Government

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Council Delays Marketing Vote Amid Transparency Concerns

Posted By on Wed, May 22, 2019 at 6:56 PM

One of Eureka's tourist sights. - FILE
  • File
  • One of Eureka's tourist sights.
The Eureka City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to delay selecting a marketing services provider after questions were raised about the fairness of the process, with several council members pointedly voicing frustration at the lack of information provided to them, despite their requests.

So after several hours of discussion and public comment, the council opted to conduct another round of interviews with a new five-member panel to be selected by Mayor Susan Seaman. The item is scheduled to come back to the council June 18.

“One thing I really appreciate about being in office is public trust is everything. ... If we don’t have public trust, we don’t have anything,” Councilmember Kim Bergel said before the vote. “We’re not going to be able to move forward. It just trumps everything and the trust has been broken and that’s so unfortunate. So unfortunate. And so disappointing.”

At issue is a $370,000 annual contract to promote Eureka as a destination for visitors from near and far after the city decided earlier this year to end its decades-long association with the Eureka-Humboldt Visitors Bureau, primarily over a dissatisfaction with the bureau’s focus on selling the region’s redwoods as a tourism pull despite Eureka’s overwhelming role in bankrolling the countywide marketing effort.

After requesting proposals, two contenders made the final round for consideration — Humboldt Made, which currently runs a visitors’ center out of the Clarke Museum and spearheaded the Friday Night Market in Old Town, and the award-winning and highly regarded Virginia firm Eddy Alexander.

But, days before the staff recommended the council move forward with Humboldt Made in a narrow decision, Lost Coast Outpost published a series of text messages between the nonprofit’s Executive Director Alanna Powell and Rob Holmlund, the city’s direct of community development, that show she knew about staff plans to put marketing services out to bid before the issue went before the council and had been asked to review the request for proposals document before it was made public.

The disclosure led council members and members of the public to raise concerns about the selection process, which included a written proposal and two interviews with a 10-member panel.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Reward Offered in Poaching of Roosevelt Elk

Posted By on Tue, May 21, 2019 at 5:39 PM

A reward is being offered for information about a December elk poaching case. - FILE
  • File
  • A reward is being offered for information about a December elk poaching case.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced this week a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the December shooting deaths of four Roosevelt elk, including a pregnant cow.

In a release, CDFW states the investigation is continuing, “including processing evidence left at the crime scene. The department also thanks the four organizations — California Bowmen Hunters, California Houndsmen for Conservation, the Oranco Bowmen from Ontario and the Orange Belt Field Archers — for pledging the reward money."

Wildlife officers responding to a poaching report found the slain animals Dec. 9 in the Maple Creek area, southeast of Blue Lake.

“This poacher shot these animals and left them for dead,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Division District Capt. AJ Bolton. “The vast majority of hunters are ethical and law-abiding citizens, but this is poaching, plain and simple.”

Read the CDWF release below:

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Congressman Jared Huffman Votes to Pass the Equality Act for LGBTQ Americans

Posted By on Fri, May 17, 2019 at 1:16 PM

FILE
  • File
With the help of North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Equality Act, which aims to extend protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other civil rights laws by specifically prohibiting any form of discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

“It’s 2019: how can federal law still allow Americans to be fired from their jobs, or denied service at a restaurant, simply because of their sexual orientation or who they love?” Huffman said in a press release. “The Constitution promises equality under the law for all, and Congress has a duty to uphold these fundamental rights.”

The Equality Act establishes guaranteed full protections of federal and civil rights laws for LGBTQ Americans and extends anti-discrimination protections in federal laws “covering employment, education, access to credit, jury service, federal funding, housing and public accommodations.”

The act, which Huffman co-sponsored with almost every House Democrat, was first introduced in 2015 and reintroduced earlier this month by Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island). It passed the House on a 236-173 vote and will now head to the Republican-controlled Senate for consideration.

According to the press release from Huffman's office, “In nearly 30 states, it is still legal to terminate someone’s employment or to deny housing, mortgages, routine business services, or emergency medical care to individuals if they or a family member identify as LGBTQ.”

“I’m glad today to vote for the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ Americans from legal discrimination and to continue to build on the civil rights protections that are so fundamental to our country’s values,” Huffman said.


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Friday, May 10, 2019

Lack of Water Threatens Trinidad Rancheria Hotel Project

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2019 at 1:32 PM

An artistic rendering of the proposed hotel project at Cher-Ae Heights Casino off Scenic Drive south of Trinidad. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • An artistic rendering of the proposed hotel project at Cher-Ae Heights Casino off Scenic Drive south of Trinidad.
The planned 100-room Trinidad Rancheria hotel at Cher-Ae Heights Casino appears stalled at the state level because of an inability to come up with a definite source of drinking water for the facility.

Located on the bluffs of Scenic Drive, a mile south of city limits, the planned hotel is outside of Trinidad's water service area, which is designated by the city's General Plan. The city is in the process of studying its own limited water supply from Luffenholz Creek and does not yet know if there would be enough water to accommodate all present and future users within the existing service areas and the hotel, especially during drought years.

Approval for the hotel is currently being considered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) but it won't move forward until it receives "concurrence" from the California Coastal Commission that the project will not violate the California Coastal Act, which requires that developments in the coastal zone have a definite source of drinking water.

The California Coastal Commission has found other problems with the plans for the five-story building, as well, including incongruity with the pristine ocean views around Trinidad Head, possible issues with wastewater disposal and its location upon an unstable bluff top. Coastal Commission staff has recommended it object to the project.

Although the commission was initially scheduled to hear the project in April, the BIA — acting on behalf of the Trinidad Rancheria — requested it delay holding a public hearing on the project to allow the Rancheria to provide additional information. The Coastal Commission responded by re-scheduling the project hearing from April to June, when it will meet in San Diego.

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

UPDATE: Coastal Commission Asks Staff to Postpone Safety Corridor Hearing to Allow Local Input

Posted By on Thu, May 9, 2019 at 12:04 PM

Existing view westbound at Indianola Road. - COURTESY OF CALTRANS
  • Courtesy of CalTrans
  • Existing view westbound at Indianola Road.
UPDATE:

On the heels of the California Coastal Commission’s request to staff to delay a hearing on Caltrans’ U.S. Highway 101 Safety Corridor improvement plan, Caltrans released a statement this afternoon indicating it hopes delaying the hearing by two months will not impact its construction timeline.

“If the Commission were to delay their meeting on this subject until August the goal of beginning construction by summer 2020 is likely still reachable but it will certainly cut things close,” reads the statement, which is copied in its entirety below the original post.

PREVIOUS:

The California Coastal Commission requested this morning that its staff shelve plans to hold a June hearing on Caltrans’ proposed plans to overhaul the Safety Corridor on U.S. Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata and, instead, to agendize the hearing for the commission’s August meeting in Eureka.

“To staff, without a doubt, this project is incredibly important if anyone has ever been in that neighborhood,” Commissioner Donne Brownsey said. “That is just the lifeblood of moving around in those communities. … If there is not meaningful community consultation, it is just going to be a terrible situation.”

The commissions’ vote to recommend staff postpone the hearing came after it received a number of letters from North Coast individuals and organizations requesting the move. Surfrider Foundation California Policy Manager Jennifer Savage also addressed the commission during its public comment period.

Savage said the project — which seeks to spend roughly $35 million to build a new interchange at Indianola Road, replace the Jacoby Creek Bridge, add a stoplight at Airport Road and close all other medians on the roughly 7-mile stretch of highway — is complex and decades in the making.

“Our community really deserves a chance to weigh in,” Savage said, before charging that Caltrans’ plans have so far failed to analyze the impacts construction will cause to alternate routes, like Old Arcata Road and State Route 255 through the Samoa Peninsula.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

County Counsel Suit Alleges Conspiracy in Legal Billings; Supes Approve $1.4M in Retro Payments, New Contract with Law Firm

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2019 at 2:21 PM

Jeffrey Blanck - COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT
  • County of Humboldt
  • Jeffrey Blanck
The county’s head attorney has filed a civil lawsuit against two fellow top administrators, an outside attorney and her Bay Area-based law firm alleging they conspired against him when he tried to expose excessive billing practices.

According to Jefferey Blanck’s lawsuit, bills from Liebert Cassidy Whitmore “increased three-fold” from 2016 to 2018 — from $137,000 to $353,000 — due to Human Resources Director Lisa DeMatteo's practice of sending routine matters to the firm’s partner Suzanne Solomon, bypassing the county counsel’s office.

He gave as examples a more than $6,000 bill “to draft a simple termination letter” and $8,000 paid to handle an arbitration issue “over a $300 dispute.”

Blanck also alleges that County Administrative Officer Amy Nielsen allowed this to take place and that when he tried to bring those costs and an issue with the legitimacy of the firm’s contract to the board of supervisors, the defendants “orchestrated” his removal.

Blanck, who has been on paid administrative leave since March, is asking for an unspecified amount of damages in the legal action filed April 25, which states that he has suffered emotional distress and economic harm due to the defendants’ actions.

Meanwhile, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday retroactively approved $1.4 million in legal payments to Liebert Cassidy Whitmore dating back to 2008.  A staff report from DeMatteo’s office states that “due to administrative oversight” the county's agreement with the firm was never brought to the board but  instead was signed only by the former personnel director, although the services and payments continued for 11 years.

Passed without comment by the board as part of the consent agenda, the item also included a new contract — running from May 7 to June 30, 2020 — with a “maximum payable amount of $150,000” for services related to “labor negotiations, administrative proceedings and legal advice on special employment projects.”

According the 14-page listing of the firm’s $1.4 million in charges since 2008, the county has already paid Liebert Cassidy Whitmore nearly $200,000 this year.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

'In the Face of Evil:' EPD Honors Sharral McDonald with Service Award

Posted By on Mon, May 6, 2019 at 2:39 PM

Sharral McDonald's children Shelsey McDonald, Shayla Verbich and Shaun Bagley (for right), and her husband Phil McDonald, accepted the Valor Service Award on her behalf. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Sharral McDonald's children Shelsey McDonald, Shayla Verbich and Shaun Bagley (for right), and her husband Phil McDonald, accepted the Valor Service Award on her behalf.
On the first anniversary of her death, the Eureka Police Department honored Sharral “Sherry” McDonald this morning for putting herself between a friend and the armed felon trying to kidnap her.

“Detectives assigned to the investigation noted that Sharral could have easily fled to safety at any time but, instead, became a shield to protect her friend from harm,” EPD Chief Steve Watson read from a letter to McDonald’s family. “The officers and staff at the Eureka Police Department can think of no finer example of an act of courage in the face of evil or of a citizen who is more deserving of the Valor Service Award.”

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

How Powerful Lawmakers Kill California Bills Without a Peep

Posted By on Wed, May 1, 2019 at 3:33 PM

The California State Capitol. - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • The California State Capitol.
Gun control, school spending, curbs on greenhouse gases: With Democrats holding more power at the Capitol than they’ve had since the 19th century, California’s legislative pipeline is full this year with big, blue-state ideas.

In theory, no Democrat’s bill should be left behind. But that’s not what’s happening, and the reason is roiling both sides of the aisle in Sacramento.

The complaint? Democrats who lead legislative committees are using a powerful tool to kill bills before they even get a vote.

The tool? Simply doing nothing.

Under a rule the California Assembly put in place at the start of the current session, committee chairs can decide whether to bring a bill assigned to their committee up for consideration. As key deadlines came and went this month for bills to move out of committee, chairs used the new power to quash bills by just not scheduling them for a public hearing.

No hearing, no debate, no vote.


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As Chancellor Backs HSU's Gutting of KHSU, Community Members Look to Purchase the Station

Posted By on Wed, May 1, 2019 at 2:15 PM

KHSU's studio. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • KHSU's studio.
California State University Chancellor Timothy White is supporting Humboldt State University President Lisa Rossbacher’s recent decision to gut local programming on the KHSU radio station, saying it was in the “fiscal interests of the university.”

White’s comments came in an April 25 letter responding to Rita Carole, a McKinlevyille resident, who had contacted him 10 days earlier to express concerns about Rossbacher’s April 11 decision to immediately and indefinitely suspend all of KHSU’s volunteer programing and to eliminate all but two of the staff positions dedicated to running the station. The remaining two employees resigned in the ensuing 48 hours, as a host of the station’s members and underwriters withdrew their financial support of the station in protest.

Meanwhile, there’s also a local effort underway to create a local nonprofit organization

The university’s press release announcing the station’s “reorganization” was not signed and did not include a statement from Rossbacher, but the press release pointed to the university’s budget crunch, its fiscal support of the station, some operational issues and a desire to involve more students in KHSU’s programming as reasons for the decision. White indicated in his letter to Carole that he supported that reasoning.

“The stated goals to be achieved by this realignment — implementing a financially sustainable operating model, preserving quality programming for the North Coast and providing additional opportunities for students — are admirable goals that I support,” White wrote. “Attainment of those goals will lead to long-term success for KHSU.”

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Rico's Tacos Loses Liquor Licenses after August Cocaine Bust

Posted By on Mon, Apr 29, 2019 at 3:35 PM

An agent with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control posts a notice of revocation at Rico's Tacos. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • An agent with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control posts a notice of revocation at Rico's Tacos.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has revoked an Arcata taco shop’s liquor license, effective immediately.

According to a press release, Rico’s Tacos Taqueria has not contested the revocation, which comes about six months after its owner Ariel Arguellas-Sosa was arrested on suspicion of possession and sales of cocaine and methamphetamine. Agents with the Humboldt County Drug Task Force reported seizing more than 3 pounds of cocaine — as well as a combined 10 ounces of heroin and cocaine — and roughly $200,000 in cash last August as a part of its investigation into allegations Arguellas-Sosa was engaged in illegal drug activity.

According to the press release from ABC, agents discovered as a part of that investigation that proceeds from the drug sales were being used to operate the taqueria.

Arguellas-Sosa posted bail in his criminal case and is currently on the lam after failing to appear in court.

See the full press release from ABC copied below:

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