February 2009


Long live the Blogthing!

Radio alert: Friend o’ the Journal Jennifer Savage sent this along this morning:

Thursday, Feb. 12 at 1 p.m., Jen Savage will conduct a conversation with bloggers Kym Kemp, Eric Sligh and “Sohumborn” in the KSLG studio. Kemp’s blog, “Redheaded Blackbelt,” covers issues inherent to living in the Southern Humboldt hills. Sligh’s blog, “Humboldt Grow,” details the nuts and bolts of marijuana growing. “Sohumborn” shares fictionalized stories revolving around the culture of growing pot in SoHum – stories that are real enough that she must remain anonymous. On Thursday, the three of them will discuss the ways in which growing pot has evolved and subsequently continues to affect the people, businesses and culture in Humboldt County. Additionally, they’ll talk about why they blog, the response they’ve received and related issues with law enforcement. Listeners can tune in on the FM dial at 94.1 or on the stream at kslg.com

If Barbara Groom hadn’t been craving a pint of Häagen Dazs after a movie last Friday, she wouldn’t have driven into the parking lot of Ray’s Food Place in Eureka; she wouldn’t have seen two men fighting there; she wouldn’t have tried to stop them by yelling and inching her car into the fracas; and she wouldn’t have seen one of those men — 36-year-old Andrew Pease of Eureka — get fatally stabbed in the stomach.

Groom owns the Lost Coast Brewery and Cafe, where, earlier that same night, men matching the description of the alleged murderers attempted to rob an employee at knife-point, according to Groom. She said the men were caught briefly on a parking lot security camera trying to rob a Lost Coast employee with a hunting knife identical to the one that would later be used to kill Pease. The men’s car — a white Volkswagen Jetta — also matched descriptions of the car used in a string of at least five robberies or attempted robberies that culminated in the murder of Pease, according to police reports. (Read the Times-Standard‘s account here.) Groom recounted her experience in a phone interview today with the Journal:

(more…)

60_bassstraitoffshoredrilling_800x6494

The AP reports that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is dumping ye old Bush plan to open up areas of  the Outer Continental Shelf in the Atlantic and the Pacific previously off limits to oil and gas drilling. A good portion of these virgin waters lie off of California.

It’s not that Salazar is against expanding offshore drilling, says the story, he’s just not that into the old admin’s overbearing approach to the whole thing, not to mention its basing the midnight decision to drill on 30-year-old studies.

Let us have some fresh new reports, says Salazar, to find out how much oil and gas is out there; let’s ask people what they think about it; and let’s all do it with the wind at our backs — that is, maybe some wind energy and other renewabale developments worked into a broader energy program.

The oil people are not happy. Now we gotta wait and wait and wait some more, says American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard.

UPDATE: Congressman Mike Thompson sends a news release with this statement:

“By extending the public comment period and making sure that there is sound science behind any policy decision, Secretary Salazar has taken the first crucial steps towards reversing the failed policies of the Bush Administration,” said Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA).  “This is a clear signal that important decisions about our precious natural resources will no longer be made by oil executives behind closed doors.  I have told Secretary Salazar about the importance of protecting our coastline, and look forward to working with him to permanently ban drilling off the shores of the North Coast.”

Well, all of you sniggerers who like to put down Arcata for meddling in distant world affairs when it ought to be attending to its own potholes, here’s your comeuppance: Our favorite anklebiter city may have just helped shape future world energy development.

Two settlement agreements were filed last Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In them, the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — U.S. government-run agencies — agreed to evaluate the impacts on global warming of the fossil fuel projects they finance around the world, often in places with no environmental regulations. They’ve also agreed to each put $250 million into overseas renewable energy projects. In addition, Export-Import Bank agreed to consider carbon dioxide emissions from its projects, and to create a carbon policy. OPIC committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from overseas projects it funds by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

In August 2002, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the City of Boulder, Colo., sued these two behemoth federal financiers and insurers, accusing them of spending more than $32 million between 1990 and 2003 on major fossil fuel projects without analyzing their impacts on climate change under the National Environmental Policy Act. Arcata joined the lawsuit in 2004; Santa Monica and Oakland also jumped on.

“Typically when a U.S. agency does a large project that has potential environmental impacts, they run it through NEPA,” said Mark Andre, Director of Environmental Services for the City of Arcata, last Friday. “Well, overseas projects aren’t subject to that.”

The projects named in the lawsuit, said the litigants, had cumulatively contributed to the equivalent of “nearly eight percent of the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions, or nearly one third of annual U.S. emissions in 2003,” said a news release from the City of Arcata.

Over the years that the suit malingered, the Bush administration insisted the agencies remain exempt from NEPA, said Arcata Mayor Mark Wheetley. This settlement, however, marks a change in direction. Wheetley said it’s been incremental; the world “mindthink” was bound to catch up to Arcata’s progressive ways, he said.

“When we filed the suit, we were back in the dark, dark, dark Bush days,” Wheetley said. “We weren’t even acknowledging global warming yet. And now we’re having a national dialog about it. It’s been coming — you know, Al Gore’s efforts, the increase in knowledge and awareness through An Inconvenient Truth, that was just a huge education outreach. And now, this whole issue has percolated to the top.”

Some major precedents came out of this case, says Nancy Diamond, the City of Arcata’s attorney in the matter. In 2005, a federal judge granted legal standing — the ability to sue, in this case under NEPA — to cities claiming injuries from global climate change. That, in turn, set the stage for a big Supreme Court decision in another case, Mass v. EPA: that greenhouse gases are subject to Clean Air Act regulations.

“Global warming in and of itself wasn’t a recognize theory of harm, when we brought the lawsuit,” said Diamond. “So, it was the first case that established standing for global climate change.”

It was Andre who helped establish Arcata’s claim to injury. In a 2004 court declaration he described how, based on available records and science, since the late 1800s the temperature in the Arcata area had risen, annual rainfall had decreased, and sea level along the California coast had risen. He cited projections of more sea level rise.

“A 12-inch rise in sea level would mean that the current 100-year high tide peak would become instead a 10-year high, thus a rare event would become common,” Andre wrote.

This could mean inundation of Arcata’s 225-acre marsh — a wildlife sanctuary and wastewater treatment facility — and the adjacentl treatment plant where chlorine is used. About 550 acres of low-lying pastures owned by the city would become saltwater messes. Diminished snowpack would reduce Arcata’s drinking water supply. There would be unpredictable floods. And a rise in ocean temperatures would threaten marine life, and thus the commercial and recreational fisheries.

Andre said the settlement is a good one. And Diamond said settling was better than going to trial. Now, the two agencies must consider the impacts on climate change of any projects they fund from here on out, instead of just the projects named in the lawsuit in 2002.

A snow angel

A snow angel

Buried in the Op-Ed section of today’s Times-Standard is this stunning, er, revelation from contributor Dave Stancliff: Angels exist! This will no doubt be shocking news to the 17 percent of (hell-bound) Americans who have until now denied the existence “God’s Ambassadors.”

“These blessed spirits are armed with the authority and might of paradise,” Stancliff evangelizes. “Angels bring healing, perseverance, creativity, joy, and solutions to the problems and circumstances of our human condition.” After checking the masthead to make sure I hadn’t picked up an extra-large issue of Watchtower by mistake, relief washed over me. Did you hear that, economic crisis? I’ll mail you a copy, Afghanistan. Any other problems or circumstances care to step up? The T-S has a message for your ass: “[T]he universality of angels cannot be denied.” Booya!


CORRECTION
: It was Sunday’s edition, appropriately.

image ganked from popsci.com

image ganked from popsci.com

If you’ve been following the news this week you know that there’s been a lot of discussion about postponing the end of analog television and the coming switch to the digital age. It turns out that despite a lot of advance warning to get digital converter boxes before the big switcheroo on Feb. 17, which you’ve been warned about with those annoying banner ads, and despite a coupon program to help people pay for them, a fair number of TV watchers, particularly poor folks and the elderly, are still operating with the old 20th century analog technology.

So, on Wednesday the House of Reps voted to extend the deadline until June 12. The Senate passed similar legislation last week; President Obama said he’ll sign it, and through a spokesperson promised to “continue to work with Congress to improve the information and assistance available to American consumers in advance of June 12, especially those in the most vulnerable communities.”

If you think old school TV people are breathing a sigh of relief and thinking maybe they’ll have more time to finally figure out that new-fangled box, well, that’s not exactly the case, not locally anyway. If you live in Humboldt County sans cable, and were watching the few stations still available with a TV antennae (and no digital TV or converter box) you know that the Eureka Television Group’s CBS 6 and Fox 29 made the switch on Nov. 28 last year, which is to say they switched off their analog signal and — no more Simpsons (now on 28, not 29).

Today we learned that despite the reprieve from Washington D.C. the local PBS affiliate KEET-TV will follow the original February date to shut down its analog signal, basically because it costs too much money to run both digital and analog feeds and it’s up to them to decide when to switch.  As noted in a Friday press release:

After 40 years of broadcasting on analog Channel 13, KEET-TV, public television for the North Coast, will cease transmission of its over-the-air analog signal after 11:59 p.m. on February 17, 2009. The analog shut-off will only affect viewers that receive their programming with an indoor or outdoor antenna. Cable subscribers will have no interruption of service.

Ron Schoenherr, KEET-TV’s Executive Director said, “There is some understandable confusion over the current legislation moving through Congress dealing with the possibility to continue analog broadcasting until June 12, 2009. KEET-TV’s staff and board of directors made the decision to stick with the originally mandated shut-off date and stop broadcasting our analog signal on February 17. The main consideration was a financial one. To date, KEET-TV has spent almost $2 million to comply with the federally mandated digital conversion, and we are still seeking funds for its completion. The average monthly PG&E bill for operating KEET’s 23-year-old analog transmitter is between $3,000 to $4,000. We simply do not have the funds to continue analog broadcast for another four months.”

In compliance with the federal mandate KEET began broadcasting a digital signal in 2003. In 2007, KEET began broadcasting a high-power digital signal on digital channel 13-1, and added their second channel KEET WORLD, which airs PBS news, public affairs and documentary programming on 13-2. In January of this year, KEET applied to the FCC for permission to terminate analog broadcasting on the originally mandated date of February 17, and has been running public service announcements giving viewers advance notice of the analog cut-off date.

Viewers that receive an over-the-air signal will need to install a converter box that connects to an antenna and television set. In many cases, “rabbit ear” antennas may not work well with digital broadcasting. New digital set-top antennas may also need to be purchased. There is viewer information available on KEET’s website www.keet.org, and questions about the digital conversion may also be directed to dtv@keet-tv.org. Information is also available at www.dtv2009.gov. A good site for antenna information is www.tvfool.com.

That leaves only KIEM Channel 3 for the analoggers post Feb. 17. The NBC affiliate decided to go with Obama’s pushed back June date. And they have an all new set of annoying messages ready to tell you as much.

state-of-californiaedd-closed-cerradoedd-reason-furloughtax-disability-furloughdmv-closeddmv-cerradodfgfurloughlongshotdfg-furlough

(Click on the thumbnails to read the signs.)

Today is the first day of the  Governor’s imposed furlough for many state workers. Some of the “Closed” signs posted on the doors of state offices in Eureka explained the closure — fiscal crisis, big boss’ orders — and some apologized for the inconvenience. Some didn’t, including possibly one of the busiest state offices in town, the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Around 10:30 this morning, cars and pickups were trickling into the DMV’s abnormally empty parking lot; their drivers parked, got out, walked to the window and stood before it — or sat befiore it, in the case of the guy in the wheelchair who levered himself from his car into his chair and rolled to the closed door to read the sign. They scratched their chins, re-read the notice, in Spanish or English, that the DMV would be closed the first and third Fridays of the month (and that there were some services available on the Web), turned around and moseyed back to their cars.

That was the word today from Craig Tucker, Klamath Campaign Coordinator for the Karuk Tribe, as he explained why he, the Karuk Tribe’s Vice Chair Leaf Hillman and commercial fisherman Dave Bitts, of Eureka, are suing the California Department of Fish and Game.

They filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court this morning. The complaint alleges that the DFG is illegally using taxpayer’s money to run its suction dredge mining program — which litigants say allows hobby miners to dredge in places “known to be critical habitat for endangered and at-risk species such as Coho salmon, Pacific lamprey, and green sturgeon,” according to a news release.

DFG was court-ordered to rewrite its suction dredge rules to reflect knowledge of species that were listed for protection after the current rules were written — and it was supposed to have completed the California Environmental Quality Act review process and changed its regulations by June 20 of last year.

That didn’t happen. DFG said it hadn’t the money to do the review. The tribe and others tried legislating change; the governor wouldn’t sign it. Two weeks ago, the Karuk Tribe and a commercial fishermen’s group and others petitioned DFG Director Don Koch to write emergency regulations restricting dredging. They wanted that to be contingent upon the State Water Resources Control Board’s granting half a million bucks to the DFG to do the CEQA review. The money was granted but the petition was rejected.

Thursday evening, DFG spokesperson Jordan Traverso said that, legally, the DFG couldn’t impose emergency regulations based on the criteria the petitioners offered.

So now there’s the lawsuit.  Said Craig Tucker on Thursday by phone:

We’re seeking whatever remedy we can now. If we have to file lawsuits we’ll file lawsuits. This is phenomenally important to the Karuk Tribe. And for those guys not to step up and protect these fish, I just can’t tell you how disappointed we are.

He added that, with all the talk of cuts in state government, the program for “3,000 hobby miners” might be a good place to start.

By 5 p.m. today, DFG Director Koch’s office hadn’t been served with the lawsuit, said Traverso, and so they weren’t ready to comment on it yet.

qna_groupphoto_110708_tbd2
At the premiere showing in San Francisco at the American Indian Film Festival, left to right: Steve Michelson, DVD producer; Leaf Hillman, Vice-Chair, Karuk Tribe; Lyle Marshall,  Chair, Hoopa Valley Tribe; Merk Oliver, Yurok Tribe; Ray Matz, Yurok Tribe; Stephen Most, author of River of Renewal (book and film). Photo by Thomas B. Dunklin

The Klamath River, in all of its beauty and turmoil, runs through the consciousness of many. And it’s always in the news: fish dying, parasites swarming, dams dropping (perhaps), farmers shaking hands with fishermen, powers-that-be talking.

So we just wanted to remind you of several screenings this week and weekend of River of Renewal. The 54-minute documentary directed by Carlos Bolado is based on Stephen Most’s book River of Renewal: Myth and History in the Klamath Basin.

The film won Best Documentary Feature at the 2008 American Indian Film Festival. Covering the territory from the farms in the dry upper basin on down the river to the ocean, it tells the story of the water war and ecological crises in the Klamath Basin through the eyes of Jack Kohler — a Welsh-Yurok/Karuk who grew up in San Francisco.

The screenings:

Today, Feb. 5, 5:30-7 p.m. at Founders Hall 118 at Humboldt State University. Stephen Most will be there.

Friday, Feb. 6, 6 p.m. at the Yurok Tribal Headquarters in Klamath. Most will be there to answer questions. And, Troy Fletcher, the Yurok Tribe’s Policy Analyst and lead negotiator in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement talks, will talk about those negotiations as well about the recent Agreement in Principle between the stakeholders and federal and state leaders to remove the dams.

Saturday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m. at the College of the Redwoods campus in Crescent City. Fisheries geo-videologist Thomas B. Dunklin — the guy who took that incredible photo of a Pacific lamprey on the cover of our paper last week — will be screening some salmon footage before the documentary.

Sunday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m. at Westhaven Center for the Arts at 7 pm.

We have been chided, on occasion, for only focusing on the bad. The bad. And the bad. And, you know, the bad. And so on. C’mon, there’s gotta be some good news coming from the College of the Redwoods.

Well, of course there is. Tons of it, like interesting profs doing interesting stuff, that kind of thing (enough with the gratuitous linkage, ya say). There’s also that particularly fantastic news that CR will be getting $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to develop 12 job-training programs aimed to steer students toward the “targets of opportunity” types of jobs that experts are saying define our evolving new economy here in Humboldt.

And then there’s the “whew,” brow-wiping great news, delivered by e-mail to us today from CR’s  Director of Communications and Marketing, Paul Demark: “CR receives Accreditation clean slate”

We’re just going to give you the whole dang news release, for now:

CR receives Accreditation clean slate: commission removes college from warning status

College of the Redwoods received notice on Wednesday, Feb. 4 that it had been removed from accreditation warning status and given a clean slate by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) following the Commission’s semi-annual meeting in January.

“We are delighted that the accrediting commission recognized the hard work of the College of the Redwoods faculty, staff, administration and Board of Trustees to address its concerns regarding our accreditation,” CR President Jeff Marsee said. “The Commission has identified several other issues that we need to continue working on.

“This news sends the message to the community that CR is back and continues to deliver the excellent academic and career technical education for which it has always been known.”

When CR was notified in February 2006 by the ACCJC that it had been placed on warning status, there were four areas of concern the commission identified. Those four areas have now been addressed to the commission’s satisfaction. Marsee stressed that CR continued to be fully accredited by the commission during the last three years it was on sanction.

“At no time did the accrediting commission criticize the academic excellence of its faculty or the services provided to the community,” Marsee added.

ACCJC President Barbara Beno in a letter to Marsee wrote that CR had “addressed the self-identified plans for improvement which were included in the institutional self study. The institution is commended for achievements to date and to take the recommendations of the commission seriously.”

CR recently completed its draft Educational Master Plan 2009-2020, which it submitted to the commission, and is currently working on its draft Facilities Master Plan 2009-2020. In her letter, Beno said, “The commission expects the college to continue its momentum, sustain the achievements to date and completely resolve the remaining issues related to the integrated planning and Educational Master Plan.”

Marsee said that CR accepts the challenge to continue developing its long-range planning and is fully confident that those  goals will be met.
###

Checking my RSS feed for Humboldt blogs this morning, I came across a surprising story on Heraldo titled “Crawford heads Chamber” saying:

Eureka political dude and Humboldt Herald regular Chris Crawford is the new head of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce.

Hearty congratulations were doled out at Tuesday’s Eureka City Council meeting.

Crawford is an outspoken opponent of Measure T, a campaign finance reform initiative that was overturned in the courts last year. Nevertheless, Crawford keeps pounding the issue like it still matters.

Crawford replaces J. Warran Hockaday as Chamber mucky muck.

Now I have to say, the idea that Chris was taking over as head of the chamber was not surprising, it was the last line that jumped out at me. J Warren has been executive director for as long as I can remember and it did not make sense that he’d step down, nor that Crawford would move into that position. When I tried to look at the post to see if anyone had anything to say about it, I got a page saying this:

Not Found

Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t here.

Wondering what happened, I shot an email to Heraldo who replied:

I took it down this morning because I wasn’t sure if Crawford is replacing Hockaday, or if Crawford is now just top cheese in some other way.  Do you know?

Well, I did not know, but a quick phone call and an anonymous conversation with the chamber receptionist was all it took to find out that Crawford is the new president of the chamber board replacing Dennis Hunter who served in that position for four years and apparently has a few other things to do.

I mention all this, not merely to embarrass Heraldo for jumping to conclusions and for the (quickly removed) gaff, but because it’s an example of a basic flaw in blogging: For the most part bloggers don’t really see themselves as reporters and won’t take the time to do something basic like fact check.  For all the hew and cry about how citizen journalists are going to replace newspapers, most bloggers rely on newspapers (and their reporters) as their primary sources and simply supply second-hand news. Now this is perhaps being overly hard on Heraldo, who has in fact broken stories that none of my collegues knew about — let’s call it a learning experience.  So, what did we learn?

The Eureka-based construction firm Mercer Fraser, well known for its work on roads and highways locally and around the north state, last week agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit charging that the company defrauded the federal government while bidding on several highway projects dating back to at least 2005. The suit, which was filed in Sacramento federal court in 2007, charged that the company falsely posed as a small business during the bidding process, thus giving it an unfair advantage over rival bidders.

In a press release announcing the settlement, Acting United States Attorney Lawrence G. Brown noted that Mercer Fraser denied any wrongdoing in the matter. And on Tuesday, Vice President Justin Zabel confirmed that the company believed that it had acted properly when it applied for small business status with the federal government. The decision to settle the case, Zabel said, was purely a matter of putting the suit in the past.

“We had to make a business decision — do we try to fight it and pay millions and millions of dollars?” he said. “Eventually we decided that we should pay it and move on.”

The lawsuit, which was originally filed by a private individual named Mark Mann, charged that Mercer Fraser deceived the government in two ways: By not disclosing its relationship with the Contri Construction Company of Reno, Nev. and by identifying itself as primarily a gravel and sand supplier rather than a heavy construction firm. (The company operates several gravel processing sites in the county.) The complaint charged that the two factors, taken together, allowed Mercer Fraser to illegally qualify for standing under the federal government’s HUBZone Empowerment Contracting program, which was set up to give preferential treatment to small businesses from “historically underutilized business zones.” The federal government eventually endorsed and joined Mann’s suit.

But Zabel said that Mercer Fraser completely disclosed its business relationship with the much larger Contri Construction Company, which owns a large stake in the Eureka firm, and that personnel from the HUBZone program signed off at the time the company applied. He said that Mercer Fraser was contacted by the program after the company filled out its original application online, asking for details on Contri Construction, and that Mercer fully complied with the request.

“The government just said, ‘No, this looks good, you’re fine, congratulations,’” Zabel said Tuesday. As for the Mercer Fraser’s designation as primarily a sand and gravel operation, Zabel said that it was the HUBZone computer system that hung that on them; the computer application required the company to list all its business activities, he said, and it decided to spit back sand and gravel as its primary designation.

Mann, the original complainant, is only identified in the lawsuit as “an individual who has worked for a competitor and supplier of the defendant corporations [Mercer Fraser and Contri Construction].” As the initiator of the matter, he is entitled to receive 15 percent or more of the proceeds from the settlement. The Journal was unable to locate Mann, and calls to his attorney were not returned by press time.

Mercer Fraser has done over $30 million worth of business with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration since 2000. Just over half of that total comes from single 2006 contract for work to reconstruct the Oroville-Quincy Highway in Butte and Plumas counties. In addition, the company does frequent work for the County of Humboldt and other local governmental entities.

The last time the company made news, a couple of months ago, it was for winning a legal case: Mercer Fraser was one of two companies that sued the county over Measure T, the 2006 citizens’ initiative that sought to ban “non-local” corporations from contributing to local political campaigns. After the companies won an initial, pre-trial decision in that case, county government agreed to drop enforcement of the measure.

gay_marriage

March 5. That’s the day Prop 8 will be challenged in court, according to this story in today’s Sacramento Bee.  The controversial state ban on gay marraige, approved by a slim margin on Nov. 4, has been legally challenged by three parties as unconstitutional. Seating’s limited in the San Francisco courtroom, so you may want to check with your cable provider to see if you get the California Channel:

To increase public access, the court will allow the California Channel, a public affairs cable network, to provide a live TV broadcast of the session.

The court must issue a decision within 90 days of the start-date. Stay tuned.

crazy-cabbie-caveman-dragging-woman-by-hair-in-hoboken

Google’s ongoing little-big stunt gets another round of scrutiny. The writer of the piece goes on a fair bit about how criminals might use the maps and snaps to burgle you while you were away…. He also refers often to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat‘s boot-leathering which found that the Google bug traveled down more than 100 private drives in Sonoma County alone with that nosy camera, and says it had every right to do that. ‘course, there’s a lawsuit. And there’s at least one angry woman in Humboldt.

Clarification: Google claims it was within its rights to take pics on the private roads, not the Press Dem.

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