Sunday, October 23, 2011

The line in the sand

I don’t even know where to start. This canyon is in my blood. My family has lived here since 1857. I want to start this by saying that I am who I am, I’m not ashamed of who I am, nor am I apologetic. My wife and I stared a business in 1972, our first store was an appliance store in Redway, and in the same building that houses the Mateel Café. 1972 was a time when there was a huge influx of people that didn’t give a darn who we were. They told us “You don’t own the land, the land is for everybody.” I wish I had known that before I worked so darn hard to provide the land that I own. I should say that NOBODY gave me anything; I have earned everything that I own. The first question that they would ask is “what do you have against newcomers?” The first thing that became noticeable to us when the new people came is apparently we didn’t own anything, because anything left out would get taken. The excuse was, “If I hadn’t taken it someone else would have.”

I could go on and on about the things that the local people had to adjust to. We secured everything from thieves, and we learned to lock our house doors and cars. They seemed to be used to that and they respected that boundary.

At this point, if you were one of the people that moved up here during the wave of people that came and displaced the people that had lived here for generations, you are probably starting to get angry, and upset that I’m back to the same old mantra. But, having your culture taken away is, indeed, a shock. Only some people can grasp that. The point that I want to make, and I want you to listen carefully… Not all of the new people were bad. That is a huge point that I want you to listen to, and think about real hard. Some of the new people that moved here were some of the best people that I know, and they have become fast friends. What I also want people to know is I don’t care who you are. You are judged by the content of your character. So if the shoe fits, wear it.

Amongst the good people that moved here, were also the scum of the earth. Liars cheaters and thieves. They settled right in and told us “You can’t own the land”.

In the past I have taken the stance that “I am a merchant, my job is not to judge people, my job is to shut up and take care of my customers.” In taking care of my customers, I often chat with a few of them, most are my friends anyway. I noticed a few years back that most of our very loyal customers from Shelter Cove were no longer shopping with us. I was concerned that we had done something wrong. I made it a point to contact them, and ask why we don’t see them anymore. They were glad that I asked, and they were glad to have somebody to vent to.

The statements that they made, I will paraphrase, but anybody that has been to Garberville lately will know that their statements have a ring of truth to them. They told me that I had let Garberville become a sewer, that they don’t feel comfortable walking downtown, there is dog feces on the sidewalks. (The Chamber of Commerce was so concerned that they put up doggie bags). People  lay on the sidewalks, you have to walk around them. They stack all of there worldly goods in the walkway. They told me that the main thing that bothered them more than anything is that you couldn’t just walk down town and window shop, and that all that they could think about was the unkempt people on the streets. Lately piles of human feces has been placed in strategic places. I get the feeling that they are trying to tell us something.

The other thing that the people of Shelter Cove complained about was the extreme high price of food. They say that it is cheaper to go to Eureka. Being a merchant I can understand, if not completely justify, why their prices are so darn high. I have talked to the market managers and their shoplifting expenses are ENORMOUS. Winco in Eureka does not have near the percentage of shoplifting that the Garberville area has. Other merchants have been hit hard also. Some stores have a hard time controlling shoplifting because they were established at a time before we had a town full of thieves, and not really built to be secure.

Our store does not raise prices, because our prices are fixed by our franchise. Their attitude is that it is our responsibility to control shoplifting, not theirs, and if we can’t control it, we have no business being in business anyway. (It’s easy for them to say)

Lately, I was talking to a long time resident, who was in our store doing some shopping. I asked him about his daughter. He was very excited that she was coming for a long overdue visit. He told me that he was going to tell her to go north and stay away from Garberville, and that he didn't feel that she would feel safe here. He said that he knew that he was probably over-reacting but he was a little bit ashamed of what Garberville has become. Perception is just as damaging as fact. How people view our town is very subtle. We can’t make them come here we can only make them want to. Then hope they do.

The same people told me that they had recently taken a day trip to Ferndale and they liked what a clean friendly little town that it was and how much that they enjoyed flitting from shop to shop. It didn’t even occur to them that they had homeless hanging out on the sidewalks. (because they don’t) Ferndale must know something that we don’t.

We have been having town meetings lately, because tempers are beginning to flare and we need some solutions. The homeless have become an unbearable burden to some, and it is apparent to most that our businesses are being damaged. The first meeting was fairly organized, and everyone got their turn to speak. Both homeless advocates, and business owners got their fair three minutes. I chose not to say anything because, as I said “my job is to be a merchant and keep my mouth shut”. They didn’t come to any decisions other than to have another meeting. The second meeting I had not planned on attending, but a kind person clued me in that Sheriff Mike Downey and Sergeant Ken Swithenbank would be at the meeting. I have talked to them several times about the homeless situation. They said that they need  the town support in enforcing the law, because of the homeless advocates that don’t see these people doing anything wrong. I’m not sure how far civil rights extend, but I have been thinking about taking all of our stores security tapes and showing you what kind of people some of these homeless are. SOME, NOT ALL! Some of them are very smooth and accomplished thieves. They steal things just like they have the right to steal them. Some of the thieves we have had arrested. In most cases there was someone that objected to a thief being arrested. Why the heck would anybody think that it was alright to steal, and why would anybody want to protect them?

At the second meeting some of the homeless showed up. They had their say, and everybody listened. After their turn, others were trying to speak. They were rudely interrupted and shouted down by the homeless group. One homeless advocate got up and proudly stated that she was a long time resident and came to town as a young person. She said that she was not welcomed and treated very rudely by the town people from the very start. She went on to say that the town people did not own anything that “the land belongs to the people” and they have every right to be anywhere that they chose to be. I’m sorry, but it just brought back too many memories for me, of what those kind of people did to us when they first showed up. I became angry, I decided that I was going to leave at the first opportunity. The meeting spun completely out of control. The moderator, Eric Kirk, suggested that if we couldn’t remain civil that maybe we should call the meeting off. I was among the ones that decided that it was a heck of a good idea, and I left. I now wish that I had stayed. I abandoned my friends at a time of their need. We are being run out of our own town.

I am vowing that I will not back down again. I’m am also saying that Mike Downey is a fine person. He is reasonable and intelligent, he has treated people kindly in the face of great adversity. He conducts himself in a reasonable fashion and has the best interest of all people at heart. Kenny Swithenbank is also a fair and honest person and they have both been charged with keeping the peace for us. So far they have done very well considering the lack of support that we have shown them.

Now, we need a fair plan to clean up our town. I would like to take suggestions. Some that I’ve heard, is that a person can’t loiter. Sidewalks are for walking and standing, no sitting or napping on the curb. It is not a storage area. No back-packs or bed rolls laying around. Call in problems, and have ALL shoplifters arrested. Make security tapes of shoplifters made available to the sheriff dept. AND other merchants


  1. Geeze Ernie...I didn't realize things were that bad in garberville.
    The last time I was there (about three years ago) it didn't seem that bad. My wife and I did some window shopping and got a sandwich. The sidewalks were not totally litered with homeless as far as I can recall.
    I hope the residents of Garberville are able to turn this bad trend around.
    You've got the right idea with this blog. Let's hope people get proactive in a positive way.

  2. Thank-you Dave.
    It has gotten pretty bad this year. Somehow the word got out that the growers were in need of trimmers, so the young vagabonds are showing up expecting to get work as trimmers. Even if they are not Narks, some of them are thieves. A grower would have to be pretty desperate to hire them.


    I've been having trouble posting with my Blogger I.D. I'm just going to post anonymously then sign until I figure it out.

  3. aren't you dead yet??

  4. Love this blog Ernie, you said things I firmly believe. Hope you can get a positive, fruitful dialog going


  6. 8:28- in the name of productive dialogue, would you mind explaining?

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. There is a video of the "meeting" last Friday. I left after about 45 minutes. I got tired of the lies, false accusations, and ridiculousness. There was a group of people that came down from up north that weren't very productive. No real solutions were reached.

    The good news is there is another group that is working on getting a handycap toilet, in a central location, with property owners permission. It will be a porta-potty so it can be removed if it is abused.

    The following is a link to the whole meeting. I will bet that you can't watch the whole thing. The chaos starts about 45 minutes in.


  9. I should add that some great people attended the meeting and worked hard to bring about a solution, but I feel that it is a mistake to meet at a dysfunctional level.

    I won't be attending any more general public meetings. There are no real solutions that can happen in three minute sound bites of accusations and bitterness.

  10. Hi Ernie! This is a great idea. Also very glad your not "dead yet "! Homeless issues aside, is shoplifting why we have to pay $2.00 more for a tube of toothpaste at our local monopoly of grocery stores? I am tired of spending $50.00 for two bags of groceries! Not full bags either! That is why I shop in Eureka

  11. Not to mention Redway. For the past three weeks I have not been able to walk from Shop Smart to the Post Office next door without being panhandled, passing through clouds of pot smoke, stepping around dogs, or being asked for trim work. (Hello? Who in their right minds brings home a total stranger off the street?) I truly wish Shop Smart Would enforce the "No Loitering" rule --they have signs up-- but I can't see how they could.

  12. Ernie We Have Your Back ..Local Boys Of The Hills .

  13. Lets throw in about 1,000 Mexicans between Garberville&Redway.

  14. talk about takihg the law into your own hands.Kenny and mike wont have far to go to arrest you.

  15. I agree with the toilet..i'm not happy with the homeless but they are pooping somewhere..

  16. my family too has lived in southern humboldt since the mid 1800's so we are not special!! I love this community and everyone in it. I would love to come together and find solutions for our town.Anyone that wants to divide us is not a solution. I shop in everyone of these business's because I want them to stay for a long time. I too have been involved in business in garberville and many other places in this county.I too own property here and pay my taxes. That doesn't make me different from anyone else in this town. I too agree with toliets in our town, when they have festivals, redwood runs, etc. do they all get those expensive permits?? Just asking?? I just think 2+2 =4. no toliets= poop in town. I think we as so hums can solve are own problems.We have always been poorly repesented by our sup's. We are exhausting our resourses, ie: police force...chasing those that live outside around. I know 12 people that work in town at business's, not anything to do with weed, that sleep in the bush. I can go around town and remember where housing us to be that no longer exists. We lack housing. We lack alot of things. I can say that after watching the business people act the way they did, I will be thinking twice about shopping here EVER again... Talk about foul language I watched the man that owns the boot leg tell a woman to shut the F*Ck up, I think he would of assualted someone if the police were not in that meeting.The media always gets it wrong. That lady that bought that porta potty for the community didn't blame Mike Downey. She know Mike personally and wants to help him help us find a solution. I think a campground out of town run like dean creek is the answer.People will always be here, always have, and always will. Then if they come to town and steal, break the law etc. they go to jail just like everyone else.Our big problem in so hum is meth, but the police can't concentrate on that for they are spending 70% of their time on homeless people. I was coming out of Rays and 3 tourist were coming out at the same time and a certain man that called this meeting was beating on their RV saying we don't want you here, go home!! They were so scared, they were tourist from miami. This town has shown that they can't or don't care to tell the difference between tourists, travlers, trainists, or homeless. They want them all out of town.. how will our business's survive if we run them out??
    Anything I can buy in this town I can buy cheaper in Eureka..
    Just my thoughts from someone that has been here as long as you have..

  17. I found out after that last meeting that some of the homeless advocates came from as far away as Arcata to attend the meeting. They were the ones that were the most disruptive and ill informed.

    There are a few people that are working hard to establish a toilet in Garberville. The big issue for some reason is in Garberville. What do they do in Redway? Do they use the Mateel toilet?

    It's hard to extend a helping hand when every time you do it gets bitten. It would be much easier if people would offer realistic ideas, but any conversation ends up in blame placing and name calling.

  18. I understand that one can take a shower at the Dean Creek Resort, also Richardson Grove, for a small fee. There is a porta potty at the Park. If I had to go to the potty I would go down there. I have given thought to the issue of not having a Potty in town. I do believe it would be wonderful to have some porta pottys in town for our guests. I believe it would be a good thing to have alittle print out, with our thoughts about our town, alittle about the history would be nice too. An encouraging word of kindness a Welcome note, with the information, about the nearest shower, Porta Potty, (if and when we can get afew here) A note perhaps about afew simple rules... No Littering, etc. We have to be thinking of Solutions, I'm thinking that... A pamphlet with Principles that we take pride in, and are asking the same from our vistors, we could offer a Bag for trash. We have no Policy in place. We need a Policy. A sign or two, Fortuna is the Friendly City. What are we? I have been in town for 17 years now. I never pooped in town, not on the ground. I have always been able to find a toilet. I have not stole from anyone here, or anyone elsewhere. This area has been good to me. I also have been good to the area. I know we are not having a contest about who came frist. My family did not settle here in the 1800. Our Country has social issues. We will be seeing more problems, Drug Problems, Money Problems, Housing Problems. We can come up with ideas that work. I know we can...but we must work together as a team. We can not allow our town to be a dump. It is up to us to have Victory and we can. And we will, with Peace, settle down people and put on your thinking caps.

  19. The stores in G;ville rip us off because the owners of those businesses think we're all big time pot growers when most of us just grow enough to get by. The price of pot is going down, businesses in so hum must realize this and lower prices or they will lose customers to winco and piersons. -Shelter Cove local

  20. Garberville has become disgusting. So, so sad. Where are these homeless people getting their food? They need to go somewhere and GET A JOB. Also, to the poor weed growers who are feeling sorry for themselves because the price is going down--GET A JOB.

  21. Just visited. Does not seem your problem is much better. Hope you find a solution. I won't be stopping again anytime soon. Very unsafe, disconcerting vibe.

  22. I'm in Garberville now. Seems like the same issues are still going on. Hope something can be figured out that best serves everyone here.