Volume XIII, Issue 24: January 15, 2016

Coming Distractions …
Jan 23 – Adopt-A-Highway – 9:30 to 11:30 am – meet at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center 
Feb 6 – RISE EVENT – AHS College & Career Center Pancake Breakfast – D Street Neighborhood Center
Feb 28RISE EVENT – RCAS Charter Celebration!
Mar 12 – Our Spring Fundraiser at the Arcata Community Center 
Apr 8-9 – District Training Assembly – Ukiah Fairgrounds
May 6-8 – District 5130 Conference – Marriott Napa Valley Resort & Spa
May 29-June 1 – Rotary International Conference in Seoul, South Korea 

Sunriser Shorts 

Sir Charles Returns!
  • Last Friday, we welcomed former Sunriser Chuck Giannini for a visit. Chuck (aka “Sir Charles”) was our Club President during the 2006-2007 Rotary Year. Although he has retired from the auto parts business and from Rotary, he said that his 8 grandkids keep him plenty busy!
  • Speaking of grandchildren, Karen Burgesser announced that her “Mister Adorable” – the beloved Henry – is home again. His recent scans were clear, and he was able to spend Christmas at home with the family! He will have some motor skills to re-learn (a side effect of his chemotherapy), but Karen said that he has a baby brother on the way soon – they’ll be working together! Go, Mister Henry!!!
  • Carol Vander Meer said that the weekend’s SWOT Project at the Manila Community Resource Center was hard work, but it was an essential first step in the renovation of the facility. Thank you to the Sunrisers and others who pitched in: Carol and Steve Vander Meer, Steve McHaney, Scott Heller, Lori and Dave Breyer, Chris and Lisa Hemphill, Brandi Easter, Craig Newman, Barbara Browning, Ron Sharp, and President Howard. Thank you!
  • Don’t forget to log your eligible Rotary efforts on the Activities Chart when you sign in on Friday mornings. Once it fills up, there will be a drawing for two $100 Paul Harris credits! Thanks to Barbara Browning and Ron Sharp for maintaining (and replacing) the charts as needed!
  • May The Force Be With … Us!! Our Star Wars themed Spring Fundraiser will be upon us soon. (Saturday, March 12th, to be exact.) Please be thinking of items for the Live Auction, and what you plan to wear. President-Elect Susan Jansson wants us to avoid duplicate costumes, if possible. Tables are available for $600, and tickets for individuals are $75. The Event Committee (the Jedi Council?) will meet this Thursday, and you’re invited! 
  • There’s a new date on the calendar above. We’ve added February 28th, which will be our Charter Celebration. It will be an all-ages event, and we have invited our parent Club (the Arcata Nooners) to the event. Put it on your calendar now.
  • Former President Jessica McKnight presented President Howard with a token from a recent trip to Mexico – an “El Presidente” Rotary Pin!   

Sophia’s Stories
Rotary Exchange Student Sophia Waern-Bugge told us that she has joined a pottery class with her host mother. She said that it is fun, although “I’m not very good at all at pottery”. She also enjoyed a nice dinner with Lisa and Chris Hemphill. The week went by very fast for her – she must be having a good time going to school and hanging out with friends. 

State of the City
Our Featured Speaker, Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer, last addressed our Club in 2003, when she headed up the City’s Recreation Division. She succeeded Sunriser Randy Mendosa as City Manager in December 2014. 

Alyson Hunter introduced Karen as “my very good friend and my biggest boss”. Alyson also told us that Karen has over 23 years of municipal government experience, including her previously-mentioned stint as the Recreation Division Manager and as the Deputy Director of the City’s Environmental Services Department. “She is a proud HSU graduate,” Alyson said, and her strong experience informs her management of the City’s operations.

Karen likes to discuss the current situation in Arcata while taking “a quick walk”. She told us that you can get a good sense of the City that way, and she showed a number of photos that speak to that idea.

Her first picture was of the new Alibi building, which she noted “fills in a critical gap on the Plaza”. What was a vacant lot in the center of town is now an attractive new storefront. A new business – the Salt Fish House – is now open on the south side of the Plaza. It is a completely renovated restaurant in the old Hunan Plaza location. Karen said that it was a difficult renovation, “but someone came in and made that investment in Arcata … it speaks to what they think of the state of the Arcata economy”.

She also told us that 32 housing units for the homeless and low income households are now available at Arcata Bay Crossing, on E Street near Samoa Boulevard. This was a $7 million project – another major investment in Arcata’s future.

Karen Diemer

Another vacant lot is being filled downtown. The Hone and Wolf Mixed Use Building is going up on 9th Street, and a sale is pending next door. These also speak to the promising future of the City’s economy, as do new businesses Bittersweet, the Local, and a Slice of Humboldt Pie. 

Karen also discussed the renovations at two neighborhood parks – Rotary Park on the south end of Arcata, and Valley West Park to the north. Both parks are in low income neighborhoods, and the renovations took place with substantial Rotary and Rotaract involvement. 

Other public investments include the recent renovation of the Arcata Firehouse, a new water storage tank, and construction of the long-awaited downtown public restroom. Karen also noted that the Foster Avenue extension, which now connects that street with Sunset Avenue near the Skate Park, was a 20-year plus project that has been completed. That project connects with a Rail-To-Trail element.

Karen said that several local businesses have opted to expand, including Hensel’s Ace Hardware (owned and operated by Sunriser Ceva Courtemanche). Planet Tea has expanded into a permanent location, and renovation has begun on the old flakeboard mill on West End Road. There has been a lot of activity at the Foodworks business incubator in the Aldergrove Business Park – food businesses growing and moving to other locations, and newer start-ups taking their places. 

Arcata has also seen an increase in volunteerism. The service clubs, including Rotary, have long been a force in the community, but individuals have been coming forward recently to engage in conversations about improving the City. Karen said that many of the people at the resulting meetings said that they had not volunteered before, but they are willing to make a start. 

The City offered its support, asking the volunteers to set goals and priorities. The results included peace poles, free yoga classes on the Plaza, and organized activities for children on the Plaza. Karen said that this is the beginning of their contributions.

Karen noted that the strength of the City is dependent upon our ability to strike the proper balance among many factors – utility infrastructure (water, sewer, and roads), quality of life (including parks, trails, and other “natural gems”), regulatory (stormwater and waste), public safety and emergency planning, and economic development and housing.

The City has strengthened its economic position by reducing the General Fund by $1.1 million. This was achieved with the help of a Citizen Budget Task Force and a committed City staff. Eight full-time positions were eliminated and materials purchases were reduced, yet the City was able to hold steady on the road maintenance line in the budget.

Karen and her staff oversee an annual budget of over $22.6 million. About 25% of that goes to Public Safety, and 30% is slated for water and wastewater expenses. Karen said that we are expecting a modest surplus this year, if current projections hold. Most of the revenue comes from various taxes (36%). Water and wastewater fees account for another 35%, and the remainder comes from housing/business loans, vehicle license fees, stormwater fees, public transportation, and other fees.

Karen said that she expects recent loans to local businesses to provide large returns. Recipients include Wing Inflatables, Nielsen Feed, Bouje Bakery, and Advanced Cellular. All are expected to help provide additional local employment and boost the local economy. And housing projects, including support of the Creamery Row Townhouse project, help to increase the property tax base while providing needed additional housing in Arcata.

In closing, Karen said that Arcata is strong and growing. She cited our stable sales tax, our increasing property tax, increased investment by HSU, steady growth in the business base, the number of building projects (the most in almost 10 years), and a renewed sense of civic engagement. Karen reminded us that the Utility Tax will be up for renewal in November, and she hopes that it will be successful again. She also thanked Rotary “for the contributions you make everyday!”
Woo-Hoo! It’s a Recognition!
Dustin Littlefield helmed last Friday’s recognition of Jessica McKnight – everyone’s favorite “Woo-Hoo Sunriser”. He began at the beginning – Jessica is a native of Fortuna, and she was born during a rare snowstorm.

She grew up in Rio Dell, and she was the oldest of four children. She attended grade school there, and graduated from Fortuna High School. Jessica decided that she wanted nothing to do with Humboldt County (for a while), so she attended Linfield College in Oregon. 

After college, Jessica moved to San Francisco, and she worked in sales there during her early 20’s. She was having a good time, but still felt there was something missing. She looked into finding a job abroad at the same time that her sister was considering joining the Peace Corps, which also appealed to Jessica. She soon found herself in Niger, on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. Her mission was to help the local population improve its farming techniques.

She told Dustin that the Peace Corps is “everything they say it is. It’s the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.” It was difficult to learn the language, which led to a degree of isolation. However, she was able to go to the market and carry on conversations there. She sometimes got a ride on a “bush taxi” – a Land Rover pickup that was already carrying 40 people, 2 sheep, and 10 chickens. Jessica said that it’s better to be on top of the vehicle rather than in the smelly cab.

Jessica now works as a licensed tax preparer. Although she is a sole practitioner, she shares an office with 6 other tax professionals. She told Dustin that the best part of her job is getting to know people and helping them choose their goals. She said that her experience in financial planning helps her see the big picture.

Jessica met James Hitchcock after her return from Africa, which led her to cancel plans to move across the country with her brother. Ten years later, James proposed to her on their 10th anniversary, and they married in the backyard of their newly-renovated home in 2010.

Jessica’s sister-in-law is Sunriser Romi Hitchcock Tinseth, who told Dustin that she “feels blessed to have Jessica in my life”. She has proven to be the sister Romi missed, growing up with only brothers. “I am thankful every day,” she said, “to have Jessica as my incredible sister-in-law. I’ve been impressed with Jessica since the first time my brother broght her to meet the family. I love spending time with them. Glenn and I live right next door, yet I wish I had still more time to spend with her. I also appreciate that my daughters have a beautiful example of a happy and healthy relationship by watching their ‘Tio Jamie’ and ‘Lady Jessica’.”

Jessica and James are involved with Redwood Curtain Theatre. James is an actor, and Jessica works behind the scenes, usually as a stage manager. She said that if she’s doing her job right, you don’t see her.

Jessica enjoys traveling. She has visited Europe, various locations in Mexico, and she and James even visited Laos and Cambodia with President Howard.