Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Man Evading Deputy Dies After Crash

Posted By on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Twenty-year-old Samoa resident Dillon Arcani died Monday evening after crashing his motorcycle, at high speed, into another motorist on State Route 255. According to the California Highway Patrol, Arcani had been fleeing a Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputy near the Samoa Cookhouse after the deputy attempted to pull Arcani over because  there was no license plate on his 2011 Suzuki GSXR 1000 motorcycle.

“When the red lights and siren came on, the motorcyclist fled northbound on SR-255 toward Manila and Arcata, reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph,” says the CHP news release. “The deputy lost sight of the motorcycle and discontinued the pursuit. However, one minute later, the deputy came around a curve on SR-255 at Dean Street/Pacific Avenue in Manila and found that the motorcycle had collided with a 2008 Toyota Scion driven by 17-year-old Elizabeth Jackson of Eureka.”

Jackson had been in the northbound lane, making a left turn at the intersection, says the release. Arcani tried to pass her “by driving to the left of the double yellow lines.”

The motorcycle slammed into the left side of Jackson’s Toyota. Jackson sustained a “very minor injury,” says the release.

Arcani sustained major injuries, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Eureka, where he later died.

The CHP is investigating whether DUI was a factor in the collision. The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office is conducting a criminal investigation of the pursuit.
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Monday, March 17, 2014

Arson Suspected at Unlicensed Dispensary

Posted By on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 9:26 PM

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Fire broke out before dawn in an Arcata residential neighborhood Monday, and firemen responded to discover the burning home was really a medical marijuana dispensary with a growing operation. And, they believe it was intentionally set ablaze.

Arcata Fire District Battalion Chief Sean Campbell said a call came into the department at about 5:15 a.m. reporting the blaze and a truck was on scene within minutes. Campbell said firefighters thought the home was a residence and were concerned people might be inside until they made entry and discovered the house was operating as a dispensary.

Fire investigators discovered two points of origin, Campbell said, each in a separate room, leading them to believe the fire was an act of arson.

Arcata Police Sgt. Todd Dokweiler said police arrived on scene to find the back door of the dispensary ajar, but said it’s unclear if someone may have forced entry or if anything was stolen from the dispensary.

The dispensary is owned by Stephen Gasparas, an infamous figure in Arcata, and was operating without a license from the city. To read more about Gasparas and his long history of tangles with city officials, police, prosecutors, landlords and others, check out Kevin Hoover’s extensive coverage. Be doubly sure to check out a couple epic pieces here and here.

Anyone with information about Monday morning's fire is asked to call APD at 822-2428.
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Gallegos: No Death Penalty in Arcata Double Murder Case

Posted By on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty in the case of alleged double-murderer Bodhi Tree.

Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said that, after carefully reviewing the case, he has decided not to purse capital punishment against Tree, who stands accused of gunning down two people at a house on Arcata’s Eye Street in May of last year. Gallegos said the case review assessed potentially mitigating and aggravating factors, including Tree’s criminal history and the facts of the case at hand.

Tree is scheduled to stand trial March 24 on charges that he murdered Christina Schwarz and Alan “Sunshine” Marcet, shooting both in the early-morning hours of May 18. Tree is also alleged to have shot and injured a Eureka man, Rhett August, two days earlier.

Tree has pleaded not guilty to the charges and faces 50 years to life in prison if convicted in the case. The Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office is expected to announce its decision not to pursue the death penalty in the case at a hearing this afternoon. Read prior Journal coverage of the case here.
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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Updated: Fortuna Rethinking Sign Ordinance

Posted By on Sat, Mar 15, 2014 at 8:21 AM

This stock photo has absolutely nothing to do with Fortuna. But, it does include lots of friendly looking people with signs.
  • This stock photo has absolutely nothing to do with Fortuna. But, it does include lots of friendly looking people with signs.
The Fortuna City Council voted 4-1, with Councilman Dean Glaser dissenting, Monday to amend its campaign sign ordinance.

The amendment lifts decades-long provisions that limited the placement of campaign signs until just 30 days prior to Election Day and required that signs be no bigger than four square feet. While proponents of the change said it comes in response to the facts that about half of the county’s voters now cast ballots by mail well in advance of the election and that the ordinance was possibly in conflict with free speech laws, others saw nefarious political maneuvering at hand.

“I think this was stinking from the very beginning,” Glaser said the morning after the vote. “To me, it was orchestrated by people who want to promote their candidate. It just reeks of cronyism, that’s all there is to it.”

No city council seats are up for election this year. In fact, the only high-profile race Fortuna will have a hand in deciding is that for district attorney. According to candidate webpages, Council Members Mike Losey, Sue Long and Tami Trent have all endorsed Maggie Fleming’s bid for the position. Glaser has endorsed Allan Dollison’s campaign. Mayor Doug Strehl has not publicly endorsed any of the four candidates vying for the position.

Earlier post:
The city of Fortuna is pondering plunging into Humboldt County’s famed lawn sign wars a bit early this year.

The Friendly City has long had one of the most restrictive election sign ordinances in Humboldt County, preventing residents from bedazzling their yards with political pleas until just 30 days prior to Election Day. The county allows signs 90 days prior.

But the Fortuna City Council will consider passing an urgency ordinance Monday that would suspend section 17.05.180(D)(1)(b) (the sign ordinance) of the city municipal code for six months, essentially allowing a signage free-for-all from now through November. Mayor Doug Strehl said he raised the issue at a prior council meeting and there was a consensus to bring the item back for a full discussion.

Strehl said he’s spoken to a host of Fortunans who vote by mail and said they generally send of their ballots off shortly after getting them — usually just about a month prior to the big day. (Nearly half of Humboldt's electorate now votes by mail.) Consequently, Strehl said, these folks miss out on the opportunity to let political signs shape their decisions, adding that more than a few have told him they may have voted differently on a proposition or two if they’d had the benefit of the signage, and the discussion that often accompanies them.

“I just brought it up as an agenda item so we could talk about it as a council. Whether it gets changed or not will depend on how everybody else feels,” Strehl said, adding that he has some concerns the signage prohibition changes the way candidates campaign in Fortuna and, possibly, limits locals’ access to the candidates themselves. “Fortuna is a great town but, at the same time, we want people to look at Fortuna as a good place to campaign.”

No city council seats are up for election this year. In fact, the only high-profile race Fortuna will have a hand in deciding is that for district attorney. So where do city council members’ allegiances lie in that particular race — the only local race that promises to be impacted by Monday’s decision? Glad you asked.

According to candidate webpages, Counsel Members Mike Losey, Sue Long and Tami Trent have all endorsed Maggie Fleming’s bid for the position. Councilman Dean Glaser has endorsed Allan Dollison’s campaign. Strehl has not publicly endorsed any of the four candidates vying for the position. So, it will be interesting to see where Monday’s discussion goes and if any candidate’s supporters make a concerted effort to show up and weigh in.

As to why the council is pursuing an urgency ordinance to suspend the sign rules instead of simply changing the ordinance, it takes a months-long public process to change a city ordinance. So, in order for any changes to take effect before the June primary, an urgency ordinance was the only option. In the backdrop of all this, there’s also a larger legal question.

City staff is warning the council in its staff report that courts have consistently struck down local sign ordinances that treat political signage differently then other types, finding they infringe on free-speech and equal protection rights. Fortuna currently treats commercial speech, or advertising, differently than political signs. A billboard kerfuffle a couple of years back in a Humboldt County supervisors race underscored how Fortuna treats the two differently, and illustrated how something is notably absent from the sign ordinance.

Those interesting in tuning in Monday can catch the council meeting at 6 p.m. on Access Humboldt (video will also later be posted on the Access Humboldt website) or head on down to Fortuna City Hall, 621 11th St.
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Friday, March 14, 2014

Candidates Spar at first DA Debate

Posted By on Fri, Mar 14, 2014 at 3:15 PM

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The four candidates vying to become Humboldt County’s next district attorney gathered for their first debate Thursday.

The candidates — Deputy District Attorney Elan Firpo and former prosecutors Allan Dollison, Maggie Fleming and Arnie Klein — spent the better part of two hours in the Eureka Veterans Building, answering questions composed by the hosting Humboldt Tea Party Patriots. The evening featured a number of lively responses touching an array of issues. If there was an underlying theme of the evening, however, it was that the district attorney’s office is currently mismanaged and woefully underfunded, leaving prosecutors overworked and often ill prepared.

A telling point on the staffing issue came when the moderator asked the candidates how many deputy district attorneys they feel are needed to handle the almost 5,000 misdemeanor and felony cases that come through the office every year. Fleming said she’d like 13 or 14 attorneys; Firpo said she wants 20; Dollison said 20 to 25; and Klein said, “how many people? As many as we can get.” Currently, the DA’s office currently has 12 full-time attorneys (candidates offered varying figures Thursday), and that includes District Attorney Paul Gallegos and Assistant District Attorney Kelly Neel, both of whom see the bulk of their duties fall outside the courtroom.

The funding issue came up again and again Thursday. Fleming said there were 14 deputy district attorneys when she started at the DA’s Office in the mid-1990s, adding that, even then, all of them took work home every night and weekend to keep up. "It was nonstop, and we all did it," she said.  Firpo said she has a plan to pursue grants to nearly double the current staffing level of prosecutors. Dollison said grants ultimately aren’t the answer because they have a tendency to “go away,” and that he intends to lobby the board of supervisors for additional funding. “If they think the General Plan fight of 2014 is something, well wait until they see the district attorney funding fight of 2015,” he said.

Klein also pledged to lobby the board for additional funds. “I’m going to tell the board of supervisors, ‘there is a public safety crisis and if you can’t give me the men, I can’t protect the people,’” he said.

While there were a few head-scratch-inducing questions asked Thursday — perhaps most notably whether the candidates believed the sheriff should be the county’s chief law man or its chief law enforcement officer — the local Tea Partiers came through with some timely ones of special interest to local voters.

The candidates were asked about the Humboldt County jail’s policy allowing inmates to be released in the middle of the night, when few services and transportation options are available. Dollison called the policy “despicable,” Firpo said the policy is a problem that can and should be solved and Klein lambasted the policy with a reference to the recent slaying of St. Bernard’s Pastor Father Eric Freed.

But Fleming offered a decidedly different take. Noting that the policy is currently under review, she said it has worked well for a lot of working folks arrested for being drunk in public, noting that the late night releases allow them to get home, get cleaned up and get to work in the morning. She also pointed out that folks released in the late-night/early-morning hours aren’t forced to leave the facility. “There is a lobby there — it is well lit, it is dry and you have access to a bathroom,” she said.

Asked about whether they would support the legalization of marijuana, all four candidates essentially dodged the question and instead focused on the impacts of illegal marijuana and the potential consequences of legalization.

Fleming said she accepts the fact that a majority of California voters support legalization, and that she thinks it’s important that it come with a state-wide framework for regulation. Klein said marijuana enforcement would be his lowest priority as district attorney, but said he would work to make sure growers are operating in a “responsible way.” Dollison said legalization is ultimately a state and federal decision, but said if legalization does come he would support a regulatory framework similar to Colorado’s. Finally, Firpo said legalization is coming and needs to be planned for. Generally, she said, marijuana is not the problem. “It’s not the marijuana, necessarily, it’s the crime that goes with it,” she said, referring to home-invasion robberies, cartel activities and environmental degradation.

Asked how they would combat Humboldt County’s drug culture, all the candidates basically said they would work to put dealers behind bars and to keep them there as long as possible and that they would support treatment and education for addicts.

The full debate is set to air on Access Humboldt in the coming weeks. If you missed it, don’t fret: the candidates are set to again lock horns March 20 at 7 p.m. in a debate sponsored by KHSU, the Mad River Union, the Arcata Police Officers Association and the Arcata High School Pepperbox newspaper that will be aired live on KHSU.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Caltrans to Close 101 North Sunday

Posted By on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 at 7:52 PM

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Thinking of cruising up to Crescent City this weekend? You might want to reconsider.

Caltrans announced Wednesday that U.S. Highway 101 will be completely closed to traffic in Del Norte County just south of the Mill Creek Park entrance from 9 a.m. at least until 5 p.m. Sunday, March 16 as work crews stabilize a slide.

“A full highway closure will be necessary for safety, and to help reopen the highway more quickly,” Caltrans said in a news release. No reasonable detour is available, but those desperate to party down in Crescent City on Sunday can drive out State Route 299 to State Route 96, and up State Route 169. It will tack at least another two hours onto the trip, though. Caltrans spokesman Scott Burger informed the Journal that State Route 169 is incomplete (apparently Mapquest can't be trusted) and said the agency is recommending State Route 299 to Interstate 5 North up to U.S. Highway 199 west. It's a long haul so, really, folks are best advised just to time their trip to avoid Sunday's closure.

Following the closure, Caltrans will re-open the highway to one-way, controlled traffic through March 18 and motorists should expect 15-minute delays.

See Caltrans’ full press release below.

The following is a press release from Caltrans:

FULL CLOSURE OF US HIGHWAY 101
NEAR HAMILTON ROAD IN DEL NORTE COUNTY THIS SUNDAY


Eureka – Caltrans has announced that a highway safety operation to remove unstable slide material will occur on US Highway 101 in Del Norte County from just south of Hamilton Road to 0.6 miles south of the Mill Creek Park Entrance this Sunday, March 16. A full highway closure will be necessary for safety, and to help reopen the highway more quickly.

The full highway closure will be in place during the first phase of the operation beginning at 9AM, Sunday, March 16 and may last until 5PM with no available detour. Following the first phase, US Highway 101 will be opened to one-way traffic control through Tuesday, March 18. During one-way traffic control, expect up to 15 minute delays. All work is weather dependent.

Please watch for bicyclists, and remember to Slow for the Cone Zone. For the most current road information on all State highways, please call 1-800-427-7623 (1-800-GAS-ROAD) or visit www.dot.ca.gov.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Earthquake and Record Rainfall, Sunday Had it All

Posted By on Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Humboldt County got a good jolt Sunday night when an earthquake struck off the coast, west of Ferndale, but the chances of a large aftershock striking the area are diminishing by the minute.

Folks throughout northern California reported feeling the 6.8 quake that hit about 10:18 p.m. some 48 miles off the coast. Most reported feeling a gentle rolling that lasted more than 30 seconds. Humboldt State University Geology Associate Professor Mark Hemphill-Haley said the quake occurred on the Gorda Plate, an oceanic plate that is crumbling as its being subducted under North America and which accounts for 85 to 90 percent of the seismic activity felt on the North Coast.

While Hemphill-Haley said it is true there was a 90 percent chance the area would experience an aftershock of 5.0 or higher in the week following the quake, he said that’s based on a statistical formula and the probability of experiencing such a quake is steadily decreasing. Still, a total 16 aftershocks measuring 3.0 or greater were recorded in the area between the time of the quake and 8:30 a.m. Monday, according to the United States Geological Survey.

No tsunami warning was issued after the temblor, but Hemphill-Haley said some folks evacuated from low-lying areas, which he said was smart. The recommendation, he said, is that folks leave low-lying areas for higher ground any time they feel more than 15 seconds of strong motion. People hanging on the coast, he said, should get moving toward higher elevation as soon as they feel any shaking at all.

Sunday night’s quake should serve as a wake-up call, Hemphill-Haley said, urging people to check their quake kits and emergency plans.

The earthquake trumped news that Sunday’s rainfall broke a 30-plus year record. Scott Carroll, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Eureka recorded 2.58 inches of rain Sunday, smashing March 9’s previous record of 1.17 inches in 1983. The precipitation onslaught brings the area up to 52 percent of normal rainfall levels for the current water year, which runs July 1 through June 30. This week’s forecast looks pretty dry, Carroll said.
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Saturday, March 8, 2014

There Will Be a Supervisors Race

Posted By on Sat, Mar 8, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Kerrigan announces his campaign. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • Kerrigan announces his campaign.
Fourth District Supe Virginia Bass and 5th District Supe Ryan Sundberg don't get to put up their feet this this year. Two 11th hour announcements have Eureka pol Chris Kerrigan aiming for Bass' seat and McKinleyville Pastor Sharon Latour going after Sundberg.

Kerrigan announced his campaign on the steps of the elections office Friday afternoon to the applause of some notable Humboldt County lefties. As you may recall, Kerrigan had previously set sights on the Eureka mayor seat. Talking points in his brief speech Friday remained Eureka-centric. "Humboldt is waiting for its Eureka moment," he said.

Latour hasn't made an official announcement yet, but confirmed to LoCO last week that she was running. Both she and Kerrigan filed the necessary papers by Friday — deadline for this year's election.

Let the fun begin.
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Friday, March 7, 2014

Stabbing Case Still Front and Center in DA Race

Posted By on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 9:29 AM

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Juan Ferrer’s plea deal in the stabbing death of an Arcata man continues to be a huge issue in the campaign to become Humboldt County’s next district attorney.

Arnie Klein, a former prosecutor and one of four candidates vying for the seat being vacated by Paul Gallegos, issued a press release Thursday stating he’s been contacted by the victim’s family and asked to intervene in the case. Specifically, Klein claims the family has requested that he ask the court to throw out Ferrer’s involuntary manslaughter plea when he appears for sentencing April 3.

Ferrer was initially charged with murder for the stabbing death of Douglas Anderson-Jordet on Nov. 25, but his attorney, Marek Reavis, reached an agreement with prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Elan Firpo, a candidate to become the county’s next top prosecutor. Under the agreement, Ferrer pleaded no contest to aggravated involuntary manslaughter and will likely serve two years in county jail.

The case and subsequent plea agreement have garnered a lot of media attention. For a full rundown of the case and applicable state laws, view past Journal coverage. Firpo’s campaign offered an explanation of the deal here.

In his press release, Klein says Anderson-Jordet’s “family members” are planning on sending letters to the court, the probation department and the DA’s Office to “effectuate this result.” In her press release issued late last month, Firpo indicated “the family” supported the plea deal.

Klein’s full press release can be found below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 6, 2014

Arnie Klein has been contacted by family members of Douglas Anderson-Jordet to ask the court to set aside the defendant Juan Ferrer's plea at the time of sentencing, April 3rd. I have been informed that the family members will start sending in letters to the probation department, the DA's office, the defense attorneys and the court to effectuate this result. 

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Eureka Selects Iowa Man as Next City Manager

Posted By on Thu, Mar 6, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Greg Sparks. - COURTESY CITY OF EUREKA
  • Courtesy City of Eureka
  • Greg Sparks.
Eureka, meet your new boss: West Des Moines, Iowa, City Manager Greg Sparks has accepted the Eureka city manager position and is scheduled to start May 1, after a background check is completed.

Sparks hit the two key Eureka talking points in a city press release issued today: economy and scenery.

"The area has great natural assets and a strong retail base," he said. "I was impressed with the team of dedicated department managers and I look forward to working with them to achieve the council’s goals of excellent customer service. I look forward to arriving soon and getting to know people in the community and to be an active participant in Eureka.” 

West Des Moines, in case you're into comparisons, has a population of nearly 60,000 and is the 10th largest city in Iowa. According to Wikipedia, it is one of Iowa's wealthiest cities and "Des Moines' richest suburb." West Des Moines also made Money magazine's 2008 list of the "100 Best Places to Live and Launch." Eureka, you'll recall, is a primo spot for swingin' seniors.

Sparks has held management positions around the U.S., according to the release, and has three kids living in California.

The press release:

The Mayor and Council are pleased to announce that Greg Sparks of West Des Moines, Iowa has accepted the position of City Manager with the City of Eureka. Greg comes to the City of Eureka with a great deal of experience and knowledge as a City Manager. Mr. Sparks is currently employed by the City of West Des Moines as their City Manager and oversees a staff of 415 employees and an annual budget of 113M.

Previous experience: Greg served as the Town Manager of Mountain Village, Colorado. Mountain Village is a resort community adjacent to Telluride, in southwest Colorado. He managed a staff of 146 employees that offered a variety of traditional and non-traditional services to meet the needs of full and part-time residents, as well as a diverse visitor base. Prior to Mountain Village, Greg served as City Administrator in Owatonna, MN from 1995 to 2007, and as City Administrator of Worthington, MN, from 1988 to 1995. Greg began his city management career as an intern in Reno, Nevada in 1978, and has worked in management positions in Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, and Minnesota.

Greg Sparks received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Northern Iowa and earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Nevada. Additionally, Greg has completed the Rocky Mountain Executive Leadership Program from the University of Colorado.

Greg and his wife Mary, a nurse, have a son Aaron and daughter in law, Emily residing in Goleta, CA. Aaron is a full-time doctoral student at the University of California Santa Barbara, and Emily is employed by UCSB.

In a statement to the City, Greg stated, “I am really looking forward to joining the team at the City of Eureka. I was drawn to Eureka for a number of reasons. The Mayor and City Council have a vision of improving the economic sustainability of Eureka that fit well with my background in creating collaborative partnerships with other public agencies and the private sector. The area has great natural assets and a strong retail base. I was impressed with the team of dedicated department managers and I look forward to working with them to achieve the Council’s goals of excellent customer service. I look forward to arriving soon and getting to know people in the community and to be an active participant in Eureka.”

“I am very excited to have such an experienced Manager on board with the City of Eureka”, commented Mayor Frank Jager. The City of Eureka will be conducting a background check over the next few weeks. Once the background check is completed, an employment agreement with Greg Sparks will be agendized for Council approval. Mr. Sparks has a tentative start date with the City of Eureka, of May 1, 2014. 

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