Thursday, May 26, 2022

HumCo Planning Director Headed to Fort Bragg

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2022 at 5:02 PM

Humboldt County Planning Director John Ford walks the board through changes to the cannabis ordinance. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Humboldt County Planning Director John Ford walks the board through changes to the cannabis ordinance.
Humboldt County Planning and Building Director John Ford has informed the Board of Super visors he will be leaving his post next month and is expected to start work as the city manager of Fort Bragg in July.

Ford, who stepped into the role in 2016, has helmed Planning and Building through a tumultuous period, overseeing implementation of the county's land use ordinance governing recreational cannabis cultivation and all the complexities that has entailed.

He will now head south to take over the post vacated by new Humboldt Chief Financial Officer Tabatha Miller last December, picked from 15 applicants to fill the city manager position in the small coastal town of about 7,200.

According to a press release from Fort Bragg, Ford was among four finalists who underwent interviews wit hate city council, and he was the "unanimous choice."

Ford's last day with the county of Humboldt is expected to be June 24 and he's slated to start in Fort Bragg on July 5.
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Court: Time to Mask Back Up

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2022 at 1:20 PM

Citing an increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases locally, the Humboldt County Superior Court has reinstated rules requiring face masks be worn in all county courtrooms and the Jury Assembly Room used for jury selection.

The new rule went into effect yesterday.

The court also reminds anyone due to appear in court who is symptomatic — with a fever, cough, cold or other symptoms — to contact their attorneys and make arrangements for their hearings to be rescheduled, or to appear remotely via phone or video conferencing.

Find the court's full press release copied below.

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Interior to Open Offshore Wind Comment Period Next Week

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2022 at 1:12 PM

Hywind floating turbine demo off the coast of Karmøy, Norway. - COURTESY OF STATOIL
  • Courtesy of Statoil
  • Hywind floating turbine demo off the coast of Karmøy, Norway.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced today that it will publish a Proposed Sale Notice next week, opening a 60-day public comment period on plans to open lease areas off the California coast — including one off Humboldt Bay — to bidding for the creation of offshore wind farms.

"The Biden-Harris administration is moving forward at the pace and scale required to help achieve the president's goals to make offshore wind energy a reality for the United States," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press release announcing the move forward with what would be the first-even offshore wind lease sale on the United States' West Coast. "Today, we are taking another step toward unlocking the immense potential of offshore wind energy (off) our nation's west coast to help combat the effects of climate change while creating good-paying jobs."

The proposed notice of sale (PNS) is slated to post May 31 and will provide detailed information about the proposed lease areas, proposed provisions and conditions, and details of the auction. Today's press release notes potential stipulations that would give preference to bidders who pursue community benefit agreements with surrounding communities and ocean users (commercial fishing fleets are mentioned specifically), those who will commit to investing in training an offshore wind workforce and those who engage with tribes and underserved communities "in a manner that minimizes and mitigates their projects' adverse effects."

Comments received on the document during the 6o-day period will be considered before the bureau of Ocean Energy Management dices whether to publish a final sale notice, which would include a time and date for the sale and a list of companies qualified to participate.

Find the full Interior Department press release copied below and past Journal coverage of offshore wind here.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

HumCo Reports Another COVID Death as Hospitalizations Rise

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2022 at 5:00 PM

Humboldt County Public Health reported today that the county has confirmed another COVID-19 deaths since its last report May 18, a resident over the age of 80.

Five new hospitalizations were also reported today but, according to a state database, 15 people are currently hospitalized with the virus locally, including three under intensive care. The death reported today is the 147th in Humboldt County since the pandemic began.

Find the full public health press release, which includes a schedule of upcoming vaccination clinics, click here.
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Two Suspected Opioid Overdoses in HumCo Jail; 20 Grams of Suspected Heroin Found in Cell

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2022 at 3:08 PM

Two Humboldt County jail inmates were saved by correctional officers after suspected opioid overdoses, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office announced in a press release today.

On Monday night, correctional officers administered Naloxone, a nasal spray commonly used to counter decreased breathing caused by an opioid overdose, to two female inmates housed in the same cell after they were found unresponsive and showing signs of a possible opioid overdose.

Both inmates were later transported to a local hospital for further treatment and are expected to recover.

"By quickly responding and administering the life-saving medication, correctional deputies effectively saved both inmates’ lives," the release states.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Candy Stockton Named Humboldt's New Public Health Officer

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2022 at 4:42 PM

Humboldt County's new Public Health Officer Candy Stockton. - HUMBOLDT COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Humboldt County Public Health
  • Humboldt County's new Public Health Officer Candy Stockton.
Humboldt Independent Practice Association Chief Medical officer Candy Stockton has been confirmed by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to serve as Humboldt County's Public Health Officer. She is slated to begin the new post  July 18.

“Having spent years practicing medicine in rural Northern California has given me a deep understanding of the challenges inherent in medicine and community health in rural and isolated areas,” Stockton said.

Stockton, a fourth-generation Humboldt County resident, replaces Ian Hoffman, who stepped down as Humboldt County Public Health Officer in March.

Stockton received her medical degree from Loma Linda University School of Medicine and is board certified in family and addiction medicine. She served as the medical director for Shingletown Medical Center in Shasta County for nine years, and for the past five years has served as the chief medical officer for the Humboldt IPA in Eureka. Stockton is also involved in advancing treatment for substance use disorders with a focus on pregnant and parenting individuals at the statewide level, and is also a trainer and consultant for the national Opioid Response Network and a contributing member of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative’s Mother & Baby Substance Exposure Initiative Toolkit.

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Fortuna Nursing Home COVID Outbreak Expands to 36 Infected

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2022 at 4:04 PM

Humboldt County Public Health is continuing to provide a heightened response to a COVID-19 outbreak at the Fortuna Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in which 26 residents and 10 staff members have tested positive for the virus, with one resident currently hospitalized. 

Public Health's Communicable Disease team is testing residents and staff three times a week and is coordinating with the California Department of Public Health's Healthcare-Associated Infections Group.

The outbreak began Friday when 12 people tested positive for the virus.

Fortuna Rehabilitation and Wellness Center is a 104-bed facility with 56 residents and 70 staff members. The release states that management is currently working to backfill staff who have tested positive.

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Protecting the Titans: New Trail Provides Safe Access to Ancient Grove

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2022 at 3:33 PM

The railings on this bridge were hand-rounded by trail crews, who hand-carried in almost 128 tons of building materials. - CARLY WIPF
  • Carly Wipf
  • The railings on this bridge were hand-rounded by trail crews, who hand-carried in almost 128 tons of building materials.
A once hidden trail blazed off the beaten path is now a formal North Coast attraction.

Today, if you walk along the Mill Creek Trail in Del Norte County’s Grove of the Titans, you’ll tread on raised metal walkways that allow water to flow and ferns to grow beneath your feet. You’ll cross a wooden bridge, climb perfectly placed stairs and duck through nature-made tunnels of green, all the while taking in a striking view of some of the world's tallest trees.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Before it reopened with ribbon-cutting ceremony May 21, the area around the Mill Creek Trail — a 3-mile path that weaves through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP) — was largely untouched.

The rise of social media over the past two decades meant more and more locals and tourists spread the word about the lauded grove. A network of informal, secret trails formed and visitors trampled over the ferns and undergrowth to marvel at the beauty of the giant trees. But this came at a significant cost to the giant trees.

Redwood root systems were damaged and plants on the forest floor died. Foot traffic eroded soil and pushed litter into the streams, putting a strain on coho and steelhead spawning areas.

“It is our duty to protect our resources — we needed to protect this grove, but we also wanted to allow people to access it because it is a pretty significant experience,” said Erin Gates, deputy superintendent for Redwood National and State Parks and California State Parks North Coast Redwood District. “What we were able to do is realign Mill Creek Trail, build an elevated walkway so visitors are able to experience this grove without letting their footprints do damage that is irreversible.”

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Monday, May 23, 2022

Third Condor Set to Fly Free

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2022 at 6:19 PM

A2 and A3 interact after A3 returns to the enclosure site after a two-week absence. - YUROK TRIBE FACEBOOK
  • Yurok Tribe Facebook
  • A2 and A3 interact after A3 returns to the enclosure site after a two-week absence.
The Northern California Condor Restoration Program is readying to send a third condor out into the wilds of Humboldt County on Wednesday to join two others — A2 and A3 — that took their first foray earlier this month.

A change in the weather forecast is delaying the previous plan to go forward on Tuesday.

The release of A0 — which will be live streamed —  marks the first flight of a female condor in the region in more than a century. But first, the bird has to cooperate by entering a smaller pen next to the main enclosure that has a door to the outside, a process successfully navigated by A2 and A3 on May 3.

After leaving first, A3 was nicknamed "Poy’-we-son," which the Yurok Tribe said translates to "the one who goes ahead, but also harks back to the traditional name for a headman of a village, who helps lead and guide the village in a good way,” while A2’s nickname, "Nes-kwe-chokw,’" translates to “He returns” or “He arrives."

The last of the young condors is expected to be let out sometime next month.

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Sex Abuse Suits Pouring in as State’s Catholic Leaders Seek Relief From Highest Court

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2022 at 11:35 AM

In California, the lawsuits are mounting — middle-aged men, saying they were sexually assaulted as children by a Boy Scout leader or a priest. A woman, now in her late 30s, detailing how she was allegedly assaulted in a center for foster children. A man who said he was abused while volunteering with the Salvation Army. 

At least 750 of those lawsuits filed since January 2020 are against Catholic dioceses, and more than 800 people are in the process of filing to beat a Dec. 31 deadline, according to lawyers involved in the cases. 

The year-end date marks the close of the state’s three-year “lookback window,” which allows plaintiffs to file civil suits for childhood sexual abuse no matter how long ago the alleged events took place.  

Now, facing hundreds of lawsuits, a group of Catholic bishops is taking those challenges to the nation’s highest court. Saying they faced “potentially ruinous liability,” the bishops last month asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the California lookback window unconstitutional. 

“Review is critical now, before the Catholic Church in the largest state in the union is forced to litigate hundreds or thousands of cases seeking potentially billions of dollars in retroactive punitive damages,” according to the petition, which was first reported by the Catholic News Agency.

“There are few institutions that serve youth that do not have a history of having perpetrators in them who harm children.”

Paul Mones, Los Angeles plaintiff’s attorney

California created its new lookback window in 2019 under Assembly Bill 218, authored by then-Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat. 

The bill opened a three-year period, from 2020 to 2022, that permitted complainants to file sexual abuse claims that exceeded the statute of limitations. 

The law allows people younger than 40 to file complaints without any extra steps. Complainants older than 40 must obtain, through an attorney, a mental health evaluation that finds “there is a reasonable basis to believe that the plaintiff had been subject to childhood sexual abuse.”

In 2002, the state passed a similar law creating a year-long window for people to file such claims. More than 850 people sued the Catholic Church the following year, and another 150 sued other religious institutions and the Boy Scouts of America. The Catholic Church paid out more than $1 billion to settle claims, according to the bishops’ petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Multiple dioceses sold “vast swaths” of church property in the 2000s, the petition states. Some exhausted or relinquished their lawsuit insurance, and the church believed at the time that the matter was over. 

“That assurance proved to be false,” the bishops wrote.

Across the country, such lookback windows have faced and survived multiple legal challenges at the state level. Actor Bill Cosby, accused of more than 50 sexual assaults over decades, has challenged them in California and New Jersey. Prince Andrew’s initial challenge to New York’s “lookback window” failed to persuade a judge in January to throw out his case.

Los Angeles attorney Paul Mones, who is representing at least 75 people suing the Catholic Church and dozens more suing other institutions, said he expects “a flurry of filings” in the last 60 days of the year before the lookback window expires. 

Among his cases, Mones said, were people suing the Boy Scouts of America, private schools, public schools, the Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. 

“There are few institutions that serve youth that do not have a history of having perpetrators in them who harm children,” Mones said. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a previous California lookback window, but that was specific to criminal prosecution. 

In that 2003 case, Stogner vs. California, the high court ruled 5-4 that allowing California to charge someone criminally with child sex abuse after the statute of limitations had expired “inflicted punishment for past criminal conduct that … did not trigger any such liability.”

In 2013 and 2018, then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar proposals to create lookback windows in California.

The lawsuits during the current window have been targeted at both religious and secular institutions. In California, more than 200 women and men have sued an El Monte children’s center, alleging abuse between 1988 and 2001. 

In Sacramento, two brothers have sued the Capital Christian Center, alleging that they and three other former students were abused sexually in the early 1980s. 

Rick Simons, a plaintiff’s attorney managing the cases against the Catholic Church in Northern California, said his oldest case dates to the early 1960s. That litigant and others like him didn’t sue during California’s 2003 lookback window because “he wasn’t ready,” Simons said. 

“One year is just not enough time for some folks to process stuff,” Simons said. “This time, maybe the parents are mostly gone. Many more people are sober.”

“This was news in 2002 and 2003, that Catholic priests were engaged in systematic abuse. People hadn’t heard it on that scale,” he added.

The abuse cases against the Catholic Church during the current lookback window have been divided into three consolidated cases across the state: Northern California, San Diego and Los Angeles. In Northern California, plaintiff’s attorneys said more than 200 people have already filed suit, and another 800 are in the process of filing. 

“The (bishops’) petition is an attempt to invalidate the law and a disingenuous slap in the face to victims who have yet to come forward.”

Mike McDonnell, Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests

In San Diego, 80 people have filed suit, and in Los Angeles, 473 people have sued.

“The (bishops’) petition is an attempt to invalidate the law and a disingenuous slap in the face to victims who have yet to come forward,” said Mike McDonnell, spokesperson for the group Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. 

“It’s concerning to us because it’s not a thing of the past, it is a thing of the present and it is absolutely a thing of the future.” 

McDonnell said the sexual abuse claims test not just the financial resources of the Catholic Church and its dioceses, but the insurers that cover them. 

Insurers have expressed concern over the reopened statute of limitations and their financial exposure to costs far higher than they anticipated when they originally issued policies for an organization, whether it’s a church or a Boy Scout troop.

In 2019 alone, 14 states amended their laws to allow more time for claims of child sexual abuse, and at least eight states reopened the window for abuse claims that had exceeded the statute of limitations. 

Nationwide, lookback windows have typically led to thousands of lawsuits. In New Jersey, for instance, more than 1,200 sexual abuse lawsuits were filed between December 2019, when the state’s lookback window opened, and October 2021, when it closed, according to the Associated Press

About two-thirds of those New Jersey lawsuits named religious institutions. Lawsuits against schools represented about 14 percent and about 9 percent named the Boy Scouts.

Bill Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League, said in a statement that a focus on the Catholic Church in child sex abuse legislation and litigation is “anti-Catholic bigotry.” 

“It is a myth to maintain that the Catholic Church has a monopoly on the sexual abuse of minors: it exists in every institution where adults interact with youngsters,” Donohue said. 

“The Catholic Church in California has twice dealt with this issue. It should not be subjected to another round of lawsuits.”

California Catholic churches have paid among the highest dollar amounts for sex abuse settlements of any state, according to a list of settlements compiled by the website Bishop Accountability. 

“The Catholic Church in California has twice dealt with this issue. It should not be subjected to another round of lawsuits.”

Bill Donohue, president, New York-based Catholic League

The Los Angeles diocese paid $660 million to settle hundreds of abuse claims in 2007, and that same year, the San Diego diocese filed for bankruptcy and paid 144 people a total of $198 million. Those are the two highest settlements made by the Catholic Church in the U.S. 

Bankruptcy is a real fear for the churches involved in this litigation, said Jeff Anderson, a Minneapolis-based attorney with an office in Los Angeles who represents child sex abuse claimants suing the Catholic Church. 

“They are among the most frequent offenders, so yes, they are the most exposed [financially],” Anderson said. 

Anderson said the church is banking on the 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, as well as the justices’ own religious affiliations — six justices are Catholic, though one, Sonya Sotomayor, is part of the court’s liberal minority. 

“I think that’s the only thing they can bank after,” Anderson said. “This writ is really the Hail Mary pass to the Catholic court.”

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