Monday, January 23, 2017

LAST CHANCE By Richard Salzman for The Northcoast Journal ( Highway safety should be top priority)

Back in November a dear friend and I took our annual trip to Ashland, Oregon, to enjoy the fall leaves in Lithia Park. I love most of the drive, first up the coast along U.S. Highway 101 and then following the Smith River Valley on U.S. Route 199.
But that short distance when you're on Interstate 5 in the Medford area is a shocking wake-up call. This tranquil drive suddenly becomes jarringly unpleasant as giant trucks and tractor trailers are right alongside you at 65 miles an hour. I drive a full-size sedan but no one in an automobile could survive a collision with these monster trucks. Now imagine these same giant trucks, but when you're on the steepest windy parts of 101 in Southern Humboldt or 199 in the Smith River Canyon. Now imagine it's at night, in a pouring rain. 
Why? Why? Why would you put your citizens in such danger? With the completion of Buckhorn Summit on State Route 299, STAA trucks can now access Humboldt County, benefitting those few businesses whose profit margins will increase with access to STAA trucks. We do not need to be putting more large trucks on 199 perched above the Smith River, nor on Highway 101 between southern Mendocino and northern Humboldt County, where 101 has long stretches with curves that strain the suspension of most vehicles driving at 65 mph, never mind if a deer or a loose tire suddenly crosses your path. In such a situation, the one thing you do not want, is to be alongside of, or head-on with, an oversized truck. 
Maybe you think I'm being a bit hysterical and just frighten easily. Well if you doubt me, please take a moment to visit or read these statements from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: One in 10 highway deaths occurs in a crash involving a large truck. Most deaths in large truck crashes are passenger vehicle occupants. Truck braking capability is often a factor in truck crashes. Loaded tractor-trailers take 20 to 40 percent farther than cars to stop, and the discrepancy is greater on wet and slippery roads.(Rain much on the North Coast?)
Bigger, longer, heavier trucks are deadlier. But then nothing could be more obvious. Yet there are forces that want to subject us to exactly that: bigger, longer, heavier trucks on our windy roads, traveling at high speeds, more and more with drivers who are chronically fatigued. Once you let the STAA truck through, drivers may well have traveled thousands of miles before they end up next to you on a dark and rainy night. Tell me again, why do we want to make our lives so much more dangerous? 
Now back to my trip to Ashland. In both directions we had the now routine one-way controlled traffic as we passed the chronically failing road at Last Chance Grade south of Crescent City on 101. You may have read recently that a final determination has been made that, in spite of the more than $35 million CalTrans has spent over the last three decades to try to shore up that section of road, physics and geology make it impossible. The road will have to be moved. It is no longer an option, it is now a necessity. The Last Chance Grade Economic Study concluded that a project cost of as much as $1.6 billion was justified based upon the local economic impacts when the current road fails, and fail it will. Oh and don't forget, the post office is still intent on moving our distribution center from Eureka to Medford, so when the road is out, the mail will take even longer to arrive. 
Depending on which alternative route around Last Chance Grade is selected (the most likely of which will include tunnels), the preliminary geotechnical recommendations alone will take up to four years, with the final recommendations likely to be 12 years away. Point being: We can not afford to waste time with other unnecessary local highway projects.
So, here we have a billion-dollar project that will take years to complete, but is required if we wish to keep the coast highway, our sole artery to Del Norte County, open. Yet for some reason someone has CalTrans convinced that we should spend millions more of our tax dollars to widen 101 through Richardson Grove State Park and 199 through the Smith River Canyon so that longer, bigger, heavier trucks can be put onto more of our local highways. The number of people who died in large truck crashes was 16 percent higher in 2014 than in 2009. Why?  Simple. Because more bigger trucks are on our roads. 
But if saving lives doesn't compel you alone, you might also consider the significant increase in wear and tear to our own roads. Also, why are we considering widening a highway through a state park?  In October, 101 was closed for an entire day when a diesel tanker crashed spilling 5,000 gallons of petroleum product near Dora Creek —  a local swimming hole on the South Fork of the Eel River. Richardson Grove and the Smith River Canyon help protect the North Coast from crashes like these that can have tragic consequences. Let's not destroy that.
There is a local group that has been rationally addressing these issues with science and common sense. You can find out more and support their efforts at
Richard Salzman is an agent representing illustrators and visual artists. He lives in Arcata.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Support Rent Stabilization for Humboldt County Mobil Home Parks

Evict 'em 

Hilary Mosher explained in her views piece "Disquiet on the Mobile Home Front" (Aug. 13) that the board of supervisors won't even put the issue of rent stabilization at mobile home parks on the agenda and expressed that Ryan Sundberg, Virginia Bass and Rex Bohn are subverting the public process.
I hope that neither Ms. Mosher nor anyone else who's been paying attention is surprised that the these three supervisors are more concerned with the profit margins of the owners of the mobile home parks than with the plight of Humboldt County's seniors and other low-income citizens.
All one need do is look at the public records of the donations to their campaigns to see that Sundberg, Bass and Bohn are funded and backed by the largest landowners and the related development industry business owners. The reason these well-heeled folks back these three supervisors is that they know they can count on them to always vote for industry's interests over those of the average citizen. And you have to give all three of them credit for being unabashed in their public display of contempt for the rest of us.
As to the McKinleyville Advisory Committee (MAC), Hilary is wrong to refer to them as in any way representing the citizens of McKinleyville. The MAC is a sham, created by the board of supervisors, which appoints all its members, as a way of further subverting the will of the voters and to provide cover for Sundberg's actions on behalf of the land developers' cabal.
It is long past time to vote these supervisors out of office.
Richard Salzman

Building a better economy for Humboldt County

Let’s take county into the future, not the past

Dave Spreen’s “My Word” (“Building on our rural creative class economy a better bet,” Times-Standard, Aug. 29, Page A4) was the most intelligent commentary yet on the folly of CalTrans priorities on the Northcoast. Those arguing for this mid-20th Century infrastructure expansion will leave us with a obsolete economic structure while eroding our quality of life as well endangering our citizens. Let’s build for the future not for the past. The fact is that Humboldt’s potential is far greater then extraction industries or bulk shipping. There’s a reason we were recently voted the second most livable city, and widening roads for oversized truck traffic is the antithesis of what gives us the quality of life that’s capable of attracting the best and brightest from artisans to 21st Century entrepreneurs. I know this sustainable business development model has not materialized as fast as we’d all like, but if you think we should instead rebuild the whaling station in Trinidad, or a port for deep draft container ships, or large scale gravel mining, or continue to invest in the pipe dream of rebuilding a freight rail line, then I bet you could get hired as an advisor at CalTrans!
Richard Salzman, Arcata

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Raising The Minimum Wage

Chris Rock said it best with this comment that if you’re being paid minimum wage: “your employer is basically saying HEY, if I could pay you less, I would, …but the law won’t let me!”

The point is that businesses pay low wages in order to maintain higher profits.   

As the founding father of free market economics Adam Smith explained  back in the eighteenth century, the ‘Butcher, the Brewer, and the Baker’  set up shop not out of some benevolent desire to put food on our table  [or to create jobs], but in order to make a profit.  

So the short-term impact of raising the minimum wage (for companies with over 25 employees) will be a slight reduction in the profit margin of business owners and corporate shareholders.

As to the myth that this modest raise in the wages of our lowest paid workers will lead to a significant loss of jobs, it’s simply not true: A review of 64 studies on minimum wage increases found no discernible effect on employment. Additionally, more than 600 economists,  seven of them Nobel Prize winners in economics, have signed onto a letter in support of raising the minimum wage.

As to the myth that it will lead to a significant increase in the cost of goods or services to the consumer, I would remind you what most of  us were taught in the elementary school, that prices are based on supply and demand, the most fundamental concept of economics and the backbone of our market economy.  If business owners could charge more, they’d be doing it now.

In Eureka, the largest number of employees earning minimum wage work for multi-national corporations including McDonald’s, Walmart and Target. The prices at these large chain stores are generally set at corporate headquarters and not store to store and their profits are considerable and they can in fact afford to raise their wages without raising prices or laying off workers.  

McD’s for examples makes over $5 billion in profit from revenue of over $27 billion per year and their CEO was paid $13 million dollars (that works out to over $9,000 an hour) last year.

And before you help these liars dry any more of their crocodile tears over their threatened “cost” to us the consumer of raising the minimum wage, you might want to consider the cost to us, the taxpayer, of NOT raising the minimum wage.

You see us taxpayers subsidize these corporations in the form of public assistance.In fact McDonald’s used to run what they called “The McResource phone line” where they advised their employees on how to apply for food stamps.  Workers with increased earnings would pay more in taxes and receive less in government benefits, that you and I pay for, so we would no longer be subsidizing their employers.

And as the City of Eureka relies on sales tax and not income tax for the bulk of its revenue, when you raise the pay of low income workers, 100% of that money gets spent, versus when you give it to shareholders and well-off business owners, who even if they live in town are not likely to increase their spending. 

As an example, last year McDonald’s spent the equivalent of $14,286 per restaurant worker employed by the company on “share repurchases” and dividends. That was $6 billion in one year spent to profit shareholders, while employees are paid minimum wage, which at its current level has a purchasing power of 20 percent less than it did in 1968!

Look, whenever profits are threatened, business always scream “JOBS.” If you’re old enough, you may remember that requiring seat belts in cars were going to cost us jobs!  Any increase in the cost of doing business is always fought with the myth that it will cost jobs, but myths are just that, and the truth is employers will hire as many workers as they need to meet the demand of the marketplace. No more and no fewer.

Then of course there is the moral argument, that if a man or woman does an honest day’s work, they deserve an honest day’s pay, and that would be a wage one could live on.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sunny Brae Park clean up June 28th 11:am - 6:pm

 Please come out to Virginia Way between Beverly Dr and Charles Ave to pitch in!
June 28th  11:am to 6:pm  BBQ at 4:pm
Contact Susan Ornelas for more info or to RSVP:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rob Arkley's victory in Humboldt County

How Arkley Came to Run Humboldt County

For over a decade Rob Arkley had tried to win control of Humboldt County politics.  He has funded candidates and of course his wife ran for office.  He formed lobbying groups like Humboldt Sunshine and most notably, HELP (Humboldt Economic & Land Plan), which intended to steer the future of land planning and of course that starts with the General Plan.

Well apparently the voters of Humboldt County didn't want the local billionaire deciding the future of the community for them and they pretty much voted against all the candidates Mr. Arkley put forward, including his wife Cherie, ...though she only lost her bid for mayor by 42 votes.

What happen next was this group that ostensibly had no connections to Rob Arkley and was run by a guy with a pony tail and a beard (Lee Ulansey), called HumCPR sprang up on the heels of the code enforcement debacle and with their financial backing the "gang of four" was swept into office.

These Supervisors then proceeded to appoint commissioners to the Planning Commission.  Well low and behold but we find out in the Northcoast Journal article that the majority of these newly appointed commissioners list membership in HELP on their resumes!?   Is it possible that if Rob had just grown a beard and a pony tail, that he could have done this his own?  That's unlikely, but in the end and through the unholy alliance that HumCPR has cast between developers and so called "back-to-the-landers", they were able to do what Rob Arkley was never able to do on his own, and was to put his lobbyist in control of Humboldt County.

The voters of Humboldt will get one more chance to change that dynamic on Tuesday. We'll see what they do.

Let me remind you that past elections in Humboldt County have been decided by just a handful of votes. Peter LaValle beat Cherie Arkely for mayor by 42 votes and lost four years later to Virginia Bass by just 65 votes , Jeff Leonard won an election with just 28 votes. Sundberg beat Cleary by 154 votes.  So know that in Humboldt County, your vote does count!
Also, in Humboldt County, they'll confirm that count is accurate:


Time For A Change

Richard Marks was right when he said that even Virginia's critics agree that she's a nice person.  I know that I've always found her to be very nice.  I think Chris Kerrigan is pretty nice himself, and I'd wager that Richard Marks thinks the same.

What I and many others have been critical of Virginia Bass for is her votes, and her appointments.  I disagree with her position on key issues and that's what I've criticized her for, never for not being nice nor would I ever question her character as a person.  What I take issue with is her politics.

Interestingly many of Bass' supporters seem to want to attack Chris' character and I can only assume that's because they don't feel they'll get much traction attacking his positions, which are mostly popular in Humboldt County over all, and particularly in the 4th District.

This past week I've read letters to the editor about Kerrigan's vision for the future of Humboldt County.  About his commitment to 21st Century jobs, about maintaining our open space and parks and about creating trails.  His belief that when you have safe streets and neighborhoods talented people are drawn to an area, which leads to investment and job growth. About how Kerrigan has supported responsible development in areas that have infrastructure.  His commitment to providing affordable housing as the first step in addressing homelessness.  Kerrigan supports development in the town centers rather than conversion of our resource lands, which creates sprawl and a higher tax burden on the rest of us.  He supports the Fair Wage Act to give Eureka's lowest paid workers a living wage and he will support a county-wide version of this common sense law.  

I've also read letters outlining Chris Kerrigan's many accomplishments, actions and efforts during his eight years on the Eureka City Council. From the street calming program that led to the planting of trees throughout Eureka. Chris also brought forward a marriage equality resolution and an ordinance to extend the library’s hours, a big box ordinance that would have required a conditional use permit before any store over 10,000 square feet was opened in Eureka (this would have applied to the WalMart that just went in at the mall), about fighting to protect funding for seniors, about protecting the rights of minorities and about his efforts at historic preservation such as with the Annie B. Ryan house (that developers intended to demolish).  A major focus of his tenure was city beautification which he continues today as a Keep Eureka Beautiful board member.
You hear a lot about the fact that Chris Kerrigan was only 20 years old when he first ran for City Council.  He spent the next eight years of his life working on behalf of this community. The fact is that community is what Chris is all about.  After his two terms on the council were up, he went back to university to complete his education.  Now he's chosen to stay here in Humboldt and is offering to stay in public service rather than pursue a more lucrative career out of town.  I hear a lot of talk about wanting to keep our young people here in Humboldt and here's a great example of a young person who wants to stay!  His youthful energy will bring a lot of what's needed to the Board of Supervisor; most of all it will bring change from the status quo.  When Kerrigan served on the city council he was often in the minority yet he was never afraid to stand up, even when he stood alone, to fight for what was right and in the end he actually won a lot of those battles. Even when he didn't get the more conservative members to reverse their votes he did often get them to find a compromise position, one that more accurately reflected the diverse interests of our community.  We could use that voice on the Board of Supervisors.   We could use some balance and we could use some new ideas.  We've tried it this way, now let's try something different.  Let's try Chris Kerrigan for Supervisor.
It's time for a change.