Tuesday, April 16, 2013

After the Marathon

Posted on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Humboldt State University Professor Tasha Souza was stopped in her tracks by crowds fleeing explosions after finishing the Boston Marathon yesterday -- a race she attended to honor a lost friend.

Souza was unharmed, but the day was already a poignant one for her, because she'd been running in honor of her friend Suzanne Seemann, who was killed by a car while jogging with friends from the Six Rivers Running Club in September.

"I'm physically OK," Souza said, calling from Los Angeles while waiting for a flight home. "I went into the race a bit emotional."

After crossing the finish line, Souza said she was overcome with emotion while remembering her friend.

"My plan was to go back to the finish line and because I was so upset, I decided to go back out and stretch and calm myself down."

Souza was two blocks away, walking back to the finish line from the Boston Common, when she heard the explosions.

"We thought ‘was that a cannon? Was that thunder?'" she said. "That's when I was stopped in my tracks. I'm lucky I didn't see the carnage. I just saw people horrified, running towards me."

The bombing, which officials are calling a terror attack, killed three -- including an 8-year-old boy -- and injured more than 100 others.

Arcata attorney Chris Hamer was registered for the event but didn't attend -- she's been under the weather lately and hotels were too expensive.

"This is the first time I have ever signed up for a marathon and not run it," Hamer wrote in an email. "As it turns out, the explosions occurred about the time I probably would have been crossing the finishing line, if I had run the marathon."

Safely in Arcata, Hamer experienced firsthand some of the concern and confusion that followed the bombing, as people around the country scrambled to find out if friends and family were harmed.

"Today's Times-Standard lists my status as unknown," she wrote. "I have now had 112 phone calls, texts, emails and Facebook messages asking if I am OK. I am sorry to cause so many people worry, but touched so many people cared."

Other runners from Humboldt County also are apparently OK, according to reports in the Lost Coast Outpost and Times-Standard.



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A New Journal-ista

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 at 12:52 PM

We're all happy to welcome Grant Scott-Goforth, an Arcata native who will be writing, editing, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable along with the rest of us here at the North Coast Journal.

You might recognize his byline from the Times-Standard (sorry, Kimberly Wear, but hat tip for spotting and growing local talent).

Grant graduated from Humboldt State University in 2011 with a degree in journalism. He's coming aboard with the title of staff writer/assistant editor, and he'll be helping with the production end of getting the paper out each week, along with writing insightful news and feature articles. You can reach him at grant@northcoastjournal.com.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Parks and Heck (and Roads)

Posted By on Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 7:00 PM


Going to the Board of Supervisors meeting tomorrow? To, perhaps, hear the depressing report on the state of our state's roads and their desperate repair needs?

The report goes county by county, discussing embarrassing things like their PCI (pavement condition index, where a new road rates "100" and a failed road is a "0"). Humboldt County's PCI was 64 in 2012, and according to the report, to bring Humboldt's roads up to snuff in 10 years would requiring pouring $687 million into "pavement needs," $174 million into "essential components" and $119 million into bridges. Yep, our roads need almost a billion dollars.

Roads. Important, but, snooze. Please just fix them.

Take heart: Paul Encimer, one of our devoted outside agitators (he's a Mendo man), is going for possibly a much more lively item: the county public works staff's recommendation to abandon the Jim Demulling Memorial Veterans Grove, a shady triangle of trouble and love (depending on your perspective) between Highway 101 and Redwood Drive in Garberville. Notes Public Works' agenda document:

If the property is vacated, the property can be utilized and managed in a more restrictive manner like other County properties ... Possible restrictions could include hours of operation, as well as limitations on what types of uses are permitted.

The document also says vacating the property makes way for the county to lease or sell the property.

This grassy glade is otherwise known as Peace Park, and it and its constant swirl of homeless denizens have been the subject of community angst -- and waterballoonings -- for many years now. It's on county property. The Veterans of Foreign Wars used to manage it. They got tired of the strain and, eventually, Encimer and his partner, Kathy Epling, took charge. They own Tiger Lily Books, near the park. They also are with Veterans for Peace, and Encimer says the county signed an agreement allowing them to manage the park. For about two and a half years, said Encimer in a call to the Journal today, they've been keeping the place picked up. And, he says, they didn't hear a peep from Public Works about this vacating business. He heard about it on KMUD radio.

The public works proposal says the county's been peppered with complaints about litter, camping, drug and alcohol use, urinating and defecating. It lays out the dilemma:

Members of the business community are concerned that the current use of the site is a detriment to tourism in Garberville. Other members of the community are concerned that this is the only site in the area where people can congregate without restriction.

But, it continues, a Sheriff's deputy was hurt in a scrape there recently. And multiple meetings, it says, have yielded no community consensus.

Encimer and Epling, they like the travelers, the people in the woods. And Encimer is especially incensed that after all the meetings and involvement of the community, this final proposal has wound up on the consent agenda without a public hashing.

"It's a very controversial issue," said Encimer. "Tomorrow, I'm going to go down there and ask them to put it into a discussion. What we need, as the capitalists say, is a level playing field. And I'm a capitalist."

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The Lady Ain't Coming

Posted By on Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 10:01 AM

An email came in this morning from Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, the folks behind the tall ships that were supposed to be docked at the Adorni Center over the weekend. Trouble at sea means only the Hawaiian Chieftain arrived.

As noted in a press release:

"Due to continued severe weather off the California coast, the tall ship Lady Washington will not stop in Eureka, as previously planned. She is now scheduled to depart Bodega Bay Sunday or Monday and sail directly for her next scheduled stop, Crescent City, arriving on Thursday."

The Lady was scheduled to arrive in Eureka last week, but she encountered high winds and heavy seas after departing from Bodega Bay and returned to port. Lady Washington's companion ship, the smaller topsail ketch Hawaiian Chieftain, arrived in Eureka on Thursday. The crew has been conducting tours and public sailings. Interested? The latest schedule information is here.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Suddenlink Ups the Ante to $10K

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Remember a month or so ago when some nimrods cut off connections all over the county by chopping into Suddenlink's fiber optic cables? The $5,000 reward the company was offering to help catch the culprits just got doubled. Here's the note the company sent out explaining:

"Suddenlink announced today that it is doubling its reward to $10,000 for the arrest and conviction of individuals responsible for vandalizing the company's local network multiple times between March 8 and March 13, disrupting service for thousands of individuals in Arcata, Big Lagoon, Ferndale, McKinleyville, Rio Dell, Scotia, Samoa and Trinidad.
The Humboldt County Sherriff's Office has made progress in its investigation of the incidents and confirmed it has identified several suspects.
"After conversations with the Sherriff's Office, we agreed that doubling the reward would be a compelling incentive for members of the community who might have relevant information," said Suddenlink's Humboldt County Director of Operations Wendy Purnell. "We applaud the tireless efforts of the law enforcement officials who have contributed to this investigation. They now need the community's help to close this case and bring these criminals to justice."
The Humboldt County Sherriff's Office has asked that anyone with potentially helpful information call 707-445-7251 or 707-268-2539. Cook and Associates Private Investigations are also supporting the effort and can be reached at 707-839-7422 or 707-616-4507."

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

North Coast Railroad Authority Dodges Legal Challenge, Supports East-West Study

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 6:13 PM

Today's meeting of the North Coast Railroad Authority's Board of Directors saw plenty of impassioned arguments, lots of squabbling over legalese and at least two cases of hurt feelings. The two most notable results were these:

1) The board voted 8-1 to delete key parts of a 2011 resolution, thus invalidating an environmental impact report that it filed just two years ago and which was financed with $3 million of public money from the California Transportation Commission, and

2) The board joined a long list of government agencies in approving a resolution in support of a feasibility study for the mythic east-west rail line, but only after scratching out some of the language and adding some terms of its own.

By backing away from the environmental impact report, the board hopes to sidestep a legal challenge from two environmental groups -- Friends of the Eel River and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics -- that are suing the state agency, alleging that the report doesn't comply with state environmental law. (See the groups' letter to the board here.) It's also an apparent admission by the board that it has no plans in the foreseeable future to rebuild the north-south rail line through the Eel River Canyon, which has been out of commission since 1999.

Hurt feelings No. 1: Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River, was offended by what he felt were derisive comments from board member John McCowen about environmental groups. But he was more offended by the board's actions.

Those groups weren't the only ones upset. Leishara Ward, a transportation planner with the California Department of Transportation, stepped to the lectern to say that the board should either abide by the terms of the EIR or return that $3 million.

In response, NCRA board members and staff made a curious argument: They said that even though they don't believe their agency is bound to comply with the terms of the EIR, the $3 million in public funds that paid for it wasn't a waste because, hey, there's still a lot of good data in there. As NCRA legal counsel Chris Neary said, "The environmental impact report will stand as an informational document."

Hurt feelings No. 2: Board Chair Paul Kelley said he was annoyed that it took the Land Bridge Alliance, the organization pushing for an east-west rail study, so long to approach the NCRA board. This was quickly smoothed over.

At board member Bill Kier's suggestion, language was added to the resolution stating that a) the feasibility study should include the existing north-south right-of-way as a viable alternative, and b) it should address financing for the project.

Kier made a veiled reference to a certain local businessman who said in a radio interview last October that the whole project "pencils out" with private funding. Proponents are now advocating a public-private partnership, and Jan Kraepelien, one such proponent, suggested financing the study through the Headwaters Fund.

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More Lovin' On CR

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Well, amid all the sad talk of budget cuts and squinched offerings for students, the  good money-news keeps a-comin'.

First it was a vow from the community to round up the money to keep the college's baseball program going. Now it's a windfall for the college's gerontology care program.

According to the college, its Health Occupations Programs will be injected with $250,000 from the law firm Janssen Malloy LLP, of Eureka -- the firm that helped whip Skilled Healthcare in a class-action lawsuit and has won court-approval to give some of the settlement money to CR to raise more nurses. (But just because the settlement was reached, the nursing home troubles continued, as the Journal reported last year in a two-part series.)

Says a news release from CR:

Michael Crowley and Tim Needham of Janssen Malloy were two of the four
lead trial counsel in representing 42,000 residents, including those in
Humboldt County, in a class action lawsuit against 22 Skilled Healthcare
nursing homes in California, five located in Humboldt County. The
original jury decision in the six-month trial resulted in a $677 million
verdict against Skilled Healthcare. It was later settled post-trial for
$62.8 million.

As part of the settlement, Skilled Healthcare has to meet legaly mandated minimum staffing levels. And that's why the law firm wants to direct money to CR's geriatric nursing program, said Crowley:

"There are few more important areas to direct this money
than a college that trains our future nurses."

CR's Dean of Health and Emergency Response Occupations, Dr. Pat Girczyc, said CR educates about 75 percent of Humboldt County's registered nurses and the majority of its licensed vocational nurses. She said the money will be used for improvements to the gerontology curriculum and teaching modules, which "will be distributed throughout the California Community College system. That means that the positive impact of the Skilled Healthcare recovery will spread far beyond the borders of Humboldt County."

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Safe! (CR Baseball, That Is)

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Afer much ballyhooing from the stands -- and promises from community members to jump in and raise some dough -- College of the Redwoods plans to bring back baseball.

The college's 46-year-old intercollegiate baseball program was benched a couple years ago, in one of the college's budget-trimming moments. Men's soccer was cut, too, and so far the college hasn't announced its reinstatement. (Women's soccer also took a seat last fall, but that was because the program couldn't get enough players; a person on the phone today at CR's athletic department said unofficially that women's soccer is back and "they're heavily recruiting right now.")

Defenders of the baseball and soccer programs attended a recent board of trustees' meetings -- coaches noting the worthiness of athletics for young minds and bodies, high school soccer players pining to be on the CR team, former players, and others.

Baseball's comeback will depend mightily on those fundraising promises, said a news release from the college, to pay for such things as "equipment, field improvements and travel."

Ante up, ball fans.

And here's the news release:

College of the reinstates baseball program for 2013-14
College of the Redwoods will reinstate its intercollegiate baseball program for the 2013-14 academic year following a two-year hiatus.
"We are pleased to bring back our baseball team which has had a proud record dating back 46 years," said CR Athletic Director Joe Hash. "CR has had a significant number of community members express an interest in fundraising to help the college maintain a sustainable program. We will be working with them to do that."
CR suspended baseball two seasons ago due to budgetary concerns. A community fund-raising partnership will be a key component to helping the program become successful, Hash said. Expenses that need additional fundraising assistance include equipment, field improvements and travel.
The team will be led by CR Head Baseball Coach Bob Brown, who is entering his 14th season at the helm. He will be immediately contacting North Coast high schools to start the recruiting process of bringing the best local players to play for the CR Corsairs. 
"As we continue to analyze our programs, reallocate our resources, and refine our offerings, we must take advantage of the expertise we currently have on staff," said CR President Kathy Smith. "Coach Brown is a long-time CR faculty member with 14 years' experience as head baseball coach.  It is in the college's best interest to put him back into a position where he excels and where he will continue to help students succeed."
Brown encourages coaches or players to contact him if they are interested in playing baseball for CR. Brown's phone number is (707) 476-4239 and his email is bob-brown@redwoods.edu

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fortuna Facing Big Budget Cuts

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 4:48 PM

The City of Fortuna is facing a $435,669 shortfall this coming fiscal year and will have to make what a news release from the city today calls "significant cuts to the City budget":

"The City Council is resolute about addressing this financial situation at the earliest possible opportunity and is prepared to make tough decisions to regain the very conservative budgeting practices that led to the development of solid reserves for the City over the past 20 years. The Council has also stated that use of reserves to provide services over the next fiscal year is not desired and will only be the last option."

Regan Candelario, who has been the city manager since September last year, said by phone this afternoon that where the cuts might occur has not been decided yet. He said staff will be looking at all areas of city government for ways to trim expenses.

The new release lists some of the financial challenges the city faces:

... a direct and unavoidable increase of 10% in healthcare costs and a direct increase of 1.5% for retirement benefits ...

... flat and declining revenues in most all categories ...

... the loss of Redevelopment revenues that was equivalent to 10% of the general fund - for services the city continues to provide ...

... downward trends for sales tax revenues and property tax revenue which comprises 25% of the general fund revenue ...

Candelario said some charts will be up by the end of today on the city's website detailing "some basic stuff about recent increases in health care costs, retirement benefits, gas" and so on.

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Nurses Set Stage For Possible Strike

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 10:40 AM

St. Joseph Hospital nurses voted last week to authorize a strike -- but that doesn't mean they're about to strike. It means they've handed their nurse representatives a big cudgel to raise high in threat above the bargaining table where they've sat for weeks haggling with hospital administration over their new contract.

"It's used as a tool to move things along at the table," said registered nurse Kathryn Donahue. "If the issues are not addressed to our satisfaction, the nurses at the table can give a 10-day notice of a strike."

Donahue is the local shop steward for the California Nurses Association, one of the unions that represents nurses within the St. Joseph Hospital System. Last month, hundreds of nurses picketed outside several St. Joseph hospitals in northern California, calling attention to a slew of issues they have with staffing that they allege compromise patient safety.

Donahue said 75 percent of the bargaining unit - the nurses represented by the union -- voted last week, and 98 percent of them voted "yes" to authorizing the strike. There are no bargaining dates this month; the next time the two sides meet at the table will be May, when there are six dates set for negotiations. So, said Donahue, May is probably the soonest that anything will happen.

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