Friday, January 31, 2014

Coming soon: Eureka's next city manager

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 2:55 PM

The city of Eureka is zeroing in on its next city manager.

The City Council will meet in special session at 8:30 a.m. Monday to interview six candidates, according to Mayor Frank Jager, with the hopes of naming a finalist or two by the end of the day.

While the city isn’t releasing it’s list of finalists, Jager said it includes two local candidates, three from elsewhere in California and one from out of state. The city’s search firm, Peckham and McKenney, put forward nine candidates for the position, Jager said, and the council has identified its six favorites to be interviewed Monday.

The city has been searching for a city manager since Bill Panos abruptly resigned his post in September to take a job in the Wyoming governor’s office after a nine-month stint in Eureka. Assistant City Manager Mike Knight has stepped into the city manager’s role on an interim basis, and former City Manager David Tyson has been brought on part-time to help out.

Because some folks expressed some dissatisfaction with Peckham and McKenney’s background checks during the process that led to Panos’ hiring — see the Times-Standard’s coverage here — Jager said the city plans to do some of its own vetting this time, which could slow the process.

“I think we’re going to do a much more thorough, in-depth background check,” Jager said.

The plan, according to the mayor, is for the council to settle on a top candidate or two Monday, then launch the background investigations, which will likely extend into March. Jager said he’s hopeful to have someone in place this spring.

While Monday’s council meeting will be held in closed session, there will be an opportunity for public comment before the interviews begin.
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pedestrian Killed by Car IDed

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 4:24 PM

80-year-old Eureka resident Robert Mitchell died Tuesday afternoon after being struck by a truck while trying to cross Broadway on foot.

Coroner Dave Parris said it appears that Mitchell was at fault in the accident, and was crossing outside of a crosswalk, though the crash is still under investigation. EPD Traffic Officer Gary Whitmer said he doesn't anticipate charges will be filed against the 60-year-old Arcata resident who was driving the College of the Redwoods truck that hit Mitchell.

The accident was the second of two that morning, which saw the first rain in sometime on the North Coast. Drive careful out there, folks.

From Tuesday's press release:

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Think Hitting a Deer is Bad ...

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 3:13 PM

  • Photo by Ken Malcomson

Please, watch out for the highway horses! These fuzzy pets were hurrying across Highway 96 in Hoopa today.
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The Klamazon Delegation

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Part of the delegation, left to right: Mahlija Florendo, Yurok; Damien Scott, Hoopa/Yurok; Anna Rose Colegrove, Hoopa/Yurok; Dania Rose Colegrove,Hoopa/Yurok; and Sammy Gensaw, Yurok/Karuk
  • Part of the delegation, left to right: Mahlija Florendo, Yurok; Damien Scott, Hoopa/Yurok; Anna Rose Colegrove, Hoopa/Yurok; Dania Rose Colegrove,Hoopa/Yurok; and Sammy Gensaw, Yurok/Karuk

On Feb. 14, a group of young people from local tribes will travel to the Amazon to meet with activists and indigenous groups — including people with the Arara, Juruna and Xikrin tribes — who are trying to stop construction of the Belo Monte Dam.

A news release from the Klamazon Delegation (one of the youths’ name's for their group), calls the Belo Monte, which would be the third largest dam ever built, “the world’s most destructive dam proposal.” Notes the release:

“This project would affect 40,000 people and inundate 640 square kilometers of rainforest. Belo Monte Dam is the first step in a larger plan to extract the Amazon’s vast resources through additional dam building.”

The delegates know something about fighting dams, having taken part in the campaign that led to an agreement among diverse stakeholders to have four Klamath River dams removed — if approved by Congress, it will be the largest dam removal in history and could “restore one of north America’s largest salmon runs.”

“Our River is here to give us life, and we were created to keep the river beautiful and healthy,” says delegate Mahlija Florendo, 16, of the Yurok Tribe. “We need to keep every river alive because we cannot live without them. We cannot destroy life and if we don’t fight to keep them healthy, then we are killing ourselves, and any other life on the planet. The Amazon River is a huge bloodline for life of the Amazon indigenous as the Klamath is ours.”

A trip from our river mountains to the Amazon takes cash, so the delegation is fundraising. Last weekend the group hosted a cribbage tournament in Hoopa and an Indian taco dinner, Q&A and film screening. There’s more fun ahead:

Jan. 31: benefit dinner/dance with funk band Liquid Kactus, 6 p.m., Bayside Grange, Arcata; dinner and dance $20; dance $12.

Feb. 6: dinner and movie, 6 p.m., Panamnik Building, Orleans.

Feb. 8: open mic spoken word, world’s best Indian tacos, 4-7 p.m., Tay Community Center in Crescent City; $5.

Feb. 8: Bingo, 3 p.m., Hoopa Veterans Hall.

Feb. 12: Raffle drawing, 1 p.m. live on KIDE Hoopa Tribal Radio.

You can also just donate.

For more info, contact Nat Pennington: (707) 599 - 6646,

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

4th Amendment Rights and SCOTUS SWAG

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 10:52 PM

When the United States Supreme Court took up the only criminal case on its calendar this year, a local attorney was at counsel table.

Arcata attorney Jeffrey Schwartz — husband to the North Coast Journal’s Media Maven, Marcy Burstiner — didn’t argue the petitioner’s case, but was asked to sit in and advise by appellate attorney Paul Kleven, who argued the case of USA v. Navarette before The Nine earlier this week. Schwartz, a former Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney, was the trial attorney on the case, which saw two brothers, Lorenzo and Jose Navarette, plead guilty to marijuana possession charges after a 2008 traffic stop in Mendocino County.

The traffic stop occurred after someone in Humboldt County called 911 to report they’d been run off the road just north of the Mendocino County line by a pickup truck driving recklessly while heading southbound. Police issued a “be-on-the-lookout” through dispatch, identifying the color, make, model and license plate number of the Navarettes’ truck.

A California Highway Patrol officer spotted the truck in Mendocino and tailed it for several miles. The officer didn’t see anything reckless or out of the ordinary about the way Lorenzo Navarette was driving, according to court records, but decided to pull him over anyway, based solely on the anonymous tip provided to 911 dispatch. After stopping the truck, the officers smelled marijuana and searched the vehicle, finding 30 pounds of marijuana, trimming sheers and plastic bags in the truck bed.

In the Mendocino County trial court, Schwartz argued the traffic stop was illegal and that an anonymous tip didn’t give officers probable cause to effect the traffic stop. Schwartz’s take on the case was if an anonymous tip is all cops need to pull someone over, then what’s to keep a disgruntled neighbor or a jilted lover from simply calling in a fake reckless driving complaint? It opens the door for all kinds of violations of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, Schwartz argued.

The judge disagreed, as did a state appellate court. But Kleven kept pressing the issue and ultimately petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

When it came time for oral arguments in the case Tuesday, Kleven asked Schwartz to join him at counsel table.

“It was mostly for the moral support, and he needed to fill that side of the counsel table because the other side was going to have a bunch of people,” Schwartz said with a chuckle, adding that he wound up slipping Kleven a number of notes during arguments.

According to news reports on the hearing, the Supreme Court justices peppered Kleven with a bunch of hypotheticals and genuinely seemed to have fun probing the issue, asking about nuclear bombs and babies stuffed in car trunks. Justice Sotomayor even weighed in on her mother’s critiques of her driving.

To get a full picture of the arguments, check out the Associated Press story here or the official Supreme Court Blog story here. For those who want to hear the whole thing, the court posts audio of all oral arguments here, though it hasn’t gotten around to posting the Navarette case just yet (maybe check back in a few days). And finally, you can read a transcript of the hearing here.

For Schwartz, the trip was a chance to get a first-hand look at the most hallowed institution in his profession, something few lawyers get to do. While milling around the court after the hearing, Schwartz said he was surprised to see Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Clayton Brennan, who had denied Schwartz’s motion to set aside the charges against the Navarettes — the very denial being appealed to the Supreme Court.

“He said, ‘I figure the likelihood that any ruling I make goes to the Supreme Court is pretty slim, so I thought I should be here,’” Schwartz recalled.

And, it turns out, Schwartz walked away from the court Tuesday with more than just memories and, possibly, a hand in changing United States law — he walked away with some SCOTUS SWAG. Turns out everyone who sits at counsel table gets a white quill. Who knew?
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Updated: Feds Investigate Loleta Elementary

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 1:01 PM

The federal government is launching an investigation into allegations that the Loleta Elementary School District has discriminated against Native American students.

The Americans Civil Liberties Union of Northern California received a letter this week from the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights informing it that the office has officially launched an investigation in response to the ACLU’s complaint alleging systemic discrimination in the district, including the verbal and physical abuse of students by district staff.

“Please note that opening the allegations for investigation in no way implies that (the Office for Civil Rights) has made a determination with regard to their merits,” the letter states. “During the investigation, the OCR is a neutral fact-finder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from the complainant, the recipient and other sources, as appropriate.”

The ACLU filed the complaint last month alleging that the district has engaged in a pattern of discriminatory discipline against Native American students and put up barriers to disability and special needs assessments. Further, the complaint alleges that staff — and specifically Superintendent and Principal Sally Hadden — has been physically and verbally abusive of students, detailing instances when Hadden is alleged to have grabbed a Native American student by the ear and said, “See how red it’s getting?,” hit students with a clipboard and another in which she allegedly referred to a Native American student as a “saltine” because he “looked white.”

Hadden was not immediately available this morning, but the Journal will update this post if she returns a call seeking comment. A call seeking comment from the Office of Civil Rights was also not immediately returned this morning.

In the letter to the ACLU, the Office of Civil Rights indicates it intends to investigate each of the claims raised by the group and requests a meeting with ACLU attorneys to discuss the situation.

For more information about the complaint, as well as a lawsuit the ACLU filed against Eureka City Schools, see past Journal coverage here and here.

UPDATE: U.S. Department of Education spokesman Jim Bradshaw returned the Journal's call Friday morning and sent the following statement:

"OCR received a complaint against the Loleta Union Elementary School District alleging that: Native American students are subjected to harassment based on race and the district has failed to respond appropriately to notice of the harassment. Also, that Native American students are allegedly treated differently than non-Native American students with respect to discipline; that the district denies Native American students with disabilities a free appropriate public education (FAPE); and the district discriminates against Native American students with disabilities by refusing to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures when necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability.

The complaint is under investigation."

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Tribe in Mourning

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 5:06 PM

The Yurok Tribe is mourning the death of longtime Tribal Councilmember Bonnie Green, who died Saturday.

Green served six terms representing the tribe’s south district on the council, and another as vice chair, and was intimately involved in a host of tribal issues, including battles over fishing rights, management of tribal forest lands and healthcare coverage for tribal members. Green suffered from unspecified long-term, serious health issues, according to Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke Sr., who described her as a “force of nature” in a press release issued today.

Read the full release below:

Continue reading »

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We Flunk, Mostly

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 11:32 AM

The American Lung Association has released its State of Tobacco Control 2014, a report that "tracks progress on key tobacco control policies at the state and federal levels" according to the executive summary. The intent is to see how well jurisdictions are doing in protecting people from tobacco smoke.

Counties and cities are graded, too, in three areas: Smokefree Outdoor Air, Smokefree Housing, and Reducing Sales of Tobacco Products. According to this report, California is a backslider, having "made little to no headway in increasing its tobacco prevention and control funding, protecting its workers from loopholes in the smokefree workplace law, raising its cigarette tax or increasing cessation coverage."

And Humboldt? Ye are a cig-dangling, smoke-blowing, health-dismissing scofflaw, with four of your cities — Ferndale, Fortuna, Rio Dell and Trinidad — and your unincorporated area receiving an overall F, and three other cities — Arcata, Blue Lake and Eureka — receiving a C overall. Cough! Here's our chart:


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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Billboard Butcher Caught on Camera!

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 2:51 PM

  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
The image of the vandal responsible for the third billboard toppling this month was captured earlier this week on a camera installed by a now thrice-bitten local sign management company. 

Peeved by the nighttime saw-wielding maniac's previous crimes and anticipating further demolition, All Points Signs installed infrared wildlife cameras on a sign west of Highway 101 and 200 yards north of Bayside Cutoff. Overnight Sunday, the camera caught the chilling image above — a birds-eye shot of a hooded saboteur sinking the teeth of a Sawzall into a CBS Outdoor-owned billboard. A Sheriff's Office deputy began investigating the $20,000 vandalism the next morning.

But, despite the sign company's efforts, not much can be gleaned from the video. It "appears to be a male," the Sheriff's Office reports, acting alone (or at least approaching the sign alone), who "appeared to be in possession of a hammer and a battery powered saw." Because the camera is infrared, the color of the dismantler's clothing can't even be determined. The video watermark clocks the crime at 12:41 a.m., but it's unclear if that's even accurate, as the camera's date stamp is waaay off. 

The criminal investigation continues, as does the dispute over who owns the property that the signs sit on. Meanwhile, the billboard butcher's razing has left the community far more divided ("Our views!" vs. "Our businesses!") than previous incarnations of high-profile vandalism

From a press release:

Continue reading »

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Bullock Will Stand Trial for Murder of Eric Freed

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 12:51 PM

  • Bullock
A Humboldt County judge ruled today there was enough evidence to hold Gary Lee Bullock to answer for the torture and murder of St. Bernard's Pastor Eric Freed on New Year's Day.

Bullock will be held to answer for vehicle theft and attempted arson charges as well, stemming from an alleged attempt to burn Freed's body and the church rectory where Freed lived, according to the Times-Standard and Lost Coast Outpost, which also gave detailed reports of detectives' testimony about the crime scene last week. He's scheduled to be re-arraigned on Feb. 5.
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