Government

Saturday, April 29, 2017

State Lawmakers Look to Protect Coast from Trump Orders

Posted By on Sat, Apr 29, 2017 at 7:51 AM

Trinidad Head - DREW HYLAND
  • Drew Hyland
  • Trinidad Head

California’s iconic coast and offshore waters came under new threat not once, but twice this week as President Donald Trump signed executive orders aimed at undoing both land and ocean protections along the state’s coastline.

On Wednesday, Trump directed the Secretary of the Interior to review all or part of 24 monuments created by presidential proclamation since 1996 that make up 100,000 acres or more. North Coast residents wondering if the three Humboldt locations — Trinidad Head, Lighthouse Ranch and the Lost Coast Headlands — added by President Barack Obama to the California Coastal National Monument (CCNM) back in January would be affected don’t have a clear answer. While the CCNM isn’t expansive enough to be on the initial list, a second part of the order calls for review, "where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.” So, while not immediately on the chopping block, California’s protected coastal lands aren’t exactly off it, either.

A similar announcement Friday morning that Trump signed an executive order opening the door to expanded offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the California coast prompted even more immediate pushback from state leaders, lawmakers and coastal advocates. The move wasn’t unexpected — Just a few days ago North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman was asked about the possibility at a town hall meeting in Mendocino.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

'Heart' of Palco Marsh Case Allowed to Proceed

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 9:44 AM

A camp in the PalCo Marsh. - FILE
  • File
  • A camp in the PalCo Marsh.
A federal judge dismissed portions of a lawsuit claiming that Eureka’s ordinances against camping and the storage of personal items in public spaces violate the Constitutional rights of homeless individuals but is allowing an amended complaint to be filed.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White also found the civil suit filed against the city by attorney Peter Martin could proceed on the Eighth Amendment claim that outlawing public camping without providing adequate shelters amounts to cruel and unusual punishment by making homelessness itself a crime.

Martin’s law partner Shelley Mack says a decision is still being made on whether to refile on the issues the judge left the door open to — allegations that the city's ordinance violate due process rights, protection against unreasonable search and seizure and the right to privacy.

“The Eighth Amendment claim is really the heart of the case and that is the claim that we are really focusing on,” she says.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Science!

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 11:31 AM

The March for Science made its way through Arcata with a rising sea of signs. - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • The March for Science made its way through Arcata with a rising sea of signs.

Local scientists, students of all ages and other advocates for science-based decision making joined more than 600 other March for Science events in cities around the U.S. to both celebrate Earth Day on Saturday and protest the Trump administration's policies and positions with regard to climate change and other issue.

The largely non-partisan Humboldt March for Science in Arcata, following a science expo and rally at the D Street Neighborhood Center, attracted an estimated crowd of 2,000 or more. The march from the Center to the Arcata Plaza and back was filled with creative signs with quotes that ranged from Aldo Leopold to Dr.Seuss. Others were filled with optimism ("Make America Think Again"), science advocacy and humor.
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Monday, April 17, 2017

UPDATE: Eureka Postpones Vote on Temporary Shut Down of Visitor's Center

Posted By on Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 1:43 PM

eureka.jpg
UPDATE: A city council vote on whether to temporarily shut down the Eureka Visitor’s Center has been postponed until May 2 to allow Mayor Frank Jager and City Manager Greg Sparks to attend the meeting.

Previous:
The Eureka City Council on Tuesday will consider temporarily shutting down the visitor’s center after the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce’s $110,000 service contract runs out at the end of June.

A staff report for the consent agenda item recommends rejecting the chamber’s proposed rate of $13,500 a month to keep the doors open while the city goes through an open bid process for the center’s operation, noting “the budget savings will be helpful going into next year.”

In an email to the Journal, City Manager Greg Sparks says he would prefer not to have a gap in service but “we believe that visitors receive information in many different ways about Eureka and Humboldt County and do not believe this gap will have a significant impact on visitor spending.”

Proposals to take over what for decades has been the chamber’s role are due in June. The city is requiring that the center — which serves an average of 10,000 walk-ins and 26,000 website visitors a year — be up and running by January of 2018.

The chamber also produces 40,000 Eureka Visitor Guide copies annually as a part of its contract with the city.

Chamber Executive Director Don Smullin says the business organization is still considering whether to submit a proposal as members weigh the chamber’s priorities in the wake of an increasingly bumpy relationship with the city.

He says the chamber has been spending about $40,000 a year to subsidize the center’s expenses after the city reduced funding levels in recent years, citing budget constraints.

Sparks also terminated the city’s long-term contract with the chamber to provide visitor services, which resulted in the current one-year agreement that expires in June.

“This has been an ongoing thing for four years now,” Smullin says. “It’s very frustrating.”

Sparks states there were questions about what kind of return on investment the city was receiving and the decision was made last year to put the contract out to a competitive bid.

The center currently operates out of the chamber’s Broadway office, which is owned by the city. The chamber’s 75-year lease on the building runs out in 2032.

“We thought there may be a more cost-effective way of providing services,” Sparks wrote.

Read the council agenda item here.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Brett Watson Selected as New Arcata Councilmember

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 4:46 PM

Brett Watson - COURTESY OF THE CITY OF ARCATA
  • Courtesy of the city of Arcata
  • Brett Watson
Small business owner Brett Watson will join the Arcata City Council on April 19 after being unanimously selected by the other councilmembers following last night's candidate forum.

He will serve out the remainder of Mark Wheetley’s term, which ends in December of 2018. After 12 years of public service, Wheetley stepped down in March to take over as Fortuna’s city manager.

Watson was one of seven hopefuls who applied to be appointed to the seat.

“I’m truly honored to get this opportunity to serve the city of Arcata,” he says in a city press release. “I think Arcata is a great place and I’m really looking forward to helping the community in any way that I can."

Read the full press release below:

Brett Watson will be sworn-in as the Arcata City Council’s fifth member on Wednesday, April 19 at the beginning of a regularly scheduled City Council meeting at 6 p.m. The Council voted unanimously to appoint Watson at a special candidate forum meeting at City Hall last night.

The appointment followed three hours of questions and answers directed by the Council to six candidates. The well-attended public forum was the first Facebook Live event produced by a Humboldt County municipality. Forum video could also be seen live on the City website, www.cityofarcata.org, and on Access Humboldt/Suddenlink Cable Channel 10. Members of the public submitted questions at City Hall and through Facebook.

Questions and answers were followed by public comment from community members supporting the different candidates and Council discussion.

Brett Watson’s term on the Council expires in December 2018. Vice mayor Sofia Pereira’s term also expires at the same time.

“We are excited to have Brett Watson join the Council,” says Mayor Susan Ornelas. “He has demonstrated interest in the workings of the City and a strong community spirit since he moved to Arcata seven years ago. It will be good to have five Council members again.”

“I’m truly honored to get this opportunity to serve the City of Arcata,” says Watson. “I think Arcata is a great place and I’m really looking forward to helping the community in any way that I can."

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Employee Calls Police After Alleged Dispute with Public Defender

Posted By on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 3:08 PM

Public Defender staff gathered with now retired Public Defender Kevin Robinson (center).
  • Public Defender staff gathered with now retired Public Defender Kevin Robinson (center).
One of Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus’ employees filed a report with the Eureka Police Department yesterday alleging that he verbally assaulted her in the office after learning that office employees had sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors alleging he is unfit for the position.

EPD Capt. Brian Stephens said officer Abraham Jansen and the employee both agreed that, even if proven, the allegations didn’t rise to a criminal level. Nonetheless, Stephens said Jansen took the report at the employee’s request to document the incident in the event that Marcus engages in similar conduct in the future.

The employee contacted EPD at about 3:35 p.m. yesterday and reported that the altercation took place at about 9:20 that morning.

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Arcata Council Hopefuls to Take Questions at Forum

Posted By on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 1:13 PM

arcata.jpg
The seven hopefuls seeking to fill the remainder of Mark Wheetley’s term on the Arcata City Council are set to take questions at a candidate forum tomorrow at city hall.

Three Arcata planning commissioners — Jason Akana, Robin Baker and Judith Mayer — as well as educator Michael J. Hart, Minor Theatre owner Joshua Neff, former Councilmember Alexandra Stillman and small business owner Brett Watson have applied for the post.

Wheetley stepped down from his seat in March to accept a job as Fortuna’s city manager. His term ends in 2018.

Residents can submit questions for consideration via Facebook Live on the city’s page or at the 6 p.m. forum, which will be streamed live at www.cityofarcata.org and on Access Humboldt/Suddenlink Cable Channel 10.


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Huffman Talks Last Chance Grade in Crescent City Town Hall

Posted By on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 8:44 AM

Huffman listens to a question at last night's town hall. - TONY REED
  • Tony Reed
  • Huffman listens to a question at last night's town hall.
About 75 percent of the seats in Crescent Elk Auditorium in Crescent City were full for a town hall style meeting with North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman Monday night.

In his opening comments, Huffman touched on many local, state and federal issues of concern to residents.
He said he is hopeful Congress can soon work together on a bold U.S. infrastructure package.

“If we do that, I know one piece of infrastructure that’s on everyone’s mind in Del Norte and here in Crescent City,” he said, inciting a chuckle in the audience, “and that’s Last Chance Grade. I know that because I can’t come to visit you without driving over it.”

Huffman said he just returned from a meeting of the Last Chance Grade Stakeholders group where Caltrans representatives shared some interesting data. (For more on Last Chance Grade, see last week's cover story here.)

“Since the summer of 2012, since I became your representative in Congress, the roadway has moved 11 feet,” he said. “It just keeps moving and it's not going to stop.”


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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Claim Seeks $1.44M From County in Right-to-Die Case

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 4:42 PM

Dick and Judy Magney around the time they met in 1992. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JUDY MAGNEY
  • Photo courtesy of Judy Magney
  • Dick and Judy Magney around the time they met in 1992.
Years before Dick Magney was admitted to St. Joseph Hospital suffering from a series of life-threatening conditions, he had spent time at a local nursing home while recovering from leg surgery.

That experience left the former truck driver who for decades battled constant pain and chronic illness determined to never again find himself in the same situation. With his health declining, Dick Magney and his wife Judy had an attorney draw up an advanced directive outlining his final instructions.

Those included being allowed to die with “dignity” and “without prolonging my death with medical treatment ... that will not benefit me.” Dick Magney did not get his wish.

Soon after he was admitted to the hospital in February of 2015, the county obtained a court order that forced him to receive antibiotics for a heart infection even though he had already refused surgery. That temporarily reversed the palliative care choices made by the Magneys with the support of his attending physician, who had determined further treatment would be futile.

While he lived long enough to see the county’s intervention overturned, the self-described “stubborn Swede” died a few months later in the same nursing home he had tried so hard to avoid. He was 74.

“It’s so sad. … It’s tragic that he had to pass away that way,” says attorney Allison Jackson, who represented the couple in their months-long legal battle with the county. “It’s tragic that the family had to go through what they went through.”


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Supes Evaluate Public Defender as His Office Sends Another Blistering Letter

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 11:01 AM

Public Defender staff gathered with now retired Public Defender Kevin Robinson (center).
  • Public Defender staff gathered with now retired Public Defender Kevin Robinson (center).

UPDATE:
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors issued a press release after emerging from closed session today, reaffirming its support for embattled Public Defender David Marcus.

"During this meeting, Mr. Marcus reaffirmed his commitment to carrying out the mission of the Public Defender's Office, which is to provide aggressive, competent and ethical representation to indigent persons facing deprivation of liberty or other civil rights in a cost-effective manner," the press release stated. See it copied in full below our original post.

PREVIOUSLY:
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet in closed session today to evaluate the job performance of David Marcus, the county’s embattled new public defender.

The supervisors’ conversation comes a day after eight members of the non-attorney staff of the public defender’s office sent the board a scathing letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Journal, alleging that Marcus has “crippled” the office, has given clients “completely inaccurate” legal advice and “literally attempts to have non-lawyer support staff provide him with answers to legal questions.” The letter comes just about two weeks after all nine of the office’s deputy public defenders sent the board a similar missive, alleging Marcus is unqualified and unfit for his position.

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