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. .

 

Housing Prices, Location Filming , Homelessness, Rain and the Harbor

HOUSING  PRICES: The December Humboldt Economic Index  published a couple of weeks ago showed a dip in County housing prices that would be pretty scary if it continues, but it probably won’t.  Median home prices in Humboldt fell from $264K to $234K, but not to worry. Dr. Erick Eschker of the HSU  Economics Department advises that the figures should be read as a four-month moving average and provided an additional graph that shows the dramatic shift since 2006 and the slow upswing we are now experiencing. The Index of Home Sales is 24.3% higher than at this time last year, which is nice.

FILM/TV INCENTIVES :  The Economist (Jan 17) reports that Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles has appointed  Tom Sherak, “an old industry hand” to lobby in Sacramento for the city’s interests in luring the industry back to LA.  Film and TV production in California has been decimated by the grander film subsidies and incentives offered by other states. New Mexico and Louisiana have been particularly aggressive,  and  California was particularly late in realizing that they needed to get into the incentive game also. Mr Sherak may find this a difficult year in which to persuade the legislators of the urgency, with so many other unfunded needs. Humboldt County, by the way, is doing well, even in the rain. Cassandra Hesseltine, our Humboldt-DelNorte Film Commissioner, reports that filming locally has become a year-round activity in the last couple of years, not limited to the “good weather”. She says the right now crews are in town filming a print ad and a reality show, about which she didn’t want to say too much but it wounds like a well-known hairy creature from Willow Creek is involved. Let’s wish Mr Sherak well in his new job. Film is definitely one of our strengths.

HOMELESSNESS DOWN, NOT UP:  Considering all the focus on homelessness lately, I am amazed that so little attention has been paid to Daniel Mintz’ excellent piece in the Mad River Union which gives some good solid numbers to think about (Eureka’s homeless count was 1100 in 2011, 650 now). This is a problem which will never be solved without clarity on the extent of the problem. Sadly, 37 homeless students were identified in the  Northern Humboldt Area.

HUMBOLDT BAY HARBOR WORKING GROUP: Maybe it was the rain, but the Group’s meeting on Wednesday was the most downbeat I have attended. Three speakers discussed short-sea shipping and were refreshingly honest. Most of our lumber goes to LA, and we can’t even fill a barge from up here. The labor doesn’t pencil out either. The Harbor Commission study on the East-West rail initiative was definitely putting a damper on the proceedings as without East-West, or even with it, it appears that at present we just don’t have enough cargo to make it short-sea shipping worthwhile, and a Walmart center in Gerber won’t do it either. I  personally feel that the old North-South rail route is a much better idea and could not only move freight but revitalize the tourist and rental car businesses, but what do I know?

Happy Lunar New Year! See you next week.

The Winter of Our Discontent-Trains to Vancouver, NVB is Sold and the Chinese are Coming, and Coming and Coming

Well, here we are in late January, freezing to death, looking at a drought and coming off a lousy crab season. There IS good news- getting to someplace even colder is now easier.

TRAIN SERVICE BETWEEN EUGENE AND VANCOUVER, B.C.- it’s begun, and it’s a ten to twelve-hour trip with inconvenient departures although the website states in several places that the schedules are to be adjusted in the near future. The new Cascades line overlaps in places with the Coast Starlight, so don’t get them confused while reading the schedules.The State of Oregon bought the two trains with stimulus money and each carries 286 passengers, bicycle storage, outlets, wi-fi etc. The trains were built by Talgo, the US subsidiary of a Spanish company. The multinationals seem to have more faith in US rail than do the Neanderthals running Amtrak. Look at what Siemens is doing in Sacramento: building something like 30 locomotives of which two will end up on the West Coast (and creating thousands of good jobs). I hope to take this train over the summer but as you all know getting to Eugene from here involves either a four-hour drive and finding a place to stash your car OR a tortuous three-bus ride from Arcata to Redding then hooking up with the Starlight to Eugene. The best train seems to be the one that leaves Eugene at 2pm because it’s ALL TRAIN, no long bus rides.  It’s a 10 hour ride, all the amenities are promised, including a lounge car, and the fare is as low as $73.  Ticket sales are healthy and the State of Oregon did two smart things with this $38M purchase: they bought rolling stock designed to handle the higher speeds if/when high-speed rail becomes an option and they planned ahead of time for increased demand in 2017 when service increases between Seattle and Tacoma. Check out their website- even the food menus look good.  The North Coast Journal (Dec 12, 2013) did an excellent summary of the hassles involved in trying to get to Portland from here. Every little bit helps. And if you go all the way to Vancouver, don’t forget your passport (or birth certificate and photo I.D.) 

NORTH VALLEY BANK PURCHASED BY TRI COUNTIES: Effective in mid-2014, some of us will be sending our mortgage payments to Chico-based Tri Counties Bank, a merger that will result in a combined workforce of 1100 employees, and a network of banks stretching from Crescent City to Bakersfield.  With $3.5B in assets, $3.1B in deposits,  $2.2B in gross loans, and 80 branch offices, the new Tri Counties Bank will be the 26th largest in the State. The banks have issued the usual disclaimers about how this change will be painless to customers.

CHINESE TOURISM TO U.S. TO TRIPLE BY 2020: As I prepared to enter the China Buffet in Eureka, a group of Chinese diners emerged and zeroed right in on me. (They always do- I must look helpful.) None of them including their driver spoke much more English than I do Chinese, but they knew what they wanted. “Redwood Park”, they kept saying. “Redwood Park”.  Their van was labelled “Joy Tours:” but it was getting dark and I couldn’t figure out whether they would get more joy going south to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, or north to the National Park so I pointed them north, figuring they’d get a kick out of Paul Bunyan at Trees of Mystery. The next day I called Tony Smithers at the HCCVB and asked him about Joy Tours. He was aware of them but apparently the bureau has not specific outreach to Asian visitors.

I suspect that will be changing in the future. 1.5M mainland Chinese visited the US in 2012 and their numbers are expected to reach 5.7M by 2020. California is the most popular destination, followed by New York.  Relaxed visa restriction and rising household income are fueling the growth. The LA Times reports that Chines tourism to LA rose 21% in last year and that “Chinese tourists are the second biggest-spending foreign visitors to the U.S. – just behind Indians and ahead of Australians, Brazilians and Japanese- with a average budget of $4400 not including airfare.”  Meanwhile, U.S. hotels are not well-equipped for Chinese visitors, especially in terms of Mandarin-speaking staff and Chinese dietary needs. The Chinese tend to stay longer than other tourists (42 nights average) and 36% are here for conventions or business meetings. Talk about a bonanza being dropped in our laps! Gung Hay Fat Choi, everyone. And a Happy Year of the Horse.

REMINDER: Next Friday, January 31 is the deadline for applying for the Fisherman’s Terminal restaurant opportunity, details in our last week’s issue. 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

Short Sea Shipping, Locomotives in Sac and Crowdfunding Goes Mainstream

“Short Sea Shipping”. Now try saying THAT three times in quick succession.

However it comes out, short sea shipping has been talked about as a potential use for Humboldt Bay Harbor for at least the several years that I’ve been following the rail/bay/train situation. At their July 31 meeting, the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group hosted a presentation by Stas Margaronis on “Trucking by Water:  Potential of a Humboldt-Stockton Container Ship Service”.  Mr. Margaronis is an energetic speaker and is the publisher of  his own website, Rebuild the US, and is the founder of Santa Maria Shipping and Trucking, as referred to on the website as a startup. Stockton is home to or near to many Central Valley distribution centers and is 75 miles from Oakland by water.

Harbor Commissioner RIchard Marks provided a good writeup on his blog, Samoa Softball, so I won’t repeat his excellent reporting. I would just add that a number of folks from SoHum showed up, apparently supporting any alternative to trucking on the theory that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  The opponents of the Richardson Grove realignment and the Willits bypass heard Magaronis explain that one ship can replace 120 trucks but a kind of pall fell over the crowd when he mentioned LNG as a possible fuel for these ships (as opposed to diesel). It hasn’t been that long since our last LNG trauma and it’s pretty clear to me that LNG is a non-starter, even when confined to ship fuel lines, in this community.  He also mentioned our lack of a pier (cost: $10-15M). Anyway, whether you call it short-sea shipping or the marine highway, it’s a hard concept to be against assuming the freight is available. The potential for well-paying jobs is clearly there. Kudos to the HBHWG for another thought -provoking program.

LOCOMOTIVES- like any train nut, I look forward to RailPAC’s newsletter, Steel Wheels. The current issue reminds us that, although there are those in Humboldt who seem to think that railroads are a thing of the past, railroads are thriving in other areas. Siemens, the German mega-corporation, is building 70- that’s 70-energy-efficient locomotives for AMTRAK at its solar-powered plant in Sacramento.  This project will involve 69 suppliers in 23 states and 61 cities and will replace aging locomotives with state-of-the-art imodels that are expected to conserve  3Bkwh of energy by using such innovations as regenerative braking, which  can feed up to 100% of the energy generated during braking back to the power grid. Personally I am delighted that this huge investment has come to Sacramento, which has been a train town since they knocked in the Golden Spike. Hopefully there will be follow-on orders, as this first fleet is all-electric and designed for the Northeast corridor.  Hopefully Siemens can produce a passenger diesel and other products to keep foreign investment and good jobs coming in to the West Coast..

CROWDFUNDING- Those of you who supported local artist Peter Santino’s Kickstarter campaign have heard that the funding was successful and we can expect to receive our books in December. It occurred to me the other day that Eureka has a long and honorable history in crowdfunding; the Eureka Inn was originally financed by pledges from 750 citizens who felt the city needed a good hotel.  Seth Geddes’ project Fund Humboldt has taken off flying.  The Economist reported recently that in 2013 THREE BILLION DOLLARS will be crowdfunded of which about a sixth will be donations, without promise of equity or products. Crowdfunding is happening everywhere from Chile to Finland and could eventually provide an avenue by which citizens can decide how they would like their tax moneys to be spent.  Sounds good to us.

Finally,  a happy note for those of us who were English majors; the UK’s new ten pound note will feature  novelist Jane Austen,  a woman who wrote about money and its effect on families like no one else ever has. Sony is about to release Austenland,  a film about Austen  fans. Congratulations, Jane. It’s about time.

The Power of Showing Up, Lost Credibility and Railroad News

The Power of Showing Up-Have you ever been to a school board meeting? I hadn’t until the special meeting on July 11, ostensibly to discuss the “Future of the Eureka High School Automotive Program.” I learned a few things.

One thing I learned is that NO ONE SHOWS UP at the typical school board meetings, at least the Eureka City Schools board meetings. There were about 70 people in attendance; typically they get half a dozen. Another thing I learned was that the ECS officials in attendance (Van Vleck, Olson and Eagles) had no intention of engaging in a real discussion. Van Vleck presented a PowerPoint show to convince the crowd that the current curriculum could not be sustained. He was so desperate to make his point that he actually presented the results of a KINS telephone poll in support of his position. I learned that there is a vast range of competence and conscientiousness among the five members of this particular board.

When it came to community input, we were limited to three minutes each. The speakers included graduates of the program, and representatives of many local dealerships. As it got close to 10pm, it seemed that the tide had turned, the Board members were making plans for a followup meeting on the next Friday and I went home. The only two elected officials in attendance, Marian Brady and Rex Bohn, stayed until the bitter end, bless their hearts. You could have knocked me over with a  blackboard eraser when I read in the next day’s  paper that the Friday meeting was off and a 3-2 vote had been taken to close the program. I don’t know who did what to who to finally end up, a couple of days later, with a compromise that essentially saved the program but I learned a third valuable lesson:  DON’T LEAVE EARLY.  The bureaucrats have all the time in the world and they can wait till the wee hours of the morning if need be, to get their way.  You’d think I would have learned by now.  I should mention that Mr. John Fullerton was consistently clearheaded and effective in moving things along. Let’s hope the message has been received that the taxpayers, stakeholders and students want the program. As Woody Allen says, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  If that crowd hadn’t shown up,  the program would be gone for sure. 

Lost Credibility-  “Reputation is a bubble” as the saying goes, or maybe a balloon that, once popped, cannot be reconstructed.  Just about everyone in the County has weighed in on the Dan Johnson debacle. I expect to hear any day now that the President, both Popes and Jay-Z have issued statements. The point is that NO ONE is defending Mr.  Johnson’s actions. The best that his friends can do is point out that he has made charitable contributions, as any major businessperson in the county does. Well, good for him. However, the idiocy he demonstrated in believing that he,  and only he, could read and recall a letter that was published in Newsweek and probably a dozen other publications is profound and calls into question his basic judgment. It takes a certain type of megalomania to do what he did.

I thought of that during the Healy Brothers Building block party: Mr. Kramer celebrating another excellent project, Mr. Johnson hiding from his constituents and issuing snarky non-apologies.  We need maturity in our civic leaders. Please consider running for the school boards in your area. Our kids need you.

The Train -as you probably know the $20K study by the folks in Washington state concluded that the EastWest route(s) are not viable and would cost over a billion to construct, even if a clear strategy for its use were developed.  This brings us back to where we were in the beginning, with the North-South route costing somewhat less but more importantly, offering transportation for the cargo we know is available- tourists. Tourists to fill our hotels.  Tourists to rent cars and go on tours and excursions and swing around in the treetops. As anyone who has ever ridden the train down to San Rafael will tell you, the train ride through the Eel River Canyon could easily be one of the major tourist attractions on the West Coast. A different aspect of the rairoad issue will be the subject of the Harbor Working Group’s July meeting, which takes place Wednesday noon at the Samoa Cookhouse and will feature a talk on the possibility of shipping between here and Stockton. (Click on “Community Forums”.)  These meetings are always interesting. ‘Nuff said.  

The Week in Redwood Coast Business- renaming the airport, charging for the Oyster Festival, getting no love from our homies and train vs turkey

Renaming the Airport- The sorry spectacle of a town renaming its airport to attract visitors is a plot worthy of a comedy, one of those good British comedies with Peter Sellers .  The good news is that it will take the proposed name change at least a couple of years to be approved so perhaps someone or thing will come along in the meantime to save us from ourselves.  “California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport” is too long, was obviously , like a giraffe, put together by a committee trying to please everyone, and leaves unanswered the question : what about those obnoxious folks in Mendocino who think THEY have a Redwood Coast? The Mendocino -Sonoma Chamber calls  itself “The Redwood Coast Chamber”. There are so many other “Redwood Coast” businesses down there I almost decided to call my blog something else.

What if instead of perpetual confusion, the airport promoted clarity? Why not spend the money on educating folks that the Eureka-Arcata Airport is in Humboldt County, home of the Redwoods? I called the always-affable Tony Smithers of the Visitors and Convention Bureau and asked for his estimate of the number of tourists we host yearly.  He guesses he number is around 1.5 million all but one or two percent of whom arrive here by means other than air travel.  So if changing the airport’s name would double the traffic there (it wouldn’t- I’m just stretching for an example) the number of air-arriving visitors would go from 30,000 to 60,000.  Would these folks be visitors who wouldn’t come here otherwise? That seems to be the hope. Frankly I think the drive UP here is just as much of a draw as the attractions in Humboldt area,  but only time will tell.

By the way, our friends in Redding just concluded an unsuccessful campaign to attract another carrier and are heading back to the drawing board.  In a climate where airlines are squeezing the passengers for every dime and shutting down as many routes as the government will let them,  attracting more service to a marginal market like Redding or ACV will be quite a trick.  

O Oysters, Come and Walk with Us- The Oyster Festival is making a  brave and necessary change by  instituting a $10 admission charge. I was a volunteer, selling drink bracelets a couple of years ago, and it was obvious something had to change. The drink bracelets didn’t stay with the purchasers for long and the frenzy for beer would cause an onlooker to think they were at a beer festival, not an oyster festival.  I’m looking forward to this weekend, fence and all.  Kevin Hoover’s thoughtful editorial in the Eye lays it all out .

General Patton- Mike Patton,  surely the most influential musician ever to emerge from the Redwood Coast, (sorry, Sara Barielles), was featured in the Critic’s Notebook of the June 3 issue of the New Yorker, as an “indefatigable vocalist and visionary” on the occasion of the Manhattan concert introducing the fourth album by his current band, the “frenetic and experimental post-rock” Tomahawk. “General Patton” , as they dubbed him, the lead singer of Faith No More and founder of Mr. Bungle, among other bands,  is a true original but I haven’t heard of him playing up here, ever. Twenty years ago, when I was getting ready to move back here, Details magazine quoted him as saying, of Eureka,  “It’s a void. There’s absolutely nothing to do there. I mean nothing.”  I wonder if he has been back here since?  He won’t be around this summer, that’s for sure. He’s touring Europe with Tomahawk, opening for Nine Inch Nails.  The Film Commission has been trying to get the attention of Jeff Bridges (whose grandparents ran the Vance Hotel) for years but hasn’t been able to lure him up here. I believe he actually grew up in Petaluma. If the Redwood Coast is to market itself as being a cradle of creativity we need these folks. Incidentally,  After Earth is getting universally terrible reviews, which is a shame, but kudos to Cassandra Hessletine and crew for luring that production here.

Terror on the train- Finally,  as if the problems with starting up any kind of rail service to the Redwood Coast weren’t fraught with perils enough, the current issue of the RAILPAC newsletter reports that at 11am on June 1 in West Mansfield MA, a wild turkey crashed through the window of an Amtrak train, stopping service on all tracks. “The engineer was covered with  glass…and the engine compartment was full of the remains of the turkey, making it unusable”. You can’t make this stuff up.  Thank God no one took pictures. 

Stay hungry. Stay creative. Now, more than ever? 

Shouldn’t I get a discount if the plane is late??

The saga of the quest for reliable air service for the Redwood Coast continues. Our local warriors have gathered enough gelt and promises of same to go a’wooin’ another air carrier to provide service to our ill-located airstrip. (Okay, there’s a terminal, so I guess that makes it a real airport.) But I want to disclose something which was news to me: it IS possible, although not consistently, to get on-time stats for flights to and from ACV.

Try this for fun.  Go to the  United Airlines site and make a pretend reservation from ACV to SFO, specifying a date but leaving the time open. You will be presented with a list of options for flights, and in the right-hand column, just beneath the notice that, no, they’re not going to feed you, click on the tiny blue writing that says “See on-time performance”.  You MAY get a popup that says “There is no recent record of delay and cancellation percentages for this flight.”  This is hogwash.  If you wait a day or two, you get a  different result.  For the 5:48 pm flight, 5541, I just got a table that shows 37% on time, 37% late and 0 cancelled. Since 37+37=74, this leaves a quarter of the flights unaccounted for. Did they vanish into a Redwood Coast version of the Bermuda Triangle? More likely, it’s just the way they’re counting. The fine print explains that UAL doesn’t count a flight as late unless it’s MORE THAN 30 MINUTES LATE.  The best on-time stats are – of course- for the 6am flight to Sacramento ,  where they don’t have our fog problems.

We, of course, have the fog, and turning a training facility for bad weather flying into an airport that people and businesses depend on must have seemed like a good idea at the time. So here we are, 70 years later, trying to make do with an airport that is too fogbound for reliable operations, no railroad and poor bus transportation. Is it any wonder I keep calling for a shuttle to SFO or at least Santa Rosa from which some entrepreneur will make lots of money? It’s already started. Look at Craig’s list under “Rideshare” and check out the number of gypsy operations already going.  

Or, we could move the airport to Willow Creek and ride a shuttle for an hour. At least we wouldn’t have to worry about what to call the airport.

Welcome to Bigfoot International.

New Year’s Wishes for Redwood Coast Business

 

While clearing away the Christmas clutter,  let’s hope for better days to come. Here are my three wishes for the local business community.

1. No more empty storefronts! Even a year ago I could smugly drive through Henderson Center and think, “Well, at least there aren’t any empty businesses  HERE.” No longer.  Gone are Finnegan & Nason (what happened to them?) , Robert’s , although there’s a liquor sales notice in the window so maybe something is happening there, the old Dalianes site is empty again.And HC is bustling- with a serious parking problem- compared to downtown. Empty commercial sites, like  broken windows, are a sign of of an unhealthy community. The unoccupied Wendy’s, Plaza Design, and other empties on our main drag are a drag on our economy and certainly do not inspire confidence in anyone thinking of moving or investing  here.

2. Better and more transportation options! We can throw money at all the second-tier airlines in the country , like throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it sticks, but how many more times will we have our hearts broken and our money consumed for no result? It’s time to admit that the airport is not viable for people who need reliability . Who will start a shuttle service to SF/SFO? I’m betting they’ll do well. Sign me up.  While we’re at it, let’s wish for an exhaustive and credible study of the East-West rail option. I was a  part of the Humboldt Bay Working Group that is adocating for the study and I’m still all for a CREDIBLE study of this option.

3. I wish that the flowering of entrepreneurship in Humboldt County continues to flourish.  I hope that the rumored relocation of Mr. Arkley does not mean the end of the Economic  Fuel program.  The Link is sponsoring some exciting programs and there is an Inventors’ Group forming in Eureka. When times are tough, the tough get going. We have no other choice if we want to continue living in the best place on Earth.

So Happy New Year, everyone. I was only kidding about cleaning up after Christmas. I like to leave my Christmas lights up until Chinese New Year.

 

 

 

How Much Is A Train Worth, Part Deux

“I rode the train today.”   

Speeder train at Samoa

        Now there’s a startling statement from a Humboldt resident.  Okay, it was only one of the speeders that the Timber Heritage Society is planning to run this summer, and only a 20 minute ride from Samoa Cooklouse to the point where the tracks get sketchy, but it was a train, by God. For train nuts like me, a quick fix is better than nothing.

      For all the talk in the news about trains lately, we seem to be moving further and further away from the reality of regular service.  The recent Prosperity exercise involved 19 “Citizen Action Teams”, two of which recommended at least exploring the feasibility of an east-west route from here to Gerber or thereabouts. Some of our most prominent citizens are advocating the study, which would  cost as little as $100K, but no one wants to pony up the money and, as we know, the County is strapped. Personally, I think if the matter could be laid to rest one way or another- What’s the cost? What’s the cargo? Will the Feds grant easements or sell off land?- I think the $100K would be well-spent.

(As a matter of disclosure, I served on the “Harbor Revitalization” team, although my role was mostly to provide publicity for the town meeting we had at the Labor Temple. Good turnout, lots of interest, lots of concerns.)

          The latest development is the pressure on the County supervisors to engage in “railbanking” the tracks around the Bay. I wouldn’t be so skeptical of railbanking if someone could give me just one example of tracks that were railbanked and successfully brought back to life as a railroad. They keep telling me they exist, but no one seems to have any specifics. Once you cover something with asphalt, it’s pretty much out of play.

          Yes, it’s hard out here for a train nut.  I’ll get my fix in October, when we’ll be riding the Empire Builder from Portland to Chicago (THE best Amtrak route).  But in Humboldt County unless the THS manages to get its round-the-bay tourist run going, no one is going to be saying, “I took the train today.”