Monday, November 13, 2017

NoHum Trustee Faces Censure Over Conduct

Posted By on Mon, Nov 13, 2017 at 5:02 PM

Arcata High School - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Arcata High School
He’s a popular Arcata High basketball coach lauded for setting high standards on and off the court. She’s a social worker and mother of four who volunteered to serve on a Northern Humboldt Union High School District athletic committee. Both became the target of a single trustee who questioned whether they were qualified for those roles during a school board meeting last month.

The reasons appear to circle back to a complaint filed by Trustee Jennifer Knight’s sister after her son failed to make the Arcata High School varsity basketball team last year.

Now Knight is facing a formal reprimand by her fellow board members for what a five-page resolution of censure describes — at times in detail — as an extensive pattern of unacceptable conduct, which includes being disrespectful to parents and staff and using her position to push her sister’s grievance.

Knight canceled a scheduled interview with the Journal last week, noting she believed it was “best to first engage with the Board resolution process,” adding later via email that she was looking to move forward and continue her work with the district.

“In my effort to provide a safe place for all to be heard, I regret that I may have inadvertently gotten overheated and my demeanor was not deemed appropriate,” said Knight, a student development advisor at College of the Redwoods, before the board agenda came out.

Meanwhile, the district is taking rumors of a recall effort seriously enough that staff asked the elections office for a cost estimate, which came back at $7,500 to $9,000 if it was held in conjunction with the June primary.

Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders said no recall paperwork had been filed as of Monday afternoon.

According to the resolution, Knight is said to have violated 10 board bylaws and policies that require trustees to act in an ethical manner, make decisions in the best interest of the district and the public and to abstain from voting when a conflict of interest arises.

The resolution states that the board “wishes to condemn Ms. Knight’s actions in the strongest possible terms available to it as a governing body” and specifically directs Knight “to abstain from voting on any and all matters which pertain to her personal or familial interests, including matters which relate to her sister’s complaint filed in December 2016, and to conduct herself in a manner becoming a representative of this community.”

While the issue has reportedly been ongoing for about two years, Knight’s conduct came to a head Oct. 10, when she attempted to block the reappointment of popular Arcata High varsity basketball Coach Ryan Bisio as well as JV Coach Graham Johnson by pulling their names from a routine list of hires.

Knight then stunned the room by publicly excoriating parent volunteer Carolyn Perkins at length, calling her “unfit” to serve on a school committee, distributing as “evidence” a nearly year-old personal email from Perkins that Knight somehow obtained that references concerns about her sister’s complaint.

“I hope you never have to experience something comparable in your life, because it was wretched,” Perkins told the board that night in an emotional statement.

She was later appointed to the committee after a second vote because the board failed to take public comment amid the confusion.

Superintendent Roger MacDonald also had some strong words at the meeting, saying he was “concerned about what’s going to happen tomorrow after we have disparaged people in the community that have chosen to come forward and support our schools.” He also noted Perkins and a fellow parent whose appointment’s Knight tried to block were the first to volunteer for the athletics board in six years.

In fact, the athletics committee almost failed to materialize after two trustees — Brian Lovell and Dana Silvernale — abstained with Knight dissenting on the first vote until the point was raised that the board had failed to follow policy and conducted a second round.

Both coaches were also later approved after a special meeting on Oct. 16, when dozens of speakers lined up to support them amid calls for Knight’s resignation or for the board to at least gain a grip on her behavior.

Trustee Brian Gerving, who brought the discussion of a censure to his fellow board members at the Oct. 16 meeting, said he has concerns about what the coaches were put through, regardless of how the situation turned out.

He said Knight’s actions are not only eroding public trust in the district and the board, but set a bad example for students and staff, noting other incidents have “bubbled up over time” involving her and the Arcata basketball program.

“This was definitely the most egregious case,” Gerving said.

In a later interview, MacDonald added that “this is not a surprise and did not come out of the blue," noting that he, past superintendents and other board members have all tried to intervene with Knight without success.

“It’s a distraction from educating our kids,” the superintendent said. “It causes our staff members to wonder. It’s been said, ‘Who’s next?’ I’ve heard that from teachers, from coaches. I’ve heard that from administrators, ‘Who’s next? Who’s going to be the next person there a perceived problem with.’”

The 6 p.m. board meeting takes place Tuesday at the McKinleyville High School library, 1300 Murray Road.
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

TL;DR: Radioman

Posted By on Sun, Nov 12, 2017 at 3:34 PM

Eric Hollenbeck and the hearse he and his crew built for the 150th commemoration of President Lincoln's funeral. - PHOTO BY ALEXANDER WOODARD
  • Photo by Alexander Woodard
  • Eric Hollenbeck and the hearse he and his crew built for the 150th commemoration of President Lincoln's funeral.
Busy week? We’ll help you catch up on the basics of this week's cover story, which details Eureka’s Eric and Viviana Hollenbeck’s efforts to co-produce a play, Radioman, detailing the experiences of war veterans. Read the full story here.

Amy Barnes thoroughly researched cover story is filled with interesting tidbits about the Hollenbecks, Eric’s efforts to overcome the post traumatic stress disorder that he brought home from a tour in Vietnam, Viviana’s efforts to help him and the couple’s extensive work to share what they’ve learned with other veterans, culminating in the theater project they are co-producing.

Here are five quotes from the story, which will give you a flavor for the piece and — hopefully — entice you to read the rest here, which comes with an expanded photo slideshow.

"At some point, every soldier breaks. And when you break, everything's changed in your head. Everything's different."
Eric Hollenbeck, the radioman, describing how war changes people.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Uncertainty Surrounds Monday's Public Defender Hearing

Posted By on Sat, Nov 11, 2017 at 5:35 PM

Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office.
The lawsuit challenging embattled Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus’ hiring is bound for a hearing Monday but it’s hard to say what to expect. It could be the decisive moment in the 9-month-old lawsuit, an evidentiary hearing on the merits that ultimately answers whether Marcus meets minimum state qualifications for the post. Or the parties could convene in visiting Judge Marjorie Carter’s court simply to set some future hearing dates.

Local attorney Patrik Griego, who filed the suit on behalf of current and former public defender employees and clients, as well as a few local taxpayers, had asked Carter to schedule the Nov. 13 date for a hearing to determine whether Marcus meets the state qualification of having been a “practicing attorney in all the courts of the state for at least the year preceding” his hire. But in its reply to Griego’s motion, the county is arguing that Griego is trying to hurry the case forward, depriving the county of its right to depose witnesses and research its defense.

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'Brave and True,' A Veterans Day Poem

Posted By on Sat, Nov 11, 2017 at 9:31 AM

An event honoring Korean War veterans at the Adorni Center last year. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • An event honoring Korean War veterans at the Adorni Center last year.

Brave and True

Here's to our veterans old and new, 
who've heard our country's call. 
Those of all religions be, 
of every nationality. 
Even our women fair, 
have come to join the fray. 
Here's to those who've fought and died, 
and those who've come home battle scarred. 
Look kindly down upon them lord, 
where ever they may be. 
For if not for those brave souls, 
who've heard the battle cry, 
America's freedom would assuredly lie, 
tattered and broken, 
the spoils of war. 
Hold them brave and true, 
honor them proud Red, White and Blue. 
For all you've done, 

Local veteran Bob Hager, who wrote our cover story a few weeks back, penned the above poem and asked that we share it with you this Veterans Day, and he joins us in thanking all veterans for their service.

If you’re looking for something to do today to honor the veterans in your midst, check out our calendar listings here, which detail a few Veterans Day events around the county. (And remember, a simple face-to-face thank you goes a long way.)

And if you look out at the gray day and decide you’re better suited staying where it’s warm, we’ll point you to this week’s cover story, "The Journey of Radioman," a powerful piece by Amy Barnes about local veteran Eric Hollenbeck, his battle with post traumatic stress disorder, his efforts to help other veterans and, now, his project to capture their voices.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Squireses File for Bankruptcy as Auction Looms

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 4:08 PM

Workers board up 216, 218 and 220 Third St. after the city condemned the properties. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Workers board up 216, 218 and 220 Third St. after the city condemned the properties.
Eureka’s most notorious landlords Floyd and Betty Squires filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week in an apparent bid to prevent more than two dozen of their properties from hitting the auction block later this month.

According to the bankruptcy forms, the couple owes between $1 million and $10 million — the same as their estimated assets — to some 55 to 99 creditors. Those include Mark Adams, a Santa Monica-based attorney who initiated the foreclosure proceedings to collect the $158,000 he’s owed by the couple under a court order. (See “Squireses’ Properties: Going, Going, Gone?," Nov. 9, 2017.)

In an interview with the Journal for that story, Adams predicted this might happen, saying Floyd Squires was “going to try some kind of stunt, like filing for bankruptcy.”

The Squireses attorney, Bradford Floyd, who is listed as one of the couple’s top 20 unsecured creditors with $125,000 in claims, said last week that the “attempted” foreclosure “would be stopped.”

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Huff the Humanist

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 12:42 PM

Congressman Huffman at a town hall in Arcata. - BEAU SAUNDERS
  • Beau Saunders
  • Congressman Huffman at a town hall in Arcata.
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman made some big headlines this morning, not because of what he believes but because of what he doesn’t.

After years of being cagey about his religious beliefs, the 53-year-old Democrat told the Washington Post that he’s become alarmed this year with the appearance of religion in policy-making, which pushed him to announce that he is a non-religious humanist. The Post describes humanism as “a loose philosophy based on the idea that humans should work to improve society and live ethically, guided by reason, not necessarily by anything supernatural.”

The Huff followed up with an announcement on his Facebook page in which he notes that he still thinks “religion has nothing to do with my service in Congress” and that he’s not pushing his views on anyone or “judging anyone else’s religious choice.”

“I value my working relationships and friendships with people of faith, the interfaith community, spiritual seekers and all sorts of secular, non-religious people,” Huffman wrote. “I think we should all work together to make the world a better place. It shouldn't be much of a story in the year 2017 that a member of Congress is openly humanist, but we’ll see.”

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

HSU Alum Prepares to Prank Steve Bannon in Charleston, South Carolina

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 4:39 PM

  • Submitted
Jessica Hardesty Norris, who graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in Wildlife in 1997, went from despair to action within the space of week. Now she's using data gathering skills gleaned from her time at HSU to play a massive prank on former White House chief strategist and Breitbart founder Steve Bannon and his followers.

"Basically, two pieces of news crossed my desk," she told the Journal in a phone call. The first piece of news was that a shelter for pregnant teenagers — Florence Crittenton Programs — had lost crucial state funding. The second was that Bannon was coming to town on Friday, Nov. 10 to speak before a student group and a local Republican organization.

"I saw the attention he was getting and got mad that we would spend so much effort on that," she told the Journal as she prepared to go hang banners inviting attendees of Bannon's speech to "park that hate." While Charleston police prepare to shut down the blocks surrounding Johnson Hagood Stadium in anticipation of protests and possible violence, Norris and others intend to be on site with banners and balloons welcoming Bannon supporters.

Why? Norris had recently watched a video by The Guardian in which a group called Right Against Right pranked a neo-Nazi organization by turning a march by right-wing extremists in Germany into an unwitting walkathon fundraiser for a program that helps people leave extremist groups. Donations were made for every meter the extremists walked, and volunteers put up banners to encourage them to continue. Norris decided a similar prank might be effective in Charleston so she got in touch with Right Against Right, and its American branch, called Hate Xchange, jumped on the idea.

“Irony, absurdity and humor are often the best resources to change a narrative for the better,” says Fabian Wichmann in a press release. Wichmann came up with the original walkathon idea.

So this Friday, as Bannon's supporters pull into the stadium parking lot, scientists will be analyzing drone footage to count the cars. The methodology is being drawn from research Norris did as a Wildlife major counting elk near Orick by helicopter. (She adds that she is still trying to recruit an additional scientist — one with a Twitter account — to help.) People from all over the world are joining in to donate a set amount per car, with the money being divided between three different causes: the Human Rights Watch, Life After Hate and Charleston-area charities. Life After Hate works with people trying to leave hate groups, and the Charleston-area charities include the teen shelter whose defunding originally alarmed Norris.

Campaign organizers are using the hashtag #DonatetheHate to spread the word. Norris promises a very funny reveal of the ultimate numbers of cars and money raised via Twitter on Friday at around 3:15 p.m. Pacific Time.

For more information, see the press release below.

Editor's note: This post was updated to correct information about the Charleston-area charities that will benefit from this fundraiser.

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Squireses' Properties? Going, Going, Gone?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 10:07 AM

The city tears down a house owned by the Squireses on H Street. - COURTESY OF CITY OF EUREKA
  • Courtesy of city of Eureka
  • The city tears down a house owned by the Squireses on H Street.
The city of Eureka originally selected Santa Monica-based attorney Mark Adams to help bring more than two dozen properties owned by Floyd and Betty Squires up to code. Now he’s hoping to see them auctioned off — and he intends to buy them himself.

If that were to happen on the scheduled Nov. 27 sale date, Adams says the lives of the people currently living in the assortment of homes and apartments owned by the couple would “change for the better.”

“Right now, that’s what’s intended,” Adams says in a phone interview from his Southern California office. “If we’re the successful bidder, then we would literally own the properties and we have a property management firm lined up to take over. … It’s not bravado to say people’s live are going to change for the better … We’re ready to go.”

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Men with Rifles, Tactical Gear Rob 35, Make off with Six Vehicles in Three Robberies

Posted By on Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 12:24 PM

Humboldt County Sheriff's Office - FILE
  • FILE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
2nd UPDATE: The California and National Parks Service has confirmed the tourists were not robbed on National Park land, but rather at the marijuana farm. Click here for the full story.


Lt. Fridley reports that two of the vehicles, the black Ford Explorer and the white Ford Explorer, have both been found. The black Ford was in the Klamath River, the white Ford was wrecked on Johnson Road.


Two robberies on Bald Hills Road that occurred Friday, Nov. 3 appear to be related, says Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Lt. Mike Fridley.  At least three men of indeterminate race and appearance, wearing tactical vests and wielding assault-style rifles robbed both a group of five Spanish tourists and a marijuana farm on Friday afternoon. Their descriptions also fit that of a third robbery on Bair Road that occurred Thursday evening.

Because the Spanish tourists — who were on a hike near Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwood National Park — had all of their valuables taken from them, including cell phones and watches, Fridley says it is impossible to know the time of their robbery and which Friday robbery occurred first. What is known is that the tourists were robbed between 2 and 4 p.m. by at least three men, only one of whom was seen. He was described as a white adult male, 30-40 years old, and 5-feet-7-inches to 5-feet-9-inches tall. The men, who were wearing tactical vests with the word SWAT on them, ordered the tourists to lay on the ground, firing off several shots in the air. The tourists were ordered to empty their pockets, and then the robbers took their vehicles, a 1998 white Ford Explorer and a 2001 white Dodge camper van. The robbers then drove away, heading eastbound on Bald Hills Road. Fridley says the tourists were contacted by HCSO deputies at the Arcata Police Department at around 11 p.m. that evening.

"It sounds like they were waiting for them to return," Fridley says of the robbers' modus operandi.

The other Friday robbery occurred farther east on Bald Hills Road, at a reportedly permitted marijuana farm. The landowner contacted the sheriff's office at 3:51 p.m. to say that three men described as Native American were robbing his workers. One of the 30 workers on scene was able to text the landowner during the robbery. These men were also described as wearing SWAT vests and brandishing assault-style rifles. They instructed the workers to lie on the ground then took their personal belongings, 1,000 pounds of marijuana and two vehicles, a white 2001 Chevrolet 2500 four door pickup with matching canopy and a black 1996 Ford Explorer. Fridley could not confirm if the marijuana was processed or still in plant form. The suspects were reportedly armed with AR-15 and AK-47 style rifles. Deputies were dispatched from Hoopa but did not encounter the vehicles, who were again headed eastbound toward Hoopa. Fridley says there are at least two other side routes the robbers could have taken.

The sheriff's office also reported today another robbery, also carried about by men with rifles in "SWAT" type gear, that occurred Nov. 2. In this one, two masked men approached two victims on Baird Road in the Redwood Valley and demanded money and marijuana at gunpoint. When the victims told them they didn't have any, the armed men reported took their shoes and their vehicles — a 1991 Ford F-150 and a 2006 silver Toyota Tundra — and fled the scene, possibly followed by a red Ford truck.

None of the vehicles have been recovered.

Asked why the sheriff's office had not notified the public earlier about the robberies, Fridley said that no one had written a press release over the weekend.

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