Sunday, January 31, 2016

HumBug: Bugs in Midwinter

Posted By on Sun, Jan 31, 2016 at 3:31 PM

A mature box elder bug in all its glory. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A mature box elder bug in all its glory.

The middle of winter is not the best time to be a bug guy. There aren't many around and most of the ones that are hide under rocks. Sometimes though, they surprise you. Returning home one recent night, I found a dozen or so medium sized, dark colored critters on my front door. Even without looking closely, I knew they were Western box elder bugs (Leptocoris rubrolineatus — that last name translates appropriately to “red lined”).

Finally, a bug that's actually a bug! Hemiptera is the order referred to even by entomologists as the “true bugs.” With a piercing/sucking mouth, some bite and can transmit diseases, and others can be crop pests. Most of them have a roughly shield shaped body.
Juvenile box elder bug. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Juvenile box elder bug.
The true bugs start life as nymphs, which look a lot like the adults except without wings. Their lifestyle does not change throughout their lives — what the babies eat the adults eat and vice-versa. These guys drink the juices from box elder trees and maples. I have a big leafed maple in my front yard, which I assume is where they go when they need a drink. They can become a minor crop pest to fruit trees causing damage directly feeding on apples, pears and others.
A little research led me to a newer and better classification system than I had learned. This one breaks class Insecta down into three subgroups based differences in how they develop throughout their lives. It really makes it easier to understand the relationships between the different orders. So, even in the middle of winter there was still something new to learn.


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TL;DR: Five Things You Need to Know from This Week’s Cover Story

Posted By on Sun, Jan 31, 2016 at 9:49 AM

cover.jpg
Busy week? We get it. Here are some highlights from the cover to get you caught up.

Not long after he was elected as Mendocino County’s district attorney in 2011, David Eyster instigated an innovative — and lucrative — new program. County residents charged with certain marijuana felonies — usually possession with intent to sell — could pay the county a restitution fee that Eyster would calculate on a per-case basis. In exchange, their felony charge would be reduced to a misdemeanor and they would avoid jail time and get a grant of probation instead. Not surprisingly, the program has supporters and detractors.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

County Simultaneously Releases Budget App, Grim Budget Forecast

Posted By on Sat, Jan 30, 2016 at 3:58 PM

The county of Humboldt launched an interactive online budget application Friday aimed at helping residents better understand their government, just as county staff released a fairly gloomy five-year budget forecast.

“Open Budget,” the new interactive tool that can be found here, is designed to let folks explore different facets of county spending and revenue collection, ideally giving them a better understanding of where revenues come from and what they’re spent on. For example, some quick clicking can tell those curious that the county is spending about $34.2 million on its Sheriff’s Office this year, $13.3 million of which goes to the Humboldt County jail. Another click will show you that $34.2 million is $7.5 million more than the Sheriff’s Office received five years ago. A bit more clicking will show that the county spends more on animal control services ($912,000) than on the coroner’s office ($768,000). (Measure Z includes its own spate of graphs and figures.)

On the revenue side of the picture, one can find that the county receives the vast majority of its funding — $209 million — from other governments, namely the state and feds, while permits and licenses account for just $1.89 million of county revenue. 

All of this seems poised to become increasingly useful in coming years, as county staff is warning that the financial picture looks a bit bleaker than it did a year ago, with property tax growth slower than forecasted and increased salary and benefit costs. (It warrants noting that recent months have seen the board of supervisors approve raises for large swaths of county employees, and that the county has been deficit spending, dipping into its reserve funds, in recent years.)

In its report (available through the Feb. 2 meeting agenda at this link), county staff includes three versions of its five-year forecast: moderate, pessimistic and optimistic. Under the pessimistic version, the county will finish this year $5.4 million in the hole, will deplete its reserves early in 2017-2018 and face a structural deficit of almost $10 million by 2020-2021. The optimistic version — which depends on increasing property and sales tax revenues, as well as a hefty marijuana excise tax and at least a dozen other favorable assumptions — has the county maintaining a manageable structural deficit that will decrease to $1.5 million by 2020-2021, leaving the county with a forecasted reserve of about $1.2 million.

The moderate forecast has the county deficit shrinking to $3.8 million next year which will all but deplete its reserves, leaving some very difficult choices heading into 2017-2018 with a forecasted deficit of $3.4 million. Under the moderate forecast, the county’s structural deficit would decrease to $1.5 million by 2020-2021.

“The value of a long-range financial forecast is that it provides an advance look at the county’s financial condition and can help evaluate potential impacts of changes in revenues or costs,” the staff report states. “The board will have an opportunity t o address the General Fund’s financial challenges and consider options as part of the mid-year budget review process and the fiscal year 2016-2017 budget development.”

It appears some difficult decisions sit on the board’s horizon. At least “Open Budget” will make it easier for the rest of us to follow along at home.

The full "Open Budget" press release from the county:

The County of Humboldt continuously looks for ways to promote transparency and help residents better understand their government. The county today launched a new application, “Open Budget,” a tool that is designed to let you easily explore the county’s budget with the hope that you will gain a clearer picture of how the county is spending money, and where those funds come from.

You can access Open Budget at openbudget.humboldtgov.org and on the county’s website at humboldtgov.org.

Open Budget is a powerful program that presents financial information through an interactive, on-line platform. It displays revenue sources and expenditures for the yearly operating budget down to line item details. In addition, the county is committed to ensuring that you know how funds are spent from Measure Z, the half-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2014, and we have dedicated a portion of this application to that effort.

Open Budget gives users the ability to easily convert data from graphs to tables and to download raw data for further analysis. You can choose the level of details you’re looking for, from finding out how much an individual department or division spends on an item, to the entire county. The application also allows you see how that spending has changed over time.

This new tool is only one of many ways citizens can interact with Humboldt County and the budget process. You can also attend or watch the yearly Interactive, Multi-Site Community Budget Meeting, which takes place on March 3. In addition, you can submit comments at the county’s Open Humboldt discussion forum, where we are currently looking for your feedback regarding Open Budget.

The Open Budget application is the product of a partnership with Socrata, Inc., which provides cloud solutions for open data and data-driven governments.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Arcata Recycling Center to Close

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 2:18 PM

DREW HYLAND
  • Drew Hyland
The Arcata Resource Recovery Center — better known as the spot on 10th Street where you can drop off your recyclables and get your deposit back on glass bottles and cans — is closing. 

As the Mad River Union first reported, Rick Powell, the general manager of Eel River Resource Recovery  — which owns and operates the Arcata center — told the Humboldt Waste Management Authority at its January meeting that the company wasn't earning enough at the Arcata site to justify keeping it open. The prices for resources are down, he said, and not enough customers were using the site.

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Cyclist Killed in Eureka

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 10:03 AM

A map of some of Eureka's most dangerous intersections. Click to enlarge.
  • A map of some of Eureka's most dangerous intersections. Click to enlarge.
An unidentified bicyclist was hit and killed by a pickup truck yesterday evening at F and Trinity streets in Eureka.

According to a Eureka Police Department press release, the cyclist was traveling north on F Street and ran a stop sign and traveled directly into the path of an oncoming 1971 Chevrolet pickup truck that was heading west on Trinity Street. The cyclist, who was not wearing a helmet, suffered major injuries and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.


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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Deadline for Marijuana Laws Lifted, Two Days After Supes Cram Through Ordinance

Posted By on Thu, Jan 28, 2016 at 12:14 PM

Assemblyman Jim Wood, in October, asking Gov. Jerry Brown to pass statewide medical marijuana reforms. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • Assemblyman Jim Wood, in October, asking Gov. Jerry Brown to pass statewide medical marijuana reforms.
Two days after the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors passed a comprehensive outdoor medical marijuana cultivation ordinance — an effort of superbureaucratic speed — state lawmakers lifted the deadline that led to the county’s mad rush.

Assemblyman Jim Wood announced this morning that his emergency legislation, lifting a March 1 deadline for local jurisdictions to enact pot laws or cede all regulatory control to the state, has been approved by both the Senate and Assembly. All that remains is a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislate-by date will be removed.

The local ordinance’s drafters always took the deadline seriously, even as it became more and more apparent the legislature was making good on its promise to remove the time restriction. Throughout the process, which saw dozens of hours of planning commission and supervisor’s meetings, and untold hours of staff time, the drafters lamented the short timeline, all but acknowledging that the ordinance could have been better with more time to work on it.

But the ordinance is not carved into stone — it goes into effect at the end of February, and supervisors can amend it as they see fit. Perhaps, embracing the deadline was a boon — motivation for the county to finally address Humboldt’s outdoor grow scene decades after Proposition 215 passed.

From Wood’s office:

Today the California State Assembly unanimously (66-0) passed AB 21, Assemblyman Wood’s emergency measure to repeal the March 1st deadline included in last year’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.

AB 21 removes the March 1st deadline ensuring local jurisdictions maintain the authority to develop their own rules and regulations for cultivating medical cannabis indefinitely.
Assemblyman Wood said, “I am not advocating for or against a particular position on medical cannabis. I am advocating for local elected officials take the time to engage in a process that results good public policy, not knee jerk reactions.”

“Despite the people who said it couldn’t be done, this fix took the Legislature less than a month. As a result the burdensome March 1st deadline will be repealed nearly a month before it would have gone into effect,” said Assemblyman Wood. “Unfortunately cities were advised to act as fast as possible to ban activities of this industry because it was the easiest thing to do. I have already spoken to the executive director of the League of California Cities, expressing my hope that they will join me in encouraging locals to develop thoughtful, reasonable regulations moving forward. I hope they will work as vigorously to stop and undo placeholder bans as they did to roll them out.”

AB 21 is now on the Governor’s desk for signature. The Governor has publicly indicated he would sign a legislative fix to the March 1 deadline. Upon receiving the Governor’s signature the legislation will take effect immediately.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

HumBug: Lacewings

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2016 at 5:34 PM

A giant lacewing. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A giant lacewing.
A couple of days ago I was cleaning up storm debris from my yard when a tiny creature fluttered daintily by. I recognized its flight pattern immediately as one of the prettiest and most delicate things I know: a green lacewing. It brought a smile.
Lacewing larva with its creepy mandibles. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Lacewing larva with its creepy mandibles.
The order Neuroptera (“nerve winged”) has some really dainty insects. It is a bit of a contradiction in that despite their frail appearance they are excellent predators of aphids and other small soft bodied insects. As larvae they remind me of the mind controlling creatures from the Star Trek movie The Wrath of Khan. (But on a tiny scale.) Long, slender mandibles pierce and suck the juices from their victims. As adults, they chew up the same prey.

The green and brown varieties live hereabouts and occasionally come to lights at night. Both have been cultivated and sold as biological controls for aphids.

The aphid-hunting green lacewing. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The aphid-hunting green lacewing.
One of my most prized specimens is a rather rare giant lacewing that I collected outside of Reno, Nevada, over 20 years ago. The vein pattern in its wings is remarkable. Little is known of their life history. Like mine, most specimens collected have been drawn to lights. I just glad that unlike the bird collectors of Victorian England who hastened the demise of the great auk, I haven't killed off the last specimen in my enthusiasm. After all, there are newer photos online.
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Fair Association Ordered to Pay $45K in Attorney Fees

Posted By on Wed, Jan 27, 2016 at 11:46 AM

Caroline and Stuart Titus. - FILE
  • File
  • Caroline and Stuart Titus.
A local judge has ordered the Humboldt County Fair Association to pay more than $45,000 in attorney’s fees to a Davis lawyer who successfully represented Ferndale Enterprise Publisher Caroline Titus in her public records lawsuit against the association.

Titus filed suit in April seeking access to the association’s financial records after multiple requests under the California Public Records Act went unanswered. After months of requests and a plea to Humboldt County First District Supervisor Rex Bohn proved fruitless, Titus retained attorney Paul Nicholas Boylan and filed suit.

In June, the association and Titus reached a settlement under which the association agreed to make its financial records open to the public, as is required by the association’s lease agreement with the county. Boylan then pursued attorney fees in excess of $100,000 for his work on the case.

In a written ruling filed last week, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtsen determined Boylan’s request exceeded the fair local market rate, which Reinholtsen put at $400 an hour. The judge consequently ordered the association to pay Boylan’s fees in the amount of $44,760 for the almost 1,112 hours he worked on the case “involving an important issue benefitting the public.” Additionally, Reinholtsen ordered that the association reimburse Titus and Boylan for $1,000 in costs they incurred bringing the case.

“What a shame that 18 HCFA board members, their general manager, their attorney and Bohn ignored our requests and forced us to seek a legal resolution,” Titus said in an email to the Journal. “The most important result of our case is that the fair signed a [memorandum of understanding], stating that all financial records will remain open to the public, per the terms of the lease … so no one will (hopefully) have to go through this again.”

Titus said Boylan offered to settle the fee claim back in July for $33,840, but the association’s attorney, Randy Andrada, who represents the California Fair Services Authority (which essentially acts as the association’s insurance carrier), made a counter offer of just $10,000. From there, the parties went to court.

For his part, Boylan said the association’s settlement stance in the case constituted a waste of taxpayer money. He estimated that Andrada likely billed the California Fair Services Authority as much as $40,000 while avoiding settlement and unsuccessfully opposing the Enterprise’s fee motion.

Boylan estimated that the entire affair cost the CFSA somewhere in the neighborhood of $85,000, some $51,000 more than his original settlement offer. "And," he added, "the entire failure was financed with public tax revenues in the form of dues from public agencies paid to CFSA.”

Humboldt County Fair Association Richard Conway did not immediately return a call seeking comment for this story.

Titus and her husband, Stuart, also recently received a separate $150,000 settlement from the HCFA in a federal First Amendment and wrongful termination lawsuit they brought against the association after its board voted 11-8 in 2013 not to renew Stuart’s contract as the association’s general manager, a position he’d held for 22 years. In the suit, the Tituses alleged that the board fired Stuart in retaliation for his unwillingness to keep Caroline from writing pieces in the Enterprise that made fair board members look bad, as well as his repeated reminders that the board should abide by state open meeting laws.

Editor's Note: In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Paul Nicholas Boylan is currently representing the Journal in the city of Eureka's appeal of a local judge's ruling ordering a portion of a police dash camera video released to the public. Read more about that case here.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

UPDATED: Officer-involved Shooting Suspect Wanted for Murder of David Ganfield

Posted By on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 at 2:22 PM

Nickolas Johnson - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Nickolas Johnson

2nd UPDATE: EPD Chief Andy Mills has confirmed that the man shot by DA investigators this morning was Nickolas Ryan Joseph Johnson, a suspect in the April 28 deadly assault of David Dwane Ganfield. Johnson has been wanted in connection with Ganfield's death since April 2015.

Mills said DA investigators had "him on the run" and had zeroed in on the Pine Street home when Johnson opened the door and began firing.

"He came out literally firing on the officers, with a high velocity round," said Mills, who said several local homes were sprayed with bullets. Another person in the house where Johnson was hiding was detained for questioning.

1st UPDATE:
An unidentified man opened fire on Humboldt County District Attorney investigators conducting a homicide investigation near the 3200 block of Pine Street, prompting them to return fire, wounding the man, according to a Eureka Police Department press release.

The release states that the investigators were following up on an unspecified homicide case, attempting to contact residents in the area, when a man “came out firing an assault rifle towards investigators without warning.” The suspect underwent surgery and is expected to survive.

The Critical Incident Response Team investigation into the shooting is being co-led by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and EPD. District Attorney Maggie Fleming announced in the EPD press release that, because her investigators were involved in the shooting, she has asked the California Attorney General’s Office to step in and review the incident to determine if any criminal charges are appropriate.


PREVIOUSLY:
A multi-agency investigation into an officer-involved shooting on Pine Street, near West Harris, is underway.

Eureka Police Department spokesperson Brittany Powell said the shooting occurred after a still-unidentified man allegedly opened fire on officers, who returned fire, striking the suspect. Powell said the suspect’s current condition is unknown, though Police Chief Andrew Mills added that he is “expected to survive.” No officers were injured in the incident.


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Monday, January 25, 2016

County and City of Eureka Meet Tomorrow to Discuss Long-Awaited Report

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 5:06 PM

Encampments at the PalCo Marsh. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • Encampments at the PalCo Marsh.
It has taken months for the respective orbits of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and the Eureka City Council to align, but tomorrow they will finally sit down to discuss the estimated 844 people who sleep unsheltered in Humboldt County. The majority of those people are in Eureka, which has borne the brunt of public debate and resource allocation.

Last week, the Eureka City Council declared a shelter crisis, easing codes and regulations on city facilities to accommodate the homeless. The declaration passed 3-2 despite the suggestions of dissenting councilmembers Marian Brady and Linda Ciarabellini that it be tabled pending tomorrow's meeting. The meeting will include a report from Focus Strategies, a Sacramento consulting firm to which Eureka paid $80,000 over the last year. A housing market analysis of Humboldt County, originally due for presentation in October, was finally unveiled via the Board of Supervisor's agenda, and is now available. (To view the document in its entirety, click the PDF at the bottom of this post.)

Some of the presentation, whose contents are recommended for further discussion at the next county meeting, have been covered in previous reports. The consultants have recommended a focus on creating low-income housing and implementing a "housing first" strategy to address homelessness. The Mobile Intervention Services Team (MIST) — a joint effort between the city of Eureka and the Department of Health and Human Services — may also get a boost, as Focus Strategies has called its work "very important" and recommended the addition of an alcohol and other drug specialist and a housing specialist to the team. Other recommendations include removing barriers to housing and prioritizing the integration of counseling with housing services. Some of the recommendations echo a recent report by the Humboldt County Grand Jury, which called for a more centralized data and services system.

The housing market analysis might not be what some expected — or hoped for. The data includes a list of projected available rental units and the estimated price. There are roughly three times as many homeless people in Humboldt County as there are rental units available to house them. Focus Strategies analyzed the projected vacancy rate for local buildings and gives projected one-year and three-year strategies for getting everyone currently outdoors under a roof. Given the impacted nature of housing in Humboldt, housing everyone in a year would require group living situations and some "intensive services to help clients build interpersonal and conflict resolution skills." A longer-term, three-year plan would require the "doubling up" of over half the current homeless population. Long story short: Getting everyone a bed indoors would require a lot of communal living situations, which would require a lot of services and intervention to make that communal living livable. The amount of housing stock in Humboldt County, Focus Strategies found, is lower than the state average, especially in Eureka, where 60 percent of homes were built before 1960.

The analysis concludes by saying, "Humboldt County appears to have adequate stock to house approximately two-thirds of the unsheltered homeless population within one year given existing housing inventory. Housing this proportion of individuals requires that the majority of single individuals share housing, although does not require more than one person per bedroom. It also requires that the community aggressively target a lower vacancy rate; one that is equal to average of the 10 tightest metropolitan rental markets in the US. This target may be ambitious, but it is not clear that it is unreasonable as many markets are functioning at or near this rate. Other creative strategies will clearly need to be used to house the remaining third of unsheltered homeless people." 


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