Buried in the middle of yesterday’s Humboldt County Board of Supervisor’s meeting was an item exploring an electricity tax that might resemble Measure I, Arcata’s so-called “Grower Tax.” This would presumably apply to the county’s unincorporated areas.
The board formed a subcommittee to explore a potential tax on residences using unusually high amounts of electricity.
If passed by voters, this would likely have some effect on the county’s many bedroom growers.
The city of Arcata’s Environmental Services deputy director Karen gave a presentation (watch it here) on how Arcata put Measure I together.
Arcata’s law imposes a electricity users tax rate of 45 percent on residential customers whose residential usage exceeds 600 percent of established baseline allowances. She said that it was the intent of the tax to drive a residence’s excessive electric consumption down to normal levels.
Hank Sims from the Lost Coast Outpost joined the conversation live on KHUM.
Would growers use generators to bypass the tax? Would that be different than if they bypassed it with rooftop solar? If put on a countywide ballot, would it pass?
Let us know what you think.
Yesterday: 18 felonies, 18 misdemeanors, 0 infractions
Humboldt County Superior Court Calendar: Monday
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KHUM: Rutabaga Ball Tonight!!!
SoHum Parlance: For a Crisp Spring Saturday Morning
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Hank Sims / Tuesday, May 7 @ 12:32 p.m. / Local Government
County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes opened the item earlier this morning by announcing that the county had yesterday received a letter of resignation from an unnamed senior manager in the county’s aviation division. Therefore, he said, staff had decided to take back its recommended layoff of Program Coordinator Emily Jacobs in order to regroup.
“As a result of this letter of resignation received by the public works director yesterday, staff will need to review the management structure of the airport,” Smith-Hanes said.
Though Smith-Hanes didn’t name her, the resignee appears to be longtime County Airport Manager Jacquelyn Hulsey, who has had a troubled history as the county’s point person on aviation matters. (Again, see here for a quick rundown, and do follow the links to Ryan Burns’ excellent reporting on the subject if you haven’t seen it yet.)
Why did Hulsey suddenly decide to submit her resignation just before the proposed layoff of her deputy was scheduled to explode at the board? That would, indeed, be quite a tale. For now, we can only report what Supervisor Virginia Bass told her colleagues right before voting to go ahead with the other layoffs recommended in today’s item, in response to the flood of comments she had received in advance of today’s meeting:
“I’ve never seen so many people interested in budget review.”
Hank Sims / Monday, May 6 @ 4:58 p.m. / Local Government
Tomorrow morning’s Board of Supervisors meeting looks to be a bit of a hot one.
Supporters of local airline service — and perhaps of good government in general — will be showing out to protest an item deeply buried in the Supes’ third-quarter budget review that pertains to management of the Eureka-Arcata airport. Briefly, that item recommends that the board lay off an airport program manager (among other staff) in order to close a budget shortfall. (Read the full report from County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes here.)
This is drawing much ire on the Facebooks and IRL. Why?
In the first place, the person to be laid off is Emily Jacobs, who has ridden point on the county’s effort to attract new air service. This at a time when the county is sitting on a fat federal grant aimed at accomplishing just that — new routes to LAX, perhaps, or perhaps elsewhere. Who will pick up the Jacobs’ slack?
Well, presumably that would be the Jacobs’ boss — County Airport Manager Jacquelyn Hulsey. And that brings us to the second point. It would be understating matters to say that people involved with airport business have little confidence in Hulsey — as the Journal’s Ryan Burns has shown again and again, whether it be failing to report crashed planes, sending employees into asbestos-choked sheds or simply taking county money for months and months of paid administrative leave, Hulsey’s tenure has been less than inspirational. And yet for some reason the county seems to protect one of its most headache-inducing employees unwaveringly.
This isn’t a time-set item, so there’s no telling exactly when the games begin. It is the Lost Coast Outpost‘s understanding that there will be quite a turnout to beg the Supes to keep Jacobs on the job and perhaps maintain some hope of getting new air routes here. Don’t expect much direct criticism of Hulsey — any direct statement to the effect that she should be the one getting the boot, if money is tight — but if you listen you’ll be able to hear what is left unsaid.
Hank Sims / Wednesday, April 10 @ 2:40 p.m. / Local Government
Earlier this afternoon, the North Coast Railroad voted 8-1 to rescind its earlier certification of an environmental impact report governing operations on the southern end of its line. (Want background? See yesterday’s post.) LoCO Op-Ed contributor Bernie Meyers, who represents Marin County on the NCRA Board of Directors, was the sole vote in opposition.
The NCRA board has been very clear that this legal maneuver essentially amounts to an assertion that it, an agency of the state of California, is not bound by California environmental law. It is also quite clear that up-front about the fact that this decertification is a legal stratagem that hopes to make a lawsuit brought by Friends of the Eel and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics simply disappear: You say our EIR is inadequate? Well, we no longer have an EIR, so it can’t be inadequate.
It seemed that no one quite expected something that happened early on in the hearing on the item: A representative from the California Transportation Commission showed up with an official letter saying: Hey, if you’re going to flush away this environmental impact report, then we’re going to want back that $3 million we gave you to make that environmental impact report. Much later in the meeting this was brought up and essentially dismissed as a misunderstanding. We still have the EIR, several directors said. People can still look at it and stuff. There’s a lot of good information in there.
But their vote said: We just no longer accept that it is a legally binding document. Whether Caltrans or the courts smile upon this fact or not is something we will all soon discover together.
Your Lost Coast Outpost chatted about the meeting with KHUM’s Mike Dronkers shortly after the vote went down. Audio follows:
All signs are pointing to a contentious Wednesday for the eternally beleaguered and self-beleaguering North Coast Railroad Authority, the state agency that manages the dead railroad lines out of Humboldt County.
There are three items of particular interest to locals on the agenda for tomorrow’s NCRA board meeting, which starts at 10:30 a.m in the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors’ chambers. In no particular order, they are:
1). The inevitable presentation on the proposed East-West rail line, without which no public meeting in the county is complete. The mysterious “Land Bridge Alliance” is heading up this presentation — another Humboldt-based organization sprung up out of nowhere but evidently possessing cash to burn, if their recent $35,000 pledge to the city of Eureka is any indication. (The “Land Bridge Alliance” follows the voguish local trend of calling itself a “non-profit,” or at least allowing itself to be called one, without actually possessing non-profit status or any of the troublesome financial disclosure requirements that go along with it.)
2). A presentation from CalTrout regarding a salmon restoration project it wishes to design on Woodman Creek, a tributary of the Eel. The project would evidently interfere with a NCRA bridge in the treacherous Eel River Canyon section of the line, which the NCRA currently says it has no plans to reopen. However, in past meetings the NCRA’s private operator has signaled that wishes to attach complete replacement of the $10 million, 100-year-old bridge as a condition of the salmon restoration project, which would effectively doom it.
3). The big thing on tap, though, is a last-ditch legal maneuver aimed at sidestepping the world of pain that two environmental groups — Friends of the Eel, California for Alternatives for Toxics — are poised to bring down upon the authority in Marin County Superior Court. The maneuver contemplated is a declaration that the authority — division of the state of California, supported by state of California funds — is not bound by the state of California’s environmental laws.
The basis of the enviros’ lawsuit is not that difficult to explain. A few years ago the North Coast Railroad filed an environmental impact report with the state in order to open up the very south end of the line for freight traffic for the first time in a decade. The environmental groups charged that the environmental impact report was inadequate by California law, in that it broke the line up into segments and only considered the impact only of the very south end of the line. This was bound to insignificant compared to reopening the entire line, as was NCRA policy at the time. “Segmentation” of this sort is a big no-no in terms of the California Environmental Quality Act.
In response, the NCRA quickly reversed its decade-long practice of claiming that the whole entire railroad was going to be opened up any day now and started saying that the Eel River Canyon section of the line was dead for the foreseeable future. We’re only talking about the southern end, it said. Northern end operations are dead for now. (So why the need for Caltrout to build the railroad a whole new bridge in the Canyon? Good question.)
To date, though, the courts have not been buying the NCRA’s change of story. And so, tomorrow, the nuclear option: The board may effectively rescind the environmental impact report that the taxpayers paid to prepare, and instead assert that it is not bound by the California Environmental Quality Act at all — that as a railroad, it answers only to the Federal Railroad Administration. This will surely be a novel argument for a state agency to make.
It looks like it’s going to be a hell of a meeting. Here’s a press release from Friends of the Eel and CATs. Here’s their letter to the NCRA board, objecting to the proposed maneuver in great detail. Here’s a letter from former Marin County NCRA Director Tom Macdonald listing all the people NCRA is poised to piss off with its declaration, including the California Transportation Commission, which gave the NCRA the $3 million it used to fund the environmental impact that the board now stands ready to flush down the toilet.
The agenda for tomorrow’s meeting can be found here.