Government

Friday, September 30, 2022

PlanCo to Consider Formal Letter of Apology to Wiyot Area Tribes

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2022 at 5:23 PM

FILE
  • File
The Humboldt County Planning Commission will consider Thursday sending a letter of apology to three Wiyot area tribes after Commission Chair Alan Bongio’s comments during its Aug. 18 meeting, which tribal officials found deeply offensive.

After a representative for local developer Travis Schneider accused the Wiyot Tribe and Blue Lake Rancheria representatives of lying during the Aug. 18 meeting, Bongio launched into several rants, during which he accused the two local tribes of negotiating in bad faith, reneging on an agreement and playing a “game” with cultural resources, while repeatedly using the term “Indians” in reference to multiple local tribes. The comments caused tribal officials to walk away from the meeting deeply offended, with Wiyot Tribal Chair Ted Hernandez saying he’d lost faith in the Planning Commission and a Blue Lake Rancheria spokesperson questioning whether it could fairly decide the matter.

At the next Planning Commission meeting on Sept. 1, Bongio apologized to the tribes — without specifically naming them — if he “in any away offended them.” At the same meeting, Commissioner Noah Levy offered his own personal apology and said he’d like to see the Planning Commission consider drafting a “formal apology,” and Bongio indicated he’d “be willing to be part of that.”

The agenda packet for the commission’s Oct. 6 meeting does not indicate who worked on the letter but includes a draft, which is vague in certain respects, failing to specify who made the offending comments.

“This letter is written to express our sincere apology to the Wiyot People,” it states. “At the Planning Commission meeting of Aug. 18, 2022, comments were made that were inappropriate. We as a body recognize that these were insensitive, racist and biased. The comments added to past injury and injustices resulting from governmental actions. We as the Humboldt County Planning Commission did nothing to address the problem in the moment so we are all responsible. We understand this has damaged the relationship between the Planning Commission and the Wiyot People. We apologize for each of our roles in this event and ask for your forgiveness.”

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Governor Signs Contentious Nursing Home Licensing Bill that Splintered Advocates

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2022 at 9:58 AM

A senior woman walking down a corridor with the assistance of a walker. view from rear - ISTOCK
  • iStock
  • A senior woman walking down a corridor with the assistance of a walker. view from rear
A controversial bill aimed at fixing aspects of California’s broken nursing home licensing system was signed Tuesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faced dueling pressure from advocates who typically are aligned.

In approving Assembly Bill 1502, the governor had no comment about his decision.

The bill was drafted to address serious problems with the state’s nursing home licensing system, which is overseen by the California Department of Public Health. A CalMatters investigation last year highlighted an opaque licensing process marred by indecision, confusion and years-long delays that advocates contend affects patient care and transparency for consumers.

CalMatters examined the Department of Public Health’s treatment of Los Angeles businessman Shlomo Rechnitz and his web of companies, which own facilities up and down the state. 

For years, CalMatters found, the department allowed Rechnitz and his companies to unofficially operate 18 Country Villa facilities with license applications in “pending” status. The state also has permitted Rechnitz and his companies to operate five Windsor homes, even after the department denied their licensing applications.

As of last year, Rechnitz and his companies, including Brius Healthcare, had acquired at least 81 facilities — including four in Humboldt County — with more than 9,000 beds, many with below-average ratings from the federal government.


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Four in a Row: California Drought Likely to Continue

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2022 at 8:16 AM

Nearby mountain peaks with only small patches of snow near the Phillips Station meadow, shown shortly before the California Department of Water Resources conducted the forth media snow survey of the 2022 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The survey is held approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo taken April 1, 2022. - KEN JAMES / CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES
  • Ken James / California Department of Water Resources
  • Nearby mountain peaks with only small patches of snow near the Phillips Station meadow, shown shortly before the California Department of Water Resources conducted the forth media snow survey of the 2022 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The survey is held approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo taken April 1, 2022.
As California’s 2022 water year ends this week, the parched state is bracing for another dry year — its fourth in a row.

So far, in California’s recorded history, six previous droughts have lasted four or more years,  two of them in the past 35 years. 

Despite some rain in September, weather watchers expect a hot and dry fall, and warn that this winter could bring warm temperatures and below-average precipitation

Conditions are shaping up to be a “recipe for drought”: a La Niña climate pattern plus warm temperatures in the Western Tropical Pacific that could mean critical rain and snowstorms miss California, according to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA and The Nature Conservancy. 

Swain said California’s fate will depend on how exactly the storm track shifts, and that seasonal forecasts are inherently uncertain. Even so, “I would still put my money on dry, even in the northern third of the state,” he said. “It’s not a guarantee. But if you were to see 50 winters like this one, most of them would be dry.”



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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Effort to Remove Bongio from Services District Presidency Fails

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 6:48 PM

A Humboldt Community Services District director's effort to strip fellow Director Alan Bongio of his board presidency due to racist and offensive comments Bongio made at a recent Humboldt County Planning Commission meeting failed without a vote tonight.

Director Michael Hansen, who requested the agenda item be brought forward, made a motion to have the board vote to remove Bongio from his role of president but it died for a lack of a second. Director Heidi Benzonelli tried to second Hansen's motion but was informed she couldn't, as she was filling in as board president for Bongio, who'd recused himself from the vote, while Directors Gregg Gardiner and Joe Matteoli sat silently.

After Benzonelli attempted to second Hansen's motion, Bongio — who recused himself from the vote but stayed seated at the dais for the discussion — said something to Benzonelli that prompted Hansen to say he was being "disrespectful" and call him a "bully," to which Gardiner shot back: "You are political and a bully."


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Newsom Signs Abortion Protections into Law

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 2:53 PM

An exam room at Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties’ health center. - IMAGE COURTESY OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF ORANGE AND SAN BERNARDINO COUNTIES
  • Image courtesy of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties
  • An exam room at Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties’ health center.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a package of 12 bills Tuesday, establishing some of the strongest abortion protections in the nation — a direct reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal abortion guarantees earlier this year.

Collectively, the new laws aim to improve access and protect patients and clinicians by strengthening privacy safeguards, ensuring providers and patients cannot be sued or prosecuted and funding procedures and travel costs for low-income individuals. They also seek to shore up the state’s network of abortion clinics as more patients from states where abortion is now severely limited or banned seek procedures in California.

Newsom first announced the signing privately to stakeholders, and Jodi Hicks, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said many in the virtual room got emotional.

“It’s been a long year of a lot of hard work,” Hicks said. “You could see a lot of emotion and pride.”

The package was supported by the California Future of Abortion Council, a 46-member coalition of reproductive rights and health and justice groups convened by Newsom in 2021 to identify abortion shortcomings and recommend policy solutions.


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New Schneider Permit Problems Prompt Query Into Planning Staff's Handling of Project

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 12:03 PM

Travis Schneider's family home has sat partially built under a county stop work order since early this year. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Travis Schneider's family home has sat partially built under a county stop work order since early this year.
Amid revelations last week that local developer Travis Schneider’s family home is twice the permitted size, it was also discovered that Schneider brought in 10 times the amount of fill dirt allowable for the project under its coastal development permit, county Planning Director John Ford confirmed to the Journal.

The latest in what is now a long string of violations of the provisions of Schneider’s coastal development permit, the development further complicates Schneider’s efforts to get a county stop work order lifted for the project and resume construction of his family home on Walker Point Road. It also raises questions about the Planning Department’s handling of the project and whether the developer received preferential treatment amid efforts to sidestep permit requirements.

Ford said the coastal development permit Schneider received for the project back in 2017 allowed him to bring in 1,500 cubic yards of fill soil but the developer was later issued a grading permit allowing him to import 15,000 cubic yards of fill dirt to the property.

“The grading permit is not in conformance with the (coastal development permit),” Ford said. “I don’t know what happened there. That’s a pretty glaring inconsistency. An extra zero is meaningful.”

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Reparations Task Force: State Could Owe Black Californians Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2022 at 9:22 AM

Walter Forster, a Los Angeles resident, holds a sign that advocates for financial compensation during the California Reparations Task Force meeting that was held at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 23, 2022. - PHOTO BY PABLO UNZUETA FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
  • Walter Forster, a Los Angeles resident, holds a sign that advocates for financial compensation during the California Reparations Task Force meeting that was held at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 23, 2022.
California’s task force on reparations has begun putting dollar figures to potential compensation for the various forms of racial discrimination, generational pain and suffering Black Americans experienced in the state. 

The rough estimates by economic consultants may mean that hundreds of thousands of dollars could be due to Black Californians who are descendants of enslaved ancestors. However some politicians on the task force indicated the reparations would be a difficult case to make.

Task force member and state Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat representing South Los Angeles, told an audience at public meetings in Los Angeles over the weekend it would be a “major hurdle” to pass any reparations plan in the Legislature. 

“For a state that didn’t have slavery, don’t think they’re going to be quick to vote on this final product of this task force,” he said. “We need to stay unified, we need to be together. We aren’t always going to agree, but we have to put forth a unified front.” 

Meeting in the California Science Center Friday and Saturday, the nine-member state-appointed group invited a team of economic experts to describe reparation ideas in financial terms. It was the group’s first gathering since June, when the task force released a 500-page report on the state’s history of slavery and racism.



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Monday, September 26, 2022

‘Mandela’ Bill Would Limit Solitary Confinement in California Prisons and Jails

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2022 at 11:43 AM

Razor wire lines the cyclone fencing along the perimeter of Pelican Bay. - PHOTO BY ANDREW GOFF
  • photo by Andrew Goff
  • Razor wire lines the cyclone fencing along the perimeter of Pelican Bay.
In solitary confinement, a former California inmate recalled, there were two kinds of people:  One kind would read books in their cells, exercise and do and re-do crossword puzzles. The other kind would scream and curse, refuse to dress and throw their feces at the walls. 

The goal in solitary confinement, he said, was to avoid becoming the second kind of inmate. 

“There’s one that’s resilient and one that’s not so resilient,” said the man,  a former member of the Mexican Mafia who asked CalMatters not to use his name for fear of retaliation. “I’ve seen people go over the edge.” 

The former inmate spent several consecutive years in solitary confinement at a California prison — a circumstance some lawmakers want to change. A bill before Gov. Gavin Newsom would limit solitary confinement in California to 15 consecutive days, and no more than 45 days out of 180.

Assembly Bill 2632, named the “California Mandela Act” after former political prisoner Nelson Mandela, would be the most wide-ranging change to solitary confinement of any state, limiting the practice in all California prisons, jails and immigration detention facilities. Its contentious passage through the Legislature ended largely on party-line votes, with Republicans continuing to raise an alarm about the bill’s potential costs.


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Friday, September 23, 2022

Yurok Tribal Leaders Attend Feather Alert Bill Signing

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2022 at 3:09 PM

Yurok Chair Joseph L. James, Vice ChairFrankie Myers and Yurok Chief Operating Officer Taralyn Ipina join California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Assemblymember James C. Ramos for the signing of the historic Feather Alert bill. - COURTESY OF THE YUROK TRIBE
  • Courtesy of the Yurok Tribe
  • Yurok Chair Joseph L. James, Vice ChairFrankie Myers and Yurok Chief Operating Officer Taralyn Ipina join California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Assemblymember James C. Ramos for the signing of the historic Feather Alert bill.
Yurok tribal leaders joined Gov. Gavin Newsom and Assemblymember James C. Ramos at today's signing of the Feather Alert bill, which will allow for the quick dissemination of information when an Indigenous individual is reported missing under “unexplained or suspicious circumstances.”

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples crisis only gained real attention outside of Native communities back in 2020, when the Sovereign Bodies Institute released a groundbreaking report that found Native women and girls were far more likely to go missing, especially in Northern California, or become victims of violence than the general population (find past coverage here and here). In December, the Yurok Tribe declared a state of emergency after a spate of attempted abductions and reports of missing persons.

The tribe followed up with a 169-page report designed to act as a blueprint for addressing the epidemic, which included a call for legislators to pass Ramos' bill to create the "Feather Alert," similar to the Amber and Silver alert systems used to spread word about at-risk missing children and seniors but for tribal members. 

“I would like to thank California Governor Gavin Newsom and Assembly Member James C. Ramos for creating a mechanism to quickly get the word out when indigenous people go missing or are at risk,” Yurok Tribal Chair Joseph L. James said in a news release, who was joined at the signing by Vice Chair Frankie Myers and Yurok Chief Operating Officer Taralyn Ipina.


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Planning Director: Developer's Home is More than Double Permitted Size

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2022 at 11:38 AM

Travis Schneider's family home has sat partially built under a county stop work order since early this year. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Travis Schneider's family home has sat partially built under a county stop work order since early this year.
It appears Travis Schneider’s problems may have just doubled in size.

The local developer’s efforts to get a permit and permit amendments necessary to lift a county stop work order and resume construction of his family home on Walker Point Road south of the Indianola Cutoff have already been complicated by concerns over the permitted size of the structure. But Humboldt County Planning and Building Director John Ford confirmed to the Journal late yesterday afternoon that the actual building area of the structure is effectively two stories and 20,817 square feet — far larger than the 8,000 square feet with a 1,000 square-foot natural light cellar Schneider had listed on his coastal development permit application, an estimate that has been repeated in county staff reports and Planning Commission discussions.

Ford, whose department looked into the matter after a Sept. 9 Journal inquiry as to whether the often-repeated numbers were accurate, said there will likely be some discussion about how much of the square footage of the house is living space but there is no question the structure is far larger than what was permitted.

“It’s really a 20,000-square-foot house,” Ford said. “I would find it hard to call it anything else. … Obviously, on the original permit that was approved it was an 8,000-square-foot house and it’s not in compliance with that.”

Ford said the house is, however, being built in accordance with building plans submitted to the county after Schneider received the coastal development permit.

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