Monthly Archives: January 2010

Sometimes a Great Notion

I’m rereading Sometimes a Great Notion and came across this mention of Eureka. Check it out. – Jack

…all up and down the West Coast, there are little towns much like Wakonda. Up as far as Victoria and down as far as Eureka. Towns dependent on what they are able to wrest from the sea in front of them and from the mountains behind, trapped between both. Towns all hamstrung by geographic economies, by rubber-stamp mayors and chambers of commerce, by quagmire time… canneries all peeling dollar-a-quart Army surplus paint, mills all sprouting moss between curling shingles… all so nearly alike that they might be nested one inside the other like hollow toys. Wiring all corroding, machinery all decaying. People all forever complaining about tough times and trouble, about bad work and worse pay, about cold winds blowing and colder winters coming…

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County to Perform Wildlife Hazard Study at Arcata-Eureka Airport

Here’s the raw press release from the airport:

County to Perform Wildlife Hazard Study at Arcata-Eureka Airport

The Humboldt County Public Works Department -Division of Aviation is embarking on a 12-month Wildlife Hazard Assessment (WHA) to identify wildlife species and habitat conditions on and near the Arcata-Eureka Airport that could pose potential hazards to aircraft.  Arcata Eureka Airport serves as Humboldt County’s regional commercial airport and is certified to operate as a commercial airport by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 139 Certification program.

The Aviation Division is undertaking the study at the request of the FAA, who will determine whether a wildlife management plan will be needed at the airport.  “FAA has always expressed concern about potential wildlife hazards,” said Jacquelyn Hulsey, Airport Manager, “but FAA has placed greater emphasis on identifying and managing potential hazards since U.S. Airways flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River last January.”  That flight was forced to make an emergency landing after it struck a flock of Canada geese while departing from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

The purpose of the WHA is three-fold:  to identify potentially hazardous wildlife species on and near the airport; to analyze wildlife attractants on and in the airport vicinity; and to provide recommendations to avoid potential hazards.  The WHA will include bi-monthly monitoring at specified locations to determine the presence, abundance, and behavior of wildlife species and their habitats.

The WHA team is being led by Mead & Hunt, aviation consultants.  Local biologists and ornithologists from Mad River Biologists, a Eureka-based environmental consulting firm, will conduct the biological monitoring.  Technical oversight will be provided by Dr. Russell DeFusco of BASH, Inc, a FAA-certified Wildlife Hazard Damage Biologist who trains biologists and airport operators nationwide about issues pertaining to wildlife hazard management. The team will assist the Aviation Division in the development of a Wildlife Hazard Assessment report that the County will provide to the FAA.

To be successful, the WHA will depend on input from diverse contributors, including airport staff, tenants, pilots, regulatory agencies with jurisdiction over natural resources, and area residents.  The Aviation Division will host a public workshop early next year (2011) to share the results of the draft WHA and obtain input from interested stakeholders.

“One of the great things about Humboldt County is its abundance of natural resources—especially wildlife,” said Ms. Hulsey, “and the Aviation Division strives to be a responsible steward.  We are committed to providing a safe operating environment for the traveling public while minimizing the effects of airport operations on wildlife.  When aircraft and wildlife encounter one another, there is no winner.  We want to be a good neighbor by preventing or reducing the risk of such encounters.”

For questions about the Aviation Division’s upcoming study, please contact Ms. Emily Jacobs, Program Coordinator, by telephone (707-839-5401) or email (ejacobs@co.humboldt.ca.us).

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Hislop to run for Sheriff

From the jan. 6, 2010 issue

By Daniel Mintz
Press Staff Writer

Saying he’s taking “the next logical step” in a law enforcement career that’s spanned 30 years, District Attorney’s Office Chief Investigator Mike Hislop has announced his candidacy for county sheriff.
In an interview, Hislop said his priorities would be community outreach and fiscal responsibility if he’s elected.
He’ll be running against Undersheriff Mike Downey, who’s been with the Sheriff’s Office 24 years and has the support of retiring Sheriff Gary Philp.
Hislop also has the support of his boss, District Attorney Paul Gallegos, and he said his experience as a Eureka Police Department field training officer, detective and sergeant combined with his management-level investigative work for the DA’s Office gives him “a wider perspective on how the criminal justice system works.”
He added, “I will use all of my experience, along with my professionalism, to bring the Sheriff’s Office up to a higher level.”
Part of that would involve improving community relations.         “Typically in law enforcement, there’s a disconnect between the law enforcement agency and the community that it works for,” said Hislop. “I would narrow that gap.”
He also stressed the importance of financial management as a recession and budget deficits continue.             Overtime costs need to be controlled, Hislop continued, and he said his successful grant-writing efforts have done that in the DA’s Office.
Asked about crime trends that concern him, Hislop said methamphetamine use is related to violent crime.
“We need to think outside the box and come up with some inventive ways to attack that problem – if we effectively attack the methamphetamine problem, I think we’re going to lower the violent crime rate,” he continued.
For years, meth suppression has been described as a priority law enforcement goal. But recently, the prevalence of marijuana growing has gotten more publicity. It’s been associated with robberies and sometimes, violent crime.
Hislop acknowledged those impacts but distinguished between legal and illegal cultivation.         “We don’t make the laws up, we enforce them,” he said. “If people stay within the (Proposition) 215 guidelines, they’re going to be okay, they’re not going to be in trouble.”
The Sheriff’s Office’s most notable controversy has probably stemmed from the teaming of deputies with code enforcement officers.
“Code enforcement needs to be its own entity,” Hislop said, adding that the back-up of deputies is an option.
“But only if there are officer safety issues and not because of a preemptive strike on marijuana grows,” he continued.
Of the cases he’s worked on as a DA investigator, Hislop regards the successful cold case investigation into the 1990 killing of Curtis Huntzinger as the most memorable. It resulted in the arrest and conviction of Huntzinger’s killer, Steven Daniel Hash, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence, and the recovery of Huntzinger’s body.
“We solved the crime and brought closure to the family, which is very important in the Native American culture,” Hislop said.
Another important case, he continued, is that of “a certain police chief we were able to prosecute,” a reference to the prosecution of former Blue Lake Police Chief Dave Gundersen.
Gundersen was acquitted of the 12 counts of spousal rape that were brought against him but was convicted of taking nude photos of his wife without her permission and of illegally possessing weapons.
“I firmly believe that police need to police themselves,” said Hislop. With the Gundersen case, he continued, “We were able to clean our own house and I’m proud of that.”
The County is setting up a Citizens’ Law Enforcement Liaison Committee, and one of its provisions will be the capability to bring in an independent auditor – essentially an outside investigator – to probe controversial incidents involving deputies.
It would depend on approval of the sheriff. Hislop said the work of an auditor would be limited because of personnel issues and the inability to access information while internal investigations are going on.
But he supports using the committee as a “sounding board” and views it as “part of establishing a better connection with the community.”

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Mack Town considers dog park

From the jan. 6, 2010 issue

By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer

Does McKinleyville need a fenced dog park? This question was debated at the MCSD Recreational Advisory Committee at its December meeting, and the answer was an enthusiastic yes.
Although Hiller Park is viewed as a “dog park,” it only has one area where dogs are allowed to run off leash, and that is the meadow which is west of the split rail fence.
Dogs are supposed to be leashed in all other areas of the park, and on the adjacent Hammond Trail.
Many people violate this rule.
“The problem is enforcement,” said Parks and Recreation Director Jason Sehon.
“You can have all the signs in the world, but if you don’t have enforcement, the signs don’t do any good,” he explained.
“People drive up and open up their car doors and let their dogs run out, while they sit in their cars and eat lunch and read, and don’t even get out of their car,” Sehon said.
Loose dogs sometimes fight and harass pedestrians and bicyclists using the park’s trails, committee members observed.
A fenced area with gates is a necessity if dogs are to have an area where they can run free without bothering other park-users.
“The park has many different kinds of users, and we want to keep everybody happy,” said Sehon. “Right now we’re not accomplishing that. If we had a fenced area, we’d be able to give dog owners a place to go.”
Sehon said that in recent years, the number of places where dogs can run free has diminished sharply. People come from neighboring communities to use the park because there are so few dog-friendly areas left.
“A dog park would be good for McKinleyville,” observed Jeff Dunk. “People will stop there when they’re traveling, if the park is on maps. And for residents, it’s just a five-minute drive from anywhere in town.”
“I’ve been going to that ‘dog park’ for six or seven years,” said a woman, referring to the Hiller Park meadow.
“It really has enriched my life. I know more dogs’ names now than I do people’s,” she joked.
The meadow gets chewed up by gophers, and in the past, neighborhood residents have organized work parties to fill holes, so that their dogs can safely run there.
Sehon said that the Parks Dept. had salvaged a lot of chain link fencing from the former ball field behind the Safeway, and that could be used for a fence.
A subcommittee was formed to figure out what it would cost to build and maintain a dog park, and how to involve the community in reaching that goal.

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What’s up with Trinidad’s website?

From the Jan. 6, 2010 issue:

By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer

Trinidad residents are wondering why their city’s new website is not yet fully functional, eight months after a contract was signed with a website developer.
They are also wondering why the city manager chose a person of apparently limited experience to build the city’s site, why the choice of developer or the contract never appeared before the City Council, and why the city manager may have exceeded his budget to hire the developer.
Nearly all local cities have adequate websites that provide their residents with information about the city’s activities, policies, and issues. Some allow residents to take care of city business online.
Even the smallest local cities, such as Blue Lake (bluelake.ca.gov) and Ferndale (ci.ferndale.ca.us) were able to build functional websites for only a couple of thousand dollars each.
Trinidad’s website, http://www.trinidad.ca.gov on the other hand, has been limping along as a work-in-progress for several months. For most of that time, even the most rudimentary information, such as the names of the city councilmembers, could not be found on it.
Oddly enough, the city took down a functional website built by a different consultant to replace it with the current one.
Over the past two weeks, when the McKinleyville Press began investigating this issue, remarkable progress has been made on the site. Some basic information has been added, the aesthetics have improved, and some amateurishly broken links were repaired.
But the city still has a long way to go, and residents are wondering just what the problem is.
Unlike other cities’ websites, the Trinidad website no longer contains the records of prior council, planning commission, and committee meetings. This material was posted on the previous website, but is no longer available.
Trinidad’s decades-old original General Plan is on the site, but not the current draft updates, even though the city says it is actively seeking input from the public on this material.
A proposed change in water rates is being considered by the city council. That material is supposed to be on the website, but has never been posted.
Reports, paid for with taxpayer’s money, that used to be online have vanished. General Plan update documents, information about business licenses, and zoning ordinances cannot be found on the site.
Trinidad resident Kim Tays said that she used to rely on the city’s website to follow and understand public affairs, but has found the new site to be useless.
“All of the important documents from past meetings are missing,” she said, referring to the new website. “All of the documents that used to be on the City’s website about controversial issues…. are gone.”     In February, 2009, City Manager Steve Albright told the council that he was looking for a company to design a new website for the city. Although Humboldt County and cyberspace in general are swarming with web designers, there are no records showing that the city ever advertised for the services of a professional designer.
At the April 8 City Council meeting, during the course of a routine staff report, Albright said that he had found the right person to do the job.
A vaguely worded contract, lacking even a completion date, was signed on April 14 between David Peake and Albright, in which Peake promised to develop the site in exchange for the rock-bottom price of $1,500.
Peake, a member of the Trinidad Chamber of Commerce, owns and manages local vacation rental properties. Peake told the Press that he had built “dozens of websites” but declined to name any of them.
The website advertising his business, http://www.davidpeakedesigns.com was launched on March 10th, four days after he made an initial proposal to the city.
Most developers use their websites to display their finest work, but Peake’s website is almost devoid of content, showing only the name of his company and a logo on an otherwise blank page.  A Google search for this company did not bring up any sites that Peake had designed.
In August or September, the city’s existing website was taken down.  It was not replaced by anything at all for a period of time and when a new site finally came back up, it had little content.
Peake said that he was hampered by not knowing which documents the city considered important enough to upload. He said that Trinidad’s documents were obscurely titled, giving little indication of their contents.
Albright said that he and City Clerk Gabe Adams were still learning the new software that allows city staff to upload documents. He said they still needed frequent consultations with Peake, and with all their other duties, did not have time to give much attention to the website.
The City Council never saw or discussed the contract signed between Peake and the city.
Albright said that signing such a contract was well within the limits of his authority as city manager, and that it didn’t need to go before the council.
However, former members of the council say that there is a $500 limit on expenditures that don’t have to be approved by the council.  The contract with Peake is $1,500, well over that amount.     Former Mayor Chi-Wei Lin said that if a proposed expenditure is listed in the city budget, it does not need to go before the council, as long as it is under the amount specified in the budget.
However, the amount budgeted for information technology is only $1,000, and that includes payments to other contractors for various services.

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Earthquake meeting in Mack Town

The following arrived via email after we already went to press. Here’s the raw, unedited  email just in case anyone is interested:

This Saturday 1/16…The RED CROSS will be holding an EARTHQUAKE & TSUNAMI PREPAREDNESS MEETING in McKinleyville (Murray Road Community Church on 1490 Murray Road). 12-2pm. FREE. Contact Catherine (707) 497-8783 with questions. Materials free. Soup Kitchen will be open (free). Bring someone.

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MCSD TAPES DESTROYED?

From the Dec.30, 2009 issue:

By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer

Tom Marking, the former manager of the McKinleyville Community Services District (MCSD), has apparently disposed of recent audio recordings of board meetings, along with the archives.
The board had instructed Marking to find an archiving agency, such as a library, to entrust with the recordings.
Instead, Marking apparently threw the archived recordings away just before he vacated his position as manager in May 2009.
This came to light last month when the county library offered to store the recordings for the agency.
The matter has brought accusations from the public that Marking had violated district policy and the wishes of the MCSD Board of Directors.
The MCSD’s minutes of monthly board meetings are relatively skeletal, so the only public records with details of the board’s deliberations and how are the audio recordings.
Public agencies are obligated to keep permanent records of the events that happen during their board meetings.
At the very least, they must keep minutes, written records which describe the legal actions taken during the meeting, such as resolutions passed or failed, how members voted, and the names of speakers.
Depending upon the agency’s policy, minutes can be very brief, or they can contain a great deal of detail about what went on.
For years, MCSD’s minutes were very detailed, but at thr recommendation of former Manager Marking, the board instructed its secretary to reduce them to a minimal level.
At present, the minutes only document the board’s official actions, and include one-sentence summaries of whatever discussion occurred.
Most agencies also choose to tape their meetings as well, using video recording if the agency can afford it or sound recording if the agency is on a lower budget.  That way, anybody can re-visit the meeting and get a more complete picture as to what went on.
MCSD has routinely audio-recorded its meetings for decades, first using cassette tapes and two months ago upgrading to digital recordings.
Board decides to archive records
In July 2008, at the request of then-president John Corbett, the MCSD Board of Directors reviewed its policies for keeping old records.
Director Bill Wennerholm at that time made a motion to keep the tapes of the meetings for one year, and then to destroy them, unless a bona fide repository agreed to accept them.
Such a repository would be, for example, a library or a historical society where professional archivists preserve and file the records, while still allowing public access to them.
The motion to keep the tapes for a year was seconded by Director Jeff Dunk, approved by Wennerholm, Dunk and Corbett, the only three board members present at that meeting.
Marking was instructed to keep all tapes for at least a year and to find an agency to accept them afterwards.
But before the month was over, then-manager Tom Marking ordered his secretary, Sharon Denison, to box up all the tape recordings, including those which had just recently been made.
He then carried the boxes out of the building. Nobody knows what happened to them, although staff members assume the tapes were destroyed.
There is no record of Marking or any staff member attempting to find a repository for the tapes.
A phone call to Marking from the Press was not returned by press time.
Only three boxes of tape recordings, from 1994 to 1996, survived the purge.
The missing tapes came to light after MCSD Norman Shopay, who replaced Marking, followed through on the board’s request that an agency be found to store the recordings after one year.
At the November 18 meeting of the MCSD board, County Librarian Melinda Landry offered to store copies of the CDs made from recording the meetings, so that the public would have a way of listening to them. She suggested storing them for a period of five years.
The board passed a motion, agreeing to give the library a copy of each CD made from recordings of the meeting, and to retain the original recordings indefinitely.
At the Nov. 19 meeting, the issue of the missing tapes generated a lot of public comment.
Several people expressed dismay that the previous manager had disobeyed the board’s directive by allegedly destroying recordings that were less than a year old.
Wennerholm, however, was unimpressed.
“Those tapes are not legal documents,” he said. “They only have historical value.”
Some members of the audience disagreed with him, pointing out that the courts have at times expressed great interest in tape recordings.
Denison said that the MCSD office still has tapes recorded between July 2008 and the present, although the quality of the older tapes is not good.
At the MCSD board’s Dec. 16 meeting, McKinleyville resident Ron Coffman said that Marking had violated district policy.
“These tapes were an important way to get historical context, continuity, and accountability to the Board,” he said.
Coffman and Wennerholm soon got into a verbal confrontation, and tempers flared. Wennerholm, at one point, threatened to remove Coffman from the room if he continued to speak out of turn.

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