Wednesday, March 26, 2014

HSU Has a New President

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 11:57 AM

After a months-long search, Humboldt State University has a new president to replace outgoing Rollin Richmond, who is retiring.

Lisa A. Rossbacher, a geologist and geology professor who is currently president of Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga., will be HSU's first female president. Heck, it only took a hundred years!

Here's the news release from the university:

CSU Trustees Appoint Lisa A. Rossbacher as President of
Humboldt State University

** First Woman to Lead HSU **

(March 26, 2014) - The California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees has named Lisa A. Rossbacher as president of Humboldt State University (HSU). Rossbacher is currently serving as president at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga. and begins her new position in July.

“It is a wonderful and humbling honor to be chosen to serve the students, faculty and staff as well as the North Coast community as the next president of Humboldt State,” said Rossbacher. “The university’s unique programmatic offerings and beautiful setting draw a diverse group of students who are committed to improving themselves and the community through public service. HSU embraces sustainability and the environment like few other universities, and I look forward to engaging all groups to achieve the university mission.”

Rossbacher succeeds Rollin C. Richmond who is retiring at the end of the academic year after 12 years as president of HSU. Rossbacher will be the university’s seventh - and first woman – president in its 100-year history.

“Throughout her career, Dr. Rossbacher has demonstrated a focus on student success and she leads through consensus building and shared governance. She is a noted scholar and teacher, and as a current university president she brings a wealth of innovative administrative experience necessary to lead at the highest level," said CSU Trustee Larry Norton, chair of the presidential search committee. “Lisa’s broad experience as an educator, scholar and academic leader and her passion for education are qualities that will serve her and HSU well.”

HSU marks a return to the CSU for Rossbacher, who previously served as a professor of geological sciences (1984-1993), as well as the associate vice president of Academic Affairs, at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (1987-1993).

Prior to her service at Southern Polytechnic, Rossbacher served as dean of the college at Dickinson College (1995-98) and vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the faculty at Whittier College (1993-95).

Rossbacher earned a Ph.D. in geological sciences from Princeton University, master’s degrees in geological sciences from Princeton University and the State University of New York at Binghamton, and a bachelor’s in geology from Dickinson College.
Rossbacher’s husband, Dallas D. Rhodes, is also a geologist and has been a professor for more than three decades. Among other areas of interest, he conducts research on the San Andreas Fault. The two have a Doberman named Tango.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

CSU Settles HSU Brutality Case

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 12:13 PM

Humboldt State University Police officer Delmar Tompkins. - YOUTUBE
  • Youtube
  • Humboldt State University Police officer Delmar Tompkins.
The California State University system has settled a civil lawsuit brought by a Fieldbrook man who alleged he was the victim of a “brutal" assault by Humboldt State University police in January 2012, agreeing to pay the man $135,000.

CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp said the payment will come out of HSU coffers, noting that the settlement does not include any admission of wrongdoing.

Casey Arndt, 33, filed the federal lawsuit last year alleging that Humboldt State University Police officer Delmar Tompkins and other officers assaulted him — causing injuries to his face, back, legs, arms, feet and hands —on Jan. 7, 2012. Arndt alleged that he was driving near the HSU campus when Tompkins began following him in his patrol car. In the suit, Arndt claims he pulled over to make a phone call, at which point Tompkins pulled up behind him, activated his overhead lights, exited his patrol car and pulled his firearm, keeping it trained on Arndt’s head.

The complaint alleged that Arndt exited the vehicle and was being handcuffed by another officer when Tompkins “ran up and maliciously” kneed him in the left eye. Arndt further alleged that he was then beaten by numerous officers and Tasered twice before losing consciousness. According to the complaint, Arndt asked Tompkins why he was being detained and the officer told him it was because his registration had expired.

“When Mr. Arndt began to explain that his registration was paid and that he needed medical attention, officer Tompkins ordered him to shut up, stating that he was ‘running this goddamn rodeo,’” reads the complaint filed by Arndt's attorney, Patrik Griego.

Arndt was booked into the Humboldt County jail on suspicion of resisting arrest but no charges were ever filed against him.

In addition to Tompkins, Arndt’s suit named the city of Arcata, UPD Chief Lynne Soderberg and several other officers as defendants, alleging that Arcata Police officers participated in the arrest and that UPD officials were negligent in hiring and training Tompkins. With the settlement approved by the CSU system, the case was dismissed against all other defendants, according to court records.

Reached Tuesday, Soderberg said she was not involved in the settlement discussions and largely declined to comment on the outcome, other than to say the settlement represents the end of a two-year process, and "it's good it's over with." Sodberberg said UPD conducted an internal investigation into Arndt's arrest and subsequent allegations but declined to say if that investigation led to any disciplinary action, noting that information would be in officers' confidential personnel files. Tompkins, Soderberg said, is still employed with UPD and has seen no changes to his duties or assignments.

The settlement represents the second time in five years that allegations against Tompkins have resulted in a payout.
In 2009 while Tompkins was with the Oakland Police Department, Jimmy Williams, 50, alleged that he used pepper spray and a baton on him “without any just provocation or cause” while arresting him in a Taco Bell parking lot on suspicion of resisting arrest. Williams, who was never charged in the case, sued the city of Oakland for $500,000 in damages. Attorneys representing the city argued Williams was noncompliant and combative but ultimately settled the case out of court, paying Williams $43,000 from the city’s general fund.

Calls placed to HSU’s spokesmen were not immediately returned. The Journal will update this post with additional information as it comes in.

In January, HSU International posted a video to Youtube in which Tompkins briefs viewers on how the university is working to “keep you safe during your time on campus.”
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Updated: Mendocino Deputy Killed in Ambush

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 9:38 AM

  • Mendocino Sheriff's Facebook page
The suspect believed to have killed a Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputy last week was released from an Oregon jail two weeks earlier.

According to an article by the Associated Press, Oregon police arrested Ricardo Antonio Chaney after they reported finding firearms, body armor and methamphetamine in his car. But, according to the report, the Lane County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges in the case, citing a lack of evidence, and released Chaney the day of his arrest. Two weeks later, Chaney was the prime suspect in a crime spree that ultimately left Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino and Chaney dead of gunshot wounds.

After initially reporting that Chaney's death appeared to have been a suicide, Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman has since said its believed Chaney sustained the fatal gunshot wounds in a shootout with deputies. According to the Associated Press story, Chaney has also been named a suspect in the killing of 79-year-old George Bundy Wasson in Eugene.

A memorial service is scheduled to honor Del Fiorentino on Wednesday.


A crime spree that spanned much of the north coast Wednesday left two dead, including the suspect and a Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputy.

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said it appears deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino, 48, was ambushed by Ricardo Antonio Chaney, 33, shortly before noon Monday. Allman said Del Fiorentino was searching for Chaney, the suspect in an armed robbery in Eugene, Ore. early Monday morning, when Chaney allegedly opened fire on his patrol car with an assault rifle.

Chaney is alleged to have traveled through Humboldt County in black BMW he stole from Eugene, Ore., shooting at a Confusion Hill business owner before fleeing into Mendocino County. He is alleged to have shot Del Fiorentino just north of Fort Bragg. Chaney was wounded by police a short time later and is believed to have later committed suicide as police closed in, though at least one report has indicated he was killed by police.

According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Del Fiorentino had been a cop since 1988, when he became a sheriff’s deputy in Mendocino. He moved to the Fort Bragg Police Department in 1990, but rejoined the sheriff’s office in 2000 and has worked there since.

A post on the Mendocino Sheriff’s Facebook page Wednesday noting Del Fiorentino’s death quickly garnered dozens of heartfelt comments from fellow deputies and community members, who shared memories and prayers.

“Thank you so much for being my partner, a friend, a solid father and a man of your word,” wrote Kevin Cline. “You are a True Warrior and your family, friends, MCSO and this community will miss you, your service your big smile and that wonderful laugh. God Bless My Brother.”

The Lost Coast Outpost and the Times-Standard have also been covering the story today.
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Distilling gold: Fortuna Vodka Maker Wins Big

Posted By on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 10:46 AM

The Humboldt Distillery has something to toast about.

Humboldt County’s first micro distillery nabbed a gold medal for its organic vodka at the 2014 Denver International Spirits Competition held earlier this month.

For more on the Humboldt Distillery, check out the Journal’s May 2, 2013 cover story on the Fortuna vodka maker and its founder, Abe Stevens. For more on the medal, and a peak at what new offerings Humboldt Distillery has planned for the future, see the press release below.

Humboldt Distillery Wins International Gold Medal for Organic Vodka

FORTUNA, CA. (March 21, 2014) - Humboldt Distillery's Organic Vodka was awarded a gold medal at the highly respected 2014 Denver International Spirits Competition held this month in Denver, Colorado.

This professional spirits tasting event was a double blind competition based on a 100 point scale and judged by a panel of 15 distilled spirits industry veterans.

"We are so excited for this win for Humboldt Distillery, as it is a big win for the community as well," said Dianna Rios Executive Director Fortuna Business Improvement District.

Humboldt Distillery was founded 2012 and was the first micro-distillery in Humboldt County. They produce distilled spirits with a focus on small-scale craftsmanship and certified organic ingredients. Their Organic Vodka was first released last year. They expect to release their Organic Spiced Rum later this Spring, and their Organic Whiskey in late 2014 or early 2015.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Supes to Tackle GPU Monday

Posted By on Sun, Mar 23, 2014 at 10:50 AM

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will begin Monday the process of reviewing changes to the Conservation and Open Space Element of the General Plan Update proposed by its planning commission.

After the Supes sent the element to the Humboldt County Planning Commission for review in the beginning of the year, the commission made some controversial changes, including eliminating language from the element that supported the goal of a county-wide trail system. The supervisors voted unanimously March 10 to take the GPU back and tackle it as a board.

For more on the general plan, check out the Journal’s recent cover story here. To view the agenda for Monday’s meeting — which begins at 1:30 p.m. in Supervisors Chamber — click here.
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Ridding Toxic Killers

Posted By on Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 6:47 PM

On Tuesday, California passed a regulation restricting retail sales of certain rat poisons, such as d-Con. Soon, only licensed, certified or county permitted application professionals will be able to use them. The restrictions don't go into effect until July 1. But by Friday morning, at least one local retailer already was sweeping those products from its shelves. 

Pierson Building Center's garden shop manager, Lydia Rieman, said she has known for at least a year that the restriction was coming and hasn't been carrying any backstock on d-Con anyway. What limited supplies her shop had were pulled off the shelves today.

"And we'll no longer special order it for people," she said.

Other stores in the area that carry d-Con include Walgreens, Walmart and Shafer's Ace Hardware, and at least as of today they were still selling it. Down in Southern Humboldt, stores voluntarily quit selling such rat poisons last year after the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking county retailers to stop carrying the stuff.

The restriction covers any rat poisons containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum and difethialone. They're called second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, and though d-Con's the most prevalent brand of these products, there are many others. Animals that ingest these poisons — not just the targeted rats and mice, but also pets and wildlife — can bleed to death either from a cut or from internal hemorrhaging. And they can be poisoned even if they don't directly eat the poison.

"While one dose kills, it takes several days and the pest will continue to eat the rodenticide, building up the amount of that remains in their body tissue," said Charlotte Fadipe, with the state Department of Pesticide Regulation. "When wildlife such as a coyote, barn owl or endangered San Joaquin Kit fox, or a family pet, eats the poisoned pest, they end up being poisoned as well."

The use of these rodenticides on illegal marijuana farms has caused particular alarm, especially here in Humboldt County. According to a National Public Radio report, they're responsible for "nearly a third of the deaths of male fishers in recent years" on the Hoopa Valley reservation. And it was brodifacoum that killed a Blue Lake man's dog in February. That death the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office is investigating: Red meat laced with brodifacoum was found in the dog's system — possibly revenge against the dog's owner, who is a researcher studying how the use of these poisons on pot farms affects wildlife.

"The volume of rodenticides will be dramatically reduced," said Jonathan Evans, with the Center for Biological Diversity, about the new restrictions. The Center has raised its reward for information on the Blue Lake dog killing from $2,500 to $20,000. 

However, he said, people can still sidestep the law by bringing the stuff in from out of state. And, he fears a likely challenge from the makers of d-Con, whose legal challenge has delayed implementation of a similar federal restriction from going into effect.
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Tyrone Kelley Is Leaving Six Rivers NF

Posted By on Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Tyrone Kelley, Six Rivers National Forest Supervisor - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Tyrone Kelley, Six Rivers National Forest Supervisor

After mid-April, we won't be seeing the familiar helmet-clad figure of our Six Rivers National Forest Supervisor, Tyrone Kelley, riding his bicycle home through Eureka after work. Nor can we expect to see him at those sometimes contentious fire-safety meetings in our mountain communities. He's moving to Vallejo for a new job: director of engineering at the Forest Service Pacific Southwest's regional office, says a news release from Six Rivers National Forest. 

Kelley's had a busy tenure here on the North Coast since taking the supervisor position in 2006. He's invested much time in particular working with tribes and others to create more cooperative fire management approaches in the communities abutting forest lands. 

“The job has been challenging and rewarding," he says in the news release. "I have had the great fortune to work with dedicated employees, communities and tribes as well as local governments. Looking back at the last seven plus years I have truly enjoyed my tenure as Forest Supervisor and I will miss all the relationships we have forged. I am looking forward to the new challenges ahead as Director of Engineering for the Region.”

The news release notes that Kelley is returning to his roots; he spent his first 20 years with the Forest Service working as an engineer. You can read more about that in the Journal's 2007 profile of Kelley, "The Man from Alabama."
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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bay Trail nabs $2 million

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 9:00 PM

Dreams of a Humboldt Bay Trail connecting Eureka and Arcata got a major boost Tuesday, when the California Transportation Commission voted to allocate $2 million to the county for engineering design and environmental permitting for the trail’s southern portion.

Humboldt County Deputy Public Works Director Hank Seemann said the funding is expected to come online in July, and represents a major step forward. “The momentum is really building,” said Seemann, who will be presenting an update on the project to Humboldt County Association of Governments March 27.

In addition to the funding allocation, Seemann said his department is preparing to release a feasibility study analyzing where to place the trail from Target to Bracut early next month. Additionally, Seemann said the county will soon release a narrative document that defines the need and purpose of the project.

“I would say there’s been a lot of really important developments in terms of agencies coordinating and in terms of having good technical information,” he said.

While there’s clearly a momentum building, Seemann said, the project still has a long path ahead, noting that planners still haven’t settled on an alignment for the trail.

“How will it snake through between highway and wetland, railroad tracks, eucalyptus trees, drainage ditches and private property?” he said. “Plus, we’ve got to get across the Eureka slough. The feasibility study breaks those questions down into logical segments and then looks at the costs and the resource impacts.”

Cautioning that it’s way too early to estimate total build-out costs, Seemann guessed the total project could run in the range of $8 million to $12 million. “There are definitely hurdles or challenges to work through,” Seemann continued. “In some ways, the stars have aligned and everyone’s rowing in the same direction, but we still need to get there. But, we all know where we want to get.”

See the full press release from the county below:

California Transportation Commission awards funding for engineering and environmental permitting of the southern portion of the Humboldt Bay Trail

On March 20, 2014, the California Transportation Commission approved allocation of $2 million to Humboldt County to perform engineering design and environmental permitting for the southern portion of the Humboldt Bay Trail. The Bay Trail South segment extends from X Street in Eureka north to Bracut for a total length of 3.8 miles.

The Humboldt Bay Trail is a proposed Class I bikeway situated within the U.S. Highway 101 and railroad transportation corridors between the cities of Eureka and Arcata, along the east shoreline of Humboldt Bay. A Class I bikeway is a paved, two-directional trail separated from any street or highway. In addition to bicycle use, the trail would provide transportation, recreation, and coastal access opportunities for pedestrians, joggers, wheelchair users, skaters, and other non-motorized users.

The Humboldt Bay Trail is being developed as a series of linked projects in coordination with the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG), County of Humboldt, City of Arcata, City of Eureka, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA).

Also on March 20, the California Transportation Commission awarded funds for construction of Phase 1 of the Arcata Rail-with-Trail Connectivity Project, which extends from Foster Avenue/Alliance Road to Samoa Boulevard. Construction of the Phase 1 segment is scheduled to begin this year. Phase 2 is proposed to extend from Samoa Boulevard south along the NCRA railroad corridor to Bracut for a total length of 3.0 miles. Phase 2 corresponds to the Bay Trail North segment of the Humboldt Bay Trail. Construction funds have not been secured for the Bay Trail North segment.

The City of Eureka has three phases of the Eureka Waterfront Trail currently in development. Phase A will extend from the existing Hikshari’ Trail to Del Norte Street, and Phase B will extend from Del Norte Street to C Street. Phase C will connect the existing Adorni Trail at Halvorsen Park to the existing Target Trail, then continue under the Highway 101 bridge at Eureka Slough to Tydd Street near Myrtletown. Phase C will connect with the Bay Trail South segment near the Target Trail and Eureka Slough.

Projects are being developed based on the findings and direction of the Humboldt Bay Rail Corridor Committee convened by NCRA in 2012, and in conjunction with the Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project being implemented by Caltrans and HCAOG.

Funds for engineering and environmental permitting of the Bay Trail South segment will be available starting in July 2014. The engineering and permitting phase is expected to require at least two years due to the complexity of the project, proximity to sensitive resources, and constrained right-of-way.

Funding for construction has not been secured. Potential funding sources for construction include: the state Active Transportation Program; Coastal Conservancy; the federal TIGER program; future State Transportation Improvement Program cycles; and private fundraising.

Additional information on the Bay Trail South segment of the Humboldt Bay Trail is provided in the Project Study Report, available on the Humboldt County Public Works web site under Documents:

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

As Wiyot Prepare to Dance Again, Eureka Fumbles With Contrition

Posted By on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 6:10 PM

On the cusp of the Wiyot Tribe’s first World Renewal Ceremony since the last one, in February 1860, was cut short after white settlers massacred as many as 100 tribe members as they slept on Indian Island, the City of Eureka has voted to send the tribe an official letter of … well, it started out as “apology” but later morphed into “support.”

Apparently, in the hours before the draft letter went to a vote before the council last night, legal eyes latched onto the first draft and spotted language that some council members told the Times-Standard presented potential liability concerns. 

Some of the language eviscerated from the first draft (sent to the press on Monday) includes “citizens of Eureka participated in” and “massacre” and “formal apology” and “forever be a scar on our history.” The new draft, sent to the press Tuesday and voted in as the final version Tuesday night, is a somewhat stranded piece of work, afloat in oddly minimalist bureaucratese with no mention of who attacked the Wiyot nor of anyone's being sorry for it. Check them out yourself:

Draft No. 1:

Draft No. 2:
It's a dramatic change, and we're not yet sure how necessary it was. That said, the sincere feelings that presumably drove the drafting of the letter in the first place likely remain in certain civic hearts. And the support mentioned in the second draft will have to suffice, as the Wiyot embark on the next, momentous chapter of their story: Next week, beginning Friday, they will indeed dance again on Indian Island, as well as at other sites where their ancestors lived (and were massacred).

A note about that: Contrary to what has been reported elsewhere, this year’s World Renewal Ceremony is not necessarily intended “to finish” that interrupted 1860 ceremony, say tribe members.

“It ended in 1860," Seidner says. "Whether it was completed or not, it’s gone. We can’t pick it up because we can’t know what they were doing 154 years ago. … So now we are going to start afresh.”

With tradition resumed, the tribe plans to hold the ceremony every year hence, just as it used to before the massacre.

To read more about the tribe's journey to this moment, see this week's cover story in the North Coast Journal — on the street today and online tomorrow. You can also watch a video on our site of Wiyot and other folks hooking eels at the mouth of the Eel River, and see a slideshow of the cleanup at Tuluwat, on Indian Island, where 120-plus years of post-Wiyot use left a torn-up, toxic-waste dump.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Loleta Bakery Closed

Posted By on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 11:46 AM

  • Heidi Walters

The Loleta Bakery has closed its doors, at least for now, due to a serious illness in the family. Over the phone, Linnea Hill, who ran the bakery with her mother, owner Jeanne van der Zee, said, "We're so sad. Our reasons have to do with personal family illness and that's where we need to be focusing our attention right now ... Closing the bakery doors is one of the most heartbreaking decisions we have made as a family." While the van der Zee's have been talking about closing for some time, they made the final decision this week. The family is not ruling out a return, but Hill said, "Right now we can't really think about a timeline for reopening the bakery."

On the answering machine at the café and bakery van der Zee says that "it is with a heavy heart" that they have closed their doors and thanks the community. The bakery was set to expand — a plan its website still says is in motion — which made the closure all the more surprising to locals who saw the sign on the door this morning.

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