Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Group threatens to sue county

by Rebecca S. Bender
The Eureka Reporter

A local housing advocacy group is threatening to take the county to court over what it deems unlawful and unethical deficiencies in the General Plan Housing Element.

Humboldt Sunshine Inc., founded by business owner Rob Arkley, asserts not only that the county’s Housing Element contains serious gaps in its provisions for developing low- and moderate-income housing, but also that county officials have chosen to ignore citizen complaints.

“In failing to plan for … housing needs, county officials have systematically violated California law and submitted false information to the state,” Arkley said in a news release. “Their actions have worsened our housing crisis and are legally and morally indefensible.”

Notice of the alleged violations are set out in detail in a certified letter from attorney Robert K. Best of Trainor Robertson, a commercial real estate and business law firm in Sacramento. The letter is dated February 22, 2005 — the year is presumably a typo, though phone calls to Best were not returned by deadline — and is directed to Lora Canzoneri, clerk of the Board of Supervisors.

Canzoneri is out of the office this week. Administrative Assistant Kathy Riccomini is managing office business in Canzoneri’s absence, and as of Monday afternoon, she had not seen the letter and was unfamiliar with Humboldt Sunshine’s claims. After checking with several other workers and the County Administrative Office, Riccomini confirmed that the county had not yet received Best’s letter.

The Housing Element, part of the county’s General Plan, guides residential zoning, infrastructure and program policies and sets goals for providing different types of housing. It was last fully revised in 2003.

The document identifies available residential land, funding sources, incentives and policies to help develop and encourage affordable housing projects in the county and affirms a commitment to working to meet the needs of low-income households. However, citing governmental, environmental and financial constraints, it also states that “it is unlikely the county will be able to meet its share of the regional housing need for low- and very low-income households.”

A new land inventory update was submitted — by request — to the California Department of Housing and Community Development in October 2005. It includes suggestions from a county-sponsored public workshop, responses to issues raised by the Humboldt Economic and Land Plan group and a new analysis of sites that could be used for low-income housing.

In a letter accompanying the inventory update, Humboldt County Community Development Director Kirk Girard acknowledged the continued difficulty the county faces in providing sufficient affordable housing due to skyrocketing real estate and building costs. He added that county staff will be collating possible ways to address that challenge in the short term and as part of the ongoing General Plan update.

Among the grounds listed in Humboldt Sunshine’s complaint is the lack of both a suitable inventory of land and an appropriate analysis of the available land for development purposes. It also lists insufficient action plans, incomplete policies and inadequate support to create or assist in the creation of affordable housing.

“Because the Housing Element fails to comply with state law ... the county cannot demonstrate how it will make up for the existing housing shortage and provide for its share of the regional housing need for all income levels during the current planning period,” the letter stated.

It asserts that citizens’ requests for relief have gone unanswered and that county staff “have indicated that there is no intention to take action soon to correct these deficiencies and to comply with the county’s obligations.”

It asks for immediate, corrective action.

Calls to Girard and Supervisor John Woolley were not returned by deadline.
Humboldt Sunshine described itself in a news release as “working to promote adequate jobs and housing in Humboldt County and to obtain open and responsive government actions to encourage and facilitate the development of local housing by compliance with state laws requiring county action to address housing need for households of all income levels.

“In particular Humboldt Sunshine intends to support and encourage the development of housing that will increase the community’s supply of affordable housing to persons and families with low or moderate incomes, or with very low incomes, or middle-income households.”

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

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Friday, February 24, 2006

High school student gives governor $44,600

By Shane Goldmacher


A Eureka high school student, and the daughter of a major Schwarzenegger donor, has given the maximum donation of $44,600 to the governor's reelection effort. The donation came on the same day as maximum donations from her mother, father and sister.

All told, the Arkley family funneled $178,400 to the governor's reelection efforts in a single day earlier this month.

"Most Californians would find it ridiculous that a high schooler can give so much money to a candidate when they themselves are unable to afford to do so," said Ned Wigglesworth, an analyst with TheRestofUs.org, a campaign finance watchdog group. "Most high schoolers are worried about getting into college or maybe buying a new car, not a $44,600 contribution to a political candidate."

Because Elizabeth Arkley is 18 years old, she, like any other adult, can donate up to $22,300 to Schwarzenegger for both the gubernatorial primary and general election. Elizabeth's parents, Cherie and Robin Arkley and her college-aged sister, Allison, each gave $44,600 to the governor's reelection campaign.

"Even if she is 18, it highlights how out of whack California's system of funding campaigns is," says Wigglesworth.

Bundling donations with multiple family members is an increasingly common trend used to fill campaign coffers. State Treasurer Phil Angelides' gubernatorial campaign has received donations of $22,300 from no less than seven members of the Tsakopolous family, while state Controller Steve Westly has had donors such as Hollywood producer Haim Saban bundle his donations of $44,600 with his wife Cheryl's contributions on the same day.

But what makes the governor's recent donation noteworthy is the high school status of the donor.

The governor's opponents were still quick to attack the governor for the donation.

"This governor always says he has a special interest in California's kids," said Nick Velazquez, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly. "We just didn't know until now his interest was in shaking them down for campaign contributions."

Brian Brokaw, a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, said that, "Considering Schwarzenegger started the year nearly half a million dollars in debt, it's no surprise he is scrambling to meet his $120 million fundraising goal for 2006."

But the governor's campaign team defended the contribution. "The governor welcomes supporters from all backgrounds," said Katie Levinson, the campaign's communications director. "This contribution was made by an adult and is perfectly legal."

The recent donations were hardly the first political contributions from the Arkleys. Robin Arkley, who owns the Eureka Reporter newspaper, gave the governor's California Recovery Team $250,000 in 2004, and shelled out more than $500,000 to the Yes on 75 committee last year. At the national level, Arkey gave more than $500,000 to an independent committee to defeat then-U.S. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004. He also donated $100,000 to President George W. Bush's second inaugural.

But Wigglesworth says that the Arkleys failed to disclose additional donations made last year by their family-owned SN Servicing Corporation. Robin and Cherie Arkley are listed under "Race Investments LLC" in their major donor filings with the California secretary of state. But SN Servicing Corporation, which Mr. Arkley owns, gave the business-backed Citizens to Save California $250,000 and the Small Business Action Committee $100,000 last year.

Robin Arkley was traveling Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Wigglesworth said TheRestofUs planned to file a formal complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission on Friday.

"Wealthy interests can already give too much money in California," says Wigglesworth. "The major donor filings do help inform Californians which wealthy interests are trying to influence the political process. But when major donors make incomplete filings, enabling them to avoid disclosure, it deprives Californians of knowing who is trying to influence our elections."

Shane Goldmacher is a Capitol Weekly staff reporter.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

4th District voters should follow the money

My Word by Gregory Conners
The Times Standard

The best way to understand a politician is to "follow the money." We can learn a great deal about candidates by identifying their funding sources and examining the political track records of other politicians who take money from the same sources.

Here is a real-life current example: Humboldt County financier Robin P. Arkley II and his wife, former Eureka Council Member Cherie Arkley, are investing millions in political causes on their way to purchasing yet more political power. The Arkleys paid $500,000 or so to bring us Gov. Arnold, another $500,000 to defeat Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and over $700,000 to support Gov. Schwarzenegger's unsuccessful 2005 ballot measures. In the past year and a half the Arkleys have spent about $700,000 on federal campaigns. We know this much from public records.

The Arkleys' favorite federal office holders have extensive track records that can help voters decide if they want to vote for Arkley candidates in the future. The track records of two powerful Arkley beneficiaries, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Sen. George Allen, R-Va., illustrate the point. In the past year the Arkleys have given Santorum and his political action committee at least $27,000. Allen, running for president in a race still three years in the future, has received $5,900 so far.

Both of these Arkley senators receive the same extreme ratings from key sources. NARAL Pro-Choice America rates them at zero. The AFL-CIO rates them at zero. The League of Conservation Voters rates them at zero. The American Public Health Association rates them at zero. The Christian Coalition, infamous for leader Pat Robertson's violent, racist proposals and for their goal of dominating the world by merging church and state, gives these Arkley senators a rating of 100 per cent. Both senators voted against banning soft money political contributions and restricting issue ads. Both are on record against tax deductions for college tuition. Both are on record favoring funding of private education over public. Santorum insists publicly that our culture is "too tolerant." Allen is running for president.

Are you alarmed yet? You should be. These extremist politics have been successful all the way to the presidency, and have now come home to roost right here in Humboldt County.

The Arkleys and other wealthy extremists have formed a committee to replace moderate Republican Humboldt County Supervisor Bonnie Neely with former Eureka Mayor Nancy Flemming. Since the office of mayor of Eureka is ceremonial, voting only to break the rare council tie, Flemming's track record is skimpy to non-existent. It is more important than ever for 4th District voters to "follow the money" before they vote.

Gregory Conners has served as chair of Eureka's General Plan and Zoning Committee, a member of the Eureka Planning Commission and chair of Eureka's Parks and Recreation Commission. He was a candidate for 4th District supervisor when Bonnie Neely first ran for election in 1986, and endorsed her immediately following his third-place showing in the primary. He lives in Loleta.

The opinions expressed in My Word pieces do not necessarily reflect the editorial viewpoint of the Times-Standard.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Arkley and Out?

North Coast Journal

ARKLEY AND OUT? That was quite a bombshell, dropped in there at the end of a small story in Saturday's Baton Rouge Advocate. In the story, entitled "N.O. called city of opportunity," Timothy Boone, a business reporter at the paper, mainly just gives an account of a speech at Lousiana State University's business school by one Robin Arkley II, of Eureka, Calif. According to the paper, Arkley is bullish on post-Katrina New Orleans. "The opportunities to build nice businesses are beyond belief," Arkley is quoted as saying. "The only way things could be better would be if they would make New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish tax-free zones."

Standard stuff, and interesting, but Boone probably had no idea how his final four throwaway sentences would likely be taken in Arkley's home town. "Arkley is in the process of solidifying his Baton Rouge ties," he writes. "He and his wife, Cherie, are leaving California and moving to the city. California's high taxes and weak business climate are causing the Arkleys to leave. 'California is a disaster of socialism,' [Arkley] jokingly said."

Jokingly? He doesn't know his man. Reached Tuesday, Arkley confirmed that the couple would be changing their official address to Baton Rouge, at least for tax purposes. "We're not going to sit around and pay California income taxes forever," he said. "California is imposing another tax for high-income people. At some point, you realize there are other ways." Arkley said that they are building a new home in Baton Rouge, and it should be completed in a year and a half. (They've owned a different home there for several years, he said.)

But though the couple may be spending more time in Baton Rouge over the coming years, he said, that doesn't mean they are abandoning Eureka. "Let's face it: Eureka is where we are, and it's our home, and it's been our home for 100 years," he said. "And it'll be our home for another 100 years." He said his principal business, Security National, will continue to be headquartered in Eureka, and that he is looking to expand the operation and to acquire another national business and relocate it to Humboldt County.

"This isn't a story," Arkley said, putting on his newsman's cap (he is the owner of the Eureka Reporter). "When I have a story, I'll call you."

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

N.O. called city of opportunity: Businessman cites services for rebuilding

Advocate staff writer

The founder of a multibillion-dollar loan and real-estate development company said Friday that there are an unbelievable number of business opportunities in south Louisiana, post-Hurricane Katrina.

Robin Arkley II, who founded Security National Holding Co., which has more than $3 billion in assets, said entrepreneurs should look at south Louisiana because of the workers moving in to rebuild New Orleans, the existing customer base and the lack of competitors. Arkley was the first speaker this spring for the Flores MBA Program at LSU’s E.J. Ourso College of Business.

“Just about all of the service businesses in New Orleans have been wiped out,” he said. “It’s far beyond rebuilding houses … There are a lot of opportunities.”

Arkley pointed out that Katrina has had a tremendous human toll on New Orleans and has disrupted thousands of families. But he said the storm has cleared the slate for the city and given businesses a chance to rebuild New Orleans right.

“The opportunities to build a nice business are beyond belief,” Arkley told the audience, which was made up of scores of MBA students. “The only way things could be better would be if they would make New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish tax-free zones.”

Because the process of rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina will take years, businesses can expect slow and steady growth. “That’s what businesses want, stability,” he said.

Arkley founded Security National, based in his hometown of Eureka, Calif., in 1987. The business, which specializes in buying underperforming commercial and residential real estate and loans, has an office in Baton Rouge.

The company got its start when Arkley and a friend purchased the loan portfolio for a failed bank in Anchorage, Alaska.

At the time Arkley was working as a tax attorney and unhappy with his job.

“We borrowed $1 million to buy the loans, and it cost us $1 million to get the money,” he said. “Those are the kinds of sacrifices you make when you’re starting a business.”

Security National has holdings in Louisiana, including Statewide Bank in Covington. When Security National bought Statewide Bank, it had $50 million in deposits. Today, Arkley said, the bank has $200 million.

Although he didn’t attend LSU, Arkley has developed ties with the university and has pledged more than $1.2 million to the business school.

Arkley is in the process of solidifying his Baton Rouge ties. He and his wife, Cherie, are leaving California and moving to the city.

California’s high taxes and weak business climate are causing the Arkleys to leave.

“California is a disaster of socialism,” he jokingly said.

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