CDCR: Inmate Firefighter Killed While Working on Fire Line Near Hoopa

Andrew Goff / Thursday, May 25 @ 4:38 p.m. / Fire

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation press release: 

 

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) today announced that an inmate firefighter has died as the result of injuries sustained while working on a fire line in Humboldt County.

The firefighter, Matthew Beck, 26, was leading a crew that was clearing brush to contain a fire in the Hoopa area. He suffered major head, neck and back injuries yesterday when a large, 120-foot tall tree nearby uprooted and fell on him. He died before life-flight crews were able to reach him due to the remoteness of the accident scene.

“We are saddened by the death of Matthew Beck, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends,” said CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan. “The inmates who year after year help protect our communities from the devastation of fires perform a valuable public service, and it is a tragic event when we lose one of them.”

Beck, who was assigned to the Alder Conservation Camp in Del Norte County, was received from Los Angeles County in May 2014 and was serving a six-year sentence for burglary. He is the fourth inmate firefighter to die on the fire line since the conservation program was created in the 1940s.

Approximately 3,900 inmates, all volunteers, are housed in 43 conservation camps operated by CDCR, in conjunction with CALFIRE, the state of California’s wild land firefighting agency, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department.  Working in crews of 12 or 14, CDCR firefighters often work in rugged back country using hand tools to cut containment lines to stop the spread of wildland fires. 


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Caltrans Relaunches Richardson Grove Project; Agency Issues New Environmental Documentation For Controversial Highway 101 Realignment at the South End of the County

Hank Sims / Thursday, May 25 @ 3:41 p.m. / Infrastructure

A big rig sidles through the grove. Photo: Caltrans.

The local Caltrans office just announced, via Facebook, that it is once again ready to move forward with its longstanding plan to reroute a little over a mile of Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park — a controversial proposal that occasioned lawsuits and protests when it was proposed nearly 10 years ago.

Caltrans has issued new environmental documentation associated with the project — which is designed to make Humboldt County accessible to industry-standard sized big rigs from the south — and, as before, they have found that the project is expected to have no significant environmental impact. (This finding and other Caltrans documentation on the project can be downloaded at this link.)

The “no significant impact” finding is essentially the same one that Caltrans made during the project’s first pass through the regulatory steeplechase. It holds, again, that its plans to smooth out some of the curves through the Grove, so that the big trucks may safely negotiate them without the need for lane closures, will have no impact on the health of the old growth trees flanking the roadway.

Still, Caltrans has made a few adjustments to the plan since a court ordered more study on the topic back in late 2014, in response to a lawsuit brought by the Environmental Protection Information Center and others. The total number of trees that will need to be cut for the project to move forward has been reduced — again, none of those trees are old growth — and the revised plan calls for slightly fewer square feet of pavement.

No word yet on whether the Grove defense coalition that assembled to battle Caltrans will be appeased by these changes, but given the vitriol last time around — it included billboards, an extensive media campaign and naked photo shoots, in addiction to the legal case —  it seems doubtful. Stay tuned.

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Additional Charges Filed Against Marci Kitchen During Today’s Arraignment; Trial Date to Be Decided in June

Rhonda Parker / Thursday, May 25 @ 3:39 p.m. / Courts

PREVIOUSLY IN COURT:

The case against vehicular manslaughter suspect Marcia “Marci” Kitchen is gradually moving toward jury trial.

Kitchen

Today Kitchen, held to answer on all charges after a preliminary hearing earlier this month, was arraigned on those charges along with additional counts filed by the District Attorney’s Office after the hearing concluded.

No trial date was chosen, but Judge Marilyn Miles scheduled June 13 for trial setting.
Kitchen, 39, was in court this morning with her attorneys Patrik Griego and Ben Okin.  She was arraigned on the original charges: two counts of vehicular manslaughter with special allegations of fleeing the scene and harming multiple victims, and drunken driving causing injury or death.

A felony charge of hit-and-run has been added, as well as special allegations that Kitchen inflicted injuries that resulted in the victim being comatose.

On the night of July 12 Kitchen allegedly was driving drunk on Eel River Drive when her Jeep Wrangler struck two 14-year-old girls skateboarding on the road. One was her daughter, Kiya Kitchen, and the other Kiya’s friend Faith Tsarnas, who was visiting from out of town.

According to preliminary hearing testimony, Kitchen pulled over briefly and stopped, but then left and drove to her home about two miles away. There she reportedly asked her teen-age son to deliberately run the Jeep into a basketball hoop, apparently in an attempt to explain the damage. The boy refused.

Kitchen was arrested after a two-month investigation. She posted $750,000 bail and remains out of custody.

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Peninsula School Superintendent-Principal Comes Out as Transgender

Ryan Burns / Thursday, May 25 @ 3:30 p.m. / Education

Lark Doolan, superintendent/principal of Peninsula Union School District.

On one level, Lark Doolan knows that his decision to publicly transition from female to male is a big deal. As superintendent/principal of Peninsula Union School District, Doolan may well be the first openly trans public school administrator in the country below the college-level. That’s a significant development in our culture, though Doolan noted it’s almost certainly just the “openly” part that’s new.

“I’m very confident there have been transgender principals, superintendents and administrators throughout our country’s history,” he said in an interview last week. And while he’s surprised that, as far as he can tell, none have come out publicly before now, he also expressed feeling “grateful for the opportunity to be part of a movement towards acceptance and celebration of diversity.”

So, yes, on that level Doolan’s announcement is important. Historic, even. But as for the kids — the 31 students who attend transitional kindergarten through eighth grade at Peninsula School — Doolan doesn’t expect much to change.

“I was Principal Doolan before transitioning, and I will still be Principal Doolan after transitioning,” he said. “Academic instruction is carrying on as usual.”

On a sunny afternoon last week, Doolan sat in the parklet outside Ramone’s Bakery and Cafe in Old Town Eureka to drink a beverage — hot chocolate topped by a cumulus cloud of whipped cream — and talk a bit about his story. Yes, “his.” The male pronoun is important, because while Doolan has publicly presented as female until now, he’s never really identified as such.

Lark, the youngest of four brothers, grew up in Berkeley surrounded by his large and supportive family. But in school he was sometimes subjected to bullying and social policing because he didn’t fit into traditional, binary gender roles. “I think people probably called me a tomboy, although I never really felt like that was a fit,” he said.

These experiences, which occurred despite his school’s supportive and inclusive atmosphere, helped instill in Doolan a passion for equity work, a desire to make sure all children — including historically marginalized groups such as English language learners, people of color, special education students and LGBT kids — get the support they need.

“I think that those [early experiences] have made me a better educator in that it provides me with a level of nuance and understanding that disenfranchised populations can be targeted in the school community,” Doolan said.

In high school, an influential teacher suggested to Doolan that Humboldt County might be a good fit, and indeed it is. He first came up here at age 18, driving from the Bay Area with some friends to attend Reggae on the River. Along the way he saw a street sign with “Lark” on it, “and I just knew that was my name,” he said. 

He’d been searching for his true name for years. “In seventh grade I told every teacher a different name to call me,” he recalled with a smile. None of those names stuck, but that summer after high school, Doolan was an adult setting off on his own for the first time. He was ready for this early step in his transition. Close friends have known him as Lark ever since.

As an undergrad at Humboldt State University, Doolan fell in love with the area — “the community and the beaches and the rivers, the farmers’ market, Old Town, just all of it.” After graduation he worked as a special education aide but eventually returned to HSU twice, earning credentials in special education and educational leadership.

After graduating the third time in spring 2016, Doolan landed his current job as superintendent/principal of Peninsula Union School District. He’s grateful to be back in Humboldt County.

Until fairly recently, Doolan said, “I had no intention of publicly transitioning in the big sense, other than with select people.” His close friends affirm his gender by using male pronouns, which means a lot to him.

‘When people use ‘he’ pronouns for me I smile,” Doolan said. “That hasn’t changed for me in 10 years.” Gradually he has asked more and more people to address him that way. “And as that percentage of people in my life has increased, I’ve felt increasingly happy and comfortable and confident,” he said. “And at a certain point, the opportunity to have that everywhere in my life seemed more valuable than whatever obstacles were between me and that.”

Doolan has an annual tradition of reflecting on the year that’s just passed and looking forward to the year to come. This past fall he’d been thinking a lot about coming out, and it was causing him stress.

“I decided to go deep and figure out what’s right for me,” he said. “And the moment I made that decision to really look, the answer became really clear to me. I realized that transitioning was something I need to do.”

He also believes it’s important to share this transition with his colleagues, the community and his students at Peninsula School. There’s a range of age-appropriate children’s books that are in alignment with the California education code, which addresses how to talk about such issues.

California lawmakers have passed a number of protections for transgender students and worked to incorporate educational materials addressing such topics as gender expressionhate crime legislation and LGBT history

The FAIR Education Act, signed into law in 2011, ushered in many of these changes. (Read more about it here.) And the School Success and Opportunity Act, which became law in 2014, was passed in order to “foster an educational environment that is safe and free from discrimination for all students, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” (Read more about that one here.)

In the interview last week, Doolan said he wasn’t worried about how the kids would respond. “Our students at Peninsula School are an incredible, kind, caring, thoughtful group of kids, and I have tremendous confidence in their ability to understand that this is just me being me,” he said. “The fact that I am transgender is not something to be ashamed of or to hide from the kids. I really believe in treating children with dignity and respect, and to do something like this and not even tell them, to me, would go against the authentic leadership style that I embody.”

Doolan has actively worked to incorporate “Restorative Practices” at the school, a process that brings students together in circles to have meaningful conversations following any “ruptures in trust,” he explained. His passion for equity in the classroom aligns with this desire to “re-envision what discipline looks like so it’s constructive and productive and teaching students skills for life rather than being punishment-based.”

These approaches are rooted in respect, and Doolan views his coming out as consistent with that philosophy.

“The things that I value have not changed — wanting students to live authentic, courageous lives that are right for them. This is an opportunity for me to embody that and to give students the opportunity to learn about one of the many ways that diversity exists in our culture,” he said.

Doolan came out to his colleagues and students this week, and he’s been impressed by their reactions. “When I came out to the Peninsula staff, I was met with support. It felt incredible to have the news be so well received.”

County administrators have voiced their support as well. Incoming Assistant Superintendent for Humboldt County Schools Heidi Moore-Guynup said, “I have been nothing less than impressed by Superintendent Doolan’s leadership for Peninsula School District this year and I am confident that won’t change anytime soon. … Superintendent Doolan’s transition from female to male provides a real-world experience for students to learn and experience constructs such as inclusion and social justice.”

Predictably, students did have some questions when Doolan told them about his transition. “Students asked how my family reacted, and I said my family is strongly supportive of me,” Doolan said. “They asked how I knew, and I shared that it is something that has always been part of me and it’s taken me many years, and a lot of reflecting, to be able to articulate that I am a transgender guy. One student asked if this means I will get a new car, and I let him know that I plan to keep the same car.”

In the end, the kids proved very supportive.

“The students congratulated me and one student told me she thinks thinks it’s really courageous of me to be who I am,” Doolan said. ”They thanked me for talking to them and expressed appreciation that they were included in the conversation. I am proud to serve in such a kind and inclusive school community.”

Doolan also shared a letter with parents and guardians so they can have informed conversations with their children.

He knows, of course, that not everyone will be supportive. While transgender celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and Chelsea Manning have increased trans visibility and to helped educate the public, trans people still face tremendous discrimination.

Asked how he’ll respond to any negative reactions, Doolan reiterated his belief in the power of education. We’re fortunate, he said, “to live during a time when we have so many resources available for learning and educating ourselves so we can approach these matters from a kind and compassionate place of understanding rather than fear and ignorance.”

To that end, he suggested the website genderspectrum.org for anyone wanting to learn more about how to talk to kids about trans topics in an age-appropriate way.

Below are a few more links to websites that may prove helpful for students, parents or anyone else hoping to learn more:

  • Trans Youth Equality Foundation “provides education, advocacy and support for transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth and their families.”
  • GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) aims “to create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”
  • GenderDiversity.org offers education on the “wide range of gender diversity in children, adolescents, and adults by providing family support, building community, increasing societal awareness, and improving the well-being for people of all gender identities and expressions.”
  • And TransStudent.org offers a long list of links to sites with resources for education, services and medical and legal issues.

Ultimately, Principal Doolan said his transition won’t alter his commitment to being an effective and impactful educator, supporting students and ensuring they have the best educational outcomes possible.



    SALMON RUN: Starting Tomorrow, Long-Distance Runners Will Trace the Threatened Fishes’ Natural Path Up the Klamath and Trinity

    Hank Sims / Thursday, May 25 @ 2:26 p.m. / Fish

    Press release from the Yurok Tribe:

    Yurok Eddie Norris carries one of the beautifully carved salmon, which will travel approximately 300 miles from the beginning of the Klamath River to its headwaters. Photo: Yurok Tribe.

    As the sun begins to ascend on Friday morning, a team of Yurok Tribal and non-Tribal community members will kick off the 15th Annual Klamath Salmon Run, a long distance relay event that seeks to shine a spotlight on the Klamath River’s failing fish runs as well as the actions that are being taken to restore this vital watershed.

    “This year’s Klamath River salmon prediction is worse than it’s ever been before,” said Georgiana Gensaw, an event organizer and Yurok Tribal member. “For the first time ever, we are going to have to tell my two boys that they won’t be able to fish with their father, which is something I never thought could happen. My boys get more excited about setting a net with their dad than they do about getting out of school for summer.”

    This fall, only 11,000 Chinook salmon are expected to return to the Klamath River, making it the smallest run in recorded history. The Yurok Tribe’s allocation is only 650 salmon or one fish per 10 members of the Tribe. The meager quota, a fraction of the Tribe’s typical allotment, is not enough to meet the Tribe’s ceremonial and subsistence needs. As part of a far- reaching effort to preserve the Klamath salmon population for future generations, the Yurok Tribal Council canceled the 2017 commercial fishery. 

    The annual Klamath Salmon Run begins on the Yurok Reservation with a traditional prayer, which is followed by runners dipping ornately carved salmon in the exact spot where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean. A group of Tribal and non-Tribal community members will take the fish to the Klamath River’s confluence with the Trinity River at the Yurok village of Weitchpec. There, one group will continue up the Klamath and another up the Trinity. Over three days, more than 200 runners will carry the fish for approximately 300 miles, through Yurok, Hupa, Karuk and Klamath Tribes of Oregon’s territory, tracing the route that spawning salmon took prior to the installation of the lower four Klamath dams.

    For the Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes, all of which will have representatives in the Salmon Run, this year’s fisheries failure represents a threat to a prosperous existence that has revolved around salmon since time immemorial. Unfortunately, the Klamath Tribes of Oregon, whose homelands are above the Klamath dams, know all too well what it is like to lose salmon. “We have not had salmon here for over 100 years. This led us to rely more on the resident c’wam, or sucker, which also faces extinction because of a century of poor water management. Nowadays, we get to harvest one c’wam a year for ceremonial purposes,” said, Don Gentry, the Klamath Tribes’ Chairman. 

    In a few short years, real salmon will likely once again reach the Klamath Tribes of Oregon. PacifiCorp recently applied to surrender the lower four Klamath dams for demolition in 2020. Dam removal will open up hundreds of miles of salmon spawning habitat and is the single best action that can be taken to improve fish populations on the Klamath.

    While dam removal has created a real cause for optimism, there is a new potential challenge to the long-term sustainability of the Klamath salmon. Veresen Inc., a Canadian corporation, recently announced that it will again seek approval to construct a 232-mile long pipeline from Malin, OR to Coos Bay, OR, for the purpose of shipping fracked natural gas to Asia. The plans for the proposed pipeline include tunneling under the Klamath River as well as five additional large watersheds in Oregon.

    “If approved, this risky project will put all adjacent and down river communities in jeopardy, not to mention 20-years of restoration work on the Klamath River,” Gensaw explained. “The Jordan Cove terminal and Pacific Connector Pipeline cannot be allowed to proceed. It is time to heal the Klamath and prioritize salmon production over river destruction.”

    The Salmon Run was started in 2003 by four Hoopa High School Students, Erica Chase, Kayla Carpenter, Tosha Norton and Chelsea Reed in response to the 2002 Fish Kill on the Lower Klamath River. The 2017 Salmon Run begins at 6:15am on the South Spit of the Klamath River and ends on Sunday, May 28 at the Klamath Tribes’ Annual Memorial Day Weekend Pow-wow at the Klamath County Fairgrounds.



    Eric Lively Held to Answer on Murder Charges After Running Down, Killing Neighbor

    Rhonda Parker / Thursday, May 25 @ 11:29 a.m. / Courts

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    Lively.

    Applause rang out in Courtroom Four this morning when Eric Jason Lively was held to answer on a charge of murdering Jesse Simpson on May 3 in Shelter Cove.

    Judge Timothy Cissna ruled enough evidence was presented during Lively’s preliminary hearing to order him to stand trial. Lively, 45, seemed prepared for the judge’s decision and did not react. But Simpson’s friends and family members clapped and cheered until being admonished.

    Simpson, 42, died shortly after Lively’s Toyota Tacoma pickup struck him near the intersection of Debbie Lane and Eileen Road in Shelter Cove.

    During attorneys’ arguments this morning, Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada cited witnesses who described Lively’s hatred and suspicion of Simpson and others who lived near him. A co-worker of Lively’s told law enforcement that Lively spoke repeatedly of wanting to kill his neighbors.

    About two weeks before the fatal incident, Shelter Cove resident David Reddy saw Lively walking and carrying a baseball bat. He was slapping the bat into his palm. When Reddy asked Lively where the game was, he replied “At Jesse’s. I’m going to straighten him out.”

    Kamada said Lively was obviously driving at a high rate of speed when his truck struck Simpson. He was hit with such impact that neighbors thought two cars had collided or “a logging truck had dumped its load.”

    After leaving work on May 3, Lively went home and ranted to his 16-year-old daughter about Jesse Simpson robbing him. Then he left in his pickup truck and drove to where Simpson was using a weed-eater on a lawn.

    “There’s no reason for him to be driving around that neighborhood,” Kamada said. Lively stopped in the roadway about 50 feet from Simpson, he said, then peeled out and hit him. He ran a stop sign and never applied his brakes.

    But defense attorney Russ Clanton argued that the only reasonable explanation for the collision was that Simpson, carrying the weed-eater, jumped into the road in front of his long-time enemy.

    Clanton was briefly interrupted by a female voice from the audience: “Are you kidding me?”

    Clanton continued, questioning how Simpson, who had been weed-eating, somehow “magically appears” in the road. Law enforcement determined the point of impact was the middle of Eileen Road.

    Clanton said Simpson obviously felt animosity toward Lively, that the relationship “went both ways.” He said that animosity culminated in Simpson jumping in front of Lively.

    After the fatal collision, Clanton pointed out, Lively could have fled but stayed to help.

    “If he’s such a cold-hearted murderer, he would have simply run off in his truck,” he argued.

    Lively was arrested in 2013 after hitting a man with his truck, but charges were never filed. The prosecution wanted to use that arrest as evidence, but has decided against pursuing that.

    This morning outside the courtroom, Simpson’s brother Thomas Simpson said he was happy with the prosecution and looking forward to seeing Lively brought to justice.

    “I feel the Humboldt County district attorney has done a great job representing Jesse,” he said.

    Thomas Simpson said Lively “is trying to lie his way out of it, but we know he’s guilty.”

    Lively’s arraignment is set for June 8 before Judge Marilyn Miles. He remains in custody.  

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    24-Year-Old Hoopa Woman Arrested in Connection With Yesterday’s Vehicular Assault Near K’ima:w Medical Center

    Hank Sims / Thursday, May 25 @ 10:41 a.m. / Crime

    From the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

     

    On Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at about 1648 hours, the Hoopa Valley Trial Police Department and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office responded to Airport Road in Hoopa for a report of shots fired. Once on scene it was learned that an altercation took place and a female victim had been struck by a vehicle. The female victim declined medical. The driver of the vehicle was identified as Maggi Michelle Jones, age 24 of Hoopa. Shortly after fleeing the scene, Jones turned herself into the Tribal Police.

    Jones was later booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility (HCCF) for assault with a deadly weapon. Jones’ bail was set at $50,000.  

    Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.