The Timber Heritage Association-Sleeping Giant in Samoa

Speeder train at aSamoa

Speeder train at at Samoa

The last time I went to one of the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group’s monthly   community forums I noted how downspirited everyone was after listening to an hour of “no”.  No, the east-west train doesn’t pencil out. No, there isn’t enough identified freight to make it work. No, no, no. Yesterday’s meeting was completely different. The Timber Heritage Association reminded us that there are FEASIBLE projects to bring more jobs and more tourists, and everyone left in a good mood. There ‘s a lot of work ahead, but as someone said, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.

(In view of the NCJ column by Marcy Burstiner regarding Brown Act violations, let me clarify that the meetings I attend on the fourth Wednesday of each month are the HBHWG’s PUBLIC forums and are not an inter-agency advisory committee subject to the Brown Act.  I do not attend the AHHA , don’t intend to , don’t know if anything will come of it.  The monthly forums are strictly informational, usually worth attending and represent a lot of hard work by Susanna Munzell and her committee. Glad we got that straightened out.)

Back to the THA which since 1977 has worked hard for a railroad museum and a round-the -Bay tourist train,  and is shortly starting its summer schedule of speeder rides (if you haven’t been on one, speeders are crew cars that look kind of like a caboose.) They run from the Samoa Cookhouse on a short run, only 20 minutes or so but by God, it’s a train ride. Your kids will love it and so will you. The speeder rides are in Samoa four times a year, in Old Town Eureka twice, in Fortuna for the Apple Harvest Days and and have recently started runs in Loleta (check the schedules on the website.)  The steam train rides at Ft Humboldt are all done by THA volunteers during the summer months. By now it should be clear that the THA is a major refuge for train nuts (like me) and they have rolling stock scattered around the county until a real museum can be organized. If you have never ventured down the road behind the Cookhouse, go check it out. They have several train cars right there, all of which are worthy of preservation.

Pete Johnston, who delivered the excellent presentation, pointed out that the Skunk is the major tourist attraction in Mendocino now and if we had a train museum and an opportunity for a train ride, that would be enough to get tourists to stop HERE, rather than shooting past us to Bend or other places with train-related attractions. Did you know the Samoa roundhouse is one of only four on the entire West Coast? That the THA is sustained by 6000 hours of volunteer labor a year?  That’s dedication and one day it will benefit the entire county.

So go ride the speeders and support the THA. I’ve donated before but never joined up but I have now, just wrote them a check for $25 and if I can do it , you can, and should.  They have a couple of fundraisers coming up and last year the Salmon, Oysters Ales and Rails BBQ in August was completely sold out (500 tickets.) Trains have been a big part of Humboldt County history and if the THA has its way they will be a part of its future, as well. .

 

Safeway For Sale

You may have heard by now that the second largest grocery chain in the country (after Kroger) is in talks with a potential buyer. The announcements have been coy about the identity of the potential buyer but speculation has centered on Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm that bought 600 Albertson’s stores in 2006, and pared the lot down to 200 over the next seven years.

Safeway, headquartered in Pleasanton, is the fifth-largest employer in the East Bay and currently owns 1400 stores.  It has already divested itself of 213 stores in Western Canada and is in the process of unloading 72 Dominick’s stores in Chicagoland, apparently getting itself in shape for a sale.  Safeway is being closed-mouthed about negotiations as would be expected. The United Food and Commercial Workers, which represent Safeway employees, are posting updates on their website, as available.  Cerberus was involved in a similar takeover of the Albertson’s chain  in 2006 which , according to the Union, “did not go well”. If any stores are closed, you would expect them to be stores in low-income areas or historically unprofitable stores. Considering the long distances between the  North Coast stores (Crescent City, McKinleyville, Arcata, Eureka and Fortuna, with Eureka already converted one store to a VA Clinic) one would think the remaining stores were safe, but who knows?

Traditional grocery stores have come under intense pressure from competitors such as WalMart, Dollar General and on the other end of the spectrum, Whole Foods. Kroger’s reported a 3% growth for the first three quarters of 2013 while Safeway showed less than 2%.  Whole Foods reported 5%, which if you’ve shopped in their stores explains their nickname,  “Whole Paycheck”.

Let’s hope that things go smoothly and well for our friends and neighbors who work for Safeway. Change happens but hopefully this will be positive change.  

 

 

 

Actor-Activist Ed Asner to speak in Redding

Ed Asner, the “Lou Grant” of television fame, star of numerous films and a lifelong labor and civil rights activist, will speak at the annual meeting of the Shasta-Tehama-Trinity chapter of the ACLU on Saturday, March 22.  The meeting is free and open to the public and will take place at the Pilgrim Congregational Church, 2850 Foothill Boulevard in Redding from 1-4 pm. Donations will be accepted to support the programs of the local ACLU chapter.

Asner, who is 83,  and has been nominated for 20 (twenty) Emmies and won seven. He also has had an extensive voice acting career,  his most recent success being the animated “Up”,  currently in rotation on HBO and other channels. He is the only actor to win televisions’s highest honor for playing the same character in a sitcom and a drama. He was president of the Screen Actors Guild for five years and has been active in a variety of causes both involving the rights of the working performer and other causes such as human rights, world peace, environmental preservation and political freedom. Recently, with actor Mike Farrell (MASH) has been outspoken in his criticisms of the Obama administration’s  Syria policy.

I would expect high interest in this event, so get there early and carpooling would be an excellent idea. I hope to be there. They don’t make ’em like this guy anymore.

For additional information, call (530) 410-8761.

Some Interesting Numbers for Redwood Coast Businesspeople

Here’s some food for thought. You might see a few surprises.

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN HUMBOLDT COUNTY(January): 7.9%

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN SAN FRANCISCO: 4.8%

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN MEXICO: 4.76% (December 2013)  (Time Magazine) Yes, Mexico

SHASTA COUNTY MEDIAN HOME PRICE JAN 2014: $180K  (DataQuick)

HUMBOLDT COUNTY MEDIAN HOME PRICE JAN 2014: $247K (HAR)

CREEPYIEST CREDIT CARD: Capitol One, which according to the LA Times, recently sent its cardholders a contract renewal authorizing the com[any to contact its cardholders by any means including visits to home and workplace, and gives permission to “modify or suppress Caller ID and similar services  and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose.” 

MINIMUM WAGE PROPOSED by LA lawmakers for employees in large hotels: $15.37/hour.

APPLE Computer now has more stores in Shanghai than in San Francisco. (Economist)

CHINA’S $3.3 TRILLION consumer economy is about 8% of the total, and is likely soon to overtake Japan as the world’s second-biggest consumer. Half of the world’s new shopping malls are being built in China. (Economist).

MOST CONGESTED HIGHWAY IN CALIFORNIA: I-5 in LA County. “In 2012 alone, vehicles spent an extra 6.6 MILLION hours on the road, due to heavy traffic.” (LAT).

PERCENTAGE OF AMERICANS WHO BELIEVE THE SUN GOES AROUND THE EARTH: 26% (National Science Foundation).

Okay, We’ll Talk HCDCC Politics (but just this once).

NEW FORMAT: Shorter but more frequent posts. Feedback welcome. 

I didn’t attend the HCDCC meeting Wednesday night because I’m still recovering from the Cold of the Century and it’s just as well. Two members, Melinda Ciarabellini and Marion Brady , are no longer members and party discipline is the reason. The HCDCC has been flooded with new members whose identity as Democrats is shaky or at least awfully recent, but all you have to do is go down to the Election Office and sign the paper, and poof, you’re a Democrat. That’s the American Way.

As for me, I’ve been a Democrat since infancy. One of my earliest memories is of Election Night 1952 when all my teacher relatives were crying in the kitchen. I didn’t even know what “Nixon” meant,  but I knew it was bad. I DID vote for a Republican once- Milton Marks in San Francisco. I was comfortable voting for him because he shared my liberal, pro-Labor philosophy. Folks like this are nowadays referred to as “Eisenhower Democrats”, if you can find one. Unfortunately, politics have become extremely polarized since the ’08 elections as I’m sure you all know.

I was a voting member of the HCDCC for 4 or 5 years.  I went though the awful procedure of gathering signatures (need 20 currently registered Democrats in your supervisorial district, which is harder than it sounds). I attended many many meetings, staffed register-to-vote tables, spent lots of money (for me) on donations. But in the last year or so, I’ve lost my enthusiasm. When we had our first heated discussion about supporting non-Democrats and the punishment that would result, it was pretty clear we were talking about blatant and unmistakeable PUBLIC support. The waters became murky immediately when Marian Brady made the case that she wasn’t really supporting Joe Bananas or whatever his name was- she was WORKING for him, so that was okay. I never was clear on whether the rules applied to the non-voting members.

Fast forward to last Fall. I had resigned as a voting member because this blog takes up a lot of time, but when it was announced that we were having the Democrat of the Year Dinner at the Ingomar Club I knew I was running with the wrong crowd. I organized a counter-dinner in Fortuna for those of us who were uncomfortable with paying the Ingomar for our dinner, and it was a great evening. But it’s getting harder and harder to find common ground among the HCDCC members. Look what we’re got:  HumCPR devotees, GPU devotees like me, union folks, environmentalists all in one “big tent”.  It’s hard to find a common thread, except on social issues. Friendships have been strained.  The HCDCC leadership is pushing to make every election a partisan election. I am not enthusiastic. Look what partisanship has done to us nationally: gridlock.  I voted for John Fullerton. I’d do it again.

I’m still an associate (non-voting)  member of HCDCC and I just signed up to help with their June fundraiser, but now you know where I stand when I write about business. I’m pro-environment,  pro-union, AND pro-business.   Tough work but someone’s got to do it.

Politics can be destructive and ugly, as was demonstrated Wednesday night.    As Will Rogers used to say,

 “I am a member of no organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

 

 

 

A February Potpourri- No, Not That Kind of Pot

I thought that flu shot was supposed to save me from the shivers, shakes and runny nose that has kept me inside all week, but I guess that was a different strain. This week you’re getting some stories from near and far that Redwood Coast businesses, citizens and consumers may find of interest.

3-D PRINTING HITS REDDING:  Both Shasta High School and Enterprise High School have purchased and deployed MakerBot Replicator2 machines at $2300 each and students are experimenting with them right now. We know they’re being used in biotech and and architectural design but I just saw a statement that they’re being used in the CULINARY field but it didn’t explain how.  Well, you could design a heckova wedding cake with one of these things, and at $2300 they’re definitely affordable.  Shasta High is using them to make team souvenirs, for starters.

TONIGHT SHOW LEAVING BURBANK: and taking 160 well-paying jobs with it. About three years ago, we were having lots of exposure on the show because apparently one of the producers fell in love with Humboldt.  Remember Tom Green and the guy in Old Town swinging the firepot around? Green named Duane Flatmo the Most Interesting Person in California.  I don’t think Jimmy Fallon is going to show us that kind of love. Hopefully Jimmy Kimmel can be lured up here and shown the light.

JANUARY HUMBOLDT ECONOMIC INDEX: From those wonderful people at HSU, shows the median home price creeping back up again, from last month’s $234K to $247K, and home sales the strongest since July 2005. Our county unemployment rate is currently 7.9%, California’s is 8.3% and national is down to 6.7%. Here’s the complete update and I’m going back to bed to watch Pawn Stars. Stay warm and dry. It’s apparently going to be a dreadful weekend.