Wednesday, October 19, 2016

State: Sample Ballot on California Props in the Mail

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 12:59 PM

"I Voted" stickers. - MANUEL J. ORBEGOZO
  • Manuel J. Orbegozo
  • "I Voted" stickers.
If you haven’t received a sample ballot of the statewide propositions yet, a representative in the California Secretary of State’s Office says not to worry — it’s in the mail.

“The mailing of the Voter Information Guide concluded over the weekend, so voters should keep an eye on their mailboxes this week,” press secretary Sam Mahood wrote in an email to the Journal.

The 223-page guide is available online in 10 languages, he added.

There are 17 statewide ballot measures before voters on the Nov. 8 ballot, ranging from regulations on ammunition to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana to repealing the death penalty.

For those looking to get a jump start on researching the long list of initiatives, Mahood said the office recently released a “Quick Guide to Props” link on its website, which “provides voters a helpful list of the top ten campaign contributions, funding totals for each and every of the 17 statewide propositions, as well as brief nonpartisan analysis.”

The campaign finance elements, he noted, “are dynamic and will be updated daily.”

Not a registered voter? The deadline to become one in time for the November election is Oct. 24. For more information, visit the Humboldt County Registrar of Voters website.
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'Not the Norm': HSU Students, Faculty Speak out on Racism

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 10:54 AM

Diego Morales speaks out at the university senate meeting discussing marginalization at Eureka High School. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • Diego Morales speaks out at the university senate meeting discussing marginalization at Eureka High School.

The words that ignited anger and displeasure among students and staff at Humboldt State University came from their president. “Racism is not the norm on our campus,” Lisa Rossbacher wrote in an email two weeks ago concerning race issues on campus. But according to students, HSU is anything but the norm.

The University Senate held its bi-weekly meeting Tuesday and saw the usually sparse crowd replaced with an energetic group of students and staff ready to get their two cents in with Rossbacher.

The Goodwin Forum didn’t have an empty seat and floor space was filled with student backpacks as a tense audience crowded the room to capacity before the meeting could start. But from the moment it was announced Rossbacher wouldn’t be in attendance, it drew displeasure from the crowd.

Students and staff filled the Goodwin Forum for the Humboldt State University Senate on Thursday. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • Students and staff filled the Goodwin Forum for the Humboldt State University Senate on Thursday.

A student Facebook group #POCNormHSU, which has drawn more than 500 likes since it opened last week, organized the large turnout and has been a platform for students of color to share stories of racism they have faced attending HSU and living in Humboldt County.

The senate allowed an open space for students and staff to talk and each were given three minutes to say whatever they pleased. Ethnic studies professor Maria Corral-Ribordy read a letter directed to the President that discussed issues she has noticed as an instructor working in the Critical Race and Gender Studies (CRGS) Department.

“I want to acknowledge, Why is the university not doing more for students of color?” Corral-Ribordy said. “The president knows how students feel about the email and I want to see some changes made.”

Corral-Ribordy’s letter set the tone for the meeting as students followed by sharing their own experiences of racism on campus and in the community. With stories of prejudiced teachers and racist encounters in the university library, students let the majority white senate know what they perceive to be the norm on campus.

“I’m happy to say I’m leaving [Humboldt County] soon,” Graciela Chipres, a former student senate representative, said. “I have many stories of personal struggle mainly to do with the environment here.”

Chipres held back tears as she spoke about her encounters with racism at HSU. She stated that over the five years she has lived here she has encountered many forms of racism, even run-ins with neo-Nazis.

Yet according to Diego Morales, HSU isn’t the only place in Humboldt County where students don’t feel they belong. Morales is a tutor at Eureka High School and said some Latino students there feel marginalized compared to others.

“At times, I feel like I’m their only resource and ask myself if this can really be,” Morales said.

CRGS professor Ramona Bell talked about the disconnect between faculty and students of color.

“Where can students go for help, honestly?” Bell asked the senate. “It shouldn’t be this hard to find some resources on campus, but it's the sad truth.”

As the senate meeting dwindled down to its last speaker, attention turned to senate member Erik Eschker, who students claimed rolled his eyes and didn’t acknowledge the severity of the discussion at hand. The economics professor was derided as he tried to respond, saying something about having some personal problems he was dealing with. Students pointed out that such instances are why progress is hard at HSU when the problem can’t even be acknowledged.

Various senate members agreed with some of the audience’s opinions, including the need to address some changes within the university and support students of color.

Senate chair Julie Alderson said the meeting’s huge response will prompt another forum concerning racial dialogue on campus in the near future. Alderson added that the next meeting will hopefully have Rossbacher in attendance.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

From Pulp Mill Ashes, Redwood Marine Terminal II Rises

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 2:23 PM

Jasmin Segura, with Humboldt Baykeeper, and Delia Bense Kang with Surfrider tour Marine Terminal II. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Jasmin Segura, with Humboldt Baykeeper, and Delia Bense Kang with Surfrider tour Marine Terminal II.
The buildings stand mostly empty and the work is far from done, but mood inside the Redwood Marine Terminal II last Friday was jubilant nonetheless. At long last, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District threw a grand opening party for the out-of-service pulp mill it bought for $1 back in August of 2013. After successfully saving Humboldt Bay from potentially disastrous toxic sludge, the district has continued to rehabilitate the site into what is now officially the National Marine Research and Innovation Park, a multi-use facility designed to house both research and commercial opportunities in aquaculture, biomass conversion and renewable energy.

State Assemblyman Jim Wood, on hand for the festivities, called the achievement “remarkable” and praised the efforts of both the pulp mill and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. State Sen. Mike McGuire admired the hard work of all involved. Humboldt County Supervisor Virginia Bass recalled her childhood, during which the mill’s stink was known as “the smell of money.”

Virginia Bass. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Virginia Bass.
As an adult, Bass was employed to do public relations at the mill during its years under Evergreen Pulp, a task she confessed to being “ill-suited” for, in part, she joked, because she had to work with fellow Supervisor Rex Bohn, a man “hard to put a lid on.” Despite that, the “little space of earth” continued to be a prominent part of her life — she even recounted driving out to sit in the abandoned parking lot years later, sad to see such a “vibrant part” of the bay lying fallow. “How can we help?” she asked herself.

Opportunity arrived through the district’s purchasing of the site, which brought federal, state and local agencies, community partners, nonprofit organizations, the county and the city of Eureka into the “monumental” project, she said. And now, Bass finished, she’s confident “the Harbor District is up for the challenge.”

One of the most moving speeches came from Harbor Commissioner Richard Marks, who spent 30 years working at the pulp mill, “almost [all] in this building,” he said. He referenced the “ghosts of workers past” and noted that despite his longtime pride in the workers, “I was never proud of our bad environmental record.” Marks relayed an anecdote about bringing in a copy of the Northcoast Environmental Center’s EcoNews, telling fellow employees that they needed to do things right. This “new day forward” pleased him, he said, with the promise of “new jobs, clean jobs.”

Continuing the speechifying was Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (who takes a seat as a Humboldt County supervisor in January. “I don’t like the term ‘revitalization’,” he said, preferring to call the new chapter “vitalization.” He urged the district — and the community — to be “future-focused … Moving backward is so much more difficult.” To that beginning, Wilson noted, success of the NMRIP depends on an interim zoning change and update to Humboldt’s Local Coastal Plan.

Harbor District CEO Jack Crider wrapped up the event with a story of visiting the pulp mill site four years prior. “I did this crazy thing,” he said, “crawled around on top of all the tanks and buildings. I should have died that day.” Instead he took 500 or so photos to the Harbor Commission and showed them the disrepair — and danger — of the sludge tanks.

Afterward, Crider said, “Commissioner [Greg] Dale said, ‘Thanks a lot, Jack. Now we have to do something.’” That something turned out to solve a lot of issues, Crider continued, from removing the toxic sludge from failing tanks to providing dock access and future opportunities. This is his third experience converting a contaminated site, he said, and each time has meant putting his staff through significant challenges. This one, Crider finished, “was the biggest hurdle I’ve ever put anyone through.”

Byron Duty of Pacific Flake. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Byron Duty of Pacific Flake.
Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (left) talks to the crowd. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • Harbor Commissioner Mike Wilson (left) talks to the crowd.
North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire (left) and Assemblyman Jim Wood (right) with Harbor Commissioner Pat Higgins. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire (left) and Assemblyman Jim Wood (right) with Harbor Commissioner Pat Higgins.
John Driscoll, the field representative for North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, addresses the crowd. - JENNIFER SAVAGE
  • Jennifer Savage
  • John Driscoll, the field representative for North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, addresses the crowd.

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Eureka City Council to Discuss Butane Ordinance, New Homeless Sleeping Area

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 12:41 PM

Hundreds of mL butane canisters from a 2015 hash lab explosion. - HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
  • Hundreds of mL butane canisters from a 2015 hash lab explosion.
Two explosive topics are slated to come before the Eureka City Council this evening. City staff has recommended the council adopt an ordinance restricting butane sales within city limits. Butane is often used to make hash or honey oil with sometimes dangerous results, as makeshift laboratories in residential homes have been known to explode.

In response to a rash of butane hash lab explosions that damaged property and sent people to the hospital with severe burns, Humboldt Bay Fire Chief Bill Gillespie collaborated with the Eureka City Attorney's Office and county counsel to craft an ordinance that would limit the sale of butane within city limits. The language of the proposed ordinance restricts vendors from selling more than 600 mL of butane to any one person in a single transaction and a person from owning more than 600 mL of butane or buying more than 600 mL of butane in one calendar month. Vendors will also be required to track butane sales by recording the name and contact information of buyers. For more information on this issue, see previous coverage here.

Also on the agenda is the option to amend the existing Shelter Crisis Declaration to include a site at the foot of T Street in Eureka, adjacent to the Samoa Bridge. This amendment would allow city staff to prepare the site as a temporary overnight sleeping area for homeless people in the city of Eureka beginning on Nov. 1. As with previous sites, such as the city parking lot at Washington and Koster streets, at the foot of Del Norte and the Wharfinger building, the site would rotate every few weeks. According to the language of the agenda item, business owners in southwest portion of Eureka are concerned about the concentration of homeless people in that district, as the Blue Angel Village shipping container project will soon move to the Washington and Koster district.

The sleeping area, where individuals are allowed to erect tents and stay between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., was one of the stop-gap solutions that arose after the dissolution of the Palco Marsh encampment in May. But EPD Capt. Steve Watson said very few of those currently using the sleeping area seem to be from the original Palco Marsh campers.

"Last Wednesday we contacted 23 people," he said. "Only about seven were Palco Marsh people. This number is constantly in flux."

Watson added that the responsibility of his officers to visit the area and ask people to break down their tents in the morning, and to make sure that rules were being followed, has been "resource intensive."

"People are loitering, there is litter, there tends to be an increase in crime, particularly theft and break-ins, that seems to be related," he said, adding that six individuals identified in thefts had been arrested and banned from using the area.

Due to the recent storms, Watson said the strictures on disassembling tents in the morning had temporarily been relaxed. When the Journal drove past the area, currently at the foot of Del Norte, at 7:30 and again at 8:30 this morning, the tents were still up and people were still present in the parking lot. Councilmember Marian Brady referred to the Del Norte site as a "disaster" in a July council meeting, chiefly because it is public property and there is no mechanism to require people to disburse during daylight hours.

Neighboring business owners seem to agree with this assessment — complaining of break-ins, litter and scared customers. 

Dolores Blanc, owner of Bedliners Plus, on Koster Street, said she and her daughter now arrive early on Monday morning to pick up trash from their parking lot, a phenomenon she says is directly related to the sleeping area. There have also been issues with verbally abusive behavior and theft.

"One lady defecated right in front of a customer because I wouldn’t let her use the bathroom," Blanc said. "Our concern is people are going to turn more to the internet. I would rather turn to the internet than come and watch someone take a dump on the parking lot."

Blanc's company recently invested in a security system, as did their neighbors at Don's Rent All. 

"We put up surveillance cameras, put razor wire because they've been jumping in," said Meredith Biasca, manager of Don's Rent All, which recently spent $10,000 on security cameras and a new fence. "My feelings on having the homeless down there are mixed. I understand that they need to go somewhere. I don’t know why it’s the county or the city’s job to do that. I don’t know that it’s the city or the county’s responsibility to take care them."

But business owners on the other side of town are anxious about the hot potato being tossed in their direction as well. The idea of having a sleeping area at T street was raised earlier in the year, and voted down after many complaints. 

Cari Sharer, general manager of the Red Lion Hotel, attended the July 5 meeting to protest the idea, and said she plans to return to the chambers tonight to voice her concerns. The presence of homeless people, she said, has already cost her business. It is the "number one concern" for guests, she said, because it makes them feel unsafe, and the problem has escalated since the Palco Marsh eviction.

"It does seem that they’re everywhere now," she said. "And our heart goes out. We’re very sympathetic to the issues. You don’t want to see anybody in that position, but I also have a business to run. It’s hard to see them doing this because this is more than a once in a while thing our guests are seeing and it does leave a negative tone to the area, which is a shame."

Sharer said that she often encourages her guests to walk down T street with their dogs, a practice that will end if the camp goes in there.

"I have over 80 employees," she said. "I want to make sure my employees have a job. We want to keep people who live in Eureka employed."

Since May 2, the city has spent $60,000 on the temporary sleeping areas, including improvements to the sites and on-going costs for the portable toilets and dumpster. This figure does not include staffing costs from the Eureka Police Department or Parks and Recreation (roughly $2,000 a month). According to Capt. Watson, since May 1st to date, EPD officers have conducted 1,533 patrol checks at the city lots averaging around 9 minutes on scene.

Edie Jessup, with Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives, said that AHHA will continue to ask the city for a more permanent solution, specifically a tiny house village.

"Moving people weekly from one site to another for 'sleeping' is not a solution for either the homeless or the community. It is inhumane and an attempt to wear the social fabric of the houseless community," she said.  "The investments applied to city ordinances, projects, and law enforcement to move people daily is not cost effective nor does it meet people's needs. Instead of only legal night sleeping in a parking lot, the city should address a clear pathway to stabilizing homeless in a legal 24/7 organized camp to Tiny House Village as Housing First. Until such time as there is adequate affordable permanent housing for all."  



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Monday, October 17, 2016

Flooding Possible With High Tides and Storm Surge

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 12:50 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
  • National Weather Service
The worst of the storm that hit Humboldt County with a one-two punch is over but there is a chance of coastal flooding in low-lying areas of King Salmon and Arcata this afternoon when the storm surge and high tides meet up.

According to the National Weather Service, tides are expected to peak between 8.5 and 8.9 feet at the North Spit gauge between noon and 2 p.m. The evening could see another one-tenth to one-quarter of an inch of rain along the coast.

Troy Nicolini, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s Eureka office, said the storm brought local rain totals to more than 700 percent of normal for this time of year — with 6.29 inches since July compared to a normal total of .85 inches.

The system unloaded 3.94 inches of rain on Eureka over the last three days — while portions of Del Norte County saw 10 inches — along with some thunder and lightning that was unusual this early in the season, Nicolini said. 

"It was a pretty darn wet storm," he said.
 
Sunny skies are forecast to return by Wednesday with temperatures hitting a high of 66 along the coast and inland areas seeing top numbers on Thursday, with Willow Creek slated to reach 78 and Garberville topping out at 80. The warmer weather is expected to continue through the weekend.

Coastal flood advisory from the National Weather Service:

COASTAL FLOOD ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 3 PM THIS
AFTERNOON.

* COASTAL FLOODING...HIGH ASTRONOMICAL TIDES WILL CAUSE MINOR
FLOODING IN LOW LYING AREAS ALONG THE REDWOOD COAST. THE WATER
LEVEL IS EXPECTED TO PEAK BETWEEN 8.5 AND 8.9 FEET MLLW AT THE
NORTH SPIT TIDE GAUGE.

* TIMING...HIGH TIDE IS AT 1:00 PM AT THE HUMBOLDT BAY NORTH
SPIT TIDE GAUGE. FLOODING MAY BEGIN AN HOUR BEFORE OR CONTINUE
FOR AN HOUR OR TWO AFTER HIGH TIDE.

* IMPACTS...LOW LYING AREAS WILL EXPERIENCE MINOR FLOODING
INCLUDING...BUT NOT LIMITED TO...ROADWAYS IN KING SALMON AND
THE ARCATA BOTTOMS.



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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Arcata Neighborhood Concerns Focus of Meeting

Posted By on Sun, Oct 16, 2016 at 10:00 AM

The switchback path to Arcata Elementary where a girl was attacked in September. - KIMBERLY WEAR
  • Kimberly Wear
  • The switchback path to Arcata Elementary where a girl was attacked in September.
Arcata residents expressed frustration at the changing character of their neighborhoods and what they perceive as an increased boldness in the crimes being committed on local streets during a Thursday night meeting with city officials that was spurred by a brazen attack last month on a young girl walking to school.

While the focus was on the Westwood neighborhood where the 12-year-old student was using a path from Cahill Park to Arcata Elementary School, the crowd of nearly 100 came from throughout the city.

“I’m really thankful,” Councilmember Mark Wheetley said during beginning remarks at the D Street Community Center meeting. “If we didn’t have this room packed, I’d be worried. I have a 12-year-old daughter also, so it really hit me hard.”

The suspect in the attack, Dylan Jackson Wilson, faces charges of assault on a child with the intent to commit a felony and committing a forcible lewd act on a child. A court hearing is scheduled Monday for the receipt of a medical report on his mental competency.

Attendees at Thursday's meeting were divided into three groups that focused on neighborhood watch, general policing and infrastructure needs, including clearing pathways that have become overgrown or known loitering areas.

Mayor Paul Pitino, councilmembers Susan Ornelas and Michael Winkler, City Manager Karen Diemer, Environmental Services Director Mark Andre, City Engineer Doby Class and Julie Neander, deputy director of the recreation division, also headed or sat in on discussions.

Many navigated to the law enforcement sessions — led by Police Chief Tom Chapman, Lt. Bart Silvers and Neighborhood Watch coordinator Ginger Campbell — to share their stories, ask for advice and look for solutions.

Residents spoke about problem houses with drug activity, car break-ins day and night, and a general decline in their feeling of safety, including one woman who said someone opened a gate in the middle of the day and stole her running shoes right off the porch.

Suggestions included forming parent patrols, joining or starting a neighborhood watch and using apps like SeeClickFix to share real-time information on problem hot spots by taking photographs.

“I’m not going to not go down that path on principle,” said Thia Bachemin, the mother of a fifth grader at Arcata Elementary, noting the community needs to come together to be an “agent of change.” “What’s going to happen is the problems are just going to move to a new place.”

The main message from law enforcement and other city officials was for residents to get to know their neighbors, keep a watch out for suspicious activity and to call the city — and to keep calling — as problems arise.

“The strength that we have is the neighbors being our eyes and ears,” Silvers said.

Class agreed, saying the same applied to abatement issues at properties.

Chapman told residents his department was aware of many of the city’s problem homes and that reporting incidents helps police create a record that can be used to build a case.

Parent Kate Hutchings, a member of Arcata Elementary’s parent teacher organization who suggested using the SeeClickFix app to spread the word about concerns and issue areas, said the city has done quite a bit of work cleaning up the path where the attack took place.

“I hope that momentum stays,” she said.





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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Aid Worker Kidnapped in Niger Reportedly from McKinleyville

Posted By on Sat, Oct 15, 2016 at 12:30 PM

Jeff Woodke. - REDWOOD COAST SCHOOL OF MISSIONS
  • Redwood Coast School of Missions
  • Jeff Woodke.
2nd UPDATE:
In a statement sent to the Journal, North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman indicated he’s working with the State Department to facilitate kidnaped missionary Jeff Woodke’s safe return home.

“My thoughts are with Jeff Woodke and his loved ones during this extremely trying time,” Huffman said of the 55-year-old McKinlyville man who was abducted in West Africa on Friday night. “It is devastating to see my constituent who has spent his life dedicated to humanitarian service be victimized in this way. I am working with State Department officials and will do everything in my power to ensure Jeff’s swift and safe return home.”

1st UPDATE:
Reuters is reporting that Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum has confirmed the identity of the American kidnapped last night as 55-year-old Jeffery Woodke of McKinleyville.

Additionally, Bazoum issued a statement offering some additional detail about the attack, including that an armed man on a motorcycle arrived at Woodke's home in Abalak and opened fire on an armed guard before a Toyota truck returned to abduct Woodke.

"These criminals are now heading towards Mali. Our forces are on their trial," Bazoum says in the statement, according to Reuters.

Read the full report here.

The New York Times also now has a report up, which can be found here.

PREVIOUSLY:
Multiple news reports are identifying the Christian American aid worker kidnapped by armed gunmen in Niger yesterday as a 55-year-old Mckinleyville man.

Britain’s Daily Mail and CBN News, a Christian online reporting outlet, have both identified the man as Jeff Woodke, a Humboldt State University alum who works for the Redwood Coast School of Missions run through Arcata First Baptist Church. According to the Redwood Coast School of Missions website, Woodke has “committed the past 25 years of his life to a ministry he founded in Niger amongst a number of unreached people groups.”

According to multiple accounts, gunmen stormed the home of a longtime American aid worker in the the West African city of Abalak, killed a bodyguard and a local police officer in a shootout and then fled with a kidnapped American toward Mali. CNN reported that witnesses say the worker was forced to strip down to his underwear before being put into a 4x4 vehicle, noting that “such measures are often taken by kidnappers to avoid hostages being tracked.”

CNN further reported that "authorities are taking all necessary measures to locate the American and his abductors, including imposing a heavy military presence between Abalak and the border with Mali, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly."

Radio France Internationale reported the victim had worked in the area since the 1990s with Youth with a Mission, which bills itself as a “global movement of Christians … dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world.” The group reports that it works in more than 1,100 locations spread across 180 countries — including Abalak, Niger — with a staff of more than 18,000.

It’s unclear who is responsible for the kidnapping and the U.S. State Department has so far said publicly only that it is aware of reports of a kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in Niger. Attempts to reach North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and Arcata First Baptist Church were not immediately successful this morning.

A short bio on Redwood Coast School of Missions indicates missionary work in Niger has been a huge part of his life’s work.

“Jeff’s passion in providing humanitarian aid to those who are amongst the poorest in the world, coupled with his desire to see God’s kingdom advanced in a largely Muslim world has played a large part in the life and ministry of (Arcata First Baptist Church),” the site says.

On her Facebook page, Christian author Cheryl Ford indicated she was a 15-year member of the same Humboldt County church as Woodke and that her family went to Niger under his leadership a couple of times.

“One had to marvel at the man,” she wrote. “My world kind of stopped yesterday over this news.”

Ford also quoted Tracy Rickstrew, who worked at Arcata First Baptist Church and whom Ford identifies as a “former Niger team missionary,” as follows: “Our friend and director when we worked in Niger, Africa was kidnapped yesterday. Please pray for him and his family. I know his heart would not be for his own life, but for God’s glory in all of this. He is tough and his faith is resolute and we know that there is nowhere on earth that he can go where the Spirit of God is not already with him.”

Back in June of 2014, Woodke was a guest speaker at the Arcata First Baptist Church. Watch the video below:


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Friday, October 14, 2016

Court Cracks Down on Skipping Jury Duty

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 1:21 PM

The Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • The Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka.
If you are among the estimated 75 percent of Humboldt County residents who have been ignoring a jury summons, the Superior Court may come a calling to let you know your time is up.

According to a press release sent out by the court this week, jury services staff have resorted to phoning service skippers and are setting up five-day standby lists in order to have enough jurors available for trials.

The release says the court could also look at sending deputies to “escort individuals to the courthouse for jury service and/or may issue an order to show cause for appearance at a court hearing.”

“Steps are now being taken because of the number of jury trials that must be heard,” court CEO Kim Bartleson says. “If jurors are not available, a case could be dismissed.”

Duplications in the 176,000 or so names on the master jury list, compiled from voter registration and Department of Motor Vehicle records, are filtered out before potential jurors are randomly selected for a summons, according to Bartleson.

For reference, Humboldt County has about 80,000 registered voters and a total population of 135,000, according to the U.S. Census. And to be able to serve, jurors must be at least 18, proficient in English and U.S. citizens who has not been convicted of a felony, although there are some exceptions to the latter.

About 200 summons are sent out for an average court day in Humboldt County, Bartleson says. The number of potential jurors needed for the selection pool varies depending on the number and type of cases up for trial. The issue is most people aren’t showing up.

“The drop in response rates has been an ongoing problem,” she says.

Take Wednesday, for instance: 600 jurors were summoned and 75 appeared for a response rate of 12.5 percent. That’s down from an average 51 percent jury yield back in 2012, according to data collected by the Judicial Council of California, the policy making body of the California courts.

The general goal for response rates is around 40 percent, according to Blaine Corren, a spokesperson with the council.

“Some courts, people report higher than others,” he says.

Jury response varies across the state with some California counties boasting rates as high as 87 (Colusa County), while others were as low as 5 percent (Nevada County), according to judicial council data from 2012 and 2013, the most recent available.

The statewide average came in at 57 percent.

With every batch of summons sent out, a certain number are expected to drop out due to deferments or being excused, as well as simply failing to show. Around 12 percent are estimated to never make it to the intended recipient due to outdated addresses or other mailing issues.

“The low average response rate makes it difficult for the jury commissioner to be confident that enough people have been called to appear: trials have been delayed by inadequate numbers of prospective jurors,” District Attorney Maggie Fleming said in an email to the Journal. “Of course, lengthening the process in this way reduces the number of cases we can try.”

In most cases a person is considered to have done their yearly service if they are not selected for a jury after one day at the courthouse. After serving on a jury, that timeline is expanded — at least in Humboldt County — to two years.


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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Alcohol, Hearing Evidence May be Excluded in McClain Trial

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 1:37 PM

Thomas McClain - FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • Thomas McClain
SAN FRANCISCO  — A federal judge said Tuesday he is unlikely to permit evidence that a man shot and killed by an officer in Eureka two years ago was drunk and had hearing problems when the case goes to trial this November.

According to his parents' May 2015 lawsuit, 22-year-old Thomas McClain was complying with orders and had his hands up when Eureka Police officer Steven Linfoot opened fire on Sept. 17, 2014. Linfoot fired seven bullets, three of which hit Thomas McClain as he stood in his front yard on Allard Street.

The city claims McClain was reaching for something in his waistband — it turned out to be a BB gun — and that Linfoot acted appropriately to neutralize what he considered a potentially deadly threat.

Last month, U.S. District Judge William Orrick III denied the city's motion for summary judgment on excessive force and wrongful death claims, finding that one eyewitness contradicted Linfoot and the other officers' version of events, and that officer commands were unclear in a dash cam audio recording.

During a pre-trial hearing Tuesday, the McClain family's attorney, Dale Galipo, argued that allowing evidence that McClain was drunk at the time of the shooting would encourage speculation and prejudice the jury.

Nancy Delaney, a private attorney representing the city of Eureka, replied that evidence of McClain's drunkenness is necessary to explain the young man's irrational behavior and mindset.

"We have a young man, who reached for — if the officers are telling the truth — what we know was a replica gun," Delaney said. "That makes sense if the imprudent actions are of one under the influence of alcohol."

In a reply brief opposing the motion to exclude evidence of intoxication, the city cited testimony from one witness who said McClain was "very intoxicated" and consumed at least four or five drinks that night.

During the hearing, Delaney also cited a toxicology report, which found McClain had a blood-alcohol content of 0.13 percent, well above the legal limit for driving impairment of 0.08 percent.

"One of the things that makes sense here is you have someone that because of alcohol does the stupid thing of deciding, 'I'm going to end this and just show them it's not a real gun,'" Delaney said. "That can only be understood with the undisputed evidence that this young man had consumed a lot of alcohol."

Galipo responded by accusing the city of stretching the bounds of logic in an attempt to introduce prejudicial evidence at trial. He further contended that the city has offered no expert testimony to back up its theory that a drunken person would behave in such a manner.

"They have not retained a designated expert to talk about the effects of alcohol on a person," Galipo said. "There's a bit of a leap of logic that someone who has three to four to five drinks is going to reach for a replica gun."

Delaney argued to exclude evidence of McClain's hearing impairment as well, which she said could confuse the jury. Deciding whether the use of force is reasonable must be based on the officer's perspective at the time, Delaney said, and Linfoot did not know McClain had hearing problems during the incident.

Orrick seemed inclined to exclude evidence of both intoxication and hearing loss.

"I think the issue is what the officers knew at the time," he said. "They didn't know anything about the drinking or the hearing issue. I think there's some concern about prejudice with respect to the drinking."

Orrick reasoned that if he allows the jury to hear information that was not known to officers at the time of the shooting, such as McClain's intoxication, he would have to permit the inclusion of evidence on the hearing loss as well.

Delaney still pushed for the inclusion of the alcohol-related evidence. "If it's hearing impairment and alcohol, or no alcohol or hearing impairment, we'll take the former," she said.

The trial is expected to start on Nov. 14 at the Federal Courthouse in. Orrick said he expects the trial to wrap up within five or six days with the goal of giving the jury enough time to reach a verdict before Thanksgiving.

This story was reprinted with with the permission of Courthouse News Service.

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Public Defender to Retire, Judgeship Not Likely

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 9:20 AM

Kevin Robinson, center front, with the rest of the Public Defender staff. - FILE
  • File
  • Kevin Robinson, center front, with the rest of the Public Defender staff.
After a decade on the job, Humboldt County Public Defender Kevin Robinson has informed the Board of Supervisors that he will be retiring in January.

In a short letter sent to the board last week, Robinson says his last day heading the Public Defender’s Office will be Jan. 20 and offers to assist with training his yet-to-be-settled-upon replacement. Robinson has been with the office for 22 years, having joined as a deputy public defender in 1994.

In an interview with the Journal last week, Robinson said he’s looking forward to slowing down and spending some time with his 8-month-old granddaughter, who lives in Davis. Other than that, Robinson said he’s not sure what retirement will hold for him. Some time back, he applied to be appointed by the governor for the judgeship that has been vacant in Humboldt since Judge Bruce Watson retired at the beginning of the year.

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