SoHum–The Redheaded Stepchild of Humboldt County

For those of you who live here in SoHum this rant will be a familiar waltz on a rough but known dance floor.  Rural dwellers throughout California will nod and keep time to a tune they know (even while wishing the band would play something different.)  But for those of you from cities and towns this is just to let you know what rural dwellers face.

Yesterday, I spent some time talking to a thoughtful, intelligent gentleman from one of Humboldt’s northern population areas.  He was informed about much of Humboldt and he was caring but he was unaware of rural residents most common complaint—we send out our tax money and we get almost nothing back.

Roads,  trash collection, mail delivery, schools, fire departments, medical services, and law enforcement are areas in which Southern Humboldt residents, especially the most rural ones, are brutally under-served.

Let’s look at Salmon Creek road right now.  Potholes gape on every turn.  Others group together to form car-frame destroying traps .  One large pothole tries to eat vehicles just above the intersection with Thomas road.  Avoiding it requires knowledge that it is there and clever maneuvering.  It stretches across a third of the one lane road. Other holes merely attempt vehicular carslaughter.  In avoiding these potholes, residents must swerve onto the other side of the road increasing the chance of deathly accidents. Oh, yes, I know there are potholes on roads in town.  But I don’t think urban dwellers or even suburban grasp the depths potholes will sink to before they are patched in rural areas.  Our road hasn’t been paved fully in living memory and hasn’t even gotten a chip seal (gravel pressed into oil) in over 35 years.  This road serves well over 300 families by my count.  And there are many equally ill-maintained roads here in the country. The state and the county take money from gas taxes to fill gaping holes in their budgets but rural infrastructure is crumbling.

Besides potholes, down trees will mostly be chainsawed up by locals and occasional slides often are pushed aside by local heavy equipment owners so their neighbors can get through.  Rural residents are used to taking care of themselves and mostly we don’t complain.  And we don’t mind to a certain extent.  We know the county is broke and we’re willing to pull our share but, it’s not just roads that are under cared for here.

For all intents and purposes, there is no rural trash collection or mail delivery.  Fair enough, it is expensive to go out rural routes.  I don’t expect the same services as urban dwellers. I maintain a pickup to haul in my trash and I pay for a box to get my mail.

Our local community even maintains a wonderful little school that we take no tax money for.  We support it ourselves so our kids don’t have to be driven 40 minutes down and 40 minutes back to town every day because, of course, there are no buses that come up here or even close to up here.  All of Southern Humboldt maintains their own community volunteer fire departments.  We don’t ask for help from the government–federal, state or county. (Though CalFire is wonderful).  And then we have to pay exorbitant fire insurance rates [rural residents follow this link–its important] and homeowner policies because we live so far from “real” fire stations even though we maintain high standards.  My family, for instance, has a brick home.  We mow grass back 100 feet, the required amount. We maintain a pond with a pump, a generator dedicated to it and a fire hose as well as a special hydrant right outside our front door.

Of course, medical services are 40 minutes away, at least.  Don’t get me wrong, I love our little clinic and hospital but anything bigger than a broken arm and they send you another hour north to Eureka.

Law enforcement mostly seems to make its presence known when they come to take away the only means of making money many rural dwellers have–marijuana.  If there is an emergency, calling for an officer means at a minimum a one hour delay and that is the very best response time one can get.  Mostly, even Garberville residents know that police response will be slower than is actually helpful.

But this whole rant pales next to my real concern.  SoHum dwellers are not represented on juries.  Their values, their concerns, their viewpoints are dismissed as not being worth seeking. Of course,  SoHummers can be on juries but this means driving over 3 hours a day in order to serve.  So in practice, many don’t make the drive and many are dismissed because of hardship. The county doesn’t think the money to maintain a courtroom a couple times a week down here matters.

Does this really make a difference to the accused?  Jesus Lord, yes!  I once attended a trial where a  grower’s defense attorney (Yes, the DEFENSE attorney) portrayed the entire SoHum area as one where officers needed to enter with drawn guns. How could that possibly make a jury composed of urban dwellers look kindly on the defendant?

Issues such as gun ownership while growing marijuana are often misrepresented as actions of violent criminals.  Whereas locals know that guns are possessed as simple tools for the rural resident.  Even neighbors that don’t own weapons appreciate those who do–calling on them to dispatch deer who have been seriously injured  and to scare marauding bears, etc. If a grower is being prosecuted for an automatic weapon obviously that is different from a twenty two and SoHum residents (as well as rural residents throughout the county) understand those differences.

Today, I read about a courtroom in Montana.  When asked to prosecute a man for a few grams of marijuana, the jurors staged a revolt and the prosecution had to settle the case. When people are brought before an actual jury of their own community, the nuances of living there, the values of the people there are represented fairly.  That is true democracy.   We used to have our own judge and trials in Garberville where our values could be represented in the courtroom.  We need to work to make that happen again. If rural dwellers must send their taxes to the county, one of the best places the county can help us is by returning a courtroom to the community when needed.

And if the county can’t or won’t help with that, I’d like to see at least a bit of my property taxes used locally. In fact, filling just one of those car-eating potholes on my road would be a good start.

__________________________

About the photo:A spot on Salmon Creek road that illustrates the reason we live here (it is beautiful) and some of the issues (That corner has eaten many a person’s tire because the asphalt has an abrupt sharp drop. If a car meets another here, often they will be forced off the sharp edge pinching the tire and destroying it.)

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29 comments

  • Amen. Good Job Kym. So Hummers often get called for jury duty but never get chosen,

    • Well, Kevin’s been chosen and so have my parent’s but I suspect that all of them look mainstream. Also they all have jobs that seem very mainstream, too. Not a carpenter or a masseuse or organic farmer among them. And to be fair they all had government jobs which means that they got/get paid for jury duty so it is less of a hardship than for many others.

  • Kym – Good article. I understand a bit, being up on a mountain that doesn’t have mail or garbage/recycling service. Our road could use some help, too. I’m not a SoHummer, but I feel ya!

  • Kym – Good article. I understand a bit, being up on a mountain that doesn’t have mail or garbage/recycling service. Our road could use some help, too. I’m not a SoHummer, but I feel ya!

  • As a local school secretary, I once had a phone call from a lady on the East Coast. She was checking to see if a package she had sent had been delivered. I explained that I hadn’t picked up the mail that week so wasn’t sure if it had arrived. She was totally disbelieving when I explained to her that the school did not have mail delivery – that our mail had to picked up at the local post office. Surely, I must be mistaken, that couldn’t be correct. An hour or so later I arrived at the P.O. to pick up the school mail only to hear the local postmaster explaining over and over again to THE LADY on the phone that the school secretary was correct. There was no mail delivery in Redway.
    The local postmaster told me later that THE LADY had called the US Postmaster General to complain….but, here we are 20+ years later and still not mail delivery in Redway.

  • As a local school secretary, I once had a phone call from a lady on the East Coast. She was checking to see if a package she had sent had been delivered. I explained that I hadn’t picked up the mail that week so wasn’t sure if it had arrived. She was totally disbelieving when I explained to her that the school did not have mail delivery – that our mail had to picked up at the local post office. Surely, I must be mistaken, that couldn’t be correct. An hour or so later I arrived at the P.O. to pick up the school mail only to hear the local postmaster explaining over and over again to THE LADY on the phone that the school secretary was correct. There was no mail delivery in Redway.
    The local postmaster told me later that THE LADY had called the US Postmaster General to complain….but, here we are 20+ years later and still not mail delivery in Redway.

  • Kym… You make a pothole look beautiful. I did serve on a jury a few years ago. That was interesting. Lower Thomas road is pretty bad. My truck hates it. The holes are unavoidable. This is a good, thoughtful post. Planners advocating urban living might even use it as an argument to abandon rural life styles.

  • Kym… You make a pothole look beautiful. I did serve on a jury a few years ago. That was interesting. Lower Thomas road is pretty bad. My truck hates it. The holes are unavoidable. This is a good, thoughtful post. Planners advocating urban living might even use it as an argument to abandon rural life styles.

  • Outstanding post.

    This kind of information should be published in all of our local media. You might consider offering it to print and radio media outlets. People in Humboldt County need to understand the challenges rural dwellers face.
    You have strong arguement for having a court in SoHum. Even part time. Like a couple days a week. Something that will allow more representation for rural residents.

    Well said.

  • Outstanding post.

    This kind of information should be published in all of our local media. You might consider offering it to print and radio media outlets. People in Humboldt County need to understand the challenges rural dwellers face.
    You have strong arguement for having a court in SoHum. Even part time. Like a couple days a week. Something that will allow more representation for rural residents.

    Well said.

  • Fine article, Kym. Life out here is indeed wonderful. But the problem goes way beyond potholes; there is a strong feeling on the part of many people (intensely ironic because most of them are our natural allies; we also believe in environmental sanity, responsible growth, and the like) that nobody should be living beyond the end of Community Service Districts because their presence on “resource lands” necessarily degrades them (they just will not listen when we try to explain the facts to them). These people appear to have had a strong influence on the current General Plan rewrite, which (along with other serious problems) has been done in almost complete violation of the Planning Department’s instructions regarding citizen participation (which they are legally obliged to obey). This Plan is not being done (as their instructions mandate) by the people, of the people, or for the people but TO the people, and it promises to be very harmful in its effects upon those of us who live away from population centers. We have not been properly represented in the General Plan rewrite (it’s WAY more than an “update”); the central problem focuses on the 1500 section of the current General Plan, which was written by citizens for the specific purpose of maximizing genuine democratic input into the planning process. The Planning Department opposed this idea from the start. Then they failed to implement it, and NOW THEY PLAN TO DO AWAY WITH IT ENTIRELY! This is a big deal, and it’s almost too late to do anything about it. You’ll be hearing more about this shortly; keep your ears open for the dates on which the Planning Commission takes up this matter. We’ll be there (good old United Stand), and we hope that about twenty thousand of you will be too.
    Put all this out of your mind until after Christmas; for now, just enjoy the sweet and beautiful land that we’ve been so fortunate to live on. Merry Christmas! (It might even be a white one!)

  • Fine article, Kym. Life out here is indeed wonderful. But the problem goes way beyond potholes; there is a strong feeling on the part of many people (intensely ironic because most of them are our natural allies; we also believe in environmental sanity, responsible growth, and the like) that nobody should be living beyond the end of Community Service Districts because their presence on “resource lands” necessarily degrades them (they just will not listen when we try to explain the facts to them). These people appear to have had a strong influence on the current General Plan rewrite, which (along with other serious problems) has been done in almost complete violation of the Planning Department’s instructions regarding citizen participation (which they are legally obliged to obey). This Plan is not being done (as their instructions mandate) by the people, of the people, or for the people but TO the people, and it promises to be very harmful in its effects upon those of us who live away from population centers. We have not been properly represented in the General Plan rewrite (it’s WAY more than an “update”); the central problem focuses on the 1500 section of the current General Plan, which was written by citizens for the specific purpose of maximizing genuine democratic input into the planning process. The Planning Department opposed this idea from the start. Then they failed to implement it, and NOW THEY PLAN TO DO AWAY WITH IT ENTIRELY! This is a big deal, and it’s almost too late to do anything about it. You’ll be hearing more about this shortly; keep your ears open for the dates on which the Planning Commission takes up this matter. We’ll be there (good old United Stand), and we hope that about twenty thousand of you will be too.
    Put all this out of your mind until after Christmas; for now, just enjoy the sweet and beautiful land that we’ve been so fortunate to live on. Merry Christmas! (It might even be a white one!)

  • In avoiding these potholes, residents must swerve onto the other side of the road increasing the chance of deathly accidents.

    When I was first checking on some land I got lost in Weott and went on that Dyerville Loop not knowing shit for where I was going. I spooked and tried to turn off to the right but that way was hella ATVs and motorcycles were having a sideshow out in the middle of nowhere. I scrubbed in a pothole trying to back out and those dudes pulled out my weak ass Cutlass with a 4×4 rig with hella mods. That moment on I knew if I wanted to live anywhere near these potholes I needed a big ass balanced truck with proper ball joints and shit. Hobbling along on some bent ass rims turning left just to roll straight is not cool.

    • Spending money on tires and car repair costs way more of rural residents income than of urban or suburban people! People often sneer at the big new trucks of pot growers and there is some validity to their laughter but without pouring money into their vehicles, rural residents are forced to stay home.

      My last little car got worn out in 5 years. Most little cars can’t hack the back roads. We had to replace it with a 4 wheel drive pickup. We tried to experiment with a car to save money on gas. My husband’s Scion worked beautifully but not my Matrix. Besides, most rural residents have to have sturdy pickups to deal with trash, firewood, and bringing home supplies (minimizing trips to town.)

  • In avoiding these potholes, residents must swerve onto the other side of the road increasing the chance of deathly accidents.

    When I was first checking on some land I got lost in Weott and went on that Dyerville Loop not knowing shit for where I was going. I spooked and tried to turn off to the right but that way was hella ATVs and motorcycles were having a sideshow out in the middle of nowhere. I scrubbed in a pothole trying to back out and those dudes pulled out my weak ass Cutlass with a 4×4 rig with hella mods. That moment on I knew if I wanted to live anywhere near these potholes I needed a big ass balanced truck with proper ball joints and shit. Hobbling along on some bent ass rims turning left just to roll straight is not cool.

    • Spending money on tires and car repair costs way more of rural residents income than of urban or suburban people! People often sneer at the big new trucks of pot growers and there is some validity to their laughter but without pouring money into their vehicles, rural residents are forced to stay home.

      My last little car got worn out in 5 years. Most little cars can’t hack the back roads. We had to replace it with a 4 wheel drive pickup. We tried to experiment with a car to save money on gas. My husband’s Scion worked beautifully but not my Matrix. Besides, most rural residents have to have sturdy pickups to deal with trash, firewood, and bringing home supplies (minimizing trips to town.)

  • Kym, I’ve made these points myself, but someone once posted on my blog that we actually receive higher per capita spending than most other areas of the county. Do you have any information about that?

  • Kym, I’ve made these points myself, but someone once posted on my blog that we actually receive higher per capita spending than most other areas of the county. Do you have any information about that?

  • It’s hard to believe we actually receive higher per capita spending. What do they spend it on? Roads? Doesn’t look like it. Compare ours to urban streets. Law enforcement? The vast majority of the time I see officers on my hill, it seem to be officers looking for marijuana which I dare say most of my neighbors would be glad to forgo. Mail and trash service? With the exception of a few routes, we don’t get any in the hills. All we have is the dump which we have to drive to ourselves and pay to throw away our stuff.

    We get little in the way of Broadband services (don’t get me wrong, 101 Netlink I love you. Compared to before, you are heaven. But urban dwellers have twice the internet speed, if not more than we do.)

    We have to drive at least an hour and a half north for court services and access to most government programs. There is no subsidized child care outside of Headstart such as areas north of us take for granted. Applying for food stamps, soc security cards etc. force our poor to travel long distances to talk to people not in their communities and not sympathetic to their issues (such as driving such long distances.)

    United Stand is a case where the Southerners managed to round up enough support from other areas (mostly rural) in this county and force the government to pay attention to our needs but that was over twenty years ago. And like Peter says, we’ll probably have to do it all over again.

    If we get more money spent on us than the average county resident, I want to know where the money is spent because I can’t see it anywhere.

  • It’s hard to believe we actually receive higher per capita spending. What do they spend it on? Roads? Doesn’t look like it. Compare ours to urban streets. Law enforcement? The vast majority of the time I see officers on my hill, it seem to be officers looking for marijuana which I dare say most of my neighbors would be glad to forgo. Mail and trash service? With the exception of a few routes, we don’t get any in the hills. All we have is the dump which we have to drive to ourselves and pay to throw away our stuff.

    We get little in the way of Broadband services (don’t get me wrong, 101 Netlink I love you. Compared to before, you are heaven. But urban dwellers have twice the internet speed, if not more than we do.)

    We have to drive at least an hour and a half north for court services and access to most government programs. There is no subsidized child care outside of Headstart such as areas north of us take for granted. Applying for food stamps, soc security cards etc. force our poor to travel long distances to talk to people not in their communities and not sympathetic to their issues (such as driving such long distances.)

    United Stand is a case where the Southerners managed to round up enough support from other areas (mostly rural) in this county and force the government to pay attention to our needs but that was over twenty years ago. And like Peter says, we’ll probably have to do it all over again.

    If we get more money spent on us than the average county resident, I want to know where the money is spent because I can’t see it anywhere.

  • I’ll trade living conditions tomorrow with anybody who lives a 40 minute drive out a rural road obliterated by potholes. On or off the grid, I don’t care. There’s an old saying and I’d advise anybody who’s seriously complaining to seriously take it to heart, that once you start fixing the potholes, big changes come rolling into town…and they can’t be undone.

  • I’ll trade living conditions tomorrow with anybody who lives a 40 minute drive out a rural road obliterated by potholes. On or off the grid, I don’t care. There’s an old saying and I’d advise anybody who’s seriously complaining to seriously take it to heart, that once you start fixing the potholes, big changes come rolling into town…and they can’t be undone.

  • having read the comments…is it some twist of figures that they say more money is spent per capita in rural areas? As in, since there’s only 1/100 the population (less, actually) compared to a relative suburban area, that they’re just lumping the entire area’s numbers onto the relatively few residents? Because if the county etc. is making it sound like they’re losing money on rural dwellers, that’s baloney. Same with law enforcement…I doubt there’s many sheriff’s who wouldn’t trade their city beat for a rural one either.

  • having read the comments…is it some twist of figures that they say more money is spent per capita in rural areas? As in, since there’s only 1/100 the population (less, actually) compared to a relative suburban area, that they’re just lumping the entire area’s numbers onto the relatively few residents? Because if the county etc. is making it sound like they’re losing money on rural dwellers, that’s baloney. Same with law enforcement…I doubt there’s many sheriff’s who wouldn’t trade their city beat for a rural one either.

  • We get little in the way of Broadband services (don’t get me wrong, 101 Netlink I love you. Compared to before, you are heaven. But urban dwellers have twice the internet speed, if not more than we do.)

    Like most folks I got Verizon phone and 101netlink antenna net. I get constant service on my cell phone and the internet never goes down. I remember one time for two days the Humboldt Herald had no comments except me and a couple other jackasses. Next post was some thing about the internet being off in tweak town. Not for me and I appreciate that. True when that happened I had jack for cell service but at least I could google stuff I was interested in at the time like Super Lemon Haze and whatnot.

    Folks around here been savvy at communication for a minute. One of my kinna close neighbors said he used to use some radio contraption as a land line being well out of reach of this chicken wire situation Verizon tries to claim is land line phone service. I quit using that crap pretty quick after trying it… I mean $10/month for some raggedy sound like I lived in outer Mongolia no thank you.

    For serious, 101Netlink is tight. Poor folks who don’t get hit by the netlink beams gotta use that Hughes satellite crap, so count your blessings.

  • We get little in the way of Broadband services (don’t get me wrong, 101 Netlink I love you. Compared to before, you are heaven. But urban dwellers have twice the internet speed, if not more than we do.)

    Like most folks I got Verizon phone and 101netlink antenna net. I get constant service on my cell phone and the internet never goes down. I remember one time for two days the Humboldt Herald had no comments except me and a couple other jackasses. Next post was some thing about the internet being off in tweak town. Not for me and I appreciate that. True when that happened I had jack for cell service but at least I could google stuff I was interested in at the time like Super Lemon Haze and whatnot.

    Folks around here been savvy at communication for a minute. One of my kinna close neighbors said he used to use some radio contraption as a land line being well out of reach of this chicken wire situation Verizon tries to claim is land line phone service. I quit using that crap pretty quick after trying it… I mean $10/month for some raggedy sound like I lived in outer Mongolia no thank you.

    For serious, 101Netlink is tight. Poor folks who don’t get hit by the netlink beams gotta use that Hughes satellite crap, so count your blessings.

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