Thursday, April 11, 2019

North Coast Night Lights: Reflections From Trinidad

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 12:37 PM

The stars arc across the sky in their nightly parade in this view looking south from Boat Launch Beach, or Indian Beach, beneath the town of Trinidad, California. January 30, 2019. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The stars arc across the sky in their nightly parade in this view looking south from Boat Launch Beach, or Indian Beach, beneath the town of Trinidad, California. January 30, 2019.
I opened the camera’s shutter and waited.

It was already high tide, and I didn’t expect any waves to reach me. When I had arrived half an hour earlier I’d set up where the small waves coming in across Trinidad Harbor lapped nearly at my feet. I’d taken a few photographs from there, but the incoming tide periodically sent the odd wave farther than the rest and had pushed me back up the beach.

It must have been a message to me that I needed something more interesting in the foreground, for I found myself guided to a heavy wave-sculpted piece of driftwood I hadn’t noticed before in the darkness. Its contours would help bring the foreground to life.

Now as I waited through the long exposure I thought about the light falling around me. Most of the light on the beach came in from the boat launch area some distance to the right of me. It lay across the sand and surf in interesting patterns of shade made by various forms near the boat launch.

Light skimmed gently across the upper surfaces of the driftwood, accentuating its contours and illuminating a mound of sand around it. Some of the light also struck the camera, so I stood and waited where my body could shade the bulbous face of the wide angle lens. I wasn’t sure I had to, but it couldn’t hurt. It was a long exposure and I didn’t want any slight lens flare to build up during the course of it.

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HSU Announces Staff Eliminations, Major Changes at KHSU

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 10:35 AM

khsu.jpg
Humboldt State University today announced major changes and the elimination of seven positions at its public radio station KHSU, including General Manager Peter Fretwell, whose tenure was fraught with controversy after the sudden firing of longtime program and operations director Katie Whiteside in May.

Along with the staff reductions, which the university release states will result in “significant savings,” all volunteer-run programs are under “indefinite suspension,” according to the release.

No administrators are quoted in this morning’s announcement, which states the goal of “reorganizing and streamlining operations” is “preserving quality programming for the North Coast.”

KHSU’s roots date back to the 1930s and one of its iterations — KHSC — became the first licensed non-commercial FM station in the California university and state college systems.

But recent troubles, triggered by Whiteside’s firing and the ensuing fallout, along with what many saw as major incursions into operations by university staff have caused friction at the station and in the community.

Read more about those issues in previous Journal coverage here, here and here.

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A 'Dark Day' at KHSU

Posted By and on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 4:00 AM

KHSU staff and volunteers speak with passersby shortly after learning Humboldt State University administrators had decided to gut the station's staff and suspend almost all volunteer programming indefinitely. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • KHSU staff and volunteers speak with passersby shortly after learning Humboldt State University administrators had decided to gut the station's staff and suspend almost all volunteer programming indefinitely.
The first sign arrived yesterday afternoon, when KHSU staff members received an email from Craig Wruck informing them there would be a mandatory meeting for all paid staff today at 9 a.m.

“I apologize for the extremely short notice, but this is an important meeting,” Wruck wrote.

When staff arrived for the meeting this morning at the new studio space in Feuerwerker House, however, they were separated. Morning Edition host Natalya Estrada and Development Director David Reed were sent to another building on campus, where they were informed of the changes and the fact that they would be the only staff members spared in the reorganization, with Reed being named interim station director. Meanwhile, Wruck was informing the balance of the staff that their positions were being eliminated, effective immediately.

As this was happening, 32-year volunteer Ed Campbell, who hosts “A Wandering Ear,” showed up to prepare for his 10 a.m. show to find his keycard no longer worked.

KHSU's studio. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • KHSU's studio.
He knocked and Wruck reportedly agreed to let him in to do his classical music show. He played about an hour’s worth of music before putting on Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s “Requiem Canticles.” As it played, he walked out, later explaining that Wruck and administrators could deal with the dead air. Campbell said he chose “Requiem Canticles” as the last thing he’d ever play over the station’s airwaves because it was the last significant piece Stravinsky composed and has “a bunch of finality to it.”

Outside, KHSU Producer Jessica Eden smiled and hugged volunteers who stopped by to inquire what was going on. A University Police Department patrol car sat parked nearby.

“It was a great station and we really put our hearts into it for years and years,” Eden said. “They’ve just destroyed a beautiful community resource. Shame on them.”

The upheaval included Peter Fretwell, whose tenure as general manager was fraught with controversy after the sudden firing of longtime program and operations director Katie Whiteside in May.

Along with the staff reductions, which the university press release states will result in “significant savings,” all volunteer-run programs are under “indefinite suspension.”

Eden pointed out that administrators announced this decision just days after KHSU finished a community pledge drive trumpeting how listener’s donations would support local programing. The pledge drive hadn’t fully met its goal but was widely considered to have been successful, staff said, noting that some donors and sustaining members who had walked away from the station last May in the wake of the controversial firing of longtime program and operations director Katie Whiteside firing had come back.

“Then they do this right after they took people’s money,” one volunteer grumbled.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Bass, Wilson Seeking Coastal Commission Seat in Round 2

Posted By on Mon, Apr 8, 2019 at 3:09 PM

california-coastal-commission-logo.jpg
UPDATE:
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously April 9 to send forward the names of both Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass and Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson for possible appointment to the California Coastal Commission.

PREVIOUSLY:
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will consider Tuesday sending the names of at least one supervisor and one city council member from the North Coast region for possible appointment to the California Coastal Commission after Gov. Gavin Newsom called for a second round of nominations.

Supervisors Virginia Bass and Mike Wilson are both requesting to have their names put forward to fill the open seat representing Humboldt, Del Norte and Mendocino counties.

The agenda item is being brought back after Newsom declined to appoint from of the previous nomination pool, which included Eureka City Councilmember Natalie Arroyo and Arcata Mayor Brett Watson — who had both received letters of support from the board in February.

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McCloskey Out of First District Supes Race

Posted By on Mon, Apr 8, 2019 at 2:19 PM

Allen McCloskey - MCCLOSKEY FOR SUPERVISOR, FACEBOOK
  • McCloskey for Supervisor, Facebook
  • Allen McCloskey
Allen McCloskey has withdrawn his candidacy to become Humboldt County’s next First District supervisor in the face of fraud and perjury allegations reported last week by the Lost Coast Outpost.

“The last two months (and more notably the last two weeks) have been incredibly difficult for me as an individual, for my immediate and extended family, for the campaign team, for our friends and for so many people who I love and admire,” McCloskey wrote in a 2,400-word statement posted to his campaign Facebook page yesterday. “This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain. The blog hit piece, the bias and one-sided reporting, endless personal attacks, have caused untold damage to family, friends and political supporters. … As a result, and after much reflection and careful consideration, I cannot in good conscience allow these forces to continue to damage my family, friends and colleagues. … For the time being, we will walk away from this particular campaign with our heads held high and our commitment to our collective vision intact.”

The Outpost’s Ryan Burns penned a lengthy and thorough investigative report last week, much of which focused on perjury and fraud allegations from 16 years ago. When Burns confronted McCloskey with the allegations during an interview, McCloskey responded that he’d been the victim of identity theft.

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Harrowing Night: Boaters Safe After Hitting Rocks Near Shelter Cove

Posted By on Mon, Apr 8, 2019 at 9:39 AM

Shelter Cove rescue team joins the trimaran crew for a celebration photo. - PHOTO BY CHERYL ANTONY
  • Photo by Cheryl Antony
  • Shelter Cove rescue team joins the trimaran crew for a celebration photo.
A trimaran called the Midnight Sun struck rocks near Shelter Cove last night and the crew had to escape on an inflatable boat and make their way into harbor through the storm, said Cheryl Antony of the Shelter Cove Fire Department.

“Something happened to their boat. … They sent out a distress signal at 9:30 p.m.,” Antony said. “It was pouring and foggy.”

In the darkness, Antony could hear the waves beating on the beaches and she said she was afraid that not even the Coast Guard, which had also been called out, would be able to find the crew in time.

But, the three boaters from Texas and two from Fort Bragg managed to navigate to a Shelter Cove beach, where rescuers met them and got them into dry clothes.

“They had nothing with them except the clothes on their back,” Antony said.


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Saturday, April 6, 2019

County Counsel Files Claim After Being Placed on Paid Leave

Posted By on Sat, Apr 6, 2019 at 8:36 AM

Jeffrey Blanck - COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT
  • County of Humboldt
  • Jeffrey Blanck
The county of Humboldt’s lead attorney Jeffrey Blanck filed a claim for damages this week alleging the board of supervisors placed him on paid administrative leave after he raised concerns about an outside law firm’s contract and then violated open meeting law by not reporting the board's action out of closed session.

Nearly three weeks have passed since the March 19 action, first reported in today’s Times-Standard.

Video of the meeting shows Blanck reading off the closed session agenda, including the item referring to him — the “evaluation of performance of a public employee and to hear complaints or charges brought against the employee by another person or employee” — before the supervisors retreated out of the main chambers.

When the board returns to open session, Blanck is absent and Deputy County Counsel Jefferson Billingsley has taken his place at the dais, where he states for the record that “there’s no reportable action on today’s closed session.”

“The county has received Mr. Blanck's claim and, as with all claims we receive, we will investigate this issue in order to determine the most appropriate next steps,” county spokesman Sean Quincey wrote in an email to the Journal. "We take these matters very seriously. As such, and in order to preserve the integrity of the investigation, the county will not be commenting publicly about this issue.”

According to the Blanck’s claim, the county’s human resources director and a partner at the outside firm Liebert, Cassidy and Whitmore, stymied his attempts to directly monitor legal costs in accordance with his duties and address what he considered to be an “invalid contract and the more than two-fold increase in attorney’ fees being charged the County of Humboldt.”

Payments to the Liebert, Cassidy and Whitmore went from $137,000 in calendar year 2016 to $201,000 in 2017 and $353,000 in 2018, the claim states, amounts  Blanck reported tracking down by researching public records. He also came to believe the firm’s retainer agreement with the county was not properly executed because it had not been signed by the board back in 2008, according to the claim.

Numbers provided by the county show the firm was paid $140,076 in fiscal year 2016-17, $265,127 in fiscal year 2017-18 and $319,291 in fiscal year 2018-19. Quincey notes those amounts include “services provided to 21 different budget units, or programs, including the Sheriff's Office Operations, Jail, Public Authority, Social Services, Mental Health, the Risk Management Liability Fund and more.”

The claim states Blanck had placed an item to discuss his concerns about the county’s contract with the firm on the March 12 closed session agenda but on the Friday before the meeting by First District Supervisor and board Chair Rex Bohn told Blanck that the item had been pulled on advice of counsel because two complaints had been filed against him.

Blanck had wanted the supervisors to "clarify that County Counsel was to oversee all outside counsel," according to the claim.

The claim also states that County Administrative Officer Amy Nielsen provided Blanck with a “Notice of Complaint that specific charges had been filed against him” March 14 and told him he could have the matter heard in public but she had been advised not to provide more information on the exact nature of the complaints.

“The actions taken by my client were clearly as that of a 'whistleblower' regarding the misuses of county funds by county personnel and an outside third party,” his attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson wrote in the April 4 claim sent to the county.

“As a result of the actions taken by the Board of Supervisors and County personnel, Mr. Blanck has suffered damages, including intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress in an amount to be determined,” she concludes before signing off with, “I look forward to hearing from you.”


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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Fisticuffs in First District Supes Race

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2019 at 4:40 PM

unknown.jpg
It’s been a bare-knuckle week in the upstart campaign to become Humboldt County’s next First District supervisor.

First, Tuesday afternoon, the Lost Coast Outpost’s Ryan Burns published an impressive piece of investigative journalism detailing allegations of fraud and perjury in challenger Allen McCloskey’s past and the candidate’s seeming inability to offer a clear explanation for them. Anyone who hasn’t read the piece should check it out here. But the Cliff’s Notes version is as follows: In 2004, McCloskey was working as a consultant for Kleen Environmental Technologies, which was seeking a biomedical waste disposal permit from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. According to transcripts of commission hearings, it appears McCloskey forged a letter in support of Kleen’s application then lied about it. When called on those lies, he either suffered a medical emergency or feigned one, after which he allegedly fled the state. When questioned about all this by Burns, McCloskey said it wasn’t him but a doppleganger ex-boyfriend who stole his identity and committed the fraudulent acts and perjury in an effort to make big money off of Kleen.

McCloskey didn’t return a Journal call seeking comment for this story but told the Times-Standard’s Shomik Mukherjee that his attorneys and campaign committee are crafting a “very stern response” to Burns’ report, that he has no intention of dropping out of the supervisorial race but that he “didn’t specifically deny any of the Outpost’s reported claims.” He also seemingly blamed incumbent Rex Bohn’s campaign for the Outpost story, saying, “This is the kind of campaign Rex always runs.”

It’s unclear if the information from McCloskey’s past surfaced as a result of opposition campaign research. The Journal received copies of the transcripts of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission hearings referenced in the Outpost’s reporting but the source who provided them is not affiliated with either campaign. No matter how they surfaced in Humboldt County, the transcripts are all available through the commission’s website.

Less than 24 hours following the Outpost’s bombshell report, local political organizer and McCloskey supporter Renee Saucedo sent out an open letter to local media calling on Bohn to resign and relaying allegations of a racist remark made at a recent nonprofit fundraiser. Apparently word had been quietly spreading about the comments since the March 9 fundraiser for Ferndale Repertory Theatre at the Carson Mansion but Saucedo chose the morning after the McCloskey report to blast it out to local press.

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Cooperation Humboldt Plants 20 Community Trees

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2019 at 12:27 PM

Little Free Pantry - COOPERATION HUMBOLDT/FACEBOOK
  • Cooperation Humboldt/Facebook
  • Little Free Pantry
Cooperation Humboldt planted 20 community fruit trees in public locations throughout Eureka and Arcata as part of the organization’s food program.

“We believe that nutritious food is a fundamental human right and our food projects aim to put that belief into practice in very tangible ways,” Tamara McFarland, who coordinates the organization’s food program, said in a press release.

The trees will be accessible to the community and everyone who received a tree agreed to share the fruit once they start producing, the release added. The planting of the trees was made possible, in part, by the Humboldt Area Foundation's Donor Circle Fund, which funded four social justice aimed organizations and is the subject of this week's Journal cover story. With the funding, Cooperation Humboldt was also able to set up an office for the fledgling nonprofit.


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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Trinidad Ordnance Destroyed by Military Disposal Team

Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2019 at 9:23 AM

The WW II ordnance found on a Trinidad property. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • The WW II ordnance found on a Trinidad property.
A World War II era ordnance that prompted the brief evacuation of a Trinidad neighborhood was originally found by a property owner more than a decade ago but, after coming across the device again Tuesday, he decided to call authorities, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

Members of the HCSO explosive disposal team arrived at the scene and after consulting with a unit at Beale Air Force base made the determination that the device was military grade, prompting a request for the Clear Lake team to respond.
The Beale Air Force EOD unit on scene. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • The Beale Air Force EOD unit on scene.
“Beale Air Force EOD representatives arrived at the residence at approximately 4 p.m. Neighbors of the residence were temporarily evacuated to a safe location,” the HCSO release states. “Upon further analysis of the ordnance, Beale Air Force EOD representatives retrieved the device and rendered the ordnance safe at an off-property location.”

Read the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office release below:


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