Friday, July 2, 2010

Trinidad Planning Commissioner Investigated in Tsurai Site Clearcut

Posted By on Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 6:21 PM


Axel Lindgren III and his brother, Joe Lindgren, both descendants of the original inhabitants of Tsurai, examine illegal cuts adjacent to Trinidad's Wagner Street Trail.

On Saturday Tuesday, the Times-Standard wrote about the strange case of a landscaper who had clearcut a wide swath of vegetation, including a stand of mature trees, within the archaeological zone of the historic Tsurai Village site in mid-June. Someone, it seemed, had illegally hired the firm to wipe the bluffs of view-blocking trees, which sit on public and historically sensitive property.

The Journal has since learned that the city's primary suspect in the case is none other than Trinidad Planning Commissioner Sam Pennisi, a former Arcata City Councilmember. Pennisi and his wife Sharon live in a bluffside home on Wagner Street, directly above the site of the cut, and had previously related to city officials that their vistas of Trinidad Bay were impeded by the vegetation on the site.

The Sheriff's Office is currently investigating the matter.

Reached at the home Friday afternoon, Sharon Pennisi told the Journal that she could not speak immediately upon hearing a reporter identify himself. She hung up before the reporter could identify what he was calling about.

However, a June 19 e-mail from City Manager Steve Albright to City Attorney Paul Hagen lays out the city's case against the Pennisis in fairly deep detail. In the e-mail, sent two days after the City put a stop to two days of illegal landscaping work on the bluffs, Albright tells Hagen that a different tree-trimming firm, which had been hired by the family, came into City Hall to discuss cutting the same site. That firm was told that the property belonged to the city of Trinidad, and could be cut under no circumstances. A few days later, Albright says, Sam Pennisi came into City Hall to complain.

Tsurai Village, which includes ancient graves and other historic artifacts, has been the subject of a long, contentious planning study aimed at preservation. It currently belongs to the city of Trinidad, but is slated to transfer to the Yurok Tribe at some point in the future. The California Coastal Conservancy holds an easement on the property.

More on the story in next week's Journal.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bass Fails to Top 50 Percent in Final Vote Tally

Posted By on Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 2:49 PM

Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass was within striking distance on election night, but final returns from the June 8 election, which were just released, show that she failed to reach the critical 50 percent + 1 threshold against incumbent Fourth District Supervisor Bonnie Neely. The two will compete in a November runoff elections.

Meanwhile, it's also final in the Fifth District: Ryan Sundberg and Patrick Cleary are headed to a runoff. Incumbent Paul Gallegos will face challenger Allison Jackson in the District Attorney race.

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Lance Madsen Eyes Fifth Ward Seat

Posted on Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 1:26 PM

Lance Madsen, a long-time employee of the Eureka Housing Authority and a former two-term Eureka City Councilmember, formed a committee yesterday to probe a possible run for that city's Fifth Ward seat this November.

"There's a real need in the council right now," says Madsen.

Madsen served on the Eureka council from 1989 to 1996, and he also ran against Fourth District Supe Bonnie Neely in 1998, losing to the now-24-year incumbent 55.59 percent to 43.79 percent. His run against Neely was a reflection of what he still sees as a fundamental problem in Eureka and the county at large -- an environment where good jobs are in high demand and short supply.

"The private economy is not here," he says, "and that's one of the things that worries me."

Madsen sees public safety, infrastructure and job development as key priorities that need to be addressed in the city. He is also concerned with the mass exodus of the city's management echelon and what kind of impact that will have in future.

On the topic of the Balloon Track/Marina Center, Madsen says the blighted property has languished for too long. He wants to see it rezoned so a viable development can occur there. And although currently the property, owned by Security National, has certain plans, those plans could change given the economic environment.

"I've seen a lot of these things," he says of proposals for the Balloon Track, "but what we see today could change tomorrow."

During the 1999 attempt by Wal-Mart to rezone the property, Madsen says he was pro-zoning change but not, to any degree, pro-Wal-Mart.

Madsen has been with the Eureka Housing Authority for 24 years, serves on both the Eureka Redevelopment and Housing Advisory Boards, and is a former Board President of the Redwood Boys and Girls Club.

John Osborn blogs at The Reporta.

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