For the Curiously Aware of Humboldt County…
By Skippy Massey
THREE SIDES OF THE SAME COIN:
Investigators are continuing to investigate an explosion and fire Tuesday night that burned a Church Street apartment building in Eureka leaving an 18-year-old in critical condition with severe burns on 60 percent of his body and a female inhabitant suffering from inhalation burns, the Times-Standard reported. They were transported by helicopter to a medical burn unit at UC Davis Medical Center. Much of the building burned, leaving 8-10 individuals homeless and damages of nearly $500,000. Humboldt Bay Firefighters fighting the blaze came upon several butane canisters and a device for extracting concentrated THC from marijuana inside the residence.
Fire investigators don’t think the hashish extractor was the source of the actual fire but noted any spark or flame could have ignited exposed gas within the apartment. A hashish extractor device is filled with marijuana and butane is forced through it removing the THC. The substance that drips out of the device is the concentrated THC, or hashish. Individuals using these extraction devices often work in areas with poor ventilation, and the butane fumes can pose very dangerous hazards.
The source of the blaze is under investigation.
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$2.9 million in drug asset seizures for the past three years has the Humboldt County Drug Task Force basking in some serious money. Where does all the confiscated drug dough go? Perhaps the $170 per night poolside hotel accommodations for Drug Task Force members and their families near the Happiest Place on Earth—Disneyland– was a reasonable bon voyage training venture. Or the $400 custom-made boots? How did the DTF spend the rest of the $1.5 million in seized funds over the past five years anyway?
The North Coast Journal’s Zach St. George looked into the spending records and the expensive highlife of Humboldt’s drug cops in his article, Drug Money. Humboldt County seized 12 times more money per capita in forfeiture than California does as a whole. Two-thirds of that money goes to local law enforcement agencies in the County, St. George says.
“Last year the Sheriff’s Office took home $200,000, the District Attorney’s office $100,000, and The Drug Task Force got $500,000,” St. George reported. The North Coast Journal also kindly listed the names and amounts of Humboldt County’s 25 largest seizures for you to know.
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On a similar note, exactly how large is the impact of marijuana on Humboldt County’s economy? How much money does a marijuana grower make? What’s life like for “trimmers” – the itinerant farm workers of the marijuana world? A lot of figures have been bandied about. Humboldt’s readers and listeners demand answers for their enquiring minds.
These questions and supposedly more are explored in “The Humboldt Chronicles,” a radio documentary series from Lost Coast Communications starting February 2. Hosted by Southern Humboldt journalist Kym Kemp and produced by Mike Dronkers and Chuck Rogers, the series explores how marijuana cultivation plays a role in Humboldt County life – as economic driver, a touchstone of culture, an environmental burden (or boon), a source of violent crime, and a medical cure-all, depending on your point of view.
If you missed the Humboldt Chronicles debut, you can catch the interviews with a banker, grower, business owner, and economist in the podcast replay here.
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SNIPPETS, RUMORS, HEARSAY MURMURS, AND THE LINKS: “Money”
Money doesn’t talk. Talk is cheap. Money screams.
OCCUPY THE OCCUPY: Time for a counter-revolution? According to the Times-Standard, “A rally is being held Friday afternoon, February from 4 to 6 p.m., at the Humboldt County Courthouse by community members who want the front of the courthouse cleaned up and unfenced. Organizer Julie Salminen said the purpose of the rally is to show the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and Eureka City Council that people want the area restored. ‘We want it cleaned up over there,’ Salminen said.”
“More than 250 people are anticipated to attend the rally. Salminen said people are tired of the occupiers that have taken over the courthouse entrance. She said courthouse workers have been accosted and some have even been assaulted. She said people should be allowed to protest but that things have gotten out of control. ‘It’s costing a lot of money with everything that’s going on,’ Salminen said about the fencing and law enforcement patrols.”
We hope protesters and counter-protesters keep a safe distance from one another and cooler heads will prevail. Protesting, like politics, has become the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.
WHO KNOWS WHAT’S GOING ON: KINS radio’s Brian Papstein sat down and interviewed Eureka citizen and business magnate Robin Arkley. You can listen to it here . According to the Humboldt Herald’s take of the talk shop interview, Mr. Arkley says the Marina Center will see Coastal Commission progress by fall and Security National will be hiring 100 more employees over the next 18 months. He also offers his view on unions, the Keystone pipeline project, Mitt Romney, and liberals taking advantage (though the words ‘rape’ and ‘nailing’ were reportedly used) of today’s youth. We suggest listening to the interview and making up one’s own informed assumptions.
A big mountain of sugar is too much for one man. We can see now why God portions it out in those little packets for the rest of us.
ERNIE’S Place gives readers a brief progress report for restoring some portion of Southern Humboldt’s $450,000 in school bus transportation funding following last week’s road rage protest by residents, students, and staff at the State Capitol. Don’t mess with the SoHum parents. They’re not about to let schooling interfere with an education.
RAIL RECALL: Fred’s Humboldt Blog thinks “Governor Brown should face a recall over his continued fiscal support of the High Speed Rail project. The state has a continuing large deficit and supposedly can’t pay for what many consider essential government services, yet he steadfastly supports HSR,” Fred says. Originally voter approved to the tune of $9 billion, the High Speed Rail project could skyrocket upwards of $133 billion if it gathers traction. Meg Whitman will undoubtedly foist another media blitz of obnoxiously expensive radio and television ads upon us again should Fred’s recall efforts succeed. Thank you, Fred.
JUST SAY NO to unincorporated kids. The McKinleyville Community Services District voted Wednesday not to designate Pierson Park as the site of a skate park for kids, much to the consternation of supporters. The MCSD said it’s simply keeping all of its options available for a skate park site to be located anywhere the District deems worthy. Skate enthusiasts who raised almost $100,000 in donations are understandably confused by the adult’s setback. You can be young without money, but you can’t be old without it. Where’s major domo skate park politico Jeff Leonard when you need him most?
CO-OPTED: The North Coast Co-op General Manager David Lippmann reported the Eureka and Arcata stores have been experiencing annual losses of $275,000. He reports there’s still nearly $1 million in long-term debt from the construction of the Arcata store “ten or twelve years ago.” Payroll expenses, taxes, and benefits consume almost $4 million per year, or 26% of operating expenses. Profit margins on food are a slim 2 percent at best after the bills have been paid, Mr. Lippmann reports. The good news is the Co-op is a $30 million a year business. The bad news is sales are $600,000 below target. Their 2011-12 year-to-date earnings—profit—amounted to a paltry $59,000.
Relax, Co-op members, it’s much worse than you think. Given the consistently exorbitant price of the Co-op’s food and worker’s benefits, they’ll do what they’ve always reliably done: stay cool, calm, …and collect. Money flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana.
OUCH, THAT SMARTS: Forgoing your PG&E smart meter may cost you up to $195. And that’s just for starters. The California Public Utilities Commission approved a proposal Wednesday to charge residential customers an initial fee of $75 plus $10 each month if they don’t want to have the wireless ‘smart meters’ installed in their homes. Low income customers would pay $70, an initial fee of $10 plus an extra $5 per month to avoid installation of the wireless devices.
Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is. Fortunately, PG&E loves your money and their smart meters.
BETTER NEWS FOR JOB SEEKERS IN 2012: Companies are saying the job market is getting better and workers are saying it’s already kicked into high gear. Friday’s jobs report showed a national gain of 243,000 jobs and a separate survey using households to determine the unemployment rate showed far stronger job gains. 2 million jobs have been added in the past six months, the best job gain since August 2005 and preceding the Great Recession beginning in late 2007. The unemployment rate has dropped for the past five consecutive months. Friday’s Dow Jones Industrial Average roared to 12,862 making it the highest close since May of 2008.
When pressed, Newt Gingrinch begrudgingly told reporters, “If it makes you happy, give him (Obama) some credit.” Misery loves company.
SPANK THE BANK AND STASH YOUR CA$H: In response to November’s call for a nationwide “Bank Transfer Day,” about 610,000 consumers switched from a big bank to a credit union or smaller community bank. According to a recent research survey, roughly 11 percent of the 5.6 million people switching banks during the three-month period cited “Bank Transfer Day” as their reason. While it certainly didn’t produce the mass exodus of customers that many banks may have feared, it was nonetheless significant. The number of “angry bank-switchers” leaving their bank was nearly triple for those walking out for similar reasons in 2010.
Although one credit union reporting the November publicity prompted a jump in inquiries and customers opening 1,500 new accounts– a 30 percent increase compared to 2010– it’s not clear exactly how big banks were affected by Bank Transfer Day. None are releasing figures. Wells Fargo reported a 3.2 percent net increase in consumer checking deposits for the fourth quarter last year, compared with 2010. Bank of America didn’t even bother to report transfer details for consumer checking accounts and declined to comment.
Analysts say banks are still set to raise fees increasing their bottom line. Banks will still loan you money if you can prove you don’t need it. Raises and bonuses for everyone– except you.
FOLLOW THE MONEY: The City of Eureka was awarded a $26,000 judgement from notorious slumlords Floyd and Betty Squires. We hope they don’t raise the rent. From the City’s press release:
The Humboldt County Superior Court has granted the City of Eureka’s motion for Attorneys’ Fees against Floyd and Betty Squires. The City was awarded the entire amount requested of $26,521.26. The City requested reimbursement of the fees it had incurred when it was forced to defend a lawsuit filed by the Squires against the City claiming that the City had no basis to enforce code violations for substandard housing at numerous properties owned by the Squires.
The City continues to move forward in its lawsuit against the Squires for substandard housing at numerous properties within the City of Eureka.
ABOVE IT ALL: Fortuna’s local blog, Above the Fold has come up with their ‘possible solution’ for dealing with the unsightly houseless issue in the Friendly City: “Send the building inspector out to the houseless camps on Fortuna Boulevard and levee fines for the many rule infractions–including improper tent installation and lack of plumbing.” Yup. Fees, fines, and money will certainly do the trick for those tentees not having any. We pine for the good old days when tar paper shacks and real wood shanties were in vogue.
A SLUMBER TO REMEMBER: Don’t snooze overnight in your vehicle in Arcata. Not only is it a crime, it’s a business, too. An expensive proposition for snoring scofflaws who’ve had it too good for too long, it’s time to wake up, smell the coffee, and pay up for drowsy misdeeds and sleepytime misbehavior. Just ante up like these visitors did, posting their Humboldt forty-wink memories on the Ollie blog site. Their $35 fine—each—mushroomed to $155 after the gratuitous fees were tacked on shamelessly by the scales of justice:
As we mentioned in a previous post, we recently got tickets (one each) for sleeping in our vehicle in Arcata. $155 each. We called the phone number on the ticket immediately, and were told that our information wouldn’t be uploaded into their computer system for at least two weeks — we’d have to stay in Arcata and try again. Two weeks passed, and we called back. We scheduled a date to appear in court, hoping to have the fine reduced.
We appeared at the Superior Court in Eureka yesterday, and the clerk (who was friendly, at least) informed us that we’d be able to meet with a court-appointed attorney before seeing a judge. Upon entering the courtroom, however, the judge told everyone– about 10 people with different infractions– that we did not have the right to a court-appointed attorney, and that we each had two, and only two, choices:
1) plead guilty and pay the fine in full, or,
2) plead not guilty and schedule another court appearance in a month or so.
We were, needless to say, really ready to leave Humboldt County, so we pled guilty and were charged $155 each.
Oddly, when we spoke with the judge, he told us that the fine for “camping in a vehicle- first offense” was no more than $50. Why are we being charged $155, then? Court fees. What court fees? Well the friendly clerk broke it down for us, and because I’m pissed, I’m going to type it all out for you:
$1.76 County general fund
$3.92 DNA Add’l (?)
$3.92 St Crt Facility
$3.92 EMS Add’l
$1.96 DNA Add’l
$1.96 DNA Funding
$5.88 SB1732 Penalties
$13.72 State Penalty Fund
$5.88 County Penalty Assessment
$3.92 Courthouse Construction Fund
$5.88 Criminal Justice Facilities Fund
$3.92 Emergency Med Services
$17.84 Arcata General Fund
$1.52 State Automation Fund
$40.00 Court Security
$35.00 Criminal Infraction (the actual fine for sleeping in a vehicle)
I was last on the judge’s list, so by the time I was done speaking with him (which took about 30 seconds), the room had totally cleared out. As I joined Max and we walked toward the doors, the judge leaned over his desk and said cheerily to his staff, “Well, that went well!” Yeah, in about 10 minutes those jerks made several thousand dollars.
In case you are curious, we have never had this problem before. Ollie (the bus) was parked on a busy public street on Capitol Hill in Seattle for two weeks, and cops never bothered us; our only night-time callers in that spot were two drunk neighbors who thought Max and I were the coooolest people they’d ever met — they cooked up a whole dinner in their apartment across the street and delivered it to the bus, where we ate with them and drank wine and exchanged gifts and stories.
LET’S PUT MONEY ASIDE, FORGET OUR WORRIES, AND LEAVE YOU ON A HAPPIER NOTE
Proof positive that pets do love and remember you. Christian the lion does. Whether you’re rich or poor, it doesn’t matter.
Outside of a dog, a book is probably Man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read anyway. The great pleasure of a dog is that you can make a fool of yourself and not only will he not scold you, he’ll make a fool of himself, too.
THE WEEKEND CALENDAR:
Reminiscing on his early Vaudeville days traveling with family, Groucho Marx said,
“We had a budget. That’s a way of going broke methodically. Because we were a kid act, we traveled at half-fare to save money, despite the fact that we were all around twenty. Minnie insisted we were thirteen. ‘That kid of yours is in the dining car smoking a cigar,’ the conductor told her. ‘One is in the washroom shaving. And another is drinking whiskey at the bar.’ Minnie shook her head sadly. ‘They grow up so fast.’”