Sunday, November 30, 2008

Current and Future West Coast Ports Economically Feasible?

Ship cargo volume slumping at West Coast ports and it does not look good for the future.

Michael Jacob, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association in San Francisco, has bought into the idea the West Coast faces daunting structural problems. His trade association represents 60 maritime terminal operators and ocean carriers. "In the long term, we are seeing the threat of all kinds of issues - issues on steroids," he said. These include "the lack of freight-supporting infrastructure," meaning highway and rail improvements as well as improved port facilities; and pricing, due to fuel, environmental costs, port container fees, and the costs associated with congestion, said Jacob. "Everyone has environmental issues," he said, "but we have them in spades." In addition, Jacob says that some shippers are choosing an alternative route around California, "investing somewhere else." He added, "We are actually on the front end of a long-term structural change of business models where people are building their supply chains around California" for goods not destined for California.

While west coast Ports are having drastically lower shipping numbers, east coast ports are gaining. The Port of Savannah has passed The Port of Oakland as the 4th Largest Port in the US.

But get this, the Prince Rupert Port Authority in British Columbia - served by the Canadian National Railway with service to Chicago - said its container traffic increased 281 percent in the third quarter, compared with the first quarter. Hmmm. Lots of things to consider.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Elephant in the room. The homeless Zombie's parade to poop on sand dunes.

Each evening at nightfall starts the homeless campers march/trek to the Dunes by way of the Samoa Bridge. It is a somber looking group that consistently sleep in the Dunes. Mind you, some of these are people who can't seem to stay "clean" and sleep in available shelters with rules. Others have mental issues that makes it hard for them to stay out of "trouble."

OK. We all understand that we have a homeless problem. But with no available toilets on the Peninsula, where do you think these people defecate and urinate? You got it. Same problem we have behind the Bay Shore Mall. Shouldn't it be more humane for the county to supply B&B portable toilets in places we know homeless gather? It would be better than the environmental and health havoc they are creating by not having proper facilities.

Oh, but we are not supposed to know that we have gatherings of campers because that is illegal! So do we just keep ignoring this problem that won't go away?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gas $1.85 at Costco. Over $.40 more everywhere else in Eureka!

What other town can you find a gas price discrepancy of nearly a half dollar. There was a time not many years ago that gas prices in Eureka were no more than a few cents difference. And wasn't gas over $4.00 a gallon just a few months ago? Did more oil spring up? Weren't we going to tap into our national oil reserves? Everyone is quietly forgetting the big picture. We need to stop oil dependence.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Most overplayed songs at West Coast bars!

I have been to more than a few bars in places like Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii, Arizona and California while I worked as a union organizer. Bars are usually a neutral place for some who were scared of the process. And it seems there is a usual 25 or so song’s that are played to death. Here are the 10 songs I could really do without hearing one more time at a bar:

10. “Crazy on you!” Heart. But strangely, I love it on the radio.

9. “Bad to the bone!” George Thorogood & The Destroyers. Yeah, leave that one alone!

8. “Radar love.” Golden Earring. Brenda Lee came on strong how many years ago? Give it a rest!

7. “Welcome to the Jungle!” Guns and Roses. No! Not for the 10th time tonight!

6. “Abracadabra” The Steve Miller Band. Or the “Joker” or “Big ol’ Jet Airliner.”

5. ”Joy to the World.” Three Dog Night. Joy to the fishes and you and me?

4. “Jack and Diane” John Cougar. How about no little ditty about them!

3. “Cecelia.” Paul Simon. Who in their right mind would ever pick this song on the Jukebox? And yet there it plays again!

2. "Old Time Rock and Roll!” Bob Seger. And someone will play this multiple times in an hour loop! Please, no more!

1. “Highway to Hell!” AC/DC. C’mon. I am in a bar. Don’t need to be reminded!

Really, there should be some filter on the Jukebox that will not allow a song to be played over 3 times in a night. That would help a lot. Later I will name my top ten favorite songs to hear in a bar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Evergreen will have no ESOP.

We had a well attended union meeting today and I brought up a possible exploration of a ESOP buyout of Evergreen pulp. Silence on the floor. No motions. Finally a comment was made about this not being the right time because of the economy. So there will be no ESOP. Next idea?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No Moratorium made about cell phone towers by Eureka City Council.

I left the city council meeting after 10:30pm tonight after the council could not come to an agreement on a moratorium on Cell Phone tower construction. They needed a 4 out of 5 votes for this to happen. Jones and Endert were dissenting. There will be more discussion on this at another meeting after city legal counsel does some more research.

Robin and I own a house within the block of the proposed tower, so I was there to listen in on the discussion. The neighborhood in Henderson Center are passionately opposing this site. Going to be litigation I am sure.

Humboldt County Supervisor Bonnie Neely supported Measure T!

She went public today at the BOS chambers with her support of Measure T after John Woolley had said he supported and signed the Measure.

Hmmm. Seems to me that when I debated Bonnie at the KEET forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Humboldt County she categorically denied support of the Measure and I publicly stated I was the only candidate to support it. Why the public flip flop? She compared the effort to her "No on Walmart" campaign.

Is Bonnie pandering to local "progressives" or simply doing some political posturing for the left?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Revisiting the ESOP at Evergreen!

Four years ago I wrote the following My Word in the Times Standard. I took all sorts of flack at the mill, as my fellow employees were put off by my presumption that they too wanted to pursue an Employee ownership or ESOP. I put the idea out there because the mill was in the balance of closing permanently. Just like now.

I still feel we made a mistake by not at least investigating our options more closely then. Evergreen went public that they were profiting millions with very little capital expenditures the first year they operated the mill. Of course they have spent millions in upgrades since, but by all accounts had 20 million owed to them by Lee Kwak when they closed the plant.

If we had more domestic partnerships, I believe we would not have run this financial course.

Most of my observations then are very relevant today. This is not a "I told you so" but a lesson to not be so quick to "Shoot the Messenger."

MY WORD-Richard Marks

Employee Ownership can save Pulp Mill

As a long time forest product worker at Stockton Pacific Enterprises pulp mill in Samoa, I am deeply concerned that my community is missing a once in a lifetime opportunity today in the management shakeup and potential sale of the mill.

Many people do not know that the Stockton Pacific Enterprises Pulp Mill is the only certified totally chlorine free (TCF) pulp mill operating in North America and the only operating pulp mill in California. Our raw material is wood chips, our product is virgin pulp and our market is worldwide.

Over 150 good jobs with benefits that add wealth to the community are directly dependent on the mill, and many more local Humboldt businesses and jobs are indirectly affected by the viability of the mill.

The Stockton Pacific Enterprises Pulp Mill is undergoing another turnover of owners and management. Already workers have given up 15 percent of our monthly wages (around $100,000 per month) in the hope that the mill will not be closed.

Several years ago we reduced our workforce by over 50 employees to cut costs to preserve the company. We have given and will give more to make this mill viable.

We owe the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District (HBMWD) $600,000 in back payments for water, and if we close down we will never pay; the mill represents 45% of the monthly revenue of the HBMWD which would be borne by increased rates to residents if we close. PPM Finance (an American bank in Chicago owned by a British company) has a 17.5% interest loan which management cannot pay and the threat of foreclosure is very real.

We workers want to buy out our mill and operate it successfully. We can do this successfully through a mechanism called an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). We need time to develop a feasibility study and we need community support. We need our local legislators to sponsor legislation giving chlorine free pulp and paper products preferential status in state purchasing to assure a steady local market for our pulp. We need the Headwaters Funds and our economic development leaders to get behind and ESOP feasibility study and local ownership of the mill.

Think what a better situation we could have today in Humboldt County if our community had successfully supported an ESOP buyout of Pacific Lumber when Hurwitz and Maxxam rode into town in the 1980’s. We don’t want another round of foreign management: with a locally managed ESOP, it can be different this time.

An ESOP could provide for at least a 35% ownership, with two employee members on the board of directors; there would be profit sharing; democratic decision making; wages and benefits would be competitive with the industry; worker input on production; sound environmental stewardship and attention to worker safety; job retention; lobbying for greater production and sales of chlorine-free paper products.

We could work toward the conversion or development of the plant to include the manufacture of chlorine free finished paper products to create even more living wage jobs for the community.

To make all this happen, we need a working partnership with the HBMWD, an agreement which helps keep the district solvent without putting extra costs on local customers.

We need better communications between workers here at the plant and our community. We have a long term work investment here. The average worker has been at the plant over 20 years. We want to make this plant sustainable in good times and bad. I believe that an ESOP plan is the best way for direct worker involvement and investment in the future economic viability of this industry. We have a number of excellent models to work from, including the recent ESOP implemented by the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW) Blue Heron Paper in Oregon, and the very successful union ESOP at Blue Ridge Paper in North Carolina. We have the resources, the people and the desire to succeed.

But the Stockton Pacific Enterprises Pulp Mill workers and local 49 cannot do this alone. We are asking the community for involvement and input. What kind of economic future do we have here in Humboldt County?

One of the alternatives is foreign management, like the potential Chinese owners or the British bank investors or Pacific Lumber’s Maxxam. Another alternative, one I prefer, is local ownership with real democratic worker participation in an ESOP.

We can choose the future direction and economic development of our community, and we need to act now to make it happen or we will lose this opportunity forever. The workers of Local 49 ask for your support and input.

Sobering Pulp Mill news in North America.

Pulp mill closures are becoming common place this year, and they are causing economic havoc to the communities they are in.

Catalyst permanently shuts down Elk Falls pulp mill (440 employees gone) Workers are in shock, said Ian Simpson, president of the Campbell River local of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union. "It hasn't really sunk in yet," he said. He described the coastal forest industry as "completely screwed up," saying mills like Elk Falls are closing because they can't get fibre yet logs continue to be exported out of the province.

Smurfit-Stone to shut down Pontiac pulp mill (218 take a hike) "Deteriorating conditions in the pulp market necessitate that the company take prompt action to avoid cash losses," chief operating officer Steve Klinger said in the statement. "

Timeline: Berlin Pulp Mill Closure (200+ devastated) Bought for 31.5 million in 2002.

Prince George Citizen - New owners keeping pulp mill heated, union sees move as positive (250 left in the cold) Mill bought for 6.5 million in September. They are trying to secure materials. Sound Familiar?

tribunenb.com - An AV Cell shut down? (Many Threatened) "We've got the global economy in freefall right now…You'll see that it is an unprecedented situation where we've got pulp inventories skyrocketing around the world. Even though we are in the specialty bulk pulp business, the demand for the rayon, which is the final product, has just collapsed in China."

Delay of Reopening Mackenzie Pulp Mill Disappointing to Many It’s the uncertainty that is really stressing the workers says Bernasky “You can see it in their faces, there’s frustration, there’s anger. I know that if some of these people go, they may not come back, and the mill owners will lose the experience of those who really know this plant.”

Pope & Talbot prepare to shut three remaining pulp mills – Daily Commercial News (Nearly 1,000 out of work) But then 13 million can buy a pulp mill! Unique deal sees smiles for miles as Nanaimo pulp mill is back in business

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I've been Tagged!

By Carol Conners about 7 things you may not know about me. Here goes:

1. I am an ex-smoker.

2. Many of my inner circle of close friends are Republicans.

3. I have 4 brothers and 5 sisters and yet my mother had 7 children and my dad 8. How can that be? This ask Marilyn type question has answer below.

4. When Robin and I married I was a loan officer working for Transamerica Finances. Robin was a hair dresser.

5. I love oppressively hot weather. 110 and above!

6. I played drums and jammed with local musicians in the mid 70's.

7. I started working at a small farm with no adult supervision at 7 years of age. I had no babysitter and my mom worked swing shift. God watched out for me.

Answer: My mom and dad had 5 kids together. And 5 with others.

I tag:

Greg Connors

Joel

Rose

Heraldo

Erik

Joe

Ted Sillanpaa

Monday, November 10, 2008

Honor Veterans Day! What ever your thoughts on war!

I have a picture of my father, Major James Marks in front of the Schofield Barracks at Pearl Harbor, days before that fateful day of December 7th 1941 in our Dining room. My dad was also a veteran of the Korean War as well as my brother, Lieutenant James who died prematurely in a car accident. My brother Roy served in Korea and 2 terms in Vietnam. My brother Mike served in Nam and my brothers were highly honored with medals.

My brother Roy caught me wearing my brother Mike's Army Calvary Jacket when I was about 14 years of age. It was a cool thing at the time for us youngsters. I could swear to this day that I had permission from Mike. Roy was highly offended and challenged me to defend the jacket's honor. Mind you at 14 I was about 5'3" and 80 lbs but I took him up on this. I took a swing at Roy and was laid out cold. He beat the sh-- out of me for disrespect of our country. I did not have disrespect, I was just uninformed.

(Why was I so small? I was diagnosed with a rare skin cancer when I was very young that had me going to Stanford Children's Hospital and having radical treatments (Burning off and others) for years. It made for uncomfortable moments in the gym locker for years. "Ew, what the heck is that on your side!" It was a Wild Skin Cell that stopped growing finally in my mid 20's. Local guy Dr. Devine was no help!)

I finally was healthy by the time I graduated at 17 years of age and 5' 10" and 100 lbs. I was not in ARMY condition and neither of my brothers or my father even suggested I enlist. If the draft were in place I would have followed their lead and I respect their reason to not encourage me to go to Nam.

I have many friends and co-workers that are PTSD Posttraumatic stress disorder victims and I honor their duty to our country. I want them all to have all the treatments that are available and to this day feel guilty that they served this country in a manner I have not.

I am honored and humbled by their service. As I hope all other US civilians are.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Evergreen Stuff: Story, Lawyers, Water and 2009 Union Officers Election! (Cookhouse and Peninsula school to close?)

News Story: The North Coast Journal's Heidi Walters wrote a great human interest story called, "Without the Mill." Touched on how this lay-off is affecting real working class people. Our mill is very close-knit. I know it sounds corny, but we are a big family at Evergreen. You have to remember, you can't choose family, they are just there.

Lawyer Stuff: Our local union feels that Evergreen was in clear violation of the The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and we had our lawyers draft up a letter to Evergreen concerning pending legal action. Our lawyers (Only Lawyers get to make money on this) received a reply out of the offices of Jeffrey Herm ESQ of Denver Colorado. He makes the claim that Evergreen was involved in a financial "perfect storm" that Evergreen had no control of. He adds that "High Pulp inventories and the collapse in the Pulp market has dropped pulp prices from $700 a ton in early 2008 to $540 a ton recently. Evergreen's business circumstance made it impossible to acquire new capital." So they refuse to abide by Federal law and the payout of $882,000 to workers at the plant who are now leaning on local Social Services and burdening our local tax system. Frustrating.

We (Our Local) have also filed a grievance concerning our severance pay if they do permanently close the plant. According to our labor agreement they would owe around $1.5 to the workers. (4o hours of pay for each year of service, capping at 800 hours paid max. Mind you, that is nearly $16,800 for many at the mill.)

I thought it was strange that Evergreen has retained local Attorneys to fight a lawsuit by California Redwood Co. vs. Evergreen Pulp. W. Timothy Needham has been working on behalf of Evergreen. (Tim grew up in Humboldt County and lived in Fairhaven right down the road from the mill!) California Redwood Company has retained the law offices of California Insurance Defense Attorneys based in Eureka. (More Lawyers making money at nothing but filing paperwork. If Evergreen would quit hiring lawyers and just pay people this might not be happening.) Anyways, California Redwood Lawyers claim that Evergreen owes 15 million to California creditors and that Lee Kwok (A subsidiary of Lee and Man) owes Evergreen 20 million dollars that was sent to Lee and Man.

So the point is, if you are a Lawyer, you are working. If you are a pulp mill employee of Evergreen you are not. So use your re-training program to become a Lawyer. (My late dad, Army Major James Marks was a local Lawyer years back and encouraged me to, "Go into either Law or the Priesthood. That's where the money is!" In hindsight I should have studied labor law.)

"No Water for You!": After our huge union meeting Wednesday, I went to the Samoa Peninsula Fire District meeting of which I am a director, and learned that the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District General Manager Carol Rische had met with our Director Noreen O'Brien and Fire Chief Kevin Pope concerning implications of water being shut off to Evergeen Pulp! I was like, "Whoa Nellie!" If Evergeen does not pay its water bill in a timely fashion, the water is cut off in mid December. That means no water for DG Fairhaven, the pulp mill and the town of Samoa's Fire Suppression System. That will likely mean the closure of Peninsula Union School District, The Historic Samoa Cookhouse and most likely, Inside Sports. Unless someone pays off a Fire Marshall.

I went to the water district meeting today and talked with GM Rische and she recognized me from going to the water board meetings when this subject came up on pulp mill closure in 2005. (That's where I met Director Kaitlin Sopoci Belknap.) Carol gave me a written "plan" for the scenarios if the mill does not continue to pay the water bill. So let us hope this bill is paid in full soon!

Division 3 Director Barbara Hecathorn had earlier in the meeting mentioned my blog for information on Evergreen to the board and public!

Just for the record, Evergreen pulp pays 1.8 million dollars a year for water used. If that was dispersed to users in the district, it would come out to about a $2 rate hike a month. Not cataclysmic to the public.

Union Officers for AWPPW Local 49 2009:

As most of my fellow workers know, I made a decision a few months ago to not seek union office this year. (Long before this fiasco at the mill.) I have served as shop steward, union organizer, Vice President, President over the years. It has been an honor to serve my term as President and I achieved most of my goals; Shop Steward Training, Financial Leadership Training, Union Hall office organization, Union Meeting Quorum Improvement, Union Member participation and just overall transparent leadership. Whatever Information I have, it has been the memberships also. I hope to retain and continue my position as appointed Lobbyist for the AWPPW California Council.

Why am I stepping aside? I will be busy this next summer continuing my quest for higher public office locally. I will be forming a committee and doing all the nuts and bolts politically that I did not have time for in my last run. So, I would have not been able to effectively serve the local 49 members. I would have done a dis-service to them, or my future campaign. I will continue to serve on the boards for the Humboldt Domestic Violence Services, Samoa Peninsula Fire District, Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee and continue my Samoa Athletics small business.

And beside all that, Local 49 was blessed with many well qualified leaders who are willing to step forward. And they are:

President- Tom Reilly

Vice President- Nathan Zink

Recording Secretary- Jessie Arias

Financial Secretary- David Corral

Treasurer- Shawn Irvine

Guards- Mike Griffith
Dean Mohorovich

Trustee- Glen Vickers

Central Safety Committee- Jerry Brown
Dave Jones
Kurt Hippen
John Madger
Nick Romero

Standing Committee

Maintenance and Yard- David Dees
Randy Thompson

Machine Room and Shipping- Carl Mengel

Pulp Group, Chip Dump and Recaust- Rob Shepherd

Recovery- Doug Gingerich

Delegates- Doug Gingerich
Tom Reilly

This is last union election that I have had the privilege to organize. I want to thank the unpaid Organizers/Trustees from local 49 that have conducted this election with utmost iintegrity and professionalism: Mark Young, Ed Weatherbee and Mike Griffith. Considering the large turnout and the extra time to apply true democratic principles to this election. I am grateful for their volunteer work.

May we all go back to our jobs in respectful order.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Jeff Pauli on Evergreen Workers Insurance.

It was standing room only at our humble union hall and Jeff Pauli Insurance Services - Health Insurance California did a great job of explaining the ends and outs of our insurance issues. He can be reached at 445-5496 to help with any issues.

9-3 Record on Fearless Predictions. Check out how close I called them!

I was wrong on three seats. But check out the percentages. I predicted within 5% 14 out of 22, and all within 11%! I was very close on most!

Obama, Thompson and Chesbro. Easily.

Humboldt County Supervisor 2nd District

Clif Clendenen-No Party 37% Actual 40%

Estelle Fennell-Democrat 33% Actual 28%

Johanna Rodoni-Republican 30% Actual 32%

I was pretty close percentage wise. Johanna’s campaign did a great job of educating voters, but that write in thing is tough. Thank goodness no more “Pick Clif” ads!

Eureka City Council 2nd Ward-

Polly Endert-Republican 53% Actual 47%

Linda Atkins-Democrat 47% Actual 53%

The KEET forum seemed to be the turning point for the Atkins campaign. And I have never witnessed such a miss use of money in a campaign than in Endert’s case. (Too many mailers and newspaper ads.)

4th Ward-

Frank Jager-Republican 55% Actual 63%

George Clark-Democrat 45% Actual 37%

Tough one to run against. Frank is just a really good guy. Clark pretty much had no chance. A landslide in predominately Democrat area. Obviously I was wrong on that partisan thingy.

Arcata City Council (Three seats available)

Michael Winkler-Democrat 38% Actual 29%

Shane Brinton-Democrat 31% Actual 20%

Michael Machi-No Party 28% Actual 17%

Susan Ornelas-Republican 25% Actual 20%

Jason Grow-No Party 9% Actual 9%

Geronimo Garcia-Green Party 5% Actual 5%

Hey! Why didn’t anybody point out I screwed up the math on my prediction! Oh well, I was right on with Jason and Geronimo. Machi lost. Didn’t see that coming.

Humboldt Bay Municipal Water

DistrictDivision 1

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap-Green 58% Actual 62%

Stephen Davies-Democrat 42% Actual 38%

No surprise here.

Division 2

Ben Shepherd-Republican 35% Actual 30%

Edward “Buzz” Webb-Democrat 25% Actual 28%

Tera Prucha-Democrat 25% Actual 35%

Jake Pickering-Democrat 8% Actual 3%

Adrienne Floreen-No Party 7% Actual 4%

Nice surprise here. I thought Tera was the best choice. The Democrats in this race took 66% of the vote. This is becoming a very liberal area.

Division 3

Barbara Hecathorn-Republican 65% Actual 62%

Robert Shultz-Democrat 35% Actual 38%

Bob didn’t have much of a campaign. Barbara did. It showed in the numbers.

The HCDCC endorsed candidates went 6-3 and are 21-3 the last few elections.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

AWPPW Local 49 Election and Meeting tomorrow. Insurance Information will be available.

Tomorrow I will open our regularly scheduled meeting at 4:00pm off agenda to allow Insurance agent Jeff Pauli to answer questions about health insurance. I invite all workers to attend. (That includes salaried workers who are displaced.) Please pass the word on. I will call as many as I can. Be sure to vote for your new local officers for 2009!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Humboldt becoming a Red (Republican) county?

Tomorrow there will be some "cheers" or "tears" gathering in the local elections. There are 18 seats up for grabs in County, City and Water District elections, and this could be a sobering election for us lefties. With the tide in the US Congress and Senate washing toward the Democrat's why are we at risk locally? And don't give me that non-partisan offices speech. It won't work here.

For the record, there are 18 Democrats running, 13 Republicans, 6 No Party (NP), 2 Greens and 1 American Independent. Here is the list of Republicans, Greens or NP's who have a chance at winning:

District 2 Supervisor

Clif Clendenen
Johanna Rodoni (Way long shot)

Eureka City Council Ward 2

Polly Endert

Eureka City Council Ward 4

Frank Jager

Arcata City Council

Micheal Machi

Susan Ornelas

Fortuna City Council

Odell Shelton Jr.

Kenneth Zanzi

Rio Dell City Council

Richard Leonard

Marc Barsanti

Jack Thompson

Blue Lake City Council

Alexander Ricca

Ferndale City Council

Kenneth Mierzwa

Stuart Titus

David Walters

Trinidad City Council

Michael Morgan

Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District

Division 1

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap

Division 2

Ben Shepherd

Adrienne Floreen

Division 3

Barbara Hecathorn

So a worse case scenario would have the Dems only winning one seat in Arcata (Winkler is a lock), one seat in Blue Lake and the Mayor seat in Ferndale. 3 Democrats out of 18 local seats! The Republicans may have 9! With Green or NP's taking the other 7. There is also the chance that the HCDCC backed candidates will only have one victory.

The good side is Democrats could garner 15 of the seats if all goes well! It should be interesting day Tuesday!