Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Huff Among Democrats Suing The Donald

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 4:19 PM

Huffman - FILE
  • File
  • Huffman
Remember last week when 200 Congressional Democrats filed a federal lawsuit alleging that President Donald Trump has been profiting from business dealings with foreign governments in violation of the Constitution? Well, North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman was one of them.

In a Facebook post, Huffman explained that the lawsuit stems in part from Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns and “flouting basic standards of ethics and transparency.

“This lawsuit, in which I’m one of the plaintiffs, has a good chance of forcing disclosures that will reveal the extent of his financial obligations and conflicts of interest,” Huffman wrote. “It’s unfortunate that President Trump broke his promise to disclose his tax returns voluntarily, and also broke his promise to create a blind trust to prevent conflicts. Those broken promises, and the GOP Congress’ refusal to step up and do meaningful oversight, are why this lawsuit is necessary.”

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sessions Fights to Fight Legal Weed

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 10:59 AM

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. - GAGE SKIDMORE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Lost in all the reports of his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee was news that last month U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked Congress to give him broad authority to crack down on medical marijuana cultivators and distributors acting in accordance with state laws.

On May 1, Sessions penned a letter to congressional leaders asking them to strike a provision in a spending bill that bars the Department of Justice from using its federal funding to prosecute people operating in compliance with state law. Known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, the check on Justice Department power has been a mainstay in congressional budget bills since first passed in 2014.

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” Sessions explained in the letter.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Officials Announce Lawson Reward, Face Charging 'Conundrum'

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 1:26 PM

Michelle Chermaine Lawson issues an emotional plea for anyone who may have information about her son's death to come forward. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Michelle Chermaine Lawson issues an emotional plea for anyone who may have information about her son's death to come forward.
The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever fatally stabbed David Josiah Lawson on April 15 has swollen to $21,000, the city of Arcata recently announced.

  • Submitted
  • Lawson
Meanwhile, Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman said the investigation remains ongoing some five weeks after Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtsen dismissed a murder charge against Kyle Zoellner, APD’s prime suspect in the slaying of Lawson, a 19-year-old Humboldt State university sophomore. Nothing prevents the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office from refiling a murder charge against Zoellner if APD finds additional evidence implicating him in Lawson’s death.

Chapman said his detectives are continuing to investigate witnesses in the case, though he noted that, aside from those initially interviewed, none of the more than 100 people at the Spear Avenue house party where Lawson was killed have voluntarily come forward.

“To date, that hasn’t happened,” Chapman said, adding that all witness interviews are valuable to the investigation, even if the witness doesn’t believe he or she saw anything related to Lawson’s death, explaining that one witness’ testimony about things unrelated to the actual stabbing can be used to test the veracity of other witness statements.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

EPD Chief Mills Accepts Post in Santa Cruz

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 7:57 PM

Andrew Mills - FILE
  • File
  • Andrew Mills
Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills has accepted a job offer from the city of Santa Cruz and, pending a background investigation, will be leaving after three and a half years on the job here.

Reached this evening, Mills said the change is bittersweet and comes for a mixture of personal and professional reasons. Personally, he said he’s welcomed three grandchildren to his family since taking over Eureka’s chief position for Murl Harpham in September of 2013 and the remoteness of Humboldt County has made it difficult to see them. Professionally, Mills said Santa Cruz’s police chief position offers new challenges that he feels are in his wheelhouse: The city has a sizeable homeless population, gang issues and the need to continue building a stronger relationship between the community and its police force.

“It seems like a good fit,” Mills said.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Up and Down Old Town with Officer Crnich

Posted By on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Officer Cory Crnich - SAM ARMANINO
  • Sam Armanino
  • Officer Cory Crnich
Eureka Police officer Cory Crnich’s beat stretches from Eureka’s Fourth Street north to the bay, from East Commercial Street to the library. Being the Old Town officer is a specialty position, one Crnich applied and reapplied for. He took the job in May of 2016, one week after the PalCo Marsh eviction. There’s no pay bonus but there are, according to Crnich, “unique opportunities and difficulties” that make it different from a regular patrol position. Four days a week, beginning at 8 a.m., Crnich walks up and down his beat, checking in on the people  passed out in doorways, smoking at the Gazebo and making their way toward St. Vincent De Paul for food.

“It requires a little more patience than standard patrol work,” says Crnich. “There are two different extremes you’re working with, indigent folks and small business owners.”

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

TL;DR: Our Favorite Quotes From This Week's Cover Story

Posted By on Sun, Jun 4, 2017 at 12:47 PM

Hey readers, we know that reading 4,500 words can be a slog for some in the fast, digital world. Even if that 4,500 words is about something as fascinating as the city of Eureka's many, varied attempts to address the entrenched homeless camp in the PalCo Marsh and the accompanying emails we obtained from public records act request, it is a long article. (Give thanks to the editors, because it used to be much longer.) But take heart, because we get you. After taking a whole year to pore through those emails, and several weeks to write the two-part series distilling them into something that would fit into our pages, we're ready for a brain break too. So we compiled some of our favorite quotes from the article into this listicle, along with some GIFs we feel capture the spirit of the exchanges.

1. "Easy turbo ..." – Eureka Police Department Chief Andrew Mills, responding to a passive-aggressive comment from Parks and Recreation director Miles Slattery about SWAP funding and EPD responsibilities.


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Eureka Council Slated to Talk Wards, Budget, Recreational Pot

Posted By on Sun, Jun 4, 2017 at 8:29 AM

The current Eureka City Council. - COURTESY OF THE CITY OF EUREKA
  • Courtesy of the city of Eureka
  • The current Eureka City Council.
The Eureka City Council will take a first look at the 2017-2018 budget on Tuesday and examine possible customized approaches to the recent legalization of recreational marijuana rather than having the state’s default regulations apply inside city limits.

But before tacking those weighty items, the council will discuss ward redistricting during a 4:30 p.m. special meeting. Following the passage of Measure P in November, future councilmembers will be elected by the residents of individual wards rather than a citywide vote.

To make sure each of Eureka’s five wards has an even population, the city will now need to examine the boundaries — which were last redrawn some 40 years ago.

The Budget
A majority of the city’s $28.4 million general fund in the upcoming fiscal year — about half of the $57.7 million total operating budget — is proposed to go toward public safety, with the Eureka Police Department receiving $13.1 million and Humboldt Bay Fire $6.6 million.

According to City Manager Greg Sparks’ introduction to the 288-page document, the allocation “is consistent with the city council direction of keeping public safety as the number one budget priority.”

Parks and Recreation is slated to receive $3.9 million and Public Works is budgeted at $1.14 million.

Overall, the spending plan is a 2 percent increase over last year’s budget, which also saw a bit of a bump after several lean years that necessitated painful cuts to a number of departments. But the majority of that extra $1 million is slated to cover increases in “pension, health insurance and transit related costs,” Sparks wrote.

“While the recommended budget is balanced the city council and community must be mindful that there are a number of uncertainties still facing the community,” Sparks notes in his conclusion. “Costs continue to increase despite a ratcheting down of discretionary expenses and a leaner public work force. Nonetheless, we will continue to adhere to sound financial practices that will allow us in the long term to successfully meet the challenges of providing quality public services.”

Recreational Marijuana
According to a staff report by Community Development Director Rob Holmlund, the council has until January of 2018 to come up with customized regulations or the general state guidelines will go into effect in Eureka.

The report notes that setting up a city-specific ordinance will take some time, but states the item was delayed while staff waited for President Donald Trump to “clarify the national policy direction regarding state regulation medical cannabis and non-medical marijuana.”

Another factor, according to the staff report, was a lack of clarification from the governor or the state Legislature on how to remedy conflicts between medical and recreational pot regulations.

“Accordingly, staff needs direction from council this month in order to beat the timeline and have custom regulations in place by January of 2018,” Holmlund’s report states.

Staff recommendations for personal grow regulations on recreation marijuana generally coincide with existing ones for medical pot.

Proposed rules include a maximum of 50-square-feet of inside cultivation space per residence, a limit of six plants, a ban on outdoor grows and a requirement that no exterior evidence of a grow be visible from public areas.

On the commercial licensing side, staff is recommending that the council consider banning commercial cultivation and sales of non-medical adult use marijuana anywhere in the city.

Most other aspects of the commercial side, including manufacturing, testing transportation and distribution of recreational marijuana and related products would fall under the same regulations currently applied to its medical counterpart, including zoning restrictions.

Early Release of Council Agenda
Thanks to City Clerk Pam Powell’s efforts to make city business more transparent and accessible to the public, agendas and the accompanying background materials are now available for review days earlier, generally the Wednesday before regularly scheduled council meetings. Find the full agenda and access staff reports for Tuesday's meeting here.
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Friday, June 2, 2017

EPD Pitches Homeless Day Center

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 11:52 AM

J-son and Brittany sit across from St. Vincent de Paul's free dining facility in Eureka. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • J-son and Brittany sit across from St. Vincent de Paul's free dining facility in Eureka.
A recent entry by Eureka Police Department Chief Andrew Mills on the EPD blog addresses the issue of people loitering around the St. Vincent de Paul dining facilty at Third and Commercial streets. Local business owners have complained about an increase in vandalism, drug use and camping in the area. EPD data obtained by the Journal shows a sharp jump in calls to the eight-block area around SVDP immediately following the eviction of PalCo Marsh residents, although EPD officially says many of those formerly living in the marsh have been housed, and the people in the SVDP area are mostly new faces from out of town, drawn here by the promise of work in the marijuana industry. A group of business owners met with Mills and Councilmember Marian Brady to discuss their concerns on May 5.

"Business owners, manager[s], and residents have complained of the high level of disorder including drug use, discarded needles, fights, disorderly conduct, large amounts of litter, and bodily waste left in the alleys and surrounding properties," a memo from Mills reads. "People block sidewalks, graffiti buildings and harass pedestrians and motorists. Business has suffered from lost customers, vandalism, and theft. In addition, businesses are concerned for the safety of their employees."

To address this problem, EPD is recommending a multi-phase plan that will include meeting and communicating with the 30-40 people who tend to congregate in the area, then using diversion techniques to reduce complaints. That might include suspension of services from St. Vincent de Paul for some individuals for a temporary period of time. Police may also ask people to clean up an area or perform other tasks to get a voucher that they can exchange for "meal privileges." SVDP may also shut down the facility during a "crisis period."

"To restore services, the individual may be required to perform a community service: clean up trash, pull weeds, paint out graffiti, etc.," Mills states in the blog. "Once completed, they can get a voucher to re-establish services."

The city is also soliciting proposals for a new "day use" area, where people can stay during the day and store "limited amounts of private property." The six-month pilot project "must be easily accessible to the city by foot or bus, but does not have to be in the city." Proposals are due by July 1.
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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Key Players and Their Emails (A Companion to This Week's Cover Story)

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 3:52 PM

This week's cover story, "Swept," takes a deep dive into the Eureka city government's collective thought process as it planned to clear the PalCo Marsh of homeless encampments over the course of more than a year, culminating in the May 2, 2016 sweep that resulted in the relocation of more than 100 homeless people.

To report the story, Journal staff writer Linda Stansberry pored through more than 11,000 pages of documents obtained from the city through a California Public Records Act. Below, you'll find a handful of bios aimed at giving you a better understanding of some of the key players involved in city's decision making process, as well as a a selection of the emails we received from each. In addition to providing a more detailed look at what city leaders were talking about in the months leading up to the sweep, the emails should give you a taste of what Stansberry experienced, right down to the city's silly redactions of public employees' work email addresses and phone numbers. (You'll even get to look at one email that's formatted to have a single letter on each line and stretches across more than a dozen pages.) But don't worry, we're sparing you all the non responsive and duplicate ones. (For more on those, read last week's editorial here.)

And, make sure to go back and read the cover story!

Greg Sparks
  • Greg Sparks
Greg Sparks
Hired March 6, 2014, Sparks arrived to take Eureka’s city manager position from West Des Moines, Iowa, where he held the same post. In Eureka, Sparks has had to confront a much different set of challenges than he faced in West Des Moines, a Des Moines suburb with a population of about 56,000.

Most notable are the economic differences: The median household income in West Des Moines is $54,000 compared to just $25,000 in Eureka. And with that income disparity comes a much larger homeless population in Eureka, which has one of the densest concentrations of chronically homeless people in the country. Looking back on the city’s handling of the homeless encampments in the PalCo Marsh, Sparks said he wouldn’t do anything differently, adding that homelessness has proven a huge challenge for cities throughout the state.

Read a selection of Sparks’ emails here.

Andrew Mills
  • Andrew Mills
Andrew Mills
Hired as the city’s new police chief Sept. 11, 2013, Mills came to Eureka from San Diego, where he’d worked as a cop for 30 years, with stints commanding both the city’s eastern and western districts. Originally from Michigan, Mills has strong background in problem-oriented and community policing, and became well known in San Diego for neighborhood walks with community partners.

Mills told the Journal he knew homelessness was going to be a large issue for his department when he took the job, but said he underestimated the depth of the problem and how much time his department would spend wrestling with it.

Email exchanges between Mills and other city leaders, as well as some members of the public, show that perhaps more than anyone in city hall, Mills was reticent to clear the encampments in the PalCo Marsh without having another designated space to send the people living there.

Read a selection of Mills’ emails here.

Miles Slattery
  • Miles Slattery
Miles Slattery
A 1994 graduate of Humboldt State University, Slattery returned to the North Coast in May of 2006 to work for the city of Eureka after a seven-year stint in San Diego, where he worked as a chemist. Slattery joined the city of Eureka as a project manager in March of 2006, became the city’s deputy public works director in November of 2011 and its parks and recreation director in 2013.

Somewhat of a firebrand, Slattery has been vocal in urging the city to invest more in its parks, believing active recreation and engagement by city residents would go along way to deterring “inappropriate uses” of public spaces and make the city safer.

With his department at the forefront of the city’s efforts to clean out the PalCo Marsh, Slattery’s frustrations boiled over at times, which is visible in the selection of emails you can find here.

Rob Holmlund
  • Rob Holmlund
Rob Holmlund
Hired as Eureka’s community development director in 2014, Holmlund is an East Coast native who came to HSU to get a master’s degree before getting a job with GHD Planning and Engineering.

Since joining the city, Holmlund has helped usher in a new medical cannabis ordinance, a pilot parklet project and a re-envisioning of the Eureka waterfront. As to the homeless issue, Homlund seems to have bought into the Housing First philosophy adopted by the city but has otherwise been fairly silent publicly.

Read a selection of his emails on the subject here.

Natalie Arroyo
  • Natalie Arroyo
Natalie Arroyo
Elected to the Eureka City Council in 2014, Arroyo came to Humboldt County from New Orleans, where she was living happily until Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Arroyo currently works for the nonprofit Redwood Community Action Agency and is in the midst of an 8-year contract with the U.S. Coast Guard, where she works as a marine science technician. Taking her seat as a member of Eureka’s first all-female city council in 2015 — her first elected office — Arroyo was immediately faced with the issue of homelessness and, more specifically, what to do about the PalCo Marsh.

Read a selection of Arroyo’s emails here.

  • City of Eureka
  • Kim Bergel
Kim Bergel
Elected to the city council in 2014, Bergel is a Eureka native who worked in elementary education as a one-on-one aide.

Bergel’s big campaign issue was traffic safety, as she’d served on the city’s traffic safety commission for six years. But upon taking her seat on the council in 2015, Bergel threw herself into the homeless issue, and more specifically trying to help people living in the PalCo Marsh. She visited the marsh almost daily, developing relationships with almost all who lived there.

Read a selection of her emails here.

Melinda Ciarabellini
  • Melinda Ciarabellini
Melinda Ciarabellini
Appointed to the city council by Mayor Frank Jager in 2011, Ciarabellini served six years before deciding not to seek reelection last year.

A Humboldt State University graduate, Ciarabellini worked for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office for 30 years before retiring as a correctional captain. She came to the council intent on bolstering the city’s public safety departments and focusing on economic development.

Ciarabellini became a prominent and forceful voice in the council’s passionate debates over what to do with the PalCo Marsh. Read a selection of her emails here.

Linda Atkins
  • Linda Atkins
Linda Atkins
First elected to the council in 2008 and termed out in 2016, Atkins served eight years on the council. A retired engineering associate, Atkins was seen as the sole “progressive” voice on the council for a couple of years until 2015, when she was joined by Arroyo and Bergel.

Atkins was the driving force behind the city’s shelter crisis declaration, which later proved integral in setting up the shipping container transitional housing village run by Betty Chinn and the rotating free sleeping areas set up in city parking lots. Both were important parts of the city’s defense of a lawsuit seeking to halt the May 2, 2016, eviction of the PalCo Marsh.

Read a selection of Atkins’ emails here.
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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Huffman Town Hall Coming to Garberville

Posted By on Sat, May 27, 2017 at 2:06 PM

Congressman Huffman at his town hall in Arcata. - BEAU SAUNDERS
  • Beau Saunders
  • Congressman Huffman at his town hall in Arcata.
Congressman Jared Huffman is taking the next segment of his town hall tour to Garberville on May 31 after drawing large crowds up and down California’s 2nd District in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.

According to a release from his office, Huffman will “discuss how to make forward progress in today’s political climate” and “answer questions and share his plans and priorities for best representing California’s North Coast in Congress.”

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