Airport News- Medford Is BUSY, Eugene’s Adding Service

While our ACV struggles to maintain a four-flights-a-day schedule, the Medford airport is jammed. A Friend of the Blog turned us onto this story from the Medford Mail Tribune . Medford is handling 19 departures a day to ACV’s four and passenger traffic is at an all-time high.

Eugene too! The excellent article also points out that “Eugene’s Mahlon Sweet Airport has announced expanded service, with a daily flight to San Jose by Alaska Air Group’s Horizon unit, a Southwest Airlines flight to Dallas and five flights per week to Beijing by Hainan Airlines.”  (One-stop in San Jose). Yes, Beijing.  Whee!

I mentioned the Eugene flights to a Chinese friend who commented that due to the economic expansion in China there are direct or one-stop flights to China now from American locations that would have been unthinkable until recently.  Like Eugene. 

Our Friend also points out that the departure of Avis R/A/C from our ACV has been accomplished and Avis didn’t mind paying $9K to get out of its contract.  A windfall!  Not exactly, but it will cover the cost of trimming a few trees.

The invaluable Mad River Union has a story today about the Grand Jury recommendations re: ACV.  The piece is not online but contains the following startling statistic: “Between 2007 and 2013, McKinleyville enplanements plunged to 56,682 from 105,969, costing vital federal dollars, which are apportioned by a formula linked to the number of annual enplanements.”


Have Kids? Take Them to ACV June 9th.

In a local version of the Harmonic Convergence, our still NOT renamed airport will host BOTH the Wings of Freedom air meeting AND the Goodyear blimp on Tuesday June 9.  The Wings of Freedom event offers a chance to tour vintage Word War II aircraft,  and the blimp!! Well, what can you say about the blimp other than that it is the most recognizable American icon, apart from the Statue of Liberty. 

The festivities actually start on the 8th and the exact date of the blimps’ arrival is unclear (it takes several days to get here from Long Beach) .  Check the papers or  the Fly Humboldt Facebook page for updates.


Intensive Care

The first ten channels on the television in the Super 8 on the Alameda in San Jose were Indian. Bollywood Indian, not tribal Indian. So was the entire staff of the motel, including the studious young man who jiggled the reservations to find us a room that we would take a day earlier than planned without having to change rooms after the first night.  We had planned to come down Friday but when my cousin called and said my sister was “in crisis” we started driving south, badly packed and apprehensive.

My friend Chris did most of the driving while I fretted.  Thinking about my sister,  thinking about when we were kids, thinking about what shape she would be in, or whether she would still be alive,  since my brother-in law’s cell wasn’t responding. When we got to Valley Medical Center, we discovered it was still under construction. We went into three wrong parking lots before finding the right one.  The clerk at the desk was very calm when giving us directions to her room so we figured the news couldn’t be too bad.  When we got to her room my brother-in-law and a cousin were there. My sister had “stabilized” during the night, they said.  She was unrecognizable – breathing mask over her nose, stuck full of needles and cables and hoses, but she could squeeze my hand.

She had been poked in so many places that her skin was mostly blotchy purple. They were concerned about bleeding in her stomach so she couldn’t have liquids. They would let her suck on a sponge,  then five minutes later she’d ask for another. She can’t remember anything but they said this may be temporary. The nurses are wonderful. All the sappy things you’ve heard about nurses being angels is true. They are.

She is restrained so she won’t pull out the nose clip that ‘s feeding her oxygen and the food tube that also goes up her nose. She pulled out the nose thing in just an instant with both me and my brother-in-lay standing right there, she was so quick. At the end of the day they released her from the restraints and a minder or sitter was assigned to watch her overnight. Did I mention this is a wonderful hospital? The next day I stayed with her, mostly making the tiny adjustments to her bedding that become supremely important when you’re bedridden. I dared Chris to find something interesting in San Jose and he called from a Japanese garden that he said was first rate. I couldn’t talk him into going to the Rosicrucian Center, right near the hospital. A couple more family members came by. My sister was more lucid. The crisis had passed. We had a late Japanese dinner near North Fourth Street. It was wonderful.

Monday I had to make the drive back to Eureka. The drive seems longer every time. It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a haole or Anglo other than our family members for days. 


Aviation Update July 2014

Don’t read this if you’re looking for good news for airline passengers. A friend of the blog compiled the following links which show that no matter how bad it gets, there’s always room for worse.

1.  You’ve noticed the carriers imposing more and more fees along with the regular airline fares? Try 1200% in the past seven years, like from $2.4 B in fees in 2007 to $31.5 B in 2013.  More carriers are counted in the later figures but the fees are all coming from the same source: you. 60% of these fees are from the sale of frequent flyer points, 25% for baggage fees, the rest from such services as early boarding and extra-leg-room seating fees. Here, courtesy of Yahoo Finance is a full accounting.

2. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that TSA is also raising its fees. The current fee is $2.50 for non stop and $5 for a connecting flight. The new rate is $5.60 per flight with any connecting longer than four hours counting as a separate flight. That may not sound like much but it adds up, especially when you miss your connection due to delays  leaving  ACV and end up with a ten-hour layover at O’Hare. Here is an account from USA Today.

3. The impact of the war in Ukraine and its spinoffs will be enormous and it is probably too early to assess. The route changes resulting from the war are coming at a time when fuel prices are at an all-time high. When the carriers are squeezed, guess who they’ll pass the increase onto?  The Hindu Business Line newsletter carried an analysis but the link is no longer available. Time moves quickly in the Middle East. 

LOCAL UPDATE: The  Airport Advisory committee did not have its meeting as scheduled yesterday for lack of a quorum but Emily Jacobs reported that there was “some” interest in serving ACV demonstrated by other carriers at the confab in Edmonton. Someone reported that Santa Rosa is improving its runways in anticipation of DIRECT FLIGHTS TO HAWAII.  Wouldn’t  that be great? Yes, it would.  

The Consumers’ Guide to Summer 2014- Bring Money

-To no one’s surprise, the courts have approved the merger of American and USAir, which creates the world’s largest airline. Meanwhile, United, our sole air carrier thru their sub, United Express,  was the ONLY major air carrier to lose money this past quarter. To add to UAL’s problems, two of the runways at SFO will be unavailable this summer, leading to lots and lots of delays and consumer unhappiness for the unprepared.

What to do, what to do? Driving to Redding won’t help.  They only offer three flights a day to the beleagered SFO, again thru United Express. Driving to Medford gives you access to Horizon, SkyWest, United Express and Allegeant which offer nonstops to Portland, Seattle, LAX, Denver, Salt Lake City and , seasonally to Las Vegas. Lots more choices, but a four-hour drive, which more and more people are doing from what I hear. Then there’s Sacramento, which offers many choices including direct flights to Mexico. Don’t forget your gas will cost $4.50 according to some predictions. Bargains will be hard to come by so be sure to share with us if you find any.

– According  to The Economist  China will overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy later this year, partly as a result of their relaxing the one-baby rule. Does this bother you?  I see it as an enormous opportunity for Americans in the baby businesses -baby clothes, cribs etc. Their disposable income is rising so fast that the cheap COSCO stuff sold at KMart won’t be good enough for them. Humboldt County has never had a garment industry to speak of but wouldn’t it be nice if someone figured out how to make baby or children’s clothes our of that nice soft hemp cloth?  Someone local?

-Greg Gehr an FOB -Friend of the Blog- shared a link to Titan TV as an alternative to whatever comes out in this week’s URGE. I was pretty impressed especially as it gives more info, like is the show new or a repeat. Definitely useful. Thanks, Greg!

-Another FOB shared this about Northern Redwood Federal Credit Union, an institution I have not dealt with but considering my recent travails with Coast Central I just might look into them. Their Visa Classic Credit Card offers a 1% cash back applied as a credit to your savings account. They’re at 1270 Giuntoli Lane in Arcata and the phone is 800-822-5903. Jenna Cardoza is their Operations Officer and you might want to check them out.

– Finally just a peek into the future. The Eureka Fair Wage initiative is felt by its backers to be a sure shot for qualifying for the ballot in November and you’ll be hearing plenty about it  before them because it is already a bone of contention between the two 4th District Supervisorial contenders, Kerrigan in favor and Bass against. This is an enormous issue for Eureka so pay attention!  There should be some lively debate and it may well affect YOUR pocketbook.

See you later. Gonna be a busy summer!

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. 





Stupid Employer Tricks and Golfing in Cuba

Was it the Letterman Show that used to feature “Stupid Pet Tricks’? The tricks were invariably dumb but the animals were invariably cute. Employers who cheat their workers and somehow think they’re going to get away with it are not cute.

We had featured the new Holiday Inn (under construction on Broadway in Eureka) a few weeks ago when we couldn’t figure out how a hotel that hadn’t opened yet could possibly have been voted “best” in its category in the Times-Standard “Best of Humboldt” poll.  We got a nice note from the general manager of the McKinleyville Holiday Inn explaining that the real winners were the Holidays in Mack Town and Fortuna and that the error was due to a typo by the Times-Standard.

We were left wondering why construction was proceeding so slowly until last week when the news broke that the project had foundation problems as well as numerous wage and hour violations such as not paying some workers since January (!), over a dozen serious safety violations, and that some 31 workers had been illegally classified as independent contractors. The details were well-reported in the Times-Standard,  the NCJ and in Richard Marks’ blog. I hear that the Carpenters’ Marianne Hassler deserves a lot of credit for setting things straight.

Those of us who weren’t involved can only stand on the sidelines shaking our heads and wondering, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? Did they really think they were going to get away with cheating workers out of $250K and no one would notice? Or is this another instance of failing to monitor a contractor? ( See our earlier post about the perils of contracting without monitoring.)  Let’s hope this ugly mess is resolved soon.  All we need is another unfinished eyesore on Broadway.

Here’s something to make you feel old:  Fidel Castro turned 87 the other day.  The old devil has outlasted nine US Presidents so far and has turned the reins of government over to his “kid” brother Raul, who has been assiduously seeking foreign investment. He recently gave the go-ahead to construct something that hasn’t been built in Cuba since the 1959 revolution- golf courses! Yes, those emblems of bourgeois prosperity (and money-making machines) are being built- but of course not by Americans. No, our government continues its insane policy of isolating a natural trading partner while the Canadians get richer and richer building hotel after hotel.  It’s said you can’t tell the south side of the island from Waikiki. You won’t hear me often complaining about government rules but  closing off trade with Cuba has hurt American businesses, the Cuban people and hasn’t done a thing to dislodge the Castro government, has it?

Enough already! Does Barack Obama have the political capital and will to end this travesty? We’ll see.



Trains, Planes and Buses??!!?

Last week,  a friend who needed to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco decided to try the Megabus.  His verdict? Unequivocal approval.

He took the overnighter which leaves LA’s Union Station at 1145pm and arrived in San Francisco (the CALTRAIN station) at 645am, no stops. The bus was new and immaculate, a double-decker carrying at least 100 passengers. There was free wi-fi and each seat had its own charging station. These buses are green-certified and Megabus is now serving Sacramento and San Jose.

Megabus,  Bolt Bus  (affiliated with Greyhound) and other intercity bus services reflect a national trend.  The Chaddick Institute at Depaul University came up with these figures comparing 2011 to 2012 :

Intercity bus:                    7.5% growth

AMTRAK, available seat miles:  3% growth, revenue passenger miles: 2.6% growth

AIRLINES, domestic, available seat miles: .4% growth

AIRLINES, domestic, revenue passenger miles: 1.4% growth

The entire study is available at their website.  Note that these figures do NOT include the “Chinatown” bus services as they do not have published schedules.

We know that the airlines are strapped, which makes them reluctant to add marginal airports such as Arcata to their service areas. Will we ever have alternates to the current United/ Greyhound monopolies? Not as long as United and Greyhound can get by with the shoddy service they currently provide. I can’t see Megabus being able to fill a double decker bus with our amount of traffic- until and unless United raises its fares to an intolerable level (which they’re pretty close to). A more likely scenario would be for Greyhound to upgrade its service.  Even if Greyhound were to upgrade its buses (by a LOT) there will always be those who, even in our eco-conscious community,  wouldn’t be caught dead riding a bus.  Those attitudes will take a long time to change.

As for me, I’d rather ride a bus or other public transport that I KNOW will arrive at my destination rather than continue to play airport roulette. (“Folks, we’re going to have to land at Redding…no, San Francisco…no, Redding”.)  Even Greyhound doesn’t get fogged out.

A final note: I drove to SF to pick my friend up and was appalled at the state of 101, the potholes, unfinished road with those awful grooves, and especially the situation around Willits.  I had always opposed the Willits bypass because I didn’t think it was necessary- who can object to slowing down through a charming town?  But on Friday at 3pm it took almost an hour to get through Willits.  Then on Sunday it was back to “normal”, just the usual slowing.  I assumed the Friday crunch was due to vacationers headed for the lakes, but that was just my impression. Let’s hope the controversial and expensive bypass will improve traffic speed and safety for the entire community, not just summer vacationers.


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.