Friday, September 07, 2007

Councilman: I was shoved by Rob Arkley

(LISTEN to the KHUM interview)

Thadeus Greenson and Chris Durant
The Times-Standard

EUREKA -- Councilman Larry Glass called in a report to the Eureka Police Department Thursday alleging businessman Rob Arkley verbally threatened him and shoved him at a Coastal Commission reception.

A senior vice president for Arkley's Security National said he understood there was no physical contact, but rather a verbal exchange concerning Arkley's daughters, after which Arkley e-mailed Glass an apology.

The alleged incident took place Wednesday evening at the Avalon restaurant during a reception.

To listen to the KHUM interview click here

Glass said Arkley was standing across the table from him pointing and smiling, when he said something Glass couldn't understand. So Glass walked around the table to talk to Arkley.

”He began berating me, threatening me and basically saying he was going to destroy me if I didn't vote for his project,” Glass said.

Glass said Arkley repeatedly called him a liar, which he asked Arkley to explain several times.

”I was never able to get a real coherent response,” Glass said. “All I kept hearing was, 'I'll destroy you, you're nothing and you won't have a store anymore if you vote against my project.'”

Glass said he was shoved twice by Arkley, who was restrained by Randy Gans, Security National Vice President of Real Estate and Development.

A receptionist at Security National said Gans was not in the office Thursday. He did not return a message left on his voicemail.

Reached by phone in Baton Rouge, La., Security National Senior Vice President Brian Morrissey said he heard a different account from Arkley and Gans.

Morrissey said Arkley talked to Glass about the pain his daughters felt when Glass was selling some anti-Arkleyville stickers at his store, The Works.

”Rob talked to Larry, and Rob asked Larry about how these no-Arkley stickers caused his daughters a hardship and asked Larry to apologize to his daughters for that,” Morrissey said. “When Larry said no, Rob was really disappointed. But I don't believe that there was any physical pushing, shoving, touching, any of that. I think it was, frankly, words at a bar.”

Glass said the issue of Arkley's daughters did come up. He said he felt he had settled any hard feelings with them more than one year ago, when they came into The Works to talk.

”They came to tell me their side of that story, which was what it was like to be an Arkley and have that campaign going on,” Glass said Thursday. “They got me, and it sensitized me.”

Glass said he felt the discussion went well and, afterward, he stopped selling the stickers in his shop.

Eureka Police Chief Garr Nielsen confirmed that Glass made a report.

”It was documented as an incident,” Nielsen said. “This is what we would do in any case.”

Charges could stem from the report, but that would be Glass' decision to start the process, Nielsen said. Glass said he wasn't interested in escalating the matter, but made a report so it would be on record.

Though they reportedly had not met until Wednesday, Glass and Arkley have something of a history. Glass is the former spokesman of Citizens For Real Economic Growth, which is an outspoken critic of Arkley's proposed Marina Center development.

Glass said later in the day that he had not had a chance to check his office e-mail for a message from Arkley.

Attorney Jeff Schwartz, a former prosecutor with the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office who runs a private practice in Arcata, said he heard about the alleged incident during an interview Glass gave to KHUM.

”What's scary is the intimidation of public officials,” Schwartz said. “That's where I see the big problem is, not just some battery against Larry Glass.”

Schwartz said the alleged incident could intimidate other council members.

”When Arkley is talking to Larry Glass, he's really talking to the whole city council,” Schwartz said

Assaulting a public official is a felony under the California Penal Code, he said.

Of a dozen people who were at the reception and contacted by the Times-Standard, most said they did not witness any exchange, left early or were not near Arkley or Glass. One said he did see an exchange, but did not want to go on the record.

Rex Bohn said he was there grilling oysters and socializing until well after 8 p.m. and didn't hear anything of the alleged incident until he was called by the Times-Standard.

”I didn't hear a word, and I was one of the last people to leave,” Bohn said.

Read more!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Arkley ponies up for Prop. 85

James Faulk
The Times-Standard

Family continues record of big political giving

EUREKA -- Robin Arkley, local businessman and well-known donor to conservative political causes, has given $137,000 to support Proposition 85, the “Life on the Ballot” initiative.

The measure would require that teenagers seeking an abortion notify their parents. It is similar to Proposition 73, which failed last November at the ballot. Arkley also financially supported the previous initiative.

Brian Morrissey, Security National spokesman, said Arkley's donations are about protecting their children.

”Obviously, we all want to protect our children, and in most cases, Rob and Cherie think that giving parents a notice of their child's upcoming medical procedure will help parents do just that,” he said.

Parents can provide medical history, which would allow doctors to provide the best possible care to their children, he said. Also, parents will be ready to help their child get prompt physical or emotional care if issues arise.

”This notice is balanced by giving the child the right to petition the juvenile court for a waiver,” Morrissey said. “In a confidential proceeding, she can ask the court to find that notifying her parents is not in her best interests.”

Support from the affluent community for this measure is nothing new, said Steve Smith, campaign manager for the “No on 85” campaign.

”Arkley's actually a minor example of it in this campaign,” said Smith.

James Holman of San Diego, owner of a string of conservative Catholic newspapers, pumped $1.25 million into Proposition 73, and this year has given more than $2 million to support Proposition 85. “Holman happens to be extraordinarily active in the anti-abortion movement,” said Smith, who opposes the measure because he said it hurts those that are most vulnerable.

”We think it puts our state's most vulnerable teenagers at real risk,” he said. “The government can't mandate good family communication.”

In most families, a daughter would tell the parents, he said. In a home where that doesn't happen, there's often a good reason, he said, and forcing girls to go back and deal with a bad situation puts them at risk.

He also said it's part of an effort to slowly erode abortion rights.

Paul Labaucher of the “Yes on 85” campaign said donors to the initiative are simply people who are concerned about their families. He pointed to the amount of money raised by the competition -- through such groups as Planned Parenthood -- and said the total dwarfs that of his own campaign.

According to the California Secretary of State's website, between Jan. 1 and June 30, the Arkleys gave a total of $766,200 to state races.

According to the website, each member of the Arkley family seems to support the same candidates.

Robin and Cherie and their daughters Allison and Elizabeth have all given to the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania; Richard Pombo for Congress; David McSweeney for Congress: America's Foundation; Rick Santorum for U.S. Senate; and the Republican National Committee.

All told, according to the website, the family gave $150,000 to the Republican National Committee in the current 2006 election cycle.

Morrissey reiterated that each member of the family decides on their own who they support.

”Like many American families, they discuss politics and issues around the dinner table but they all make their own decisions,” he said.

Read more!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Arkleys' $38,500 penalty approved by Fair Political Practices Commission

by Rebecca S. Bender, 9/13/2006
The Eureka Reporter

The Fair Political Practices Commission approved a $38,500 administrative fine for local business owners Rob and Cherie Arkley and two of their companies, Race Investments and Security National Servicing Corporation, Tuesday morning.

The penalties stem from 11 violations of the Political Reform Act related to campaign contribution disclosures in 2002, 2004 and 2005, years in which the four parties made political contributions that totaled $50,000 or more.

Under the Political Reform Act, donations of $10,000 or more in any given year bump the contributor into a “major donor” category, which requires semi-annual statements be filed with the secretary of state.

In the $50,000 or more accumulated contribution range, a corresponding online or electronic statement must also be filed.

The FPPC report on the case lists 11 violation counts, including failures to disclose late contributions and to file paper and online or electronic semi-annual campaign statements by the appropriate due dates, as well as failure to disclose Security National’s affiliation with the Arkleys.

John Piland, a certified public accountant with Security National, previously told The Eureka Reporter that the problem had been largely organizational in nature, and that a system for tracking and reporting multiple donations had been implemented in response.

“There is no evidence that the failure to timely file the campaign statements was intentional or deliberate,” the FPPC report stated. “In addition, Respondent Committee cooperated fully with the Enforcement Division’s investigation in this matter.”

The maximum administrative penalty for the 11 counts was $55,000.

The five-member commission board approved the stipulation Tuesday morning without debate.

A cashier’s check for $38,500 had already been submitted before the hearing and was acknowledged in the FPPC report.

(Rob and Cherie Arkley own Security National, which owns The Eureka Reporter.)

Read more!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Arkleys face Fair Political Practices Commission penalties

by Rebecca S. Bender, 8/31/2006
Eureka Reporter

Local business owners Rob and Cherie Arkley and two of their companies, Race Investments and Security National Servicing Corporation, are facing $38,500 in administrative penalties from the Fair Political Practices Commission for multiple violations of the Political Reform Act related to campaign contribution disclosures.

The contributions in question date back to 2002, 2004 and 2005, years in which the four made donations to candidates or committees that totaled $50,000 or more.

Under the Political Reform Act, donations of $10,000 or more in any given year bump the contributor into a “major donor” category, which requires semi-annual statements be filed with the secretary of state. In the $50,000 or more accumulated contribution range, a corresponding online or electronic statement also must be filed.

The FPPC report on the case lists 11 violation counts, including failures to disclose late contributions and to file the semi-annual campaign statements by the appropriate due dates, as well as failure to disclose an affiliated entity and its contribution — a point related to Security National’s $250,000 donation to the Citizens to Save California (Yes on Props. 74 and 76) campaign in 2005.

John Piland, a certified public accountant with Security National, explained Wednesday that the problem had been largely organizational in nature.

“The issue originally was that political contributions were being made by a variety of Security National entities,” he said. “So now we have a better system for keeping track of those things.”

The semi-annual statement violations encompassed 17 separate donations, the largest of which were $250,000 each to the Citizens to Save California campaign and the 2004 Governor Schwarzenegger’s California Recovery Team; $100,000 each to the Republican Party Central Committee of Los Angeles County in 2004 and the Coalition for Employee Rights (Yes on Prop. 75) in 2005; and $80,000 to the California Republican Party in 2004.

Late contributions included a $12,000 donation to the Friends of Paul Gallegos campaign in 2004, $5,000 to McClintock for Lt. Governor in 2006 and $100,000 to Stop the Reiner Initiative (No on Prop. 82) in 2006.

According to the FPPC report, the relatively large amount of unreported late contributions and a previous enforcement action in 2002 factored into the $38,500 administrative penalty — as did the mitigating effect of the group’s efforts to make amends through providing the necessary paperwork and initiating a “proactive compliance program,” including hiring a professional campaign treasurer and counsel.

“There is no evidence that the failure to timely file the campaign statements was intentional or deliberate,” the FPPC report stated. “In addition, Respondent Committee cooperated fully with the Enforcement Division’s investigation in this matter.”

The maximum administrative penalty for the 11 counts was $55,000.

Jon Matthews, a spokesperson for the FPPC, emphasized that the fine was strictly administrative in nature, not civil or criminal.

The stipulation agreement reached between the FPPC and the Arkleys and their companies acknowledges the violations and accepts the penalty, a cashier’s check for which amount has already been submitted, Piland said.

The issue will be reviewed by the five-member commission board on Sept. 12, a hearing Piland classified as essentially a “rubber stamp” approval of the stipulation.

“Most of our cases are resolved by stipulation,” Matthews acknowledged. “However, this case does not become final until the commission acts on it.”

Read more!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Rumble in the Redwoods

"Arkley, by contrast, is less a big fish in a big pond than a whale in a small and murky one, winning kudos and condemnation with seemingly every splash he makes. His actions have even inspired a monitoring blog,"

What happens when two daily newspapers duke it out in a market known more for its weed than its writing?

by Joel Davis
San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, August 13, 2006

"...where daily life straddles the line between unprecedented innovation and total chaos."

-- From a SCI FI Channel promo of "Eureka"

It is the unlikeliest retail war in the unlikeliest market, a high-stakes game of chicken in a place so offbeat, it is now the setting for a new Sci-Fi Channel show.

But lift the Redwood Curtain and that's what you'll find in Eureka, the county seat of scenic Humboldt County. The Humboldt Nation, as locals who have little use for the rest of the world call it, is a remote region dotted with distinct towns and communities, miniature red and blue states where blackberries are still thought of as fruit, where ink-on-paper newspapers still out-Why Wi-Fi.

Humboldt's scattered population of some 130,000 -- about equal to Hayward or Concord -- has up to 10 weekly newspapers, which range from meaty and slick to shakily slapped-together advocacy sheets that you can, as the old saying goes, "throw in the air and read before they hit the ground."

But the real action is in Eureka. Eureka, population 27,000, is ground zero for a rambunctious newspaper battle between two dailies in a town that seems barely able to support one newspaper, let alone two.

In one corner sits the 20,000-plus paid-circulation Times-Standard, managed by Dean Singleton's tight-fisted, Denver-based MediaNews Group, a paper with an up-and-down past, a newspaper as old as a redwood. Its employees toil in a windowless newsroom (some call it the "news tomb") on aging equipment over scruffy carpet, the staffers communicating above the crackle of a police scanner. Around the corner, down the street and through the seemingly omnipresent mist, is the upstart "fair and balanced," family-owned Eureka Reporter in pristine digs, windows included. Still unscathed by the daily pounding inflicted by news staffers on deadline, it looks like a bank. This is not a stretch, as the Reporter is owned by brash financier/tax attorney Robin P. Arkley II, head of Security National Holding Co., a Eureka-based multibillion dollar national real estate development and loan acquisitions company with offices in the United States and Europe.

It's a pound-the-pavement tussle between two dailies that are constantly trying to scoop each other, something rarely found in big cities anymore, let alone towns with populations under 30,000.

"It's amazingly cutthroat," observes Kevin Hoover, the irreverent publisher/editor/owner of the weekly Arcata Eye, the beat-poetic paper in the university town 7 miles and a world away from Eureka. "If you spend any time with either crew, even if it is at a news site, they will talk s -- about each other."

Adds Hank Sims, editor of the North Coast Journal, the closest thing the region has to an alternative weekly: "It's like the Wild West out here. We've got not only two daily papers now, but every little small town has its own community weekly. It's an intelligent area, and people like to read. For a newspaper person, it is fantastic."

Wild West is an apt description of Eureka, which has long had an anachronistic, Barbary Coast feel. And the city's newspaper war, which flies in the face of an industry that is contracting and consolidating at a frightening clip, reflects that. It's like a cosmic collision where retail gods with a twisted sense of humor decided to pair an economically distressed newspaper industry with an economically distressed city, in a Darwinian race for readers and advertisers. Reporter owner Arkley, 50, is a sugar daddy in a town that needed one. Although stunningly beautiful in spots -- to the point that retirees fleeing urban areas have put housing costs out of reach for most natives -- Eureka has in many ways eroded into a town that few would argue needs revitalization as its now-heavily regulated lifeblood industries -- timber and commercial fishing -- circle the drain.

Tourism never really caught fire, it's too far, too cold. The Redwood National Park about 50 miles north of Eureka, which was projected to be the next Yosemite when it opened in 1968, is instead a soggy "park, pee, stretch" stop that attracts few overnighters. The occasional movie or TV commercial is shot in Humboldt's cathedral of redwoods, but not often. Even "Eureka," the television show that debuted this summer, is being shot in more prosperous Vancouver, Canada.

But Arkley remains. A lifelong local whose roots reach back to the 1800s, Arkley has done everything from dramatically sprucing up Eureka's aging zoo to revitalizing its scruffy waterfront and Old Town areas to building a long-coveted performing arts facility bearing his surname. He also added the downtown area's first Starbucks, a ubiquitous, somewhat resented addition (though nearby Times-Standard staffers aren't above sneaking in now and then for a fix) that is hard to miss on the most visible stretch of the Highway 101/Fifth Street thoroughfare that cuts through town. Arkley's Fifth Street Plaza, conveniently located across the street from the nondescript Security National building, where Arkley's vast real estate development/holding operation is based, is perhaps the most visible symbol of what detractors believe is Arkley and his cronies' overdevelopment zeal. It includes a fancy townhouse for visitors and VIPs.

Arkley also hopes to reel in a Home Depot, perhaps some other chain businesses and what he says would be affordable housing to an abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, a creepy mishmash of rusty boxcars and train tracks where the ocean breeze is overwhelmed by emissions from a nearby pulp mill and a fish-processing plant. The controversial project, called the Balloon Track, has yet to lift off, though it appears anything done to the site will be an improvement.

An outspoken doer who revels in running through, over and around bureaucratic red tape, Arkley uses his deep pockets, iron will and considerable business acumen and contacts to get things done. He is a big-time contributor to Republican coffers across the nation, and is known to name-drop ("I could get Arnold Schwarzenegger up here with one phone call," he was quoted as saying at the opening of the Fifth Street Plaza, albeit in the pages of the rival Times-Standard).

Ah, the Times-Standard. Arkley claims not to have picked it up in five years ("I don't read it, but understand it to be quite liberal"), but nevertheless seems to be an expert at picking at its weaknesses while picking its pockets. And it is working to some extent: Times-Standard staffers, while counterpunching with award-winning journalism observers say is its most relevant in memory (John Driscoll, the paper's natural resources and industry writer, won first place from the California Newspaper Publishers Association for his April 24, 2005, story "Aleutian solutions," about a recovered population of Aleutian geese, and last year, Driscoll won a second-place award from CNPA for his 2004 series "Endless seasons," which profiled ranching life on the North Coast.), appear rattled.

Though it is unlikely Eureka will ever be known as Arkleyville, Arkley, son of an area timber scion, is definitely leaving his mark.

"He's a bull in a china shop -- and it's his china shop," says J Warren Hockaday, executive director of the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce, whose members include Arkley and Times-Standard Publisher David Lippman. "Rob is a very intelligent and eccentric guy who is in a position to do the things he feels he needs to get done. ... He doesn't necessarily need to go through a public participation to get things done."

So far, local media observers say, Arkley has kept his notoriously conservative views out of his paper.

The Reporter is nevertheless a publication many believed was launched to put the 152-year-old Times-Standard out of business. The Times-Standard, right-leaning when I worked there as an entertainment and news editor from 1988 to 1995, is seen as tilting left now. And it seemingly incurred Arkley's considerable wrath when it failed to endorse his wife Cherie's failed bid for Eureka mayor in 2002, a race Cherie Arkley lost by fewer than 50 votes. Arkley maintains the lack of an endorsement that likely would have put his wife's candidacy over the top "had nothing to do with" starting the rival newspaper. "That's foolishness," he says.

The American flag on the masthead is so far, along with the "fair and balanced" motto lifted from Fox News, the only obvious Arkley-ism found in the Reporter. (All U.S. newspaper mastheads, Arkley reasons, "ought to have a flag and thank God above they have freedom of the press.")

Flag or no flag, the Eureka Reporter is a handsome paper distributed to more than 20,000 homes at no charge, or as its masthead boasts, the paper is "Priceless." It is following a growing, albeit more urban trend of free-circulation dailies that eschew subscription and rack sales to entice a generation of readers who are used to free downloads of everything from news to music to movies.

At the forefront of the "freebie" trend is yet another Denver publisher, Philip Anschutz, a billionaire who is targeting upscale readers with free delivery and newsrack offerings of the San Francisco, Washington and Baltimore Examiners. The thinking is that whatever is lost in paid circulation could be made up for in advertising delivered with a wider net, especially when upscale readers are targeted.

"I think it is the model," Arkley says.

Counters Singleton: "No free daily in America has ever made a profit."

The Reporter is a paper so new that its staff could still use nametags. News-siders range from eager Humboldt State University journalism grads to veteran scribes lured by better, well, everything. And the trash talk doesn't end with reporters cutting each other for stories, including a fight that broke out between news staffers from each paper at the scene of a fatal accident.

Singleton, head of Times-Standard parent MediaNews Group, one of the largest and most controversial newspaper chains in the country, is unimpressed. He is a very big fish in a big national pond who is not afraid to criticize a paper that is treating his Times-Standard like a piñata, whacking away at its circulation, ad revenue, staff and, perhaps most critically, print jobs, which the Reporter is gobbling up thanks to its sparkling press and a crack crew of pressmen.

Arkley, by contrast, is less a big fish in a big pond than a whale in a small and murky one, winning kudos and condemnation with seemingly every splash he makes. His actions have even inspired a monitoring blog,

His Eureka Reporter has morphed from an online publication that started in August 2004 that the Times-Standard shrugged off to a printed thrice-weekly paper in April 2005, to what the Reporter has been since January: A widely circulated free daily with razor-sharp graphics printed on a multimillion dollar press that is forcing the highly profitable Times-Standard to do something it really hasn't had to do since the Humboldt Times and Humboldt Standard officially merged in 1967 (though the paperswere under the same owner since 1941): compete -- and compete hard.

"I get tired of the Times-Standard saying 'Rob is trying to put us out of business,' " Arkley says. "I mean (the Times-Standard and parent MediaNews) are a monopoly in every market they are in, whining like a bunch of babies. ... The first lick of competition they get they scream like they are getting (screwed). ... They are not having any fun."

Though he doesn't mince words or political views, Arkley is something of a contradiction. While claiming not to have read the rival paper in five years, he seems to know an awful lot about it. He torments Times-Standard Managing Editor Charles Winkler with snarky e-mails that he often cc's to Singleton. His Eureka home is fairly modest, a contrast to the lavish touches on commercial buildings he's installed or renovated around town. He says he doesn't like fielding questions from journalists, yet now employs them. His hobbies range from macho (hunting and fishing) to dainty (picking berries). He is a family man who dotes on his wife and two daughters but who, when interviewed for this story, anyway, often raised his voice while cussing a blue streak, making emphatic points with F-bombs. He grew up in the ultimate a hippie college town -- nuclear-free, Green Party-dominant Arcata -- in a hippie era, yet his political will is firmly to the right of George Will. He allows liberal columnists and opinions on the editorial pages. His publisher at the Reporter is a woman in a position traditionally occupied by men. Judi Pollace is a highly regarded newspaperwoman who has worked at both the Times-Standard and for Singleton. Pollace seems a smart hire for her work ethic alone. (I worked with her, at the Times-Standard when Pollace was advertising manager. She was often first to arrive and last to leave.)

Arkley disdains unions, yet is known for generous salaries and generous benefits, including paying up to $10,000 college tuition for employees and their family members to earn degrees provided they maintain a "B" average. He says he tried to buy the Times-Standard ("I was told it was not for sale").

Singleton has no recollection of any Arkley overtures. "I don't remember having been approached by him, and nobody can deal with buying and selling newspapers in this company except for me," Singleton notes. "And it would do no good because the Times-Standard is not for sale."

With the Times-Standard one of the few things in town off-limits to him, Arkley says he launched the Reporter out of a desire for more local news.

"I noticed over the generations the Times-Standard went from being the Times-Standard to the 'Sub-Standard' to the 'Daily Disappointment,' " Arkley says. "It was not publishing local news. ... Part of the challenge for local communities today is to keep our local identities. And one of the easiest and most direct ways is to do that is with our local newspapers. I felt we needed a local paper again."

Times-Standard news staffers call the Reporter the "Eureka Distorter" and find its "Priceless" label on the masthead arrogant and a little too precious.

But they seemed genuinely concerned about the upstart, and with good reason: The daily Reporter has a bigger editorial staff, a better printing press, newer equipment and several experienced local journalists, including some former Times-Standard journalists, namely most of its former sports staff.

"Folks at the Times-Standard have indicated to me they are pretty nervous," about the rapid progress of the Reporter, Hoover of the Arcata Eye notes. Although the Eye has lost about 40 percent of its staff to the Reporter, Hoover, whose police report haikus have legions of fans and have even spawned a book, says his readership and advertising have remained stable.

But he and others believe the Times-Standard defections have hurt the Times-Standard. Says reporter Mike Morrow, who jumped from the "T-S" to the new paper:

"It's more money, better benefits, better gas mileage. The equipment is first-rate -- they even gave me a laptop and a cell phone off the bat."

Despite his considerable experience, Morrow, whose Reporter salary is about $35,000, said he was making less than $25,000 when he left the Times-Standard. "The Times-Standard made a counter-offer, but it was basically an insult. ... A manager at McDonald's made more than I did," he said.

Morrow, 60, is a longtime newspaperman who believes Arkley is in it for the long haul, and has managed to keep his conservative views out of the paper. "The paper is as independent of its owner as it can be," he says, echoing a sentiment expressed by others. "So far," agrees Arcata Eye Publisher Hoover, "Rob has taken the high road on this thing."

While he has plenty of admirers, Arkley has, as outspoken, aggressive developers tend to have, many detractors. And several seem reluctant to publicly criticize him.

"None of us trust Arkley, and that is why I do not want to go on the record," said a Humboldt State journalism instructor.

Singleton is happy to. A cost-conscious newspaper wrangler whose resources and bravado are a worthy match for Arkley's, Singleton seems to view Arkley and his upstart daily as little more than a minor nuisance. Singleton is fresh from a colossal, billion-dollar deal in which he landed the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times and other papers from the McClatchy Co. In the complicated transaction, the Hearst Corp., which owns the San Francisco Chronicle, is buying the Monterey County Herald and St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press and then transferring the papers to MediaNews. In exchange, Hearst gets an ownership stake in MediaNews' newspapers outside the Bay Area.

But if Singleton is worried about the Eureka Reporter, he isn't showing it.

And while Arkley claims to no longer read the Times-Standard, Singleton reads the Reporter, which he derisively calls a "shopper" because it is a free newspaper that he says gets delivered to homes willy-nilly whether they want it or not.

"I watch (The Reporter) carefully," Singleton says in his Rocky Mountain twang. "And they have done some good design things. But when you get right down to it, it is not really a quality newspaper. ... I think it makes (Arkley) think he is a big man in town. I am not sure buying a printing press and throwing papers around makes you a big man in town, but he thinks it does."

Arkley, Singleton adds, "doesn't sell newspapers. He just puts them out for free. Nobody's expressed whether they want it or not. They wake up, and there it is."

Observers closer to the battle lines are more complimentary. Sims of the North Coast Journal, one of the publications now printed on Arkley's fancy press -- says Arkley no longer returns his phone calls because of things Sims has written about him. But he admires aspects of the Reporter.

"The design and layout are clean. It's unbelievable. It's printed on nice, thick paper like I've never seen."

Sims says that while Arkley's public contributions to the city are akin to "a bit of a renaissance," he can be his own worst enemy.

"The thing that turns him off to people is he has very, very strong political beliefs. And he gets very frustrated and personal when he is crossed."

Reporter Publisher Pollace has nothing but praise for Arkley. A willowy, well-coifed blonde with a cackling laugh, Pollace is a former publisher for smaller papers, including MediaNews papers in Lake County. She says working with Arkley's generous budget has made her the envy of other publishers at newspaper confabs. At the other papers, she says, "I never had a copy editor, never had more than three reporters; and every time there was a budget crunch, I would lose one of those."

She adds that Arkley's editorial input has been minimal, that he rarely sets foot in the Reporter building.

"When we started this paper," she says, "everyone expected to see a very conservative paper. In fact, one of our editorials came out in support of gay marriage, and there were some people stunned we would do that."

When asked whether the Reporter would cover the story if, say, Arkley's Security National was indicted for something, Arkley responds, "Of course. It's news ... my vision is one of objectivism."

While Pollace credits the Times-Standard for doing some things right ("they are spanking us on local editorials"), she contends that the Reporter is superior in local coverage and a better buy for advertisers, while keeping the Times-Standard's rates in check. She says circulation is about 25,000 already and expects it to top out at about 35,000. She maintains that her paper would not be necessary if not for what she called "the biased reporting of the other daily."

Whether either paper is biased is open to interpretation. Singleton's thrifty reputation is not, though his purchase of the Times-Standard in 1996 from the notoriously tight Thomson Corp. may be one of the few times where a Singleton buy was an upgrade: When I toiled at the Thomson-owned Times-Standard, expenses were so tightly monitored that staff had to go through accounting to get a pencil or notepad out of the company vault.

"I can assure you nobody has to beg to get a pencil out of the safe anymore," says Lippman, Times-Standard publisher since July 2005. "The wages we pay are pretty in line with national averages for papers this size. That said, we certainly try to run in a businesslike manner, which includes making some money."

Little if any of that money stays in Humboldt County, Arkley says. "All (MediaNews) has done is take money out of the community both through the profits and the advertising rates that have gone up and up and up."

Singleton says that the Times-Standard "does very well" and that its profits go into "reinvesting in the company." He said the paper has responded to the Reporter by adding "a lot of news hole and some staffing and budget."

While management of both papers say they are in it for the long haul, neutral observers think Eureka, where pawn shops still outnumber Starbucks, can support two papers for only so long. And while the effect so far has led to better journalism, better rates for advertisers and more choices for readers, the honeymoon may not, given the economics of newspapering, let alone the economics of Eureka, last long.

"I think it all depends on how hard Dean Singleton wants to fight," Sims of the North Coast Journal says. "I don't think Arkley will cut his losses and get out."

Hoover of the Arcata Eye paints a more draconian picture, one where the only daily keeping an eye on Arkley's development activities is the one owned by ... Arkley.

"If the Eureka Reporter were to drive the Times-Standard out of business, then what? Would Rob say, 'All right, it is free and clear, and I don't have to offer diverse opinions?' "

Time will tell. Or as the SCI FI Channel itself would say about "Eureka," stay tuned. ...

Joel Davis is a Sacramento journalist and college journalism instructor. His work has appeared in the Sacramento Business Journal, the Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Magazine, Comstocks Magazine and Editor & Publisher. He is the author of "Justice Waits: The UC Davis Sweetheart Murders" (Callister Press).

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Arkley Likely to Sue County Despite State’s Decision

The McKinleyville Press


Daniel Mintz

A local multimillionaire’s quest to open more land for development won’t end with the state’s recent decision not to reverse its approval of a county housing plan, and his attorney says a lawsuit is imminent.

The famously arch-conservative Rob Arkley, Jr. has channeled some of his considerable riches into hiring Sacramento-based consultants and attorneys to challenge county planning work. The county’s Housing Element, a five-year plan for meeting state residential development requirements, has been a primary item of contention for Arkley. He’s met with state officials in an effort to convince them to reverse their approval of the county plan.

But after reopening its review of the element and estimates of developable land, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) recently announced that the county’s work meets housing standards and actually exceeds them for moderate and above moderate income categories. The HCD also found that enough sites have been identified for development of lower income high density housing – although it’s a category that the state wants more attention paid to along with infrastructure to support it.

That result is not what Arkley sought and the Sacramento consultant for HELP, the developers’ advocacy group he’s funded, has questioned the county’s submittal of what’s been called a “secret report” to the HCD. In a letter to Board of Supervisors Chairman John Woolley, HELP consultant Kay Backer describes the allegedly back-room document as “a violation of state law.”

And Bob Best, an attorney for the Sacramento-based Trainor-Robertson law firm hired by Arkley, has said that the county has “made themselves more vulnerable to a legal attack” with its documentation and actions during the state review. He warned that a lawsuit is likely unless the county responds quickly to the concerns enumerated in Backer’s letter to Woolley.

From the county’s – and the state’s – point of view, however, the planning work is both legally sound and unusually thorough.

Arkley Attorney: State’s Wrong

Woolley responded to Backer in a July 7 letter and said that “we remain secure in the (land) inventory procedures we have developed.” The state is also confident about that -- the HCD deputy director who’s supervised the state’s review has said that Backer’s “secret report” characterization is incorrect and credited the county’s planning department for making its land inventory available online and open to adjustments.

There is aggressive disagreement from Arkley’s corner that seems to be leading to a long-threatened lawsuit against the county. In an interview, Best said that the state’s findings will be struck down if they’re argued in court, and he believes that the “secret report” will be damning evidence.

“I think the HCD is dodging its responsibilities,” said Best. “The report that county staff ginned up is the county itself saying that the element doesn’t comply with state law … our position is that the report finally recognized what we’ve been saying all along – that what’s in the housing element is virtually meaningless.”

Best believes that the county’s report on the inventory should have been treated as a General Plan amendment subject to approvals from the planning commission and board of supervisors. He said that the HCD “erroneously” handled the report.

“This is a staff report that was prepared in a back room with the cooperation of the HCD,” Best continued. He said the county is “digging itself into a deeper hole” legally and “cannot look a judge straight in the face and say its housing element is accurate.”

Saying that the element’s land inventory overestimates development capacity by thousands of parcels, Best added that making it legal will take time and “the county will have to get busy – if we do not see action by the county soon, we will probably have to initiate a lawsuit.”

The litigation would be directed at the county and not include the state, Best said, as “the law does not require the HCD to create valid housing elements.”

But the HCD will defend its work in court if it comes to that – and will also back up the county’s.

Public Meeting on a ‘Secret Report’

The “secret report” is dated April 24 and updates the content of the county’s inventory. Asked about it, HCD Deputy Director Cathy Creswell questioned the characterization and pointed out that the report was the subject of a public workshop that was held last October and attended by 45 people.

“I don’t know why they’d describe the report that way,’” Creswell said. “Our understanding is that the county held a public meeting on the inventory, so I don’t how they could possibly characterize it as a secret document.”

A General Plan amendment wasn’t necessary for the report, she added, and she praised the county for doing updated annual reviews of its five-year housing plan. “Not many counties do that,” Creswell said. She also said that the county’s interactive online posting of the inventory is “very unique” and an important tool for achieving housing construction.

Asked about Backer’s and Best’s legal arguments, Creswell said her department worked hard to review the housing plan with HELP’s concerns in mind. “They clearly have a different perspective than we do, and they disagree with our findings,” she continued. “But we tried to work cooperatively, and we feel we fulfilled our responsibilities in a way that’s been fair and equitable to all parties, and in a manner that fulfills the state’s interest in providing housing opportunities that are real.”

Kirk Girard, the county’s planning director, has been aggressively targeted by Arkley. He said Best’s claim that the April 24 report admits inadequacy is a mischaracterization. About 200 units were subtracted from the thousands reflected in the inventory, said Girard, a response that probably wasn’t legally necessary but responded to HELP’s contentions.

“In a sense, we’re being criticized for being responsive,” he said.

Woolley’s response letter to Backer emphasized that the county’s planning work has been “well-documented” locally and “most importantly, agreed to by the state.”

Which won’t satisfy Arkley. “We’re headed to court if the county continues to stonewall us,” said Best. “If there is a lawsuit, it will be because the county’s asked for it.”

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Public Trust Doctrine Could Stop Balloon Tract Retail Development

By Elaine Weinreb, Humboldt Advocate

July 7, 2006

Although Security National’s proposed Balloon Tract development in Eureka is named the Marina Center, it does not contain a marina – or anything else that is related to water, boats, or the bayshore on which it is located.

This, according to the project’s opponents, could be the downfall of the project. Aldaron Laird, a local consultant specializing in regulatory compliance for water-related projects, has uncovered a doctrine buried deep in the heart of the California legal system that could bring the development to a stop, if anybody wanted to take it to court.

In researching old historical documents and records, Laird discovered that the Balloon Tract was once a tideland, an area that was covered and uncovered twice each day by the waters of Humboldt Bay. Even though the area was subsequently diked and filled, Laird says that legally the land remains subject to the doctrine of public trust.

The doctrine of public trust, which goes back to Roman times, and is the underlying basis of common law, says that resources such as the seashore, must be used in a way that benefits the entire public, not just a few people.

"The doctrine of public trust says that you can’t own the seashore, the air, the ocean, or the navigable waterways," Laird told the Humboldt Advocate.

"That became the basis of English common law. When California joined the Union in 1850, all its tidelands became its sovereign lands. All those lands are encumbered with the public trust."

Laird said that early state legislatures were under a lot of pressure to sell off tidelands, so that they could be diked and used for agriculture. "In the 1800’s, people had to raise all their food around here; they couldn’t bring it in. Flat land was at a premium, so the state legislature allowed the sale of all these tidelands. But the fact that they sold it doesn’t remove the public’s trust easement that’s associated with those lands. They can’t sell off the public trust easement."

"If you’re going to use Public Trust lands, they have to be used for a water-related purpose, because public trust lands are associated with public trust waters. Public trust can include industrial uses, and commercial uses, and recreation. But it has to be water-related. It has to have something to do with being on the seashore. You can’t just occupy the seashore for something that has no seashore relationship," said Laird.

Laird adds that public trust uses associated with shorelines include shipping, boating, fishing, swimming, the maintenance of open space, and the maintenance of natural ecosystems. Several court decisions have demonstrated that this legal principle is alive and well, and can trump other aspects of the law.

"There was a famous court case in Illinois," he said, "where the Illinois state legislature granted all the lakeshore frontage in Chicago to the railroad. They got sued, and the case went to the Supreme Court which said, ‘You can sell the underlying dirt, but you can’t sell the public’s right to use the shoreline of Lake Michigan.’ So the court reversed the state legislature and they took all the land back.

"A 1971 court case, called Marks v. Whitney, dealt with tidelands along Bodega Bay [in Marin County]. There was a property owner that owned the shoreline and wanted to block off access to the bay. All the other people said, ‘you can’t do that. What you bought is former tideland. We all have a right to go up there.’" The courts eventually ruled in favor of public access.

Unlike most legislation in the U.S., public trust doctrine can operate retroactively. "Look at the famous Mono Lake case in 1983," Laird said. "The city of Los Angeles was diverting all the streams that went into Mono Lake, so the lake was drying up. The court determined, based on the Marks v. Whitney case, that the public trust protects and preserves the natural ecosystem. The ecosystem of Mono Lake was dying. So they reversed the water rights granted to LA.

"LA said ‘You can’t do that. You gave them to us,’ and they said, "No, we own the water, we can take it back whenever there’s a valid reason. And protecting the public’s right to use Mono Lake and have a natural ecosystem trumps your right as a water right permit holder. So they reversed it."

Larry Glass, a spokesperson for Citizens for Real Economic Growth (CREG), a group that opposes the proposed "Marina Center" on the Balloon Tract, told the Humboldt Advocate that he was amazed to discover historical photographs of the Balloon Tract, showing large portions of it underwater.

"I’ve been stunned to learn about the true history and reality of the Balloon Tract, that actually half of it was part of Humboldt Bay, that within the past 60 years it was part of the bay, and that part that wasn’t part of the bay was mud flats," he said, holding out a large black-and-white photograph of a watery Balloon Tract. "I’d been led to believe that this had been a railyard since the 1800’s, but based on this 1948 picture, they had just started filling in the Balloon Tract in 1948 with dredgings from the bay.

"Sixty or seventy years ago, Clark Slough was a large freshwater stream that flowed all the way from a spring near Bucksport to the Balloon Tract," he continued. "This area was an important part of the ecosystem of Humboldt Bay. There’s a historical document, in which railroad passengers were complaining to the railroad about the naked children swimming in Clark Slough. Now the slough is just a little culvert, going under Waterfront Drive. That gives you an idea as to how much the environment has changed over this 60-year period of time."

CREG’s position is that the City of Eureka should have studied the area comprehensively and forced the Union Pacific Railroad to clean up the polluted site, before consenting to its development. The city, at one point, was offered a $45,000 grant from the Headwaters Foundation to develop a master plan for the Balloon Tract, but turned it down. Glass said that four of the five City Council members were heavily influenced by Rob Arkley, the owner of Security National, the company which is presently planning on developing the site.

"The city has never even asked the railroad to clean the site up or consulted with any agencies about getting it cleaned it up," Glass said. "This isn’t some poor little struggling railroad. This is Union Pacific, one of the fattest corporations out there right now, and Cherie Arkley’s worse case scenario of $12 million to fully clean the site, is four days’ profit for Union Pacific."

Another local group, the Humboldt Baykeeper, took matters into its own hands and took legal action against Union Pacific, to try to force them to clean up the site.

"Back in March we filed a 60-day notice against Union Pacific," Pete Nichols, spokesperson for the Humboldt Baykeeper, told the Humboldt Advocate. "The 60 days has since passed, so in early June we filed our lawsuit with the courts. We have two claims under the Clean Water act and another federal statute called the Resources Recovery Conservation Act.

"We’re saying that Union Pacific needs to be held responsible for cleaning up the contaminants on the Balloon Tract that are entering Humboldt Bay. Those contaminants are causing immanent and substantial endangerment to the environment."

Security National, the project’s developer, has said that they will place a cap over the polluted land, but Nichols has said that is inadequate and the site needs a much more extensive cleanup.

Nichols said that the case was being heard in the 9th Circuit Federal Court in San Francisco. Mark Lovelace, representing the local group called Healthy Humboldt, agrees with Laird and Glass, and says the "Marina Center" is an example of poor city planning.

"The Humboldt Bay Harbor Management Plan, the Humboldt Bay Harbor Revitalization Plan, the City of Eureka’s Zoning and General Plan, the Local Coastal Plan, and Eureka’s ‘Prosperity!’ strategy all say what should or should not happen on this property---and they effectively say ‘don’t do this here,’" he said.

"Public trust doctrine speaks to lands that are common to everyone," Lovelace said. "Ownership of these lands does not mean that you have the right to do something that is against the public interest. No one, regardless of their ability to own land, has the right to destroy resources that are needed for the common good."

Lovelace also faulted the City Council for not taking a more active role in planning for other possible uses of the Balloon Tract, and forcing the railroad to clean up after itself.

"The city has renovated its waterfront, and redefined itself as an attractive Victorian seaport," he said. "This is a property that has a 230 degree panorama of Humboldt Bay, over _ mile of waterfront frontage, and if that were ready for development you could pick and choose the type of developer you wanted. The city could be in the catbird seat. But because they haven’t said ‘word one’ about Union Pacific living up to its basic responsibilities, it’s been left in such a poor condition that people aren’t clamoring to build there."

"Two of those four city council members could turn this thing around and do something that they’ll be proud to have their name on, in the future, and not defending for the rest of their careers.

"Measure J from 1999 was very clear. It asked if the city should change the zoning of the Balloon Tract to Service-Commercial. 61 percent of the public said ‘No.’ It’s the only property in all of Eureka whose use has ever been put to a vote of the public. It’s the only use that the public has said we don’t want. But that use is exactly what they’re asking for now."

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