Yesterday, the Supreme Court tackled a prickly issue: Is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional because it makes some states (and some counties and townships), but not others, report to the feds before they can make any changes in their voting procedures?
That's what Shelby, Ala. (which sued the federal government) and other critics claim. The Justice Department doesn't agree -- and it's quite possible that one of the arguments that Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr., made yesterday for keeping Section 5 intact was informed in part by a paper written by Ryan Emenaker, a political science professor at College of the Redwoods.
Emenaker, reached by phone today, said he was researching the Voting Rights Act last summer out of general interest and to prepare to teach it in class. A couple of months ago, when he learned that the Supreme Court was going to be taking on Shelby County v. Holder, he wrote a paper presenting an argument for keeping Section 5 that, he said, he hadn't seen anyone else make yet. And he sent it to SCOTUSblog -- the premerie news and research site on the Supreme Court that all the law clerks scour for smart nuggets.
"I didn't hear from them for a while, and I figured they were just blowing me off," Emenaker said. "Then they wrote back. They said my paper was the impetus for a new symposium."
More scholars were asked to write essays, which were published on the blog in a special series. Emenaker is the first community college professor to ever write for the SCOTUSblog; his colleagues in the symposium hailed mostly from law schools at places like Yale, Columbia, George Washington and Stanford.
You can read Emenaker's paper here. The gist of the issue, and of his argument, follows.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 banned discriminatory measures aimed at thwarting minorities from voting. Section 5 -- the part in question -- named the jurisdictions with a history of such practices, put them on a list, and appointed a federal watchdog to their voting-related proceedings.
As part of being on this list, these "covered" jurisdictions have to get permission from the feds any time they want to make changes to their voting procedures. Want to start making voters show their ID first, for instance? If you're on the list, you've gotta ask Washington first. And so on. It's called getting "pre-clearance."
In 2006, Congress reauthorized Section 5. Shelby County, Ala., sued, arguing that times have changed and the formula for being listed for pre-clearance -- set by another section of the law -- is outdated. As well, they said, some of the places on the list no longer had the "pervasive evil" that put them on there in the first place, said Emenaker. Most of all, Shelby and co-critics argued, Section 5 is an infringement on states rights and allows unequal treatment of states -- making it unconstitutional.
Proponents of Section 5 say it's working, that it's an effective deterrent against descrimination -- and that there's a way off that list. Emenaker's argument centers on that last point: "bailout," the ability, encoded in Section 5, to get off the list.
Many states and local jurisdictions have. Even so, nine states and dozens of counties and townships remain listed, including four counties in California (Kings, Merced, Monterey and Yuba).
Critics complain the bailout process is onerous. Emenaker disagrees, and in fact says it is bailout that makes Section 5 constitutional (that also was part of the argument made by Verrilli yesterday; Emenaker hopes his paper gets cited in the Supreme Court's decision, when it comes later this year).
"They can avoid pre-clearance if they can show they haven't had violations of minority voting rights for the past 10 years," he said.
But in fact, he said, many jurisdiction eligible for bailout don't bother to do it. They might, Emenaker writes in his paper, "be choosing to stay on because being on the list provides a measure of protection against lawsuits."
"Remember," he writes, "federal oversight of elections continues without pre-clearance. Compared to the expense of defending against voter discrimination lawsuits, remaining 'covered' can be a desirable choice."
Jurisdictions on the covered list, he added, likely develop better election laws with the federal government helping them than if they were to craft them on their own. And if someone sues, they can just say, "Look, the federal government approved this."
Emenaker said New York, California and Mississippi even wrote friends-of-the-court briefs in favor of keeping Section 5, saying they didn't mind their jurisdictions being covered and they "don't feel infringed upon."
The court's decision is expected to be close -- 5-4, Emenaker's predicting.
If you want to hear Emenaker talk about the issue, he'll be on KHSU's Thursday Night Talk tonight.
Joe Mello, 56, has built a 10-foot by six-foot steel cross, bedecked it with bicycle sprockets and the busted-up remains of the Calfee bicycle his big brother, John Mello, treasured, and planted it on a slope beside Highway 101 -- and he doesn't care if Caltrans doesn't like it.
John, 57, of McKinleyville, was riding the Calfee last Sunday when, just north of Trinidad, a county owned Nissan Titan drifted to the shoulder he was in and struck and killed him. The CHP reported that the driver, Brian Bresee, 26, of Eureka, a Humboldt County Parks employee, did not appear to be impaired.
Joe -- an avid bicyclist also -- said this morning by phone that he wanted to make a statement. After his brother's sudden death, he went into his shop -- Joe Mello's Auto Repair -- and built the cross. He painted it white, in the manner of the white ghost bikes that people sometimes place on the side of the road, including locally, where a cyclist has been killed in a collision.
"I'm a rebel," he said, sounding more sad than defiant.
In a news release his cycling friends sent to the media, Joe said: "There's been a lot of back and forth since Sunday; people saying a lot of things about cyclists and safety. But the truth is, John was riding legally and in a way that should have been safe. Is it too much to ask that drivers have enough skill and concern to not steer over the fog line? I want people to see exactly what happens when someone doesn't pay attention to the very serious job of driving."
He added that his brother, who leaves behind two grown children and four grandchildren, was "a quiet and sort of serious kind of guy who was happiest when he was on his bike."
The brothers, who grew up in Arcata, got into cycling in 2002. Joe took it to the competition level; John -- a small guy at 5'6" and 140 pounds -- liked the long rides and hillclimbs. He rode the Tour of the Unknown Coast every year, and the Chico Wildflower Century, and others. Last Sunday, he was returning from a ride to Prairie Creek, Joe said, and if he'd finished the ride it would have been about 90 miles.
Joe said he and John often practiced riding in a groove -- maintaining a steady course on the other side of the white line -- and that they were both safety conscious. But, Joe said, he won't be so cautious as to stop riding altogether now.
"My son -- he's in the Marines -- he just came into town, and we went to breakfast this morning and we were talking about that," Joe said. "I told him, what I do, I try to forget about the danger and just ride. Otherwise, you don't have fun. Just pay attention and don't ride over the line."
And that's what he hopes the cross reminds drivers to do -- give cyclists room.
"Just move over," he said. "It don't cost a dime to move over and save a life."
As for Caltrans, Joe said, if the agency removes the cross, that's OK. He just wanted to make a statement, and he said he now has. But if it's up long enough, he does plan to add a plaque that reads, "John Mello, Lived To Ride."
Memorial services for John Mello will be held tomorrow at Paul's Chapel in Arcata, with visitation and viewing from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The funeral is 3 p.m. Saturday at the chapel.
Around 60 people gathered in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse this afternoon to show public support for women's health rights and Six Rivers Planned Parenthood. Signs, honks and pink were plentiful.
Simultaneously, across town, three members from the local 40 Days For Life campaign stood quietly in front of SRPP's driveway praying for an end to abortion. Today is Day 15 of their 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. public appeal to God.
Earlier today, SRPP announced they had raised over $12,000 as part of their Pledge-a-Picketer campaign launched in response to the 40 Day crowd. For more on this, check out our previous coverage.
"Bon Boniere is currently closed. We will be serving our last ice cream on March 2nd starting at 5 p.m. Come say goodbye. We have enjoyed serving you over the years."
Thus proclaimeth the answering machine message for Eureka's Bon Boniere signaling that, after more than 100 years in Humboldt, the scooping will soon cease. Your only/last chance to consume the ice cream shop's superfluous calories will be during this Saturday's Arts Alive. Line up, mouths.
The closure comes a mere five months after owner Kellen Moore decided to close their Arcata Plaza location.
Old Town ice cream cravers are not without respite though. We'll note that Living the Dream Ice Cream just opened a couple weeks back two blocks down the street. Sun(dae)rise, sun(dae)set.
The Journal has a call out to Moore and will update this post when more information is available.
The Del Norte Triplicate writes that Ada Charles, who was born Dec. 17, 1909, has died. She was the oldest member of the Yurok Tribe, and for the past several years her birthdays have made the news. A 2010 Times-Standard announcement of her 101st birthday celebration in Klamath, to which the community was invited, noted:
"... Charles grew up tending to her family's ranch -- milking cows, doing housework and canning fish. Besides a few years attending government school in Hoopa, working in the Bay Area as a housekeeper and living briefly in Ukiah with her daughter, Charles has been a Klamath resident, keeping Yurok traditions alive, including the Yurok Jump Dance, a traditional dance held every other September."
Charles grew up near Pecwan, along the Klamath River in Waukel Village (her parents were Nettie and Harry Waukel). She spoke fluent Yurok -- it was her first language -- and was a master basket weaver who taught new generations of weavers the tradition.
A January 2011 story about her in Yurok Today, the tribe's newsletter, said:
"Some of her fondest memories are of collecting and processing basket materials such as bear grass, hazel sticks, spruce roots and maiden hair ferns to name a few. She knows precisely when the basket making components are ready for harvest. She wove all the way up until last year when her hands became too weak to make the weave."
When she was 91, Deborah E. McConnell interviewed her for Roots & Shoots, the California Indian Basketweavers Association's newsletter. McConnell asked her about her favorite baskets to make. Charles replied:
"Anything. I dream about it. It just comes to me and I have to make it. I put everything else away and just start making it. If you want to make a cap, just make it."
She added that she didn't draw out a pattern first, but worked straight from the image in her head.
In her online obituary guest book, a relative whose grandmother was Charles' sister reminisced:
"... I lived with my grandma Minnie and Ada visted often in Klamath and in Crescent City, they would work on baskets all day. Later I would camp on the river fishing in the Charles camp and Ada even in her later years would be filleting fish for the smoke house. Her house was always open and I would stop by to here the local news an seems I would see a new relative everytime I stopped, those were good times. I live so far away from Klamath it always felt good to come home and Auntie Ada made me feel welcome."
Charles died Feb. 21.
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors today appointed the politically pugnacious property rights advocate Lee Ulansey to an at-large seat on the Planning Commission. In the pre-vote discussion, several supervisors alluded to concerns from county residents about Ulansey bringing an agenda to the commission. As chairman of the developer-friendly group Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights, or HumCPR, Ulansey has sought to ease zoning restrictions on rural land in the ongoing General Plan Update.
Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell, who served nearly three years as executive director of HumCPR, named Ulansey as her first choice for the position, as did Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass and First District Supervisor Rex Bohn. Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace voted no after arguing that the board should appoint someone less divisive. Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg named Ulansey as his second choice but abstained from voting.
Ulansey joins fellow HumCPR alum Bob Morris on the commission, which regulates land use in the unincorporated parts of the county.
He spent a few years in front of Sea Breeze Candy store down in the Bayfront One complex at the foot of F Street. After that closed, he set up shop in front of Shorelines Gallery. That closed, and now he's a few paces over, in front of Eureka Books.
Same sharp look in his blue eyes. Just as be-ringed and be-baubled as ever. He looks very prosperous. But what of his hosts?
Indeed, one has to wonder if it truly is good fortune to have such a creature stationed in front of one's business. One who, to put a finer point on it, dispenses cheap fortunes to those who stand before him while, one by one, the establishments behind him fold up and close. Sea Breeze -- closed. Shorelines Gallery -- closed. Not a cheery record. Weren't the proprietors of Eureka Books even a wee bit worried about taking on Zoltar?
"Before we bought Zoltar, we consulted Zoltar," said Eureka Books co-owner Scott Brown the other afternoon at the bookstore. He sounded confident, just a twitch of a self-mocking smile on his face.
He opened up to a page in a journal where he'd tacked a yellow rectangle of paper: Zoltar's answer. Key wise phrases -- "Now is the time to start that new project" and "This newfound industry pays debts" -- leaped out.
"'We took that as a sign," said Brown. They bought him for $4,500. (New, he'd be about $9,000). "But then ... I hadn't really considered his closing a business."
Co-owner Jack Irvine, busy shoring up the back of a crumbling Bird's Eye View map of Eureka, quickly flipped the notion. Zoltar brings good fortune. Period. "Matt closed because he was so successful, and he retired," Irvine said about Matt Butler, who, with his wife, Sherrie, owned both Sea Breeze and Shorelines. Indeed, this is what the Butlers also say on their website: The successive shutdowns of their businesses were part of the retirement plan.
Maybe so, maybe so. But one thing also seems apparent: Zoltar looks after Zoltar. That bookstore fortune? It sounds like he's talking about himself. Especially this part: "The time is right to get going. If you are to move the world, first you must move yourself."
Any good fortune befalling those who engage with Zoltar could just be collateral benefit from the seer's delusions of power and rank ambition.
One more thing: Sometimes, another foretune-teller comes along and tries to oust Zoltar, wherever he is. Zoltar always wins.
(Click images to enlarge.)
Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:
On 02-25-2013, approximately 1:00 p.m. the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Community Response Unit served a Humboldt County Superior Court Search Warrant at the Englewood Industrial Park located at 26459 Highway 254 (Avenue of the Giants) in Redcrest. When deputies served the search warrant they located four marijuana grows inside buildings on the property. Deputies seized three of the marijuana grows for a total of 839 marijuana plants which ranged in size from 2’ to 3’ tall. One of the marijuana grows was determined to be medical marijuana and within state guidelines so it was not removed. Deputies have identified suspects on the other grows and arrest warrants are being sought for their arrest for cultivation and possession for sale of marijuana.
The Journal has no idea why interwebs megastar Kai granted us the unsolicited photo bomb below. And we can't really ask him about it -- dude is pretty tough to get a hold of, being "homefree" and all. The picture popped up on his Facebook page last night with the following message attached:
"big ups humboldt what an awesome experience you are ^_^ ♥"
Perfect. Whatever your motivations, Kai, thank you. We owe you a burrito.
(Update at end of post.)
As fans of the Arcata Eye know -- and that's gotta include just about most of the sentient newspaper-browsing world -- its hardworking, break-not-taking, fearsome and fearless founder/leader, Kevin L. Hoover, is goddammit calling it quits next year. He announced his plans to get a life -- or more from life, or a vacation, anyway -- a whole two years in advance, and the one-year-more mark is upon us, as Hoover notes this week in his column, "So-Called Thoughts":
"With this edition, we begin the Grand Countdown to Doom, or not. Unless someone else acquires it, the Eye will end publication Feb. 12, 2014, so you are holding the first issue of the Eye's last year in existence."
Or, not ... as Hoover says. He alludes to offers he's had from various "suitors" with optimism, while lamenting that none of them have "offered serious compensation" for the paper he's labored at for 17 years, a creation that's recognized far beyond the blurry treeline of Arcata and even Humboldt County. "Possibly," he notes, such compensation "could come in the form of a job with the Eye, under new ownership."
Argh, we can't stand this anymore -- we'll just blurt it: According to an email obtained by the Journal that Humboldt State University President Rollin Richmond sent out earlier this month to Hoover and a dozen-and-a-half university staff and faculty, HSU is one of Hoovers' suitors!
The email's intent is to set up an April meeting, Richmond writes, "to discuss the possibility of the university or one of our auxiliaries taking over the ownership and management of the Arcata Eye." He continues:
"Kevin Hoover is planning to retire in 2014 and in preliminary discussions has indicated that he would consider giving the paper to the university and perhaps even continuing as a staff member. I am particularly interested in a university-Eye association of some sort because I think it is important that the community have a good, independent, local source of journalism as the Eye has been providing, and that it could provide some important opportunities for our students and faculty and staff.
"I would like to explore this opportunity with faculty from Art, Communication, Business and Journalism and well as IT staff. ..."
It's an intriguing bailout option, without which -- and if the other courtships don't take -- the saddest scenario possible is the end of the Eye. Lights out. Put an X on it.
No no no no no.
But, a couple questions. How would a newspaper be "independent," able to cover all of the news fairly, if it's owned by one of the largest employers in the county and frequent news generator? And, what about the newspaper the university already shepherds -- or makes a home for -- the student-run The Lumberjack?
Hoover, reached by phone this afternoon, deferred "how-would-it-be-run" and Lumberjack-related questions to the university folks. We left messages with Richmond, who's in meetings all afternoon, and we will report back when we hear from him.
Hoover made one thing very clear, however: He would only hand over the Eye to "a responsible person who isn't going to turn it into a political or one-note rag, but who would attempt traditional community journalism."
"Whoever was to run the paper would have to have a deep comprehension of the fact that we're here to serve the readers," he said. "I'm looking for credible people to take over the paper, whom I would have confidence in sustaining it and probably -- hopefully -- improving it. Fresh blood, fresh talent, fresh energy. Because I don't think we're fully exploiting the paper's potential at this point, or fully serving the community."
He also likes the idea of having a job with the paper -- a regular, journalist job, absent the business-management side of the operation.
"It would be lovely to have some kind of position with the paper where I could play to my strengths rather than my mediocrities," he said. "There are stories around here that I've known about for 15 years -- things I'd like to look into, but I haven't had time."
Hoover didn't seem concerned about a Lumberjack conflict -- it's a student learning tool, in large part, and a fine one, he added. The Eye is a community newspaper, its DNA, as Hoover puts it, reaching back to the 1850s to the town's first newspaper, the Humboldt Times. (For a glimpse into the county's rolicking newspaper past, check out this timeline put together by the HSU library.) And, he added, the more newspapers the better.
Hoover wrote in his column about a month ago why Arcata needs a scrappy community newspaper:
If history is any indication, sooner or later, something will come up that only a homegrown, in-town newspaper can properly report on. A drug felon might try to take over a Plaza bar. There might be dysfunction in City Hall. Someone will dump toxic waste in a stream, the Bottoms or elsewhere. A big, bad development might be proposed right over your backyard fence. Dilettantes, grifters and charlatans might run for public office. A trusted mucky-muck will do something extremely stupid or dishonest. Scammers will find a new way to rip you off. Politicampers will take over a City park, the Plaza, part of the forest or City Hall’s front lawn. A meth/grow/trash/party/abandoned/motorcycle/car repair house might bring down your neighborhood. Maybe dogs are getting sick on your block. Or maybe your child just won a prize and you have a cute photo you want published.
Actually, all that stuff has happened, some of it during the past year or two. You would have found out about some of those stories without this newspaper; some of it not. Unless history has ended, things like that will crop up again, and soon.
# # # # #
UPDATE: Today (Monday, Feb. 25), we heard back from Rollin Richmond via HSU public information officer Paul Mann, who offered this statement:
President Richmond plans to arrange a meeting with Kevin and campus colleagues to see if there is some way we might help. One thought is whether faculty and student interns could provide useful technical input or research and analysis in such areas as the Eye's marketing or more advanced digitization. Over the years, we've worked with scores of community partners and small enterprises in this way. Maybe we could provide info-tech expertise. We'll see whether concrete ideas and proposals come out of our informal brainstorming.
In a follow-up email, Mann referred to a piece he wrote for the Times-Standard about ways in which students have helped local businesses, including Los Bagels and Babe's Pizza, with market research. To the question of how a university-owned newspaper would be able to cover news about the university objectively, he responded, "'University-owned' is a leap and 100 percent premature."
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