A New Chapter for St Joe’s

(Factoids of the week: The busiest airport on the  planet is no longer O’Hare, it’s DUBAI.  And those cute little “baby carrots” at the market are actually big honkin’ carrots that have been carved by machinery down to their cute little “baby” shapes. )

But there’s also good news. More than 200 service employees  of St Joseph Hospital will now be represented by a union, the National Union of Health Care Workers. For the region’s flagship care provider, this is an excellent opportunity to retool their personnel policies. Of course, now they’ll have help.

Everyone who has had dealings with St Joe’s, and that includes most of us, has noticed how superior the staff is to the structure under which they must work. The staff, especially the nurses, are fabulous,  the hierarchy, not so much. An increased union presence is the best thing that could happen to St Joe’s.  Employees who can bargain collectively without having to beg management for each incremental improvement will, after the dust settles, be better able to provide excellent care. When management is forced to pay more, the  usual approach is to empower the employees and streamline procedures. Everybody wins.

Some of you who don’t know me may wonder how a person who is pro-business can also be pro-labor. Believe me, it’s easy. During my years at the NLRB I saw time and again the benefits of unionization. The employees can speak up without fear of retaliation and management gets to deal with a single Union rep instead of hundreds of disgruntled employees. It’s a win-win. There are many people in the County who are fearful and ignorant of unions since the demise of Big Lumber. With the nurses’ victory in 2001 plus this new bargaining unit, and the growing national revulsion toward minimum-wage jobs that do not provide a living, perhaps the tide is starting to turn.  We can only hope.

 

“The Best of the North Coast” Redux

It’s that time of year again.  I just now noticed that the Times-Standard always posts it’s “Best” list on April Fool’s Day. Good move.

This year’s list didn’t have any major gaffes like last years (darn) which proclaimed the STILL unfinished Holiday Inn on Broadway in Eureka as one of the winners.  There were a few surprises. Porter Street BBQ won over Humboldt Smoke House, which surprised me, and I thought the Banana Hut was an excellent choice for Best Business Lunch- good food and you can walk to it from anywhere downtown. I don’t agree that Ramone’s is the best bakery although they’re certainly among the most expensive. I’m a Cherry Blossom fan, myself.

Hole-in-the-Wall, the Hunan in Henderson Center, Brick & Fire, and Bob’s Footlong’s (Fortuna) all got their props. Happy Donuts, next to the new VA office, won for Best Donuts, but they really should have won for “Best Cheap Lunch”.  They have a platter with three spring rolls with dipping sauce for $4.99 and if you don’t like cilantro you can call the night before and they’ll make you a cilantro-less version and set it aside for you. The donuts are pretty good, too.

I DO find it hard to believe that Shamus T Bone’s steaks beat out the AA’s. That will bear investigating.

But the prize for “Most Ironic” choice is The Works as favorite source for CD’s/Records/Tapes.  The beloved store has lost much of its business since the move to larger quarters on “C” Street and is in a precarious situation. So go down there and BUY something if you want your favorite to survive. Support ALL our local  businesses with your wallets, not just your admiration. Admiration don’t pay the bills.

No foolin’. 

The Man from Freshwater Farms

I met Rick Storre on two occasions. The first was when I visited Freshwater Farms to find a native-plant solution for my planter boxes that always looked like hell, stuffed with geraniums that never seemed to thrive. I entered the building and eventually a friendly man showed up. From the way he settled into his seat, I could tell this was going to be a long chat. It was. It was the kind of chat that takes place when one oldtime Humboldter encounters another.

We reviewed his parents and grandparents, and mine, and gossiped for an hour or so. It felt like being in Ireland, where purchases are never hurried. He suggested a certain type of huckleberry for my planters and I left with six of them.  Three died immediately  and I called him for advice. I went back to FF and he replaced them cheerily. Eventually I managed to kill all of them and went back to geraniums.

I must have passed by FF a thousand times since then, secure in the knowledge that there was a friendly and intelligent person within. Today I feel very empty inside. The house where the bodies were found is a few blocks from me and I feel violated. I lost an acqaintance. I can only imagine how his friends and family feel.

And I feel that I’m losing my town. I don’t recognize a Eureka where St Bernard’s Church is considered in a “bad neighborhood” or where people are murdered a short walk from my home. The people who are running for County or City offices had better have some ideas for change. Mental illness is perhaps the toughest issue facing our society and balancing the rights of the mentally ill with the rights of people like me who are supposedly sane is a conundrum for which all the answers are expensive. Necessary, but expensive.

All I know is that I feel empty. “And the sky is crying.”

February Economic Index-Good News, Bad News

Dr. Erick Escher and his talented crew at HSU have published the Humboldt Economic Index for February and the indicators are certainly mixed, although that’s not unusual in a small market like ours. Homes sales declined by 40% since last month (and are 35% lower than last year at this time) yet the median price of homes sold rose from $247K to $280K. This would apparently mean that higher-end homes are moving faster. Also, look for gas prices to rise further in March.  Anyway, enjoy the Index. It’s always fascinating.

Let’s send a shout out also to the sponsors of the Index: the California  State Employees Credit Union,  Coast Central Credit Union, Umpqua Bank, RREDC and Redwood Capital Bank.

 

The Billionaire Next Door-Red Emmerson on the Forbes List

Well, not literally next door but only a couple of counties over, Archie “Red”  Emmerson of Redding was recently reported by Forbes.com as back on their list. His Sierra Pacific Industries, based in Anderson,  owns 1.9 million acres or forest in Northern California  and Western Washington  and his current wealth is estimated at $3.1 billion.  At that level it’s hard to keep track of rankings but Forbes placed him at #520 of the 1,645 billionaires on this year’s list of the world’s richest people.

The Emmerson’s have strong ties to Eureka.  Emmerson’s late wife, Ida, was a Eureka native and legend has it that they met at the Ingomar Club. He has donated $500K in her memory  to Hospice of Humboldt to build a 12-bed facility for end-of-life care, to be located off Timber Falls Court, south of Harris Street. The entire cost of the facility is unclear to me but Hospice’s capital campaign goal is $2.5M and groundbreaking is scheduled for “Spring 2014″, whenever that is.  I just drove by the site and it is definitely beautiful and peaceful.

The Emmersons (he has two adult sons)  have a pretty spiffy place (click on the thumbnail photo to enlarge) but I don’t have the address and I wouldn’t give it to you if I did. I’m always grateful for any philanthropy in our needy community.  Who knows? I may be a customer for that hospice myself, one day. The family has a foundation and I’m sure they give to many worthy causes but if you were trying to figure  out what percentage of Mr. Emmerson’s wealth is being given to Hospice, on the back of an envelope,  I already did it for you. My calculator won’t accept the right number of zeroes but the way I figure it,  $550K equals .0000001 of $3.1B, or .00001%.  Please feel free to correct my math- it’s not my strong point.

Obviously, our favorite billionaires are those who, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, are leaving their fortunes to worthy causes.  Despite the talk about income inequality, the ranks of the super-rich are growing. Forbes counted 1,645 billionaires on its new list of the world’s richest people, up from 1,426 on last year’s list. This concentration of wealth can do a lot of good, or a lot of evil. What do you think?

 

Dunkin’ Donuts Wants You

In its relentless march toward world domination, Dunkin Donuts has announced the franchises are available in Eureka, Crescent City and 40 other locales in NoCal.  Follow this link  for more info,  and good luck!

 

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.

The Week in North Coast Business- A Golden Opportunity on the Waterfront; More Airport News

FISHERMAN’S TERMINAL RESTAURANT/MARKET

Ever wanted to run a restaurant?

Check this out: “The City of Eureka is soliciting proposals  from qualified restaurant/cafe’ operator(s) to establish a restaurant/cafe’ and retail seafood counter at the Fisherman’s Terminal Building located at #4 C Street and Waterfront Drive.” The announcement from the City continues, “An outdoor patio area for alfresco dining is also incorporated into the space. The restaurant/cafe’ is located at the east end of the Fisherman’s Terminal Building with unparalleled views of picturesque Humboldt Bay, and is adjacent to the newly  constructed C Street Market square, the Madaket docking facility and Ticket Booth, and Old Town”. The announcement adds, “A low-interest loan may be available to a qualified applicant.”

This is a tremendous opportunity for some entrepreneur to play a major role in our waterfront revitalization,  and a couple dozen have already expressed interest.  To receive a complete Request for Qualifications package or ask any questions, contact Judy Harrison, Economic Development Coordinator, by email at jharrison@ci.eureka.ca.gov or call (707) 268-1830.  Here’s some more info from Economic Development. Be patient if it takes them a while to get back to you; there are only four 1.5 people in the section and this is a major undertaking. DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTAL IS JANUARY 31, so get busy and be a part of Eureka’s history! And make some money, too.

AIRPORT TURBULENCE: First, the good news, for frequent flyers anyway. The TSA has opened three enrollment centers to enable frequent airline passengers to pass through security more quickly. Once enrolled in the program, flyers will be excused from removing shoes, belts and jackets and from having to remove their laptops to display to the TSA screeners. What’s the catch? Well, they have to be fingerprinted and pay an $85 fee, good for five years. Where are these enrollment centers? At Sac International, Stockton and- wait for it- EUREKA!!! According to the AP, the centers went online on the 15th and, by the way, they refer to our airport as EUREKA, not that six-word name that I can never remember.

So that’s the good news. The bad is that airport usage from 2007 thru 2012 is wildly inconsistent, with SFO increasing by  27% and Oakland and Burbank DOWN by 31%. San Jose declined by 22% while Sacramento,  which just opened its new $1B Terminal B (“B” for  “Billion” I suppose) has declined by 18%. I find this puzzling. Who wouldn’t rather fly into Oakland or San Jose than SFO, given a choice? With the recession, the choices are realigning and becoming fewer in number. See the “Fly Humboldt” Facebook page  for more info. Also,  Ms. Emily Jacobs, Administrator at ACV, has promised us an update on airline recruitment efforts in the near future.  So watch this space!

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What We Have to Be Grateful For on the Redwood Coast- a sampler

Counting your blessings on Thanksgiving Day, on the Redwood Coast, is an overwhelming job, which is why I am not trying to be inclusive. Here are just a few items which have come to my attention lately, for which we should give thanks.

First, we should give thanks and remembrance to the three loggers who died on the weekend of October 19-20. It doesn’t seem to me that enough attention was paid to these incidents and we can never give enough emphasis to the dangers of logging.

Let’s also, on the verge of the Christmas holiday, remember the 25 or 30 of our friends and neighbors who have lost their jobs due to the closure of Ray’s Food Place in Eureka. I never saw more than two or three customers in the place and I don’t know how they kept it  open as long as they did, but it’s gone now. If you know any of those employees, show a little more kindness than usual.

Let’s be grateful for the farsighted educators of Ferndale High School for purchasing a 3-D  printer for their engineering class. The friendly staff has advised that Mr. Michael Baggot, 786-5900, can be contacted for a possible appointment to observe the machine. ‘Way to go, Ferndale!

Let’s also be grateful for community groups like the Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers (HASA) who devote many hours to the welfare of our precious Bay. Here is a link to their newsletter, which is a great one. It will take a minute or two to load, but is worth the wait. What a pleasure to see our friends Ben Doane and Pat Higgins and thanks to Casey Allen for keeping me on the mailing list.

Not local but still neat: did you know that there is a movement afoot to install chargers for electric and hybrid vehicles all along Route 66? There’s a festival coming up in Kingman, AZ to commemorate the Mother Road going green.

We can be grateful that despite what seems like an all-out effort by Amtrak to stifle our passenger trains, the Surfliner and the San Joaquin have more riders than ever.  

And finally, not local but I bet he’d love the Redwood Coast, movie star Kirk Douglas, who has survived blacklisting, bad movie roles, strokes and God knows what else, has just published his TENTH novel at the age of 94. Long may he wave, and I hope I have his ambition at his age. Have a great holiday and don’t forget to count your blessings.