Humboldt has Company But for How Long?

 

Newsweek covers Scotia and company towns this week.  The story offers insights into what is going to happen to the town and what is happening to the idea of company towns in general. The piece talks about the positive and negative.

Scotia…has always been a generally happy, strife-free place. To this day, the bond between Scotians and their company is almost religious…

Stoop sitting and marijuana growing are legal in the state of California, but they aren’t in the Republic of Scotia, where there’s “no lounging or unnecessary loitering on the front steps,” and Marathon tracks electricity meters for signs of unusual use….Decades of such tight control have led Scotians to develop an almost comical reliance on company aid. Residents call “all the time” to request help screwing in new lightbulbs, according to Susan Pryor, the town’s housing administrator; she tells them to try using their wrists….

Google is poised to offer the most paternalistic touch of all. The search giant’s Mountain View, Calif., campus already offers a slew of Scotia-esque perks. Employees enjoy the services of a dry cleaner, hairstylist, massage therapist, and chefs who whip up three meals a day. They commute on company buses, nap in company “pods,” and shoot pool in company parlor rooms. Now Google is set to offer on-site employee housing—120,000 square feet of it, slated for construction on NASA land near Mountain View. That’s enough for approximately 60 midsize homes, or 400 dorm rooms….Obviously, all this corporate largesse isn’t just about generosity—it also bolsters the bottom line, helping to spur productivity and reduce attrition.

I was absorbed by the story.  But I suspect folks from Rio Dell won’t be loving it.

Rio Dell described itself in a 2007 economic report as a “run-down community with an inferiority complex.” Boarded-up shops mar the main drag, abandoned gas stations sprout weeds, and there’s a nightly parade of wandering hobos. The side streets are cluttered with rotting boats, rusting cars, and eerily dark “grow houses” that supply Humboldt County’s other famous agricultural product: homegrown marijuana. One fifth of the residents are below the poverty line, according to census data, and the city government is nearly broke. Last year it was forced to sell the police dog to make ends meet.

_____________________________________

Photo from the Newsweek story. (Incredible shot!)

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail

11 comments

  • Sounds like the socialist wet dream that arcatas dreaming of. It amazes me the willingness of people to want a corporation or government to take care of them and then they’re surprised when the government or corporation doesn’t need them anymore.

  • Pingback: Newsweek on Scotia – “The Last Company Town” « Sohum Parlance II

  • Pingback: Newsweek on Scotia – “The Last Company Town” « Sohum Parlance II

  • Scotia always seemed like a stepford wife sort of story to me–almost scary–but, whenever I go there, I find I love it.

  • Scotia always seemed like a stepford wife sort of story to me–almost scary–but, whenever I go there, I find I love it.

  • As a fairly recent San Francisco transplant living now in Scotia I was dumbfounded at how inaccurate much of the reporting for this story was. But, obvious East Coast journalistic bias aside, for the last two years I’ve been astonished by the ignorance of most Humboldt County residents about Scotia. Near-religious bonding…to Marathon? Hunh?? Marathon is just the way-absentee landlord to 270+ aging houses in a town where everybody screws in their own light bulbs, thank you very much. Fear of reprisals if quoted on the record? By whom, exactly? And anyway when was the last time *you* trusted a reporter? In defense of Rio Dell (God help me), I’ve never seen even one rotting boat in the town, and I’m over there damn near every day. The author obviously didn’t drive further than the six or so blocks of Wildwood, a stretch of road upon which is written the all-too-common derelict history of a town that used to draw healthy breath from the trade from Highway 101. Today Rio Dell has immense problems that this guy depicts as folksy and quaint (the police dog-selling reference, for one; the labeling of obvious tweakers as “hobos,” for another); but there’s nothing folksy or quaint about a town so broke it’s seriously considering dis-incorporation. Scotia has its challenges, don’t get me wrong; but zombie-esque obeisance to some kind of corporate nanny-state?? Are you effing kidding me? This was gratuitous plundering of a community’s real attempts to cope with a radically changed and changing economic landscape, in the interest of quickie entertainment for city people–and I for one am offended by it. “Lumberjack heaven”? Yeah. Right.

    • LB,
      I actually was absorbed by the piece and enjoyed it but after reading your articulate dissection of it (My first response was–tell me how you really feel :. ) I’m having second thoughts.

      Maybe I’m just ashamed of my south county bigotry which has often snickered as fellows called Rio Dell the Armpit of Humboldt. Scotia is a lovely town though I don’t believe I’ve ever known any residents. And Rio Dell has struggled valiantly for years to keep its head above water. In fairness to the writer, the depiction isn’t much different than the stereo type many have here about the two towns but maybe we ought to look a little deeper.

      • Kym,
        I was turned on to your blog shortly after I got here by another south county resident and have always considered you to be honest, thoughtful and soulful, which is why I posted my original comment. Thanks for the opportunity to air my opinion, and for your reply.

        As an ex-city person I think I’m sometimes overly sensitive to the shenanigans city people pull in spinning the reality of “country living.” The article really had to do some pretzel-like twisting to make the case for Scotia As Cautionary Tale. I’ve seen many Silicon Valley campuses (which is the model upon which the proposed Google and Facebook towns would be built); and while there may be a few analogous aspects to life under PL (which, just to be clear, is in Scotia vernacular a very different company than Pacific Lumber) the very fact that the residents of those future places will be highly skilled, socially interconnected and imbued with the unshakable confidence of the precocious will save them from experiencing anything like what the workers of PL experienced. This, after all, was the point of the article, no? The stuff about Scotia and Rio Dell was just to illustrate this flawed premise. But Scotia isn’t PL anymore, not in any way. Most of the people living here–at least 75% of the current residents–were never employed by PL or any iteration of that company. Scotia is going through a fascinating change: it’s actually becoming a real town, from the ground up. It’s an amazing, agonizing, frustrating but ultimately incredibly enlightening process. For anyone who’s ever tried to get something done politically, even on the most local level, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really see and understand how it’s all put together.

        Thanks again for the forum, Kym.

  • As a fairly recent San Francisco transplant living now in Scotia I was dumbfounded at how inaccurate much of the reporting for this story was. But, obvious East Coast journalistic bias aside, for the last two years I’ve been astonished by the ignorance of most Humboldt County residents about Scotia. Near-religious bonding…to Marathon? Hunh?? Marathon is just the way-absentee landlord to 270+ aging houses in a town where everybody screws in their own light bulbs, thank you very much. Fear of reprisals if quoted on the record? By whom, exactly? And anyway when was the last time *you* trusted a reporter? In defense of Rio Dell (God help me), I’ve never seen even one rotting boat in the town, and I’m over there damn near every day. The author obviously didn’t drive further than the six or so blocks of Wildwood, a stretch of road upon which is written the all-too-common derelict history of a town that used to draw healthy breath from the trade from Highway 101. Today Rio Dell has immense problems that this guy depicts as folksy and quaint (the police dog-selling reference, for one; the labeling of obvious tweakers as “hobos,” for another); but there’s nothing folksy or quaint about a town so broke it’s seriously considering dis-incorporation. Scotia has its challenges, don’t get me wrong; but zombie-esque obeisance to some kind of corporate nanny-state?? Are you effing kidding me? This was gratuitous plundering of a community’s real attempts to cope with a radically changed and changing economic landscape, in the interest of quickie entertainment for city people–and I for one am offended by it. “Lumberjack heaven”? Yeah. Right.

    • LB,
      I actually was absorbed by the piece and enjoyed it but after reading your articulate dissection of it (My first response was–tell me how you really feel :. ) I’m having second thoughts.

      Maybe I’m just ashamed of my south county bigotry which has often snickered as fellows called Rio Dell the Armpit of Humboldt. Scotia is a lovely town though I don’t believe I’ve ever known any residents. And Rio Dell has struggled valiantly for years to keep its head above water. In fairness to the writer, the depiction isn’t much different than the stereo type many have here about the two towns but maybe we ought to look a little deeper.

      • Kym,
        I was turned on to your blog shortly after I got here by another south county resident and have always considered you to be honest, thoughtful and soulful, which is why I posted my original comment. Thanks for the opportunity to air my opinion, and for your reply.

        As an ex-city person I think I’m sometimes overly sensitive to the shenanigans city people pull in spinning the reality of “country living.” The article really had to do some pretzel-like twisting to make the case for Scotia As Cautionary Tale. I’ve seen many Silicon Valley campuses (which is the model upon which the proposed Google and Facebook towns would be built); and while there may be a few analogous aspects to life under PL (which, just to be clear, is in Scotia vernacular a very different company than Pacific Lumber) the very fact that the residents of those future places will be highly skilled, socially interconnected and imbued with the unshakable confidence of the precocious will save them from experiencing anything like what the workers of PL experienced. This, after all, was the point of the article, no? The stuff about Scotia and Rio Dell was just to illustrate this flawed premise. But Scotia isn’t PL anymore, not in any way. Most of the people living here–at least 75% of the current residents–were never employed by PL or any iteration of that company. Scotia is going through a fascinating change: it’s actually becoming a real town, from the ground up. It’s an amazing, agonizing, frustrating but ultimately incredibly enlightening process. For anyone who’s ever tried to get something done politically, even on the most local level, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really see and understand how it’s all put together.

        Thanks again for the forum, Kym.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *