
> > See
the NEWS STORY: "Humboldt Bank slashes 150 jobs" -
May 13, 2004
> > See
the NEWS STORY: "Humboldt Bank no more" - July 15,
> > See
the NEWS STORY: "Watermark moving to Portland" - Oct.
Humboldt youth go to war
The war in Iraq has dominated
the national headlines since the U.S.-led invasion took place
in March 2003. Its impact certainly touches us all. But it is
those who are serving in Iraq, and their families, who live the
war as a moment-to-moment reality.
With the exception of the National
Guard, the military services told the Journal they do
not give out information on how many people from a certain county
or city are serving in Iraq. The National Guard estimated it
had a dozen or so from Humboldt County serving currently in the
579th Engineer Battalion in Iraq, and not just as back-up for
the Army. "They're doing patrols, raids, interacting with
locals" -- basically working on the front lines as much
as any other soldiers, said Capt. Zac Delwiche, operations officer
with the battalion headquarters in Santa Rosa. The current group
left in April or May of this year and will not return until the
same time in 2005.
Marine Lance Cpl. Kelly
Miller, 21, of Eureka was deployed to Iraq right after Valentine's
Day this year, said his mother, Linda Miller. Two months later,
he was being flown back home with severe shrapnel wounds in his
upper left arm and extensive nerve damage. "It wasn't easy,"
she said. "It's still not easy. Basically, you take a deep
breath and you just pray."
Though he's still recovering,
Miller is now back at Twentynine Palms in Southern California
and plans to return to Iraq, either in May or December of 2005,
his mother said. When he told his mother of the latest milestone
in his recovery, she jokingly asked, "Can I break your arm
now? Either that or your leg. Or I'll just duct-tape myself to
you and I'll watch your back and you can go forward. I still
don't want him to go back, but I have to support what he wants
Others serving since the war
began include Army Specialist Nicholas Humphry, the son of Dr.
Ted and Cindy Humphry of Arcata, who is also expected to return
in 2005 -- he, too, sustained injuries. And Eureka High graduate
Sgt. Justin Rick, 24, has settled in Santa Rosa following his
Army service in Iraq, said his mother, Cathi Shaw, of Eureka.
Humboldt County's only casualty
of the war to date has been Capt. Andrew David LaMont, 31, of
Eureka. LaMont was killed May 19, 2003 when his helicopter crashed
while on a resupply mission in Iraq.
> > See
the COVER STORY: "Divisions over Iraq" - April 10,
Eureka man runs for prez
Nationally, the story of the
year was the presidential election. Locally, no one played a
larger role in the drama than Eureka's David Cobb -- the energetic
attorney, activist and politician who became the Green Party's
candidate for the nation's highest office.
If Cobb's campaign were to be
measured only by the number of votes he received on election
day, it would be have to be called a failure. He ended with around
120,000 votes nationwide -- almost exactly one one-thousandth
of the popular vote. In 2000, the Greens ran Ralph Nader and
got 2.74 percent.
But getting people to vote Green at the top
of the ticket was never a key Cobb goal. (He did encourage left-ish
voters in non-swing states not to "throw their vote away"
by voting Kerry.) Instead, he campaigned for the party's nomination
by vowing to assist Greens around the country who were seeking
seats on their city councils, school boards, water districts
-- races that the party might actually win.
In the months before the election,
he was everywhere -- jetting around the country, appearing with
local candidates and getting interviewed on the national media.
On the stump and over the airwaves, Cobb displayed his natural
political talent, overflowing with excitement about the party's
message and optimism about its future. At the end, the Greens
won 68 local races nationwide, bringing their total number of
officeholders to a record high of 221. Among the winners: Cobb's
partner Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, who upset an incumbent Republican
for a nonpartisan seat on the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District.
After the election was over,
John Kerry promised his supporters in Ohio that he would see
to it that every vote was counted. He did very little. Thanks
to Cobb's efforts, reluctant Ohio elections officials were forced
to begin a recount of their votes for president last week. The
recount will likely be symbolic. But if people come to think
of it as symbolic of the Green Party, Cobb will have achieved
yet another of his aims.
> > See
the COVER STORY: "The Candidate" - July 15, 2004
Council race reveals cultural divide
It started out as a simple,
run-of-the-mill City Council race. It didn't stay that way for
long. The passion of their supporters quickly turned the Eureka
City Council race between incumbent Chris Kerrigan and challenger
Rex Bohn into the fall's version of the DA recall -- a bitter
political fight between the county's cultural factions.
The race was curiously light
on the issues. Bohn offered very little in the way of specific
policy proposals; Kerrigan mainly pointed to what he had done
in the past and said he wished to do more of it. The candidates,
when they met in debate, mostly stuck to the script. They complimented
each other on their achievements and congratulated each other
on their commitment to the city.
The real race was behind the
scenes, and it occasionally leaked out into the public. Kerrigan
consultant Richard Salzman, who led the group that defended Gallegos
earlier in the year, made headlines in September when a fund-raising
e-mail made its way into the press. The e-mail called Bohn, a
Renner Petroleum employee, "a reactionary oilman out for
revenge" and linking him to the high gas prices of the region.
Then, in the weekend before
the election, a secretive group calling itself the Eureka Coalition
for Jobs blanketed the airwaves with anti-Kerrigan ads and sent
glossy mailers to the homes of registered voters. Bohn himself
disclaimed all knowledge of the coalition. Because the ads didn't
directly advocate a vote for Bohn, their backers apparently do
not have to identify themselves.
The well-funded negative campaign
seemed to have little impact. Just like the recall, the left-of-center
candidate, Kerrigan, won a resounding victory in the end, carrying
60 percent of the electorate -- leaving everyone to wonder why
the race had seemed so close on election day.
> > See
the COVER STORY: "Bohn vs. Kerrigan" - Oct. 21, 2004
> > See
the NEWS STORY: "Kerrigan exuberant:
Bohn supporters 'shocked' at landslide loss" - Nov. 4, 2004
Water wars continue
Upstream farmers, midstream
dam operators and downstream Native American tribes continued
to fight over Klamath River water rights this year.
Debates heated up this summer
when tribes and conservationists met with federal energy regulators
in Eureka, pressing them to consider shutting down mid-Klamath
dams operated by a Portland-based hydropower company, PacifiCorps.
Close to 200 tribal members, scientists and politicians waxed
passionate about the declining health of the Klamath, citing
blocked fish passages and warm-water reservoirs that are breeding
grounds for algae and parasites.
whose current license expires in March 2006, has a pending application
for a new 50-year license.
The tribes later went to Scotland
to rehash their plight with ScottishPower, the multinational
conglomerate that owns PacifiCorps.
In July, folks in Klamath Falls,
Ore., staged a rally to support Republican-backed reform of the
Endangered Species Act, which protects the lower basin's coho
salmon, and in effect is a threat to upper basin crops. In 2001,
crops withered after water was diverted downstream to help the
A week later the state Department
of Fish and Game released its report on the 2002 fish kill, indicating
that, as suspected, disease, high fish densities and low flows
were to blame for the massive fish die-off. Bad news continued
in mid-November. The Salmon Restoration Council indicated that
the fall Chinook run in the Klamath is at an all-time low.
The continued problems on the
Klamath were at least partially offset in July, when the Hoopa
Valley and Yurok tribes won a major legal victory that increased
flows on the river's largest tributary, the Trinity River. The
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the tribes --
and against Central Valley farming interests -- when it determined
that a Clinton-era plan to restore Trinity fish habitat could
> > See
the COVER STORY: "Upstream, Downstream" - July 29,
Debi August's conflict of interest charges
In May, the Humboldt County
Grand Jury -- usually a sedate body that contents itself with
helpful suggestions to local government -- surprised everyone
when it accused a sitting member of the Fortuna City Council
With the assistance of the District
Attorney's Office, the grand jury had formally accused Councilmember
Debi August of improperly using her position on the City Council
to smooth the way for a proposed subdivision project -- a project
that August, a real estate broker, allegedly stood to profit
In September, the Journal succeeded in unsealing
the grand jury transcripts that led to the accusation. The transcripts
contained a great deal of revealing testimony from August's colleagues
and city employees. Among the most surprising was the fact that
then-mayor Mel Berti, a respected figure in Fortuna politics,
was among those who had suggested to the grand jury that August
had stepped over the line. (August has said that her accusers
perjured themselves in their testimony, but has not yet offered
specifics. The case is scheduled to go to trial early next year.)
The accusation against August
was only the most dramatic manifestation of what seemed to be
an increasing awareness of issues of ethical behavior in elected
officials. The grand jury followed up on the August accusation
by recommending that local governments take a look at implementing
codes of conduct above and beyond what state law requires.
And in Arcata, Councilmember
Elizabeth Conner surprised the city when she resigned her seat
in September. The action was precipitated by the Fair Political
Practices Commission, who decided -- when Conner asked -- that
her job as executive director of the Humboldt Bay Housing Development
Corp. would prevent her from voting on a wide range of housing
and land use issues.
> > See
the COVER STORY: "The Debi August File" - Sept. 9,
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© Copyright 2004, North
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