Hollywood eyes Coval Russell story
It doesn’t have a happy Hollywood ending, but movie producers are scoping out the life of former Paradise resident Coval Russell for a possible film.

They contacted District Attorney Mike Ramsey about the project and reported that actor Dustin Hoffman is interested in playing Russell.

Russell is the 92-year-old man who apparently killed himself last week by throwing himself off a bridge over the Feather River. He was despondent about being released from the Butte County Jail, where he’d been serving a 14-month sentence for attacking his landlord with a knife.

Russell, who suffered from a number of serious health problems, had fought to stay in jail, where all his needs were taken care of. He’d gained considerable respect among the inmates, who called him “Pops.”

Russell, who never married and had no living kin, had been living in an Oroville motel room at the time of his death. Because he was one of the oldest county jail inmates in the country, Russell’s death has made national headlines.

Initiative to ban race classification qualified
Ward Connerly, the man who teamed up with the late Assemblyman Bernie Richter to dismantle the state’s affirmative-action programs, is at it again. This time he’s pushing a ballot initiative effort to amend the state constitution to prohibit government agencies from compiling racial data.

The amendment, titled “Classification by Race, Ethnicity, Color or National Origin,” has just gained enough signatures to qualify for the March 2, 2004, primary-election ballot. Supporters say the amendment will help do away with racial considerations that either reward or penalize people based on their ethnic backgrounds.

“We want to curtail the level of governmental snooping when it comes to people’s ethnic backgrounds,” said Kevin Nguyen, a spokesperson for the measure.

He said the initiative is an extension of Prop, 209, which ended affirmative action in the state. Statistics on race, he said, are not reliable and “parity does not indicate an absence of discrimination any more than disparity equals discrimination.”

However, groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund warn that the passage of the initiative could damage civil-rights protections and deprive minorities of political representation and public services.

If passed, the amendment would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2005, and would prohibit state and local governments from using race, ethnicity, color or national origin to classify students, contractors or employees in public education. Exceptions include law enforcement descriptions of criminal suspects. Supporters gathered 983,761 signatures, of which 694,586 were valid. In Butte County, of 10,379 signatures gathered, only 7,595 were valid and 561 were duplicates. Some folks really wanted to get this on the ballot.

Farmers’ Market will move operations
The Saturday Farmers’ Market, currently held in the parking lot bordered by Wall and Flume and Second and Third streets, will be moving sometime next year—as early as January and no later than May. The market wants to expand to allow for more vendors but is out of space at its present location.

Initial requests to expand out onto Third and Wall streets were denied by the City Council’s Internal Affairs Committee because such a configuration would deny access to businesses in the area. The city will allow the market to use the sidewalks around the Municipal Building and the Council Chambers, the municipal parking lot and half of Fourth Street from Main to Flume. The Council Chambers’ restroom may by used by patrons, as long as they don’t mess up the facilities.