TS - Humboldt County men plead guilty to marijuana real estate buys

Humboldt County men plead guilty to marijuana real estate buys
Sean Garmire/The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/29/2009 01:15:32 AM PDT

Two Humboldt County men pleaded guilty in federal district court Wednesday to felony charges of maintaining property to cultivate marijuana and conspiring to launder money, after authorities uncovered large-scale pot gardens on four Humboldt County properties.
Jordan Pyhtila, 29, of Rio Dell, and Jessie Jeffries, 27, of Garberville, accepted plea agreements and pleaded guilty at the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, after charges were issued against them in March, said U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Jack Gillund.
According to Gillund, Pyhtila and Jeffries surrendered themselves to authorities in early April after law enforcement investigators discovered about 4,677 marijuana plants growing on properties located in Garberville, Eureka, Miranda and Blocksburg.
Pyhtila and Jeffries agreed to forfeit those four properties as part of the plea agreements. Additionally, the two men agreed to give up a promissory note in the amount of $945,000, obtained from the sale of a subdivision the two men were developing on the Dinsmore Plateau in Rio Dell.
According to the plea agreements, the two men reportedly agreed a reasonable sentence is six years in prison, with an additional three years of supervised parole -- though that sentence has yet to be imposed by a federal judge.
Pyhtila and Jeffries began purchasing the properties in 1999, and maintained them through September 2008, according to the plea agreements. During that time, the men made the properties available to others for the cultivation of marijuana, and financed real estate purchased by others who planned to use the land to grow marijuana.
Pyhtila and Jeffries also helped other marijuana growing operations by financing equipment, building materials, plant clones, fertilizer, labor wages and various other expenses. In exchange, the two men received a portion of the profits made from the sale of marijuana grown on the properties.
The plea agreements also reveal the men admitted to using the net profits of the marijuana cultivation to finance their business, J&J Earthmoving, and to buy numerous other properties across Northern California, in order to conceal the profits earned from drug sales.
According to DOJ information, the two men used nominee owners on the various properties to conceal their ownership of the properties.
Pyhtila and Jeffries await sentencing, scheduled Sept. 9, before Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton in San Francisco.
Sean Garmire can be reached at 441-0514 or sgarmire@times-standard.com.


Sexual Assault Focus Of This Month


4/5/04 Sexual Assault Focus Of This Month
Rape and sexual assaults are not crimes of passion and lust; rather, they are crimes in which the aggressor uses power and control to instill fear, dominate, punish and humiliate victims.

It is a sad commentary for a so-called civilized society that a month, such as April, is set aside as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. After all, how civilized can a society claim to be when there are so many rapes and sexual assaults?

Based upon U.S. Justice Department definitions, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (www.rainn.org) says that rape is forced sexual intercourse, including incidents where penetration is by a foreign object.

RAINN also says sexual assault includes a range of victimization distinct from rape and attempted rape. This also includes verbal threats.

No matter what definition is used or what statistics are cited, the United States cannot be proud of its problem with rape and sexual assault.

In fact, as of 2003, the United States had the highest rape rate among countries that reported such statistics: four times more than Germany, 13 times more than England and 20 times more than Japan, states Men Against Sexual Assault (www.sa.rochester.edu/masa/stats.php).

Statistics point to a troubling reality of American life.

RAINN says that one out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape, for a total of nearly 18 million women.

In 2002, seven out of every eight rape victims were female.

Approximately 15 percent of rape victims are under the age of 12, 29 percent are age 12 to 17, 44 percent are under the age of 18 and 80 percent are under the age of 30.

Most rapes are not committed by strangers. RAINN says approximately 48 percent of victims are raped by a “friend” or acquaintance, 30 percent by a stranger, 16 percent by an intimate, 2 percent by another relative and in 4 percent of the cases the relationship is unknown.

Indeed, it is a very sad commentary about our society. Despite all the good that is around, we have some troubling reminders that we have a long, long way to go.

As the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center (www.sbrapecrisiscenter.org) says, “Women can and do a lot of things to protect themselves. We can take self-defense classes; we can listen to safety tips on television; we can communicate with clarity and say ‘no’, but none of these will prevent a rape. The fact remains that only men can prevent rape. And it is men’s responsibility to do so.”

Wingnut Jeanette Jungers

4/2/04 Sheriff’s Office Too
Cozy With MAXXAM
By Jeanette Jungers

Brenda Gainey of the Sheriff's Office, calls lawyer Ed Denson's comment that Sheriff's Office has a "cozy" relationship with MAXXAM/ PALCO "reckless and profoundly disturbing.”

When it comes to objective fairness and the ability to offer "equal protection under the law,” I find the relationship between the Sheriff's Office and MAXXAM/ PALCO to be "reckless and profoundly disturbing.”

Consider the following:
1. PALCO security chief, Carl Anderson, is a former member of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department.
2. MAXXAM/PALCO and the Sheriff's Office planned the Freshwater tree-sit extraction for weeks. The Sheriff’s Office never verified whether MAXXAM owned the trees. It has yet to be proven.
3. The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office enforced an illegal road closure to aid MAXXAM in removing two long-term tree- sitters. The Sheriff's Office cited a permit allowing closure for eight hours. In reality, the permit allowed 20 minutes, and required 24-hour prior notice. No notice was given.
4. On March 17, 2003, sheriff’s deputies indiscriminately pepper-sprayed into a peaceful crowd of forest advocates containing women with small children in their arms.
5. Dozens of law-enforcement personnel were present but refused to witness one particularly dangerous extraction, even when frustrated residents requested them to.
6. MAXXAM provided lunch to the Sheriff's deputies during this incident.
7. Sheriff's deputies forced a woman to watch the 1,200-year-old redwood tree she risked her life to save be viciously limbed for no legitimate harvest purpose before taking her to jail.
8. Witnesses to the destruction were arrested on the orders of Carl Anderson. Charges were later dropped, as they had broken no law. One such person was a journalist with a legitimate press pass.
9. Sheriff's deputies served a lawsuit to everyone arrested on behalf of MAXXAM. Several people were dropped from the lawsuit after a judge ruled they had been prejudicially served.
10. When Judge Golden put a court-ordered "stay" on PALCO’s logging, it ignored it. Residents who presented the order to loggers were reported to the Sheriff's Department. When officers were asked to enforce the order, they responded that Sheriff's Office would not enforce the order unless Judge Golden issued a contempt-of-court ruling.
11. A deputy who hauled away one protester during the stay order announced he was a good citizen because he was "removing trash from the woods."
12. Many old-growth trees harvested along Greenwood Heights Road stood at the edge of the public road in what appears to be the easement or public right of way. Did our Sheriff’s Office help MAXXAM to steal trees that belong to the county?
13. A month before the Freshwater tree-sit extractions, I thought my wallet had been stolen from my car. I called the Sheriff's Office and was told my wallet was no doubt stolen by a "dirty Earth Firster!," and that the Sheriff’s Office would "take care of them" soon.
14. MAXXAM paid for the recall ad featuring a sheriff in uniform.
These are just a few points that have led people to perceive an inappropriate relationship between Humboldt County Sheriff’s and MAXXAM/ PALCO.

(Jeanette Jungers is a Eureka school teacher who is currently "Fasting for the Forest" in solidarity with Naomi Wagner, a 58-year-old grandmother of five who is serving a 40-day jail sentence for hugging an old-growth tree in defense of the Freshwater watershed.)

County May Temporarily Close Clam Beach

4/8/04 County May Temporarily
Close Clam Beach
by Glenn Franco Simmons

On Tuesday, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will decide if it wants to close Clam Beach to vehicles again this year.

The vehicle closure stems from an annual tribute to marijuana at the beach the weekend of April 20.

“In 2001, hundreds of people gathered at Clam Beach during the weekend of April 20 to celebrate 4-20,” said Public Works Director Allen Campbell in a written staff report to the board. “No permit was issued for the event and the large gathering took county park staff by surprise. Many of the people in attendance chose to ignore posted regulations and were abusive to county staff.”

April 20 is internationally and unofficially known as “international smoke (marijuana) day.” The origin of the “holiday” is the subject of various urban myths.

Last year, the county blocked access to the beach by placing a rail across the beach’s opening.

There is a significant reason to close the beach to vehicles, Campbell said.

“Temporary closure of Clam Beach to vehicles for the weekend of April 20 may be needed to protect the western snowy plover,” Campbell said, “which nests from March 1 through Sept. 30. Large numbers of vehicles on the beach as a result of 4-20 could negatively impact nesting plovers.”

The snowy plover is listed as a federally threatened species, which means its habitat has to be protected.

People will still be able to use the beach.

“Monitoring and enforcement of camping regulations for the weekend will require an increased county presence,” Campbell said. “Staffing levels will be determined by the number of people who visit Clam Beach for the 4-20 event. Camping will only be allowed in designated areas.”

There is a financial impact to the county, but Campbell said it is “limited.”

“Increased costs will result if additional staffing is required to enforce county regulations because a large number of people use the park to celebrate 4-20,” he said. “The county has no control over how many people choose to visit the park. The only option to reduce costs would be to limit enforcement of park regulations.”

An alternative to Campbell’s recommendation could be for the board to allow the beach to remain open to vehicles, which it most likely will not do.

The board will meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the county courthouse in Eureka.

(Publisher/Editor Glenn Franco Simmons can be reached at editor@eurekareporter.com.)

DFG Recommends Changes In Ocean Fishing Regulations

4/13/04 DFG Recommends Changes In
Ocean Fishing Regulations
Following federal action taken by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the California Department of Fish and Game will recommend to the Fish and Game Commission changes to the 2004 recreational fishing regulations regarding retention of black rockfish at its April 22 teleconference meeting in Sacramento.

At the meeting, the commission will consider taking emergency action to ensure that state regulations remain consistent with the new federal regulations that will prohibit retention of black rockfish during May, and from September through December in ocean waters less than 30 fathoms (180 feet) from Cape Mendocino to the California-Oregon border.

In addition, the state will take conforming action affecting California's recreational fishery for federal groundfish and some state-managed species. These changes will take effect May 1 and are necessary to conform to in-season groundfish management actions taken by the PFMC the week of April 5 that will take effect on May 1. The PFMC's actions prohibit fishing at certain times and depths in specific areas in ocean waters off California.

For detailed information on the PFMC's actions, log on to www.pcouncil.org.

The recreational fisheries affected by this action include those for rockfish, cabezon, greenlings, California scorpionfish, lingcod, some flatfish, some sharks and other federally managed groundfish species. For the full list of federally managed species, check the Marine Region Web site at

The state will apply the same restrictions to ocean whitefish and California sheephead, which are not under federal management. Fish excluded from this action are leopard shark in San Francisco Bay waters, and sanddabs. The new regulations will apply to recreational anglers fishing in all waters off California. However, divers and shore-based anglers will be exempt.

The in-season changes were adopted April 8 by the PFMC and subsequently by the DFG after review of projected fishery catches through 2004.

Those projected catches showed that harvest limits for canary and black rockfish would have been met or exceeded well before the end of the year without these adjustments.

"The federal regulations, which the state conforms to, ensure resource protection and sustainability. This is in the interest not just of the federal fisheries agencies, but the states as well," said DFG Marine Regional Manager Patty Wolf.

For California's recreational anglers, the following changes include new depth regulations and season dates and will take effect on May 1:

In the Northern Rockfish and Lingcod Management Area (Oregon border to just south of Cape Mendocino), fishing is only allowed in waters less than 180 feet (30 fathoms) deep from May through December.

In the Central Rockfish and Lingcod Management Area (just south of Cape Mendocino to Pt. Conception), note that federal regulations have split this area into two sections at 36 degrees north latitude, near Pt. Lopez in southern Monterey County.

In the North-Central Section (just south of Cape Mendocino to near Pt. Lopez), there is no fishing during May through July, and November through December. Fishing is only allowed in waters less than 120 feet (20 fathoms) during September through October.

In the South-Central Section (near Lopez Pt. to Pt. Conception), fishing is only allowed in waters less than 120 feet (20 fathoms) during September through December. There is no fishing during July.

In the Southern Rockfish and Lingcod Management Area (Pt. Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border), fishing is only allowed in waters less than 180 feet (30 fathoms) deep during September through October. Cowcod Conservation Areas regulations remain the same.

The restrictions listed above will also apply to greenlings, ocean whitefish and California sheephead.

Fishing for sanddabs using gear specified in federal and state regulations is still allowed. Fishing for leopard shark in waters within San Francisco Bay is allowed. Divers and shore-based anglers may continue fishing.

The sport fishing regulation changes are not official until they are filed with the secretary of state. DFG will post any updated information on the fishing season on its Web site at www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd.

Redevelopment Advisory Board Takes Heat On Its Membership

4/14/04 Redevelopment Advisory Board
Takes Heat On Its Membership
by Wendy Butler
The Eureka Reporter
Eureka resident and Humboldt Taxpayers’ League member Howard Rien said he believes Glenn Goldan’s participation on Eureka’s Redevelopment Advisory Board is a conflict of interest, because Goldan is currently developing city-owned property at the foot of C Street.

However, Redevelopment Director Cindy Trobitz-Thomas, Eureka City Councilman Jeff Leonard and Goldan maintain the board’s composition is such that there must be potential conflicts of interest, but it’s the way those conflicts are handled that matters.

On April 6, the City Council voted to authorize a 360-day exclusive-right-to-negotiate agreement extension between the Eureka Redevelopment Agency and Glenn G. Goldan & ReProp Investments Inc. for the sale for a Waterfront parcel between C and D streets on which Goldan plans to construct Seaport Village Square.

City Manager David Tyson said one of the benefits the city will see partnering with Goldan on this project involves its plans to submit an application for close to $2 million of federal Community Development Block Grant funding to construct a piazza adjacent to Seaport Village. The application requires proof of jobs that will be created and Tyson said Goldan will develop 52 jobs with the construction of and following the opening of Seaport Village.

Before the vote for this item, which was listed on the City Council’s consent calendar, Rien pulled it for further discussion.

He told the City Council that though he respects Goldan and his project, he felt Goldan’s membership on the Redevelopment Advisory Board “is not in the public’s best interest,” because he is developing a property on land owned by the city’s redevelopment agency.

Following the City Council meeting, Trobitz-Thomas said Goldan, who is board chairman, has not requested the use of any redevelopment funds for his project and he and other RAB members routinely recuse themselves from making advisory decisions about projects whose applicants have any business relationship with its members.

For example, Goldan and fellow-board member Delores Vellutini, who is also developing Waterfront property, recused themselves when RAB was discussing proposals March 31 for the city’s future Fisherman’s Work Area, she said.

“I happen to like Glenn (Goldan),” Rien said. “He was a good member of the Humboldt Taxpayers’ League. But, I do think the position of chair puts him in an extremely awkward position to access redevelopment funds.”

Leonard said he has found RAB members are very clear when it comes to conflict-of-interest issues. He said appointing new people to the board, if the mayor deems them qualified, is a good idea; however, Goldan is not monopolizing the Waterfront.

“It’s not like Glenn Goldan has 20 different projects that are all related to city redevelopment funds,” he said. “He really has just got the one.”

Leonard said when he was first elected, he attended a seminar about conflicts of interest and The Brown Act, the state’s open-meeting laws. He recalled being told “the law recognizes that you have a life. People expect that. You are going to have conflicts of interest. … You are doing things in our community and at some point … (different relationships) are going to come together.”

Rien said he is concerned the City Council does not receive enough community input about redevelopment projects.

“Some of these advisory boards are too long in the asking and too long in the being with the same people,” he said. “City Council rubber-stamps the advisory board.”

Trobitz-Thomas said she disagrees that the City Council rubber-stamps the board’s suggestions. For example, last summer, RAB made a recommendation to the City Council and the City Council went with its own decision, she said.

Developers Greg Pierson and Larry DeBeni had proposed to develop the city’s Fisherman’s Work Area at the foot of C Street and RAB agreed. The city went with Peter Brodeur of J.P. & Assoc. of Auburn.

She said when the city established RAB in 1993, it did so with the intention of having people on it who had developing, banking and legal expertise in areas impacting the redevelopment area.

“You want people on there that can help guide us,” she said. “We’re not developers. … We can’t know everything. … We really rely on the community professionals.”
Goldan said he recalls why RAB was created.

During the 1980s, the city was accused of being arbitrary and “having its favorite sons get redevelopment,” he said.

When former Mayor Nancy Flemming took her post in 1991, she appointed a Mayor’s Redevelopment Blue Ribbon Committee to review existing development plans and make recommendations on possible programs, projects and activities in Eureka’s core area, he said.

The City Council formed the Redevelopment Advisory Board on June 15, 1993.

“What you see on one hand is a room that can be potentially fraught with conflicts of interest and on the other hand you see … people that can conduct an appropriate … meeting and give (the) City Council advice,” Goldan said. “My attitude has always been, it isn’t the potential conflicts of interest that matter, it’s the way … members handle those potential conflicts of interest that counts.”

In response to Rien’s “rubber-stamp” comment, Goldan said because RAB is comprised of developers, as well as attorneys and real estate professionals, the City Council counts on their reviewing lengthy documents and lending it expertise on matters.

“I would hope they would go along with most of what we do, not because they rubber-stamp it,” he said.

LNG Debate: Moving Forward with Caution

3/12/04 LNG Debate: Moving
Forward with Caution
by Jeff Leonard

Because we own property on the Samoa Peninsula, the city of Eureka is in the middle of the community debate currently taking place over Calpine’s proposed liquefied natural gas facility.

As a City Council member, I am writing this guest opinion in response to the many phone calls, letters and e-mails I’ve received from both proponents and opponents of the project.

I support continuing this community debate. I also support establishing a fair public process, in keeping with the democratic system we enjoy, that allows everyone to participate in the decision-making process. I have a responsibility as an elected official to ensure that both sides of divisive issues have a fair opportunity to present their case.

Because the Eureka city airport property is the most-feasible site for this project, the next step in that public process is the Eureka City Council’s March 16 meeting, when the council discusses an exclusive right to negotiate agreement with Calpine. This agreement provides the opportunity for our community to carefully examine this project, while preserving the city of Eureka’s control over the property’s future.

Essentially, the ERTN is the city’s agreement to reserve its property while Calpine presents its project to the community, and local governments complete their independent analysis. Before getting any option to actually buy or lease the property, Calpine will have to make its entire project public, fund an independent study of the project and convince our community that LNG is a suitable fit for Humboldt Bay. If it gets our community’s acceptance, Calpine will still be required to obtain all of the necessary permits – more than 100 – before it can complete any transaction with the city.

To ensure that the city of Eureka controls this entire process, the city has negotiated several important “off-ramps” into the ERTN. Most importantly, the Eureka City Council retains the power to meet and decide – for any reason – to halt negotiations if it feels this project is unsuitable.

Consequently, the city is not under any obligation to ever accept or permit an LNG facility. The Eureka City Council retains the absolute power to use its judgment and terminate this agreement.

Moving forward with the ERTN will allow Calpine to present its entire project in detail. The process will put the burden on Calpine to convince our community that an LNG energy center is both feasible and desirable for Humboldt Bay.

Furthermore, local governments will be able to complete their own independent analysis of the project, guaranteeing a fair public process that allows everyone to participate in this community debate.

Although I support moving forward with the ERTN, I cannot make a fair decision about the actual project until we get reliable answers to the many questions LNG poses for Humboldt Bay. Both supporters and opponents of the project are working hard to answer those questions. However, as an elected representative, I need to gather and absorb a lot more information before I can make an educated and reasonable decision. One thing is certain – the community debate has begun, and I am listening to both arguments.

Despite the many economic opportunities, there are a number of important concerns that must be completely satisfied before this project could ever become a desirable next step for our community. For the time being, we need to move forward so that we can evaluate all of these issues, and everyone can fairly participate in the decision-making process.

(Jeff Leonard is a Eureka City Council member.)

Majority Oppose Calpine

3/17/04 Majority Oppose Calpine
(This letter was sent to Eureka’s mayor and City Council Wednesday via e-mail.)

By David Elsebusch

You heard lots of testimony last night. The majority opposed the Calpine project and some supported a “study” and a “process.” None said they researched the project and have sufficient knowledge to conclude that it is a good one.

Support for a “process” is universal. Part of the process is what you experienced last night – public comment.

Mr. (Ken) Abreu of Calpine has testified that the project will be aborted if it lacks community support. Well Calpine doesn’t have “community support” and as more of the populace becomes informed about the project and the adverse effects of an LNG facility on Humboldt Bay, there is no doubt that should the matter be put on the November ballot for voter approval, the “process” would end right there and voters would tell Calpine to “get out of Dodge.”

Calpine has spent years schmoozing with private interests and meeting with elected officials and bureaucrats in private, and now it is desperate to have the city locked into an agreement to sell the airport property to Calpine before the public is adequately informed about the pros and cons of the project, going so far as to buying full page ads in the Times-Standard making five false assertions.

1. Calpine states, “Nothing in the agreement makes the city sell this property to Calpine.” The truth behind that falsehood is that the exclusive right to negotiate does require the city to sell the property to Calpine after certain conditions are met.

2. Calpine states, “Calpine will be prohibited from applying for any local, state or federal permits until after the City Council’s approval of an “option agreement.” The truth behind that falsehood is that the contract that Calpine desperately wants the City Council to approve specifically permits Calpine to engage in “pre-filing” activities which is the precursor to permit applications.

3. Calpine states, “There can be no independent report until there is a proposal from Calpine. There can be no proposal until after there is a site. There can be no site until the City Council approves the pending site agreement. The agreement is ready to be approved now.” The truth behind that falsehood is that although Calpine desperately wants the city to sign the agreement now, Calpine has simply unilaterally decided that it will not present a proposal until the city agrees to sell the property to it. It is clear that Calpine is free to present a proposal before the city agrees to sell the property. That’s the way business is conducted – a proposal is made and if it is acceptable, a written agreement is executed.

4. Calpine states, “Without approval of the site agreement, there can be no proposal from Calpine.” The truth behind that falsehood is that Calpine does not admit that it made up this rule, which is contrary to the best interests of the city and the county.

5. Calpine states, “The pending agreement gives Calpine the right to physically evaluate the site. Without that right, there can be no proposal. Without a proposal, there can be no “independent report.” The truth behind that string of lies is that, while the proposed agreement to sell the property to Calpine gives Calpine the right to physically evaluate the site, it is not necessary to agree to sell the property before providing Calpine a right to inspect the site and an independent report can be generated without executing an agreement to sell the property.
Please don’t get the cart before the horse and approve the “exclusive right to negotiate” and lock the city into that agreement, at least before there is a truly independent study and additional public comment.

Many of us believe that, based on information we have acquired, the project is absolutely wrong for Humboldt Bay, but concede that information could be provided to more of the populace. Rejection of Calpine’s request for the ERTN would permit the “process” to continue in a rational and reasonable manner and avoid possible litigation.

(Tuesday) night, I furnished you with copies of the (federal) General Services Administration’s letter of March 10 addressed to Mr. Tyson. I trust you agree that it represents proof that the ERTN is seriously flawed and the basic concept – the sale of the site – has not been sufficiently researched and addressed.

The position of the GSA that it – not the city – is entitled to the proceeds of the sale of the (airport) property at fair-market value looks like a deal-buster to me.

(David Elsebusch is a McKinleyville resident. Following is the letter from the GSA that he said was addressed to Eureka City Manager David Tyson on March 10.)

Re: QuitClaim Deed Dated Dec. 9, 1947

Dear Mr. Tyson,

This pertains to the proposed abrogation of the airport restrictions contained in the QuitClaim Deed dated Dec. 9, 1947 between the United States of America and the City of Eureka. As you know, the General Services Administration is the successor agency to the War Assets Administration and, therefore, the authority to abrogate the use restrictions rests with GSA.

We understand that you are contemplating a sale and/or lease to Calpine Corp. for a portion of the property that was conveyed for airport purposes in the deed referenced in the paragraph above.

The MOA between the city of Eureka and Calpine Corp. includes a provision whereby Calpine Corp. would be contacting GSA to obtain a release of these deed restrictions.

It is GSA’s position that any abrogation request must be submitted by the city of Eureka, the grantor under 1947 deed, and include the concurrence of the Federal Aviation Administration, the successor agency to Civil Aeronautics Administration.

After receipt of the abrogation request and the required FAA concurrence, our office would then obtain an independent appraisal of subject property to determine the fair-market value for the payment to the United States of America. Upon receipt of such payment, we would then prepare a release. …

Clark Van Epps
Director, Property Disposal Division (9PR)
General Services Administration ...

Now That Calpine Has Left, What About Our Economy?

3/22/04 Now That Calpine Has Left,
What About Our Economy?
by Jason Whitcomb

The community spoke and Calpine withdrew, but what about our economy?

Tuesday’s City Council meeting was quite an event. As I approached the Eureka Municipal Auditorium I had to wade through petitioners, protesters, citizens and police.

As the meeting progressed, it was clear that the people of our small community did not want to risk their safety and way of life to let this outside interest develop our bay.

Of the 20 or so proponents of the LNG project who spoke to the council, there were some fallacies and there were some facts.

Since Calpine had the integrity to listen to the people’s voice and withdraw its proposal, these truths and myths no longer matter.

What does matter is the underlying theme in each proponent’s message: we need to focus on the economic future of Humboldt County. This is a truth and it is a belief shared by most every member of our area. The looming question is how?

The first step in answering how is to look at the history of Humboldt County. Steven Hackett summarized our economic history in 1999¹.

In the 1950s the timber industry hit its high point employing 50 percent of the county. In the ’60s, the economy started shifting away from timber toward services. This movement continued through to today, also paralleling increases in retail, public-sector and manufacturing jobs.

In 1997, lumber-based manufacturing was responsible for less than 10 percent of county employment.

While our heritage is rooted in the timber industry, it is clear that our future is woven in diversity. As any wise investor will tell you, diversity is key to economic stability.

Our next step is to look at the present.

When the painfully overinflated dot-com bubble burst, California took the hardest hit. Then the terrible events of Sept. 11 occurred, causing further economic instability, which continues through today.

It is common sense that if the stock market is floundering, one should invest in real property. This demand in property and housing drove local home prices higher and higher.

Then Alan Greenspan sunk the interest rate and local housing became unaffordable for far too many residents of the community. At the current time, home affordability is down to 33 percent of local residents² and countywide unemployment is at 7 percent³.

Of the households in Humboldt, almost 14 percent live below minimum-wage standards and more than half live below a living wageª.

This is legitimately scary stuff. I understand why a woman was in tears pleading for the City Council to consider Calpine.

But Calpine wasn’t for us. It was clearly a bad fit for our area.

Most, if not all, of those who desired to progress with the exclusivity agreement did not particularly want to see an LNG plant on our bay. They wanted a future in Humboldt. They wanted very reasonable things like a more useful deep-water port, higher employment rates, consulting and engineering contracts, and future consideration from outside investors. Calpine was their pot of gold.

The problem is that we need to stop chasing rainbows.

We need to stop looking outside of our community for our future. We cannot wait for some outsider whose intent is to profit off of us to solve our problems.

While these interests may help us survive, they will not solve our problems and we may be waiting forever. What we need is to define and build our economy from the within. We need an internal movement to unite economic, social and environmental goals.

Once we have reached a common ground we can then lay a path to our future. Easier said than done? Yes, but we must start now. The term "division" has been tossed around our community so long it is cliché. Let us make it antiquated.

(In the next column, Whitcomb will discuss ways to build our economy from within. Jason Whitcomb is a fifth-generation Humboldt County resident and is a small-business owner.)

¹ "The Humboldt County Economy: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?" Steven C. Hackett, Humboldt State University, February 1999, www.humboldt.edu/~economic/humcoecon.html.

² INDEX OF ECONOMIC ACTIVITY FOR HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Professor Steven Hackett, executive director, John Manning, managing director

³ Employment Development Department, March 12, 2004, News Release No.: 04-07, www.edd.ca.gov/urate200403.htm.

ª A Living Wage in Humboldt County: A comparative study of three models* Deborah Keeth, Assistant Director, Index of Economic Activity for Humboldt County, September 1999 www.humboldt.edu/~economic/LivingWage.htm.

Coalition Against LNG Conducts Poll That Finds Many Against LNG

3/15/04 Coalition Against LNG Conducts
Poll That Finds Many Against LNG
by Leann Whitten
The Eureka Reporter
A poll funded by the Humboldt Bay Coalition Against LNG found that 63 percent of Eureka registered voters oppose construction of a liquefied natural gas facility on Humboldt Bay.

The recently formed organization is comprised of the Fairhaven Residents’ Association, EPIC, Seventh Generation Fund and LNG Watch.

“When the project is described and arguments of supporters and opponents of the facility are presented, 63 percent of survey respondents oppose the LNG with nearly a majority — 48 percent — saying they are ‘strongly opposed,’” according to the pollsters’ key findings.

Interviews were conducted March 10 and 11 between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., said Don McDonough, co-founder of the firm that conducted the survey — Evans/McDonough Co.

The margin of error is ±5.7 percentage points, according to Evans/McDonough.

McDonough said a computer program randomized a list of Eureka’s registered voters and called the number three times throughout the polling period until going on to another name.

“Concerns about safety and the fishing and crab industries greatly outweigh any arguments that the facility will bring jobs and economic development,” according to the poll’s key findings. “Ninety-one percent of residents say they are concerned or very concerned about ‘protecting Humboldt’s commercial fishing and crabbing industries,’ and 82 percent state concern about ‘protecting tourism and recreational opportunities around Humboldt Bay.’”

Eighty-two percent of those surveyed had heard of or seen something about plans to build an LNG facility on Humboldt Bay.

“This high level of awareness indicates that residents are well-informed and are paying attention. It also means that levels of support and opposition are likely to remain fairly static,” according to Evans/McDonough. “Support is not likely to increase and additional information moves those who are undecided to opposition.”

Survey respondents were told, “Calpine wants to construct a liquefied natural gas or LNG facility and power plant, with liquefied natural gas transported by tankers to Humboldt Bay as often as twice as week. The gas would be stored in 15-story tall storage tanks, and then piped underneath Humboldt Bay and out to California’s Central Valley, a distance of 155 miles.

“Supporters say the plant would create up to 100 good-paying new jobs, drive economic growth for the county, generate tax revenue for Eureka’s schools and provide a clean source of energy for California.

“Opponents say the plant would put lives at risk in the event of an accident, earthquake or terrorist attack, dramatically reduce jobs in the fishing and crab industries, impede future economic development on the bay and pollute the environment.”

Eureka City Council Continues Meeting On LNG To Thursday

3/17/04 Eureka City Council Continues
Meeting On LNG To Thursday
by Leann Whitten
The Eureka Reporter

Approximately 1,000 people attended Tuesday night's City Council meeting held at the Municipal Auditorium to hear LNG discussion. The Eureka City Council continued its public hearing and consideration of its decision regarding an exclusive right to negotiate agreement between the city and Calpine Corp. — a San Jose-based independent power producer — at its Tuesday night meeting.

Of the more than 200 speakers who signed up to speak Tuesday night, about half got to speak before a 10:15 p.m. decision to continue the meeting was made. Councilwoman Mary Beth Wolford made a motion to continue the public hearing, but limit it to two hours on Thursday night, starting at 6 p.m. at the Municipal Auditorium.

The 107 residents on the list will have priority in that time to make their 3-minute comment to the council. Then the council will deliberate.

A clear majority of speakers spoke in favor of suspending the decision until a “truly independent” report can be conducted or terminating any consideration at all at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The Eureka Fire Department estimates that roughly 1,000 people filled the auditorium at the beginning of the 6 p.m. meeting.

Calpine is considering proposing a facility that would receive exports — via tanker at a Samoa Peninsula location — of liquefied natural gas, heat it back to its gaseous state and distribute it via pipeline to the Central Valley. Energy from the plant would also power a power plant that Calpine may propose to build for the area.

The council has three options: suspend a decision on the ERTN until “such a time that a memorandum of understanding and associated independent review process can be defined and approved by the county of Humboldt, the city of Eureka and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District; or approve an amended ERTN with Calpine and adopt a specific list of council concerns and issues to be forwarded to an independent review committee for formal deliberation and inclusion in an independent report process,” according to a staff report.

Eureka Police Chief Dave Douglas who stood to the side most of the night only stepped in once when one man went over his 3-minute general public comment and refused to forgo the microphone.
City Manager David Tyson gave the staff report to the council on its options, adding a third option on Tuesday night.

“The City Council approves the ERTN, as amended, between the city of Eureka and Calpine Corp. and authorizes the mayor to execute the agreement subject to the approval of an memorandum of understanding between the county of Humboldt, the city of Eureka and the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. In addition, the City Council further directs that the listing of issues and concerns be forwarded to an Independent Review Committee for formal deliberation and inclusion in an Independent Report process."

Calpine representative Ken Abreu followed with a 10-minute presentation.

“We are not asking you to make a judgment on the project,” Abreu said. “(We’re asking) do you want to consider it?”

A loud “no” was the reply from the audience.

Mayor Peter La Vallee and other councilmembers reiterated the importance of respecting all speakers despite their viewpoints at this point and several times throughout the night.

Abreu said the project could be a huge opportunity for economic development in Humboldt County, but acknowledged there were legitimate concerns involved.

“We only ask that you get the facts,” he said. Abreu said he has 2,100 names of Eureka residents who have expressed support, among businesses and other organization endorsements.

Eureka resident Barry Evans said he was undecided on whether the project is a fit for Humboldt Bay.
“I don’t believe we have the answers yet to these concerns,” Evans said.

President of the Humboldt Watershed Council Mark Lovelace said the matter facing the council is a question of the future, not feasibility.

“When have you ever had this many people for a good idea,” Arcata Mayor Bob Ornelas asked the council, which he told to reject the ERTN and any consideration of a LNG facility.

Eureka resident Rex Bohn said he wants to see job opportunities available in the area for his son.

“If we don’t at least look at an independent report … (it would be) a grave injustice to our future,” he said. “There may be other resource-based opportunities … but we won’t know that without studies.”

“I don’t want to see the view of the bay damaged, but I do want to keep the window open (to opportunity),” Bohn said.

Northcoast Environmental Center Director Tim McKay reported he had 3,500 signatures opposing LNG on Humboldt Bay “and counting.”

Other residents alluded to more of a fight if the city chooses to enter into the ERTN, as well.

Fortuna resident Dorothy Iversen said she and many generations before her have seen Humboldt change, and change is inevitable. She, as a few others, said the strong opposition in attendance Tuesday night wasn’t necessarily representative of Eureka.

“The loudest voices are not always the most accurate.”

Calpine Pulls Out

3/17/04 Calpine Pulls Out
by Leann Whitten
The Eureka Reporter
Calpine Corp. — a San Jose-based independent power producer — withdrew its request for an exclusive right to negotiate agreement for the Samoa LNG project on Wednesday. The adjourned City Council meeting scheduled for Thursday night has been canceled.

In a letter to the Eureka City Council, Calpine representative Ken Abreu said Calpine “is ceasing all development activities on the project as of (Wednesday).”

The company was considering proposing a facility that would receive exports — via tanker at a Samoa Peninsula location — of liquefied natural gas, heat it back to its gaseous state and distribute it via pipeline to the Central Valley. Energy from the plant would have also powered a power plant that Calpine would have built for the area.

“It is the policy of Calpine not to build projects in areas where there is insufficient community support. Based on feedback received from the local community and public officials we feel this decision is best for all parties,” he wrote.

Abreu said Calpine was appreciative of the City Council’s consideration and the city staff’s “fair and diligent” efforts in working with us to present the project.

“We wish the residents of Humboldt County well in their efforts to find a productive and compatible use for their port facilities,” Abreu concluded.

“I think the city council is disappointed that we weren’t able to get this project into some type of process,” City Manager David Tyson said. “The council had been working very hard with other elected officials in the region to try to find a way that was acceptable to move this project forward (that would meet the needs of residents and Calpine).”

Tyson said as Calpine is a corporation, the ERTN agreement was needed to meet its needs.
Tim McKay, executive director of the Northcoast Environmental Center, said he believes without the ERTN Calpine couldn’t secure investors and the corporation doesn’t have the money to fund the $1 billion project itself.

“Thousands of thank yous to all who helped make this ground swell of public opinion penetrate to Calpine's front office,” McKay wrote Wednesday afternoon in a bulk e-mail.

“I think there are other opportunities for the port. … Growing our sustainable fishing industry is the most-important thing to do right now,” McKay said. “I think Humboldt County has a brighter future without an LNG facility than with one.”

Abreu said in an interview with The Eureka Reporter last week, that if the community didn’t want LNG here, then Calpine would not push it.

“If we wanted to (do it without community consent), we wouldn’t have proposed the independent study process.”

“Some people have visions of natural lands used for recreation. Some people feel like a deep-water port should be utilized,” Abreu said. “The people of this county need to make up their minds on which of the two visions makes sense.”
Ad's Content In Question
(Editor's note: This is the second of a three-part series.)

On Oct. 10, Recall Paul, Committee to Recall Paul Gallegos, ran an advertisement in The Times-Standard outlining the reason recall proponents feel it is in the community's best interest to recall Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos. Following are the responses from Gallegos and recall committee member Rick Brazeau. more

Oct. 22 Due Date For Signatures

Oct. 22 Due Date For Signatures
Humboldt County isn't through with a recall effort, Oct. 22 is the last day for more than 11,100 valid signatures to be delivered to the Humboldt County Elections Office in the bid to unseat District Attorney Paul Gallegos.

If the signatures are validated by the Elections Office, the earliest a recall election can take place is March 16. The latest is April 16. more