GPU Update, How NOT to Present before the Board of Supes, and More on Megabus.

By now you know that the 13-year saga of the General Plan Update is mired in a review of basic principles which were agreed upon ears ago and now- what a surprise!- seem to need amending. This is not because the County has changed.  It’s more due to the political climate and the emergence of HUMCPR as a force.  I went down to lend my voice to sticking with the original principles, largely because the extreme length of this plan update is ridiculous and I wouldn’t like to see Humboldt County come in for (more) bad publicity  for dragging out this process even further. If we end up on 60 Minutes for this , it will be an exception to the rule that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  This is bad.  We will be known for  two things in this State: marijuana and ineffective government.  A bad combination, don’t you think?

      Also, I can’t think of anything more harmful to effective economic development than unclear or shifting zoning.  I got there early because I though there would be a huge crowd.  There were only five people signed in to speak when I signed in. The vast majority (I believe about 40 people spoke) sort of materialized during the meeting and didn’t sign in at all, so that part is apparently optional.

      I have presented before the Planning Commission and the Supes several times but never as poorly prepared as last night. I ripped my notes out of the printer and went flying out the door, no review, no prep.  I stumbled and fumbled through my remarks which were basically a plea to stick with the original principles, since the revisions seemed to me to be vague and enabling sprawl. Some of the other  presenters- Dan Ehresman, Scott Greacen- were forceful and effective. Others sounded like they needed to be wound up. IF YOU DO THIS BE PREPARED.  Sometimes public testimony really does have an effect. Don’t know about yesterday, but it definitely did in the Forster-Gill situation. 

      When they started going through the new/old language principles my ADD kicked in and I left, probably to rejoin the process at the next meeting on October 7. Many of the attendees last night were realtors, paid representatives of environmental groups or CPR folks and some had been involved in the process for years. I will never be a Supervisor because $80K is not enough to do this kind of mind-numbing analysis. I would go nuts.

Let’s see how the Supes do.  If you haven’t attended these meetings, you should show up on the  7th.  If you’re going to speak, practice a little first. We heard some awfully poor presentations and it was hard to tell what point some of the folks were trying to make. And I used to think the Supervisors were overpaid…..

MORE ON MEGABUS

With no trains, miserable air service and ever-climbing gas prices, many Redwood Coast businesses and their employees are taking a second look at bus transit. We featured Megabus a few posts back but didn’t mention their parent company , Stagecoach Group, which is headquartered in – wait for it- SCOTLAND. At least they didn’t paint the buses plaid. In America their revenues are up 22% in the last three months. That’s callled growing like wildfire, but the best news for us is that Greyhound is having to upgrade its service in order to compete. We can only pray…..

 

Welcome to Our City, Chief Mills

     Sometimes the consultants get it right. 

     The headhunters charged with finding us a new police chief- excuse me, I meant another new police chief- stated it correctly: “Eureka is unique, a rural area with serious urban issues.” Chief Mills is apparently going into this with his eyes wide open. And I guess it’s just a coincidence that the Chief is arriving just at a time when I feel my home town being taken away from me.

     I live a simple life. When I moved into my very average house in Cutten, all I demanded  was a good yard for dogs, closeby amenities like a grocery to minimize driving and  a sense of safety and security. Do I still have it? Not so much,  since a few months ago when a parolee from Oregon went on a rampage starting at Walnut and Redwood and smashed a few car windows before racing through my neighbors’ backyards before eventually being apprehended nearby.  Why he skipped my yard is a mystery.  Maybe he’s afraid of old dogs. All I know is, the tranquility is gone. 

     There was a time when I could walk my dog in Sequoia Park. Not any more. There are too many shady characters lurking along the pathways looking for a quick pickup or a drug deal. Some of them were involved in a shooting on Glatt Street the other day. But the real reason I can’t walk my dog there anymore is the huge number of unleashed or unsupervised dogs. The folks who enter the park on the Glatt Street side walk right past the sign advising that all pets must be on a leash. A large family approached me with a pit bull that was on a leash,  alright, but it was one of those extendable leashes and they thought it was just hilarious to let their dog growl and snap at my dog while letting it approach to within about half an inch. My dog was terrified and tried to get away. I ended up face down in the mud but managed to hang onto my dog. Then I had to listen to how sorry they were. I regret to this day I didn’t call the police but I was so shaken up I didn’t even get their license.

      So there’s assignment No. 1, Chief. Reclaim Sequoia  Park for us.  Instead of parking a black and white on W Street to catch those villains (like me) who don’t come to a complete stop at the corner, how about putting a black and white near the Glatt Street entrance?  A little deterrence there could do wonders. Let’s try it.  

     As I said, I live a simple life.  I shop at Winco at least twice a month but now that people are being carjacked in the Winco parking lot in broad daylight, it doesn’t seem as welcoming as it used to. Or as safe. Can you help us with ensuring folks can patronize our biggest grocery store without placing themselves and their kids in jeopardy? We’d sure appreciate it.

     I suppose you’ve heard about the series of spectacular car-pedestrian and car-motorcyle collisions.  Fifth Street is a death trap for pedestrians, especially those of us who actually try to use the clearly marked crosswalks, especially at the corner by Denny’s. When I took driving at Eureka High, they used to tell us that “pedestrians have the right of way in California”.  How about a little enforcement? It couldn’t hurt, could it?  I turn at the intersection of H and Hodgson nearly every day of my life.  I am usually impressed with the politeness  of the other drivers but that wreck the other day hit pretty close to home.  It’s sobering to think that the only thing between you and sudden death is a split second of someone  else’s attention. A stoplight or an officer nearby would do wonders. 

     So Chief, we’re glad to have you here,  and glad that you’re going to go through with this career change although it must have been disconcerting to learn that the fellow who hired you is moving on himself after only nine months on the job. When you need a break,  take a stroll through the Sequoia Park gardens.  One of your  predecessors and his wife have devoted thousands of hours to maintaining the flowers because the city can’t afford to. It’s that kind of town. 

     Welcome to Eureka . 

 

9/11, Twelve Years After

       I  remember waking up on the morning  of September 11, 2001.  The clock-radio sounded different than normal. I usually have it tuned to KRED because that motivates me to move over and turn that country music off, but this morning was different. After a couple of minutes I turned on the TV and realized how different.

       I had heard of the World Trade Center but really had no deep feelings about it.  After all, there’s a World Trade Center in Long Beach and at that time I had never been to NYC so the “twin towers” had no significance to me as buildings. But every minute it was becoming clearer that many lives had been lost. I went in to work at the small State agency where I worked then, since no one told us not to. We gathered in a somber mood and waited by the faxes and printers to see what the plan was. On the one hand, it was customary to close the office if a threat was in effect. On the other hand, we had demanding clients who would take umbrage at having their appointments canceled. The brilliant solution conveyed to us from our district HQ was to close the office, but leave ONE person there to take phone calls. In other words, there was enough  danger to send everyone home but not enough danger to get everyone out. Made no sense but we followed orders.

        I don’t remember the rest of the day very well. I spent the afternoon calling people. We didn’t know yet about RIchard Guadagno and his tragic death. As the evening came on we watched TV, numb.  Something had changed, but it was hard to define.  In the  weeks and months that followed,  the words “Muslim” and “Arab”  became charged.  On the one hand, there was a real threat , on the other hand you couldn’t lump them all together as terrorists. It was clear that Fortress America was not invulnerable. However it never had been, and learning that fact was probably healthy for all of us.

       So what’s changed in twelve years?  We have a different President.  OBL is dead and politics in Washington has become a blood sport in which the combatants don’t give a damn about the people and their welfare. The Republican party seems to be committing slow suicide, which is sad because I prefer a two-party system. Mostly the changes are demographic.  California is no longer an Anglo-majority state, which is fine with me. The fear and unease that go with the awareness that there is no place on the planet that is totally safe is becoming part of our consciousness. I don’t see that changing in my lifetime.

       Last year, I finally visited NYC. We did NOT go to the WTC site. I didn’t see the point.

       Did 9/11 change you or the way you live? Tell us  about it, and hug your kids today.

Local Food Month-let’s celebrate Humboldt’s bounty, and by the way, where’s the local yogurt?

 It’s that time again: Local Food Month, cleverly timed to coincide with harvest season. Whenever I travel outside the local area I am reminded that we are so lucky to have access to food that hasn’t been shipped from a thousand miles away. You could spend an hour rummaging through a Publix or a Winn-Dixie in Florida and not find any local food at all.  Here’s a link to the event listings and don’t forget to check out the “Red Carpet  Premiere” Saturday night at the Eureka Theater which will feature food, films and fun. The Humboldt Made site has all the details and a link for ordering tickets in advance.

       At the same time I’m relishing the local cheeses, jams etc I can’t help wondering why there’s no local  source for a food I eat everyday, and a lot of you do too.  I’m talking about YOGURT. It’s easy to make (we used to make it in our dorm room at Davis) and when In later years I had occasion to visit the Continental Culture Company in Altadena,  I found that their operation wasn’t much more complicated. They had one building that was hot and humid, where the culturing took place, and another that was refrigerated for storage purposes. Later they became a huge company and I used to see their products all over Southern California, in health food stores. Now, they’re out of business, mourned by their fans a having been the only lactose-free yogurt available.  I didn’t know there was such a thing.

       I used to buy the 39c Lucerne yogurt, oblivious to its mushy texture and lack of flavor but then, like a lot of you, I discovered Chobani and got hooked on its heft and chalkiness. Chobani retails locally at Winco for about a buck and at Murphy’s for $1.50 or so.  So my 39c investment has become at least a dollar. Chobani was in the news this morning for contamination problems in its Idaho plant. Their growth has been spectacular. The Economist has a very interesting account in its August 31st issue of how Hamdi Ulukaya, a son of Kurdish immigrants in Turkey,  bought an 85-year-old yogurt factory in upstate New York in 2005. This year he will sell more than $1B , a healthy chunk of America’s $6.3B market. The company is changing; Mr Ulukaya is hiring a COO and a new ad agency.

       So what’s the difference between “Greek” yogurt and any other? Greek yogurt is strained to remove the whey, the watery liquid that separates out during the process, leaving more protein than in the supermarket stuff, in fact about twice as much. No, I don’t own stock in the company.  Mr. Ulukaya retains sole ownership.

       So what is stopping some Redwood Coast entrepreneur from entering this market?  We have the dairy infrastructure, the marketing image of green fields and free-roaming herds and a population that would probably support a local yogurt if one were available. It seems like a natural. You could have “Redwood Raspberry” or “Humboldt Honeycomb”. If someone finds a way to make our major ag product palatable to the taste buds, you could get into “Weedwacker” or “Green Giant” although I guess that’s copyrighted . Anyway, the possibilities are endless. And you don’t even have to pay me a consultant’s fee. Just gimme some good yogurt.

UPDATE: The lime Chobani I ate earlier today was apparently from the batch (06-12, exp Oct 7) that  some people, mostly  kids, have become sick from and which Chobani is replacing with coupons in what is called a “voluntary recall”. I feel absolutely fine. Another opening for LOCAL yogurt!