Even more money and personnel raided from building department to deal with County’s cannabis backlog

The County of Humboldt’s leadership is consumed with all things pot, and as the weeks roll by, they keep funneling more money away from other public needs and towards the cannabis planning division. All the while, the cannabis permits the public has been promised keep failing to roll out.

According to a LoCO article, 99 permits have been issued, and only 86 of those for cultivation.

As a reminder, little ol’ Calaveras County has been kicking Humboldt’s ass when it comes to permit approvals, with a whopping 195 permits approved as of last week.

Did we mention that Calaveras County only had a third of the employees working on the cannabis permits as Humboldt County did?

But it gets worse! As you might have guessed, Humboldt County decided to give themselves yet another boost of manpower and appropriated funds to throw at the approval problem.

Here’s an agenda item from this a couple weeks ago, in which the Supervisors approved another full time position to the cannabis division and simultaneously swindled $45,000 from the Building Department:

And it didn’t stop there – they also gave three vehicles and two full-time positions to the code enforcement unit, which is also under the Planning Department’s purview.

They probably think this is okay because, due to their decisionnmaking, no one is building a damn thing in this County.

But what’s that you say? The Supervisors are set to approve yet another payday for the cannabis division this coming Tuesday December 12th? Tell us it isn’t so!

It is so.

This is a sound management move from Planning Director John Ford – you don’t want to have three consecutive items asking for more money to bandage your department’s failures on one agenda. You’re doing it like an old Humboldt County pro, John, congratulations!

Of course, our Supervisors are buying the Planning Department’s shtick. It’s at least good to know that our Superior-visors like to stick to their guns, and still think that throwing more public money at a problem without changing the methods is a sure-fire way to solve it.

As those of us who don’t have our heads up our asses know, it’s not a lack of money or manpower that’s creating the Planning Department’s problem with permits – it’s the people working on it. Those happen to be the same people who had a hand in creating the whole screwed up ordinance in the first place, so it’s no big surprise that they’re incapable of handling this too.

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Sorry, pensioners: CalPERS can’t pay you because they’re determined to fund social and environmental issues

Quick question: How would you like it if your planned retirement funds were ripped from underneath you because the people managing your retirement decided they should be making political statements with your money?

Here’s a sad bit of news for the jolly season: CalPERS in all likelihood could have enough money to cover their pension obligations to California’s retired and soon-to-be retired public employees. But that would only be if they stop investing in pet project companies, and instead focused on what they should – getting returns on the public’s investments.

You see, CalPERS has decided that it’s more important to bank roll companies that do work which CalPERS deems important. We’d say that ensuring retirees will have the money promised to them – otherwise known as the entire purpose of CalPERS – is more important than anything else, but apparently that doesn’t matter to CalPERS.

Here’s a quote from CalPERS spokesman Wayne Davis, from a Sacramento Bee article:

“We’re passionate about and fully committed to advocating on behalf of shareowners for the right to have a say in how the companies we invest in are run,” he said. “We stand behind our efforts. Any suggestion that we stop engaging with companies on behalf of our members is laughable.”

Laughable. Investing other people’s money is fun, right?

If it weren’t for CalPERS’ commitment to propping up failing companies who focus exclusively on social and environmental issues, than our local and state governments wouldn’t be under the gun. In turn, the public wouldn’t be exposed the risk of government bankruptcy, being forced to support pensions through higher taxes, and might even enjoy some of the perks that we just can’t when public finances are stretched too thin.

That means that they’d be taking less public money to provide diminishing retirement benefits to people, and using more money to combat the many serious issues plaguing California.

Unfortunately, judging from CalPERS’ attitude, that’s not going to change. This is a year in which “repeatedly faced calls from environmental advocates and left-leaning politicians to more aggressively confront climate change, make a stand on gun violence or take activist stands against Trump administration policies.”

So, pensioners, and people who care about the economic health of California – not to mention the welfare of your fellow Californians – do you want to see pensions cut because CalPERS is determined to make political statements with your money?

It’s already happening in California, even in nearby Trinity County.

Here’s a link to the full Sacramento Bee article:

Report blasts CalPERS’ environmental and social “activism”

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Larry Oetker takes over as Harbor District Director, collects salary and retirement at the same time

Last week, the Harbor District announced the hire of former City of Arcata Director of Community Development Larry Oetker to fill the role of Executive Director.

And before we get into the heavy stuff: THC totally called it!

Remember?

Harbor District tabs Larry Oetker as next Executive Director

And while we were full of praises and high hopes for Oetker and the Harbor District when we first broke the news (shocking, we know), Oetker’s appointment got us to thinking.

How big of a drain on public resources is created by people who “retire” from one public job, only to go and take another high-paying job with another public agency?

Let’s use Oetker as an example. In his last full year as the Director of Community Development for Arcata, in 2015, he earned $122,736.44 in salary and another $44,437.61 in benefits, for a total of $167,174.05 in compensation. Not bad at all, huh?

Oetker will now earn a salary of $110,000.00 from the Harbor District for working as the Executive Director.

Even with a very, very conservative estimate of his retirement package, Oetker is bringing in at least $180,000 a year, and that number is probably closer to $210,000 a year.

So here’s the rub, in THC’s estimation: why is the public on the hook for paying Oetker’s retirement, while he is clearly still working for another public agency, at the same time that we are providing him a damn high salary?

And it gets fishier, too. David Loya was hired as Oetker’s replacement with the City of Arcata, and is bringing in about $90,000 per year (as of 2016, per the Times-Standard).

So not only is the City of Arcata paying Loya, they’ve also funded retirement for Oetker to go and work somewhere else after he “retired” well before retirement age.

Oh wait, that’s right! Jack Crider, the former Executive Director at the Harbor District, is also still being paid as a “consultant” to the Harbor District after he bailed on the E.D. job earlier this year. Crider wasn’t satisfied in leaving the Harbor District on the brink of economic disaster – he decided he should continue getting paid

Worst part is, our Harbor District and Commissioners let him get away with it.

In this particular case, it’s no surprise that the Harbor District is spiraling the financial drain. Combined with their penchant for paying too many folks too much money for doing the same job, they also can’t get a grip on things like dredging the harbor and finding tenants for their commercial and industrial spaces.

The examples of this happening aren’t limited to the Harbor District; there are so many examples just within Humboldt that it boggles our mind that people are continued to siphon off the public teat in this way.

The amount of money being paid to former public officials and employees, who are also current officials and employees, is staggering.

Go ahead, Humboldt: give us more examples of people double-dipping on the public treasury.

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Humboldt Area Foundation hides financials in latest organization yearbook

In 2017, Humboldt area Foundation has continued it’s recently developed tradition of subverting . The latest evidence

We’d love to show it to you, but it’s not online yet. You can pick one up in person from HAF’s headquarters – like we did! – or you can just wait. For how long, we don’t know.

If we could show it you, we’d point out how HAF’s mission statement isn’t featured. There’s only a pledge to fight racism and bigotry while simultaneously supporting a pet project – Equity Alliance of the North Coast – that actively drives wedges between members of our community and which has single-handedly helped shape the perception of racism in Humboldt and nearby.

But the most troubling part is the way HAF is now treating the reporting of their financials to the public.

It’s fairly similar to the previous yearbook’s coverage of HAF financials, which covers the years 2015-2016.

2015-2016’s “financial report” looks like this:

2016-2017’s report, again, is not available online at the moment, but it’s even less informative.

But even in the previous year’s report, there is not a heck of a lot of in-depth information there, right? In fact, you have to go back to the yearbook of 2013-2104 in order to get the type of breakdown of HAF’s financial situation which one would expect from a “community organization.”

For the record, those statements looked like this:

See what HAF did there?

If we’re being nice, we could say that the new format looks pretty.

We think it’s highly more likely that HAF just doesn’t want people to realize exactly who, or what, the money they donate is bankrolling. In fact, that’s probably why they fired Chris DeWitt for refusing to pressure donors into committing money to HAF’s general discretionary fund. That way, HAF could use donated monies to benefit the causes that they support, rather than the ones the community cares about.

(Read more about DeWitt’s ouster here: Humboldt Area Foundation pays hush money to former Director of Donor Services to cover their tracks)

THC just wishes HAF would return to the days when they’re published financials were up front and center, and complete, like they should be. Now, the financials do their best impression of a freshman book report based off cliffnotes – vague, inaccurate, and missing the real point.

Guess that transparency isn’t really Humboldt Area Foundation’s game anymore, is it?

On a side note, can anyone remind us what year Patrick Cleary took over at HAF. Not that there is a connection, or anything.

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Pentagon’s West-coast missile defense program could save Humboldt County – from economic catastrophe

THC has been scratching our heads, wondering what in the heck Humboldt County can do to spur economic growth in a time when we so desperately need it. Like most folks, we see tough times ahead when the cannabis economy we’ve relied upon collapses, or at the least changes beyond recognition. Depending on who you ask, those tough times are already beginning.

We were hard up on ideas, when out of the sky came this gem: a West-coast missile defense program that the Pentagon is shopping locations for.

Can you imagine the jobs that such a development would bring to the area? And not just temporary jobs for construction and such – we’re talking about the huge boost it would bring to services needed to support the installation and it’s employees and personnel, not to mention the influx of money from all the people working at the installation. It could be a gold-mine! Not a green-mine, as the County of Humboldt seems to be solely focused on.

Humboldt County seems ideally situated to host such a site, since we’re the western-most point of land on the coast, with develop-able land and even a history of military presence. Remember why they had the naval base near Centerville beach? The same reasons make Humboldt appealing for a THAAD missile-defense installation.

Of course, we don’t really have a place to house all those people at the moment, but that can be fixed. We can dream, right?

But there’s bad news, folks.

None of our Supervisors can help bring this to fruition.

  • Sundberg is off shaking hands and posing for pictures at the Coastal Commission.
  • Wilson is busy whining on the dais and supporting environmental crusades.
  • Virginia is off partying hard at the CSAC conventions when she isn’t vacationing in Hawaii.
  • Rex is talking. To someone. Anyone.
  • Fennell is…uh, actually does anyone know what Estelle is doing?

Such a shame that they won’t be able to jump on the massive opportunity.

It may be a long shot, there may be a million reasons why the Pentagon wouldn’t put a missile defense program here in Humboldt County, but wouldn’t it be nice to feel like our leadership was doing something to boost our economy? To stave off the approaching economic apocalypse brought on by cannabis legalization?

Attracting a missile-defense program is only one option for doing something along those lines, but there are others. (Here’s a hint: they aren’t pot.)

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Calaveras County is kicking Humboldt’s ass at processing cannabis permits, and we found the reason why

Here’s some food for thought on the totally f***ed up way that Humboldt County has been processing and issuing commercial cannabis applications over the last year:

  • Total Calaveras County commercial cannabis applications processed and approved – 195.
  • Total of the same in Humboldt County – Under 100 as of early November

What’s so wrong with these numbers? Let’s see…

Well, first off, Calaveras had a 6 month head start on us, as they began vetting applications back in July of 2016. Even so, they’re out-pacing us.

Want to know something else interesting?

Calaveras has a grand total of 6 people working on their cannabis applications, and only two of them are full-time planners. One person is an administrative assistant, one’s a planner in training, and the other two are contract workers.

But it’s not like Humboldt County has like, three times the amount of people working to process permits than Calaveras does, right?

Actually, even wayyy back in May of this year, Director Ford talked about plans to have 19 people dedicated full-time to working on cannabis. THC is under the impression that since that time in May, even more temporary staffers have been brought aboard to deal with the absolutely overwhelming workload that the County’s planners are faced with.

Weird, huh?

However, THC has found that Calaveras’ relative success in processing permits does not stem from their superior intellect or ability when it comes to planning issues.

Their success can be directly attributed to the total lack of anyone named Steve Lazar in their department.

If only Humboldt’s Planning Director could take a lesson from THC’s extensive research into this matter.

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Eureka sets positive tone for zones, but economic disaster still in the forecast

This past Tuesday, the City of Eureka held a “set the tone for your zone” community meeting to gain input from Eurekans about how they envision the future look of the city.

There was quite a bit of buzz leading up to the event. Take this quote from Councilmember Kim Bergel, which sums up most of our political leaders’ approaches to planning and building in general:

““I think it’s going to be a really fun meeting and I don’t know a lot about it but I’ll be there,” she said.” (from the Times-Standard.)

Bergel, indeed, was there. Thanks for showing up, Kim.

We’re told there was quite the crowd, and it wasn’t just for the pizza and donuts. Rob Holmlund, Eureka’s Community Development Director, unveiled his master plan for the future development of Eureka, and it received quite the reception.

The top points he made were aimed at easing some irritating code restrictions and allowing for taller buildings. Sounds good on the surface, but what’s the catch?

Get ready for a major shocker, THC-heads: we actually really like the direction that Rob Holmlund is taking this, from what we’ve heard of it. Despite some of our previous criticisms, it sounds like Eureka’s Community Development Director is doing what he can to encourage building in Eureka.

Of course, the proposed zoning changes don’t address all of our problems, such as a lack of available industrial land and the apparent total lack of interest in providing more of it in the future.

But we digress. The real story here is this: Eureka is at least going through the motions of making changes that will allow for the type of growth needed to survive beyond the inevitable pop of the green rush bubble. Problem is, relaxing zoning restrictions just won’t be enough.

THC is told that a community member asked specifically about a plan moving forward to attract businesses, encourage building, etc., and received virtually no response other than “we’re working on a lot of things”. Sound familiar?

What’s even less encouraging is yet another quote from whiz-kid Kim Bergel from the same Times-Standard article, in reference to Eureka:

“For me I see it as a thriving business community.”

Umm…what?

Lest you think we’re picking on Bergel too much, we will add that she is a great cheerleader for any cause in the community. You can see the response to her enthusiasm in the community – go ahead and sign that lady up for another term.

But popularity isn’t the point. The point is that there’s a pervasive view in local leadership that our area is just one big break from Humboldt County becoming an economic powerhouse.With the way things are going, between industry trends and increasing regulations, we’ll be lucky to be afloat in ten years.

What we actually need is a break from our government’s half-assed attempts to generate jobs through visioning workshops and Quickbooks training. We’re tired of hearing lip service about “jobs” and “growth” when, aside from cannabis, nothing has changed for decades.

So the proposed changes to Eureka’s zoning are great, but just because someone is legally allowed to build a certain type of building doesn’t mean that they will. Hell, we’d argue that an economic turn-around could be accomplished even without proposed zoning changes, as long as Eureka would make it easier to build and for businesses to thrive.

It might require a little more than our politicians showing up to meetings about things they don’t understand, like providing incentives and actively recruiting businesses, or making permits less expensive, but the test of time has proven that it’s stretch to rely on decision makers to do what’s needed. Or to even understand that something more is needed.

But we’re really excited about the ability to build taller buildings.

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What your state government has done for you in 2017: dinosaurs, AIDS, gas taxes, and more

Tackling California’s housing issues, or figuring out a way to attract businesses to our state, or even figuring out the health-care fiasco would have been way too hard for state legislature to accomplish.

But the legislature did find some really sweet ways to spend their time, and our money. For example, did you know …

…that California recognized a state dinosaur this year?

…or that you can now purposefully transmit HIV to someone, and only get charged with a misdemeanor?

You can thank the great state of California for those milestones in public policy making, as well as these gems below:

(*THC disclaimer – we are shamelessly ripping this post from an email we received this morning. We’ve no idea who the original author is, but we’re happy to give them credit if they contact us.)

CA Legislative Year Closed….So what did they Accomplish

Fellow Californians:

Here are some of the highlights of this session:

1. SB-1: increases your gas taxes by approximately 20 Cents (Nov 1) and your vehicle license fees by an average of $100 (Jan 1st).

2. Passed Cap N Tax which will increase gas 0.63 to 0.93 cents a gallon change and the taxes that go with it.  So do the math projection…..
(0.12 + 0.63 = 0.75/gallon + current $3.10/gallon = $3.85/gallon)

3. Proposed increase on a new tax every residence will pay for tap water in the State!

4. A $3.46B parks bond to pay for parks in “disadvantaged communities” meaning Los Angeles. The debt service will be over $200 million a year. The good news is some money goes to help fix the Salton Sea which should have always been a State responsibility!

5. Law to release any lifer (murder, rape , child molestation, etc.) who is 60 years old and has already spent 25 years in prison!  Charles Manson qualifies today and the Melendez brothers that murdered their parents could be released in about 12 years? What about victims?

6. A new $10 charge on all residents living in Mobile home parks to address living condition enforcement in those parks?  Why does the Left embrace these regressive taxes on the poor?

7. We picked an official dinosaur of the State of California. Really? Yes!

8. Blackmail Tesla to either unionize with the United Auto Workers Union or forfeit State incentives to buy their electric cars! Just another Union Grab!

9. Reduce from a felony to a misdemeanor the purposeful intent to transmit the AIDS virus to a unknowing partner.

10. Give preferential treatment to prisoners convicted of serious crimes that are less than 25 years old because their brains are not mature enough to understand right from wrong. Whaaat? If the brains of our kids don’t mature until 25, why do we allow them to vote ?

11. A bill to require our true sex be omitted from drivers licenses? Whaaat?

12. Free legal services for illegal immigrants…of course !!

13. Establish safe “injection zones” run by government to oversee people injecting heroin! You have to be kidding me? Yep, it passed!

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The Auditor-Controller is a jerk, and the Supervisors want his money

This lovely nugget about the operations of the  County of Humboldt came to light last week: our Auditor-Controller, Joe Mellett, is an apathetic waste of public funds, and the Board of Supervisors and County Administrative Office are trying to strip his department of any significant role in government.

This came after Mellet’s second in command, Karen Paz Dominguez, showed up for public comment at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting and made a plea for help on behalf of the failing department.

LoCO has a more in-depth look at the issue here:

What’s Wrong at the Auditor-Controller’s Office? Understaffing? A Vendetta? Or Is It the Man in Charge?

What it comes down to is this: Mellett is no longer interested in his job, and acts like a total P.O.S. The interview he gave to LoCO is damning, and we’re honestly flabbergasted that he would go on record with much of what he said.

We love this absolute gem of a quote from our Auditor-Controller about his current approach to his job: ” Putting out fires and collecting a paycheck.”

But the bigger question, putting aside the incompetence and lack of interest displayed by our publicly elected Auditor-Controller, is this: would giving the duties of the Auditor-Controller to the CAO, or any other department, actually fix the problem?

As we all know, neither the CAO’s office nor our Board of Supervisors are particularly effective or financially competent.

So is Mellett’s charge that attempts to undermine his authority and the duties of his department are an attempted power grab by the Supes and the CAO accurate? THC tends to think so.

There was already one attempt to get rid of his office last year, when the Supes sent a measure to consolidate his department with the Treasurer-Tax Collector. (For  more on that: County Supervisors seek to create a new Finance Dictator at great cost to the public) Word on the street is that the County will try to send  similar measure to the vote in the near future, and are actively exploring methods to strip the Auditor-Controller of his powers without putting it to the public first.

Taken together, it  sure seems like Mellett’s allegations are founded. Streamlining departments for efficiency and reduced costs is all well and good.

But here’s the issue. You don’t fix the problem created by one elected official by doing away with the entire department – you elect a new person to do the job. Why would consolidating the powers of the Auditor-Controller department under the umbrella of equally dysfunctional leadership do anything but exacerbate the problem?

From the sound of it, Karen Paz Dominguez is angling herself to be the next Auditor-Controller. We at least hope that somebody gets a chance to turn the department around before the Supes or the CAO get their grubby hands on even more power and responsibility that they will most surely screw up.

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Humboldt Baykeeper continues proud tradition of predatory lawsuits, defaming organizations

Wouldn’t you know it, Humboldt Baykeeper settled yet another lawsuit with a local business/agency which resulted in a hefty payout for themselves and their lawyers.

Long story short, Baykeeper saw an opportunity to make some quick cash and alleged that the Humboldt Bay Waste Management Authority was polluting the bay via storm-water runoff from the Hawthorne Trasfer Station. This was immediately after the state body in charge of water pollution oversight, the Water Quality Control Board, had given HWMA the all clear following an inspection.

Now, for successfully convincing HWMA to pay them off to shut them up, Baykeeper has HWMA bent over and greased up for the net few years – Baykeeper gets to make inspections now, too.

It’s part of an unsettling but obvious trend – even the Times-Standard picked up on it:

“This latest settlement comes after Humboldt Baykeeper entered into similar agreements this year with California Redwood Company and the Arcata-based soil company Royal Gold LLC.”

It’s not just Humboldt Baykeeper’s persistent meddling with environmentally compliant businesses that’s irking, either – it’s that they’re used as a puppet by law groups like Aqua Terris Aeris, who make a living by preying on businesses that don’t have the money or the time to fight legal accusations, and end up settling for less crippling amounts. ATA Law Group, for example, raked in $127,000 for intimidating HWMA into a settlement.

THC has also covered some of Baykeeper’s good works before:

Environmental group sues private business; Humboldt County Planning and Building to blame?

Humboldt Baykeeper seeks to ruin yet another local business in appeal to Supervisors; predatory legal action soon to follow?

Deputy County Counsel cancels secret marijuana ordinance meeting following public backlash

If only we’d thought up something brilliant, like a three-assed turkey, so we could have included Jen Kalt in our list of people we’re thankful for. There’s always next year, of course.

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