For the curiously aware of Humboldt County…
By Skippy Massey
THE SPLIT PERSONALITY OF THE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT SERVICES DEPARTMENT
Red Tape and Analysis Paralysis
After nearly two hours of official wrangling, semantics, negotiating timelines, and deciding what should come first—the chicken or the egg– the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided to split the Humboldt County Community Development Services Department into two separate departments. Director Kirk Girard wasn’t placed into one of the two department head positions and won’t oversee his former department when it’s restructured into the Planning and Building Department and the Economic Development and Natural Resources Department, the Times-Standard’s Megan Hansen reported.
Many of the Supervisor’s concerns during Tuesday’s session were about the desire to have the actual restructuring of the two new departments thought out more than it had been. The back and forth conversation carried out ad nauseam between County Supervisors, County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes, County Counsel Wendy Chaitin, Personnel Director Dan Fulks, and public comments by Planning Commissioner Ralph Faust and County Clerk Carolyn Crnich was akin to a dog chasing its tail. Or watching a ping pong game between too many players. It was truly an exercise in bureaucratic patience for everyone concerned.
Granted, it’s a sticky wicket. Much of the discussion centered on what would happen to Girard if he were not appointed to the new job. Girard’s position in either department remains in question. The agenda item was pulled for discussion and 5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg raised concerns about Girard’s appointment, saying he didn’t expect to see it happen automatically and without taking applications. Chairwoman and 4th District Supervisor Virginia Bass agreed. The board ultimately voted to allocate the two new positions effective May 13 and to go through with the recruitment process for both department head jobs. Girard, who is out of the office until March 13, will keep his current position until the new positions are filled. He may– or may not– have to apply for one of the new positions.
CAO Smith-Hanes said he received a number of questions and comments from the board prior to the meeting about Girard’s salary. The two new positions have lower monthly salaries than what Girard currently makes. If Girard is appointed as the director of either department, he would continue to make the same amount of money as he does now– currently $9,611 a month, according to the Times-Standard. Smith-Hanes said the County is treading new ground with the restructuring and he isn’t sure what to do if the Supervisors don’t wish to put Girard into a new position. Just because the position goes away doesn’t mean the person goes away with it, he said.
5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said he’s concerned Girard would be making the same amount of money for half as much work if he’s appointed to one of the positions.
2nd District Supervisor Clif Clendenen said the Humboldt Taxpayer’s League has questioned the practice of spending more money by employing two department heads. Clendenen said he acknowledges the extra cost, but believes the restructuring would provide better service to the community.
3rd District Supervisor Mark Lovelace emphasized repeatedly the move was not a ‘personnel’ matter but an ‘organizational’ one. He motioned, but failed, to have the two new department head positions become effective July 1, aligning with the new fiscal year. He added the county will likely be working to figure out the exact organization of the new departments as appointments are discussed.
During public comment, none of the few speakers spoke out against Girard’s performance. In previous public comment sessions, numerous people have criticized Girard about his management of the department and the County’s general plan update. During Tuesdays’ session, no one from the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights (HumCPR), Humboldt Economic Land Plan (HELP), or the Humboldt Association of Realtors (HAR) gave public comment regarding Girard, his department, or reorganizational plans.
The Supervisors decided to clarify more details of the restructuring during their closed session, as well as discuss three pending lawsuits in Superior Court: Humboldt County vs. Robert McKee (Humboldt County Superior Court case # DR020825), Humboldt Sunshine vs. County of Humboldt and others (#CV070159), and Forster-Gill Inc. vs. County of Humboldt and others (#CV110550).
No details of these pending litigation items were made available to the public.
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NEWS, SNIPPETS, HEARSAY RUMORS, AND THE LINKS: “Plans and Planning”
MAYBE YOU CAN FLY IF YOU FLAP YOUR ARMS FAST ENOUGH: Humboldt County is talking with American Airlines for a Los Angeles route while a smaller charter company, Boutique Air, is already scheduling March flights. Don’t hold your breath. Nothing’s been set in ink for American Airlines yet. The County Supervisors are looking at funding guarantees by tapping the Headwaters Fund and using fee waivers to grease the wheels.
Boutique Air, meanwhile, employs smaller planes carrying four people at boutiquely high tariffs. Offering four round-trip flights from the Arcata-Eureka Airport to Redding and Eugene, tickets for one-way flights will start around $220 to Redding and $400 to Eugene.
Given the present level of air service, even skateboards and pogo sticks would be an improvement for travellers.
ANOTHER CONTENDER EMERGES FOR THE 1st DISTRICT RACE: The Lost Coast Outpost and the Humboldt Herald confirm Cheryl Seidner of the Wiyot Tribe is stepping into the contest for First District Humboldt County Supervisor. Seidner will face Rex Bohn and the lesser known candidate, Annette De Modena in the June primary.
Hank Sims was the first in with the news: “The Humboldt County Elections Office confirms that Cheryl Seidner — a former HSU employee and Wiyot Tribal Chair and still a very highly regarded figure in local political circles — has taken on the unenviable task of attempting to chase Rex Bohn in this season’s race to replace retiring First District Supervisor Jimmy Smith,” he said.
With three people in the running, we can plan on the race being decided in November– rather than a quick campaign ending at the June primary. Outgoing Supervisor Jimmy Smith has yet to endorse any candidate.
THANK YOU FOR THE MONEY, NOW HERE’S YOUR PINK SLIP: After $140 million dollars of donations, grants, loans and bonds went to complete St. Joseph’s Northeast tower project, CEO Joe Mark announced 50 local hospital employees will lose their jobs in the next two weeks.
“It’s all current economics,” Mark said. “It has nothing to do with the tower. We’ve seen a double-digit drop in surgeries in the last six months and people are putting off operations like knee replacements because of the economy.”
One would think that after such a huge infusion of planning and capital, jobs would have been gained rather than lost. That was their plan, you’ll remember. In the old days, we remember when a CEO was removed from the position for making boneheaded miscalculations. After all, that’s what a CEO is highly paid for. We suspect, however, that Mr. Mark will not be one of those losing their job due to the ‘poor economy’ and the unforeseen lack of participants willing to be sliced and diced on the surgical table.
What folks also may not yet know is this: Once St. Joe’s Tower opens up in June/July, they will be moving their Urgent Care services to the Emergency Room. What does this mean for you and your family?
Their website currently says, “Because no appointment is necessary at the Urgent Care Clinic, fees may be higher than a visit to your primary care physician, but less than a visit to the Emergency Room.” That will change. After the proposed move, a simple visit for “minor illnesses and injuries” will cost 3-6 times more at the Emergency Room than it did in the Urgent Care Center. Now, that’s what we call real planning.
LEAN, MEAN, AND ENERGY GREEN: The Arcata Eye’s Daniel Mintz writes that ’energy aggregation’ could widen renewable energy choices for Arcata. The Arcata City Council wants to expand renewable energy options and is considering joining a Marin-based Joint Powers Authority to do it. At its Feb. 15 meeting, the City Council considered the prospect of joining what’s known as a Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) – a public agency made up of communities that procure electricity from a variety of sources, including renewable energy producers.
Arcata Mayor Michael Winkler advanced the plan of joining a CCA, noting that PG&E spent $50 million on a ballot measure that would have made forming CCAs harder. “Fortunately, they were unsuccessful with that and I hope that PG&E will restrain themselves and allow competition,” Winkler said to the audience — which included representatives from PG&E in attendance.
QUICK ACQUISITIONS: “When the public effort in support of the Arcata Ridge Trail was launched just two years ago, the City of Arcata owned just two of the seven puzzle pieces required for the four-mile trail linking Sunny Brae with West End Road. Now it has an easement through, or outright ownership of, six of the seven parcels of land through which the trail passes,” Kevin Hoover writes in the Arcata Eye. That’s quick.
3rd District Supervisor Mark Lovelace and his opponent, candidate Karen Brooks, however, take different viewpoints regarding Arcata’s plan of securing six of seven ridge trail parcels. With 10 years of experience handling these acquisitions, Mr. Lovelace seems to have the upper hand of insight and information from what we can see.
WEED AND GREED: According to a press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, the Humboldt County Drug Task Force and the Sheriff’s Drug Enforcement Unit assisted in serving a pair of search warrants Wednesday at two properties on Greenwood Heights Road near Kneeland. Acting on a tip from an informant, the warrants uncovered about $420,000 in cash, 3,800 plants and 110 one-pound bags of processed marijuana bud, worth an estimated $220,000. As a result of the warrants, officers cited John Eaton Cromwell, 46 and Elisabeth Nergaard Olsen, 42, and arrested Charles Bruzza, 34, on suspicion of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale. Cromwell and Olsen were cited and released because small children reside in their residence.
During a search of the residence,in the closet of an upstairs bedroom, officers found a suitcase and a small safe containing approximately $387,000 in cash — primarily in $20, $50 and $100 bills — and another $10,000 in money orders.
Officers then turned their attention to a property in the 4500 block of Greenwood Heights Road — also owned by Olsen and Cromwell — and served a search warrant there, according to the press release. Officers found a “sophisticated” indoor cultivation operation, containing 3,880 marijuana plants growing under 20 1,000-watt lights. Also on the premises, officers reported finding 110 one-pound bags of processed marijuana buds and another $33,000 in cash. They arrested Charles Bruzza, 34, of Portland, at the scene and apparently living at the residence.
The Times-Standard’s Thadeus Greenson reported Humboldt County Superintendent of Schools Garry Eagles confirmed that Cromwell is employed as a teacher at Maple Creek Elementary School, and served as the school’s principal for about a year on an interim basis in 2006.
The Department of Justice-led investigation is continuing, Sheriff’s Officer Sgt. Wayne Hanson said.
No weed, no cash, no job, and criminal charges pending. This was a bad plan and a poor decision right from the start. Funny how those qualities often go hand in hand leading to disastrous consequences. See more below.
MORE WEED, GREED, AND MURDER: A federal grand jury in San Francisco Thursday indicted Mikal Xylon Wilde, of Humboldt County, with murder during narcotics offense, conspiracy to manufacture and distribute 1000 or more marijuana plants, manufacture and possession with intent to distribute 1000 or more marijuana plants, use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense and crime of violence, use of a firearm causing death in the form of murder, and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced.
Wilde is alleged to have operated a marijuana farm with approximately 1500 marijuana plants in Humboldt County. He’s also charged with having used a firearm during the course of the narcotics offense to kill Mario Roberto Juarez-Madrid, originally from Guatemala, who was working on the marijuana farm at the time of the murder on Aug. 25, 2010. Mr. Wilde now faces a sentence of 20 years to life in federal prison or the death penalty as well as a fine of up to $10 million.
Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos thanked United States Attorney Melinda Haag and her office for “their commitment to the safety and security of the people of Humboldt County, and her partnership and collaboration in this and many other cases involving allegations of violence in our communities.”
If Humboldt County can’t clean up it’s weed ‘n greed problems, the Department of Justice and Feds will. And the Utah Highway Patrol.
BOMBS AWAY: The U.S. Navy invites you to participate in the Northwest Training and Testing Environmental Impact Statement and “Open House Information Session” happening on Thursday, March 22 from 5-6 p.m., at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka. The information session is to assess environmental impacts from military readiness training and testing activities, including “those resulting from the development, testing, and introduction of new vessels, aircraft and weapon system(s)” in the Northwest Training Area.
We expect to see quite a large turnout from the different groups representing Humboldt County’s diverse interests, as there was the last time the Navy came to the Wharfinger.
Expect the best, plan for the worse, and prepare to be surprised. We wonder if the Navy will mention their plans of developing a super-powerful electromagnetic railgun for warships that quickly shoots rounds more than 100 miles away– at several times the speed of sound. Marine mammals and environmentalists are gonna love that one.
STAYING CONNECTED: The Humboldt County Blue Lake branch library now has free, high-speed wireless Internet service, thanks to the combined efforts of Blue Lake Mayor Sherman Shapiro, County Supervisor Mark Lovelace, Library Director Victor Zazueta, and Access Humboldt Executive Director Sean McLaughlin.
Because the library hotspot has the capacity of up to 50 users, it should be more than adequate to serve everyone. Also, any community member with a device capable of connecting to wi-fi (laptop, smartphone, Nook, iPad and the like) can get online for free during business hours simply by requesting a password from branch staff. The connection was installed by Tsunami-Wireless, a wireless Internet service provider based in Eureka. Tsnumai-Wireless delivers broadband Internet to communities lacking significant broadband infrastructure along the Highway 299 corridor in the Blue Lake, Chezem Road, Berry Summit, Horse Mountain and Willow Creek areas.
We welcome these cooperative planning efforts making broadband internet accessible for Humboldt’s more rural communities. They need it.
DON’T GO THE WAY OF STOCKTON: Thank goodness Humboldt County’s 7 incorporated municipalities are solvent. Or so we hope. Stockton, facing a budget deficit of $20 million to $38 million for the fiscal year ending June 2013, is considering bankruptcy—while several other struggling California cities warn they could eventually face the same predicament, the Wall Street Journal reported. Confronted by declining tax revenue and rising employee costs, Stockton officials voted Tuesday night to take the initial step toward bankruptcy. Their decision launches the first test of a new state law that requires cities to negotiate with employees, creditors and others to try to stave off a filing before making the move.
Two other Northern California cities, Hercules and Lincoln, are also heading in that direction, attempting to restructure their debt and cut employee costs to forestall insolvency. Last year, Hercules voted to lay off 37% of its work force, including three police officers, to close a $6 million shortfall for the current fiscal year. The city of Vallejo filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
Plan wisely, Humboldt County. California’s treasurer, Bill Lockyer, said he is concerned the “reputational stain” from any further municipal bankruptcies in the state might harm the ability of other cities, and perhaps the state, to raise funds in the bond market.
HARD TIMES HIT WALL STREET: Brother, can you spare a dime? Securities industry workers who work on Wall Street can plan to see their financial bonuses for 2011 shrink by 14 percent from the previous year, according to a report by by New York state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. New York securities firms will pay employees $19.7 billion in cash bonuses, down sharply from $22.8 billion in 2010.
The average salary (including cash bonuses) in New York City’s securities industry grew by 16 percent to $361,180 in 2010, 5.5 times higher than the average $66,110 salary in the rest of the private sector. The average cash bonus, though, declined by 13 percent– to only $121,150 in 2011—compared to nearly $139,000 a year earlier. Sigh. Even the best laid schemes of mice and men often go astray.
WARM AND FUZZY FRIDAY: Have you rummaged around in your closet lately to see if there’s any clothing you don’t want? If you haven’t worn it in a year you probably don’t need it. Bring it down to the Eureka Co-op Friday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m., where Betty Chinn and KSLG radio have plans of putting to good use. It’s the right thing to do.
SELF DRIVING CARS may be coming at you the very near future. Using video cameras, radar sensors, a laser range-finder and detailed maps, Google is pioneering cars that don’t need drivers, Bloomberg reports. They’re here, they’ve been tested, they work,and we need laws to accomodate them, company officials insist. No, silly, they’re not testing them on race tracks. They’ve been driving themselves on regular streets and highways, right beside you, all this time. Didn’t you know?
And you thought drivers using cell phones were innattentive? Try not having a driver whatsoever. Now Google Maps can provide us with every street view possibly available– without paying its drivers. And taxi cabs could be the next thrill ride for adrenaline junkies.
THE WEEKEND CALENDAR:
The forecast calls for clear and mostly sunny days this weekend.
The Black and Red Ball is happening Friday, March 2, at The Mateel Community Center in Redway. Expect J Boog (reggae from Hawaii), Hot Rain (reggae from Hawaii), and Bayonics (funk, hip-hop from SF) while digging out your finest and funkiest black and red attire. This all-ages event will also feature a Hawaiian dinner and a bar for patrons 21 and over. Sounds like hella fun.
The 10th Annual Aleutian Goose Fly-off & Family Fun Weekend takes flight at the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Loleta Saturday and Sunday, March 3rd & 4th, whether it rains or shines doesn’t matter. The refuge opens early at 6:00AM both days to witness 30,000 Aleutian Cackling Geese leaving at sunrise. It’s quite a sight to behold. It’s free, there’s plenty of coffee and food, and there’ll be a few hundred folks just like you witnessing a spectacular party at the crack of dawn while most folks are still slumbering away in warm beds with sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads. Come and see the real thing, instead. You won’t be disappointed. And dress very, very warmly.
Eureka’s Arts Alive is Saturday evening. Art, food, music, wine, and the usual pleasant and eccentric arty folks will be there. Kym Kemp, Sharon Letts, and Curtis Otto will also be there. They’ll be throwing a party and showing their beautiful marijuana themed photographs and ”The 420 Quilt’ at the Hobart Galleries/Kinetic Sculpture Race Museum at 437 F St. Ms. Kym says the evening will include St John’s Bossanova Baby entertaining from 6 to 9 p.m., Street Beats Dance Company having a break dance performance by the REGULATORS, Rocky and Dan the Man Valdez at 7:30. Stay for the Kinetic After-Party with rock band, Scotch Wiggly, performing from 9:30 to midnight, she says. Nice. But will they have the munchies?
On another note, tickets for Reggae on the River at Benbow will now be available April 1st. No, that’s not an April Fool’s joke. It just turned out that way following last month’s delay. Get off the bong, guys. You know we love you. Reggae on the River will be happening Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22, we believe.
Happenings, Events, Groups, Walks, and Other Good Stuff:
Other entertainment can also be found here.
Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.
A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.