Letters to the Editor, May 3, 2017

News item: Mercer-Fraser's legal maneuvering to wrest the $5 million contract for the Humboldt Bay Trail North away from McCullough Construction is faring about as well as its failed bid did.

Must investigate response

Amidst all the tragic news in last week’s Mad River Union, the most shocking was Elijah Chandler’s allegation that the response of Arcata Police and EMTs to the tragic killing of David Josiah Lawson was shoddy due to racism. This is a serious accusation, and one not made by Mr. Chandler alone.

More shocking was the tone-deaf assertion by Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman that these allegations “are being evaluated” but that Arcata Police are too busy investigating the homicide to investigate their own conduct or that of other first responders.

Why would it be the role of Arcata Police to investigate themselves? Have we not seen, time and time again, that police departments are not objective enough to assess and address their own biases?

True police accountability requires strong, unbiased civilian oversight. This should, probably, be the role of the fledgling Public Safety Task Force, though the connection of the task force to the Arcata Police Department would also call into question their objectivity. The DA’s office, as it relies on evidence collected by police, is apparently also unable or unwilling to investigate. Perhaps the Grand Jury should get involved.

The alleged murderer has been apprehended and all that is left is to get the facts straight; there is, presumably, no current public danger from this one individual. The real and present danger is the systemic racism that Vice Mayor Pereira, among others, has decried. If that racism is leading police and first responders to fail to do their jobs promptly and professionally, then we are all in grave danger.

The time for investigation and action on these serious accusations is now.

Lauraine Leblanc

We must face the facts

Fear overcomes empathy.

And a young black man dies.

We can try to rationalize these tragedies with things like “being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” “late night party,””alcohol and other drugs,” “darkness and yelling and screaming.” “Kids can be so stupid.”

Because they are kids...

And in truth, if those kids had been white kids, it probably would have ended differently. Young people do dumb things. They are adolescents who believe they are bigger than life. They are reckless and sometimes aren’t reasonable. That is the nature of the adolescent beast. But sometimes hate and yes, racism, makes things even more ugly.

We can read the news reports and know that we can’t know the whole truth. But reading the account of young Elijah Chandler in the Mad River Union was heartbreaking.

And the picture does emerge of not just a group of post party young people in the dark at a home on Spear Avenue, but of a group that included young black men, including Elijah Chandler and David Lawson, who lay bleeding to death on that lawn. Young women were screaming accusatorially about theft of something. A rowdy scene to be sure, but one I’m sure our local police have dealt with. Or haven’t they...?

I am not accusing anyone of anything. I was not there. But I am very, very sad. Although I can’t know what happened that night, I do believe that fear of the other may have played a role in this. Fear can be displayed in many ways. I have total respect for law enforcement; they have a hard, hard job in this climate. And I”m not talking about the weather. But many lives will never be the same after this tragedy.

There is no blame to be apportioned out here. Instead, my hope is that each person involved will look into his or her own heart and honestly assess what the truth is. Until we can face the facts we cannot change.

I was raised in a totally white neighborhood on Long Island in New York. I knew no people of color until I attended college and then, living in Georgia while my husband was in the service.

So I know personally what it means to have prejudice and bias from lack of experience. I have worked on this issue for myself all my life.

Now, I have biracial grandchildren. This has become very personal for me. I don’t want those I love to have to grieve someday like the family and friends of David Lawson are grieving now.

Barbara Brimlow

Watch out for motorcyclists

Clear days are coming, daylight hours are increasing, and here on the North Coast, spring is here, and summer is just around the corner!

Motorcycle riders across our nation are polishing their bikes and getting ready for the open road. Motorcycling is a popular choice for economical and convenient travel. They are inexpensive to operate, fun to ride, and easy to park.

In our Golden State there are over a million registered motorcycle riders who use their cycles for commuting, touring, and recreational activities.

Our North Coast with its towering redwood avenues, Pacific Ocean vistas, and bucolic country back roads, provides riders of all skill levels with some of the most dramatic, scenic and thrilling riding that can be found in the United States. These scenic byways are also of course enjoyed by automobile motorists.

As members of ABATE (American Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education), the FOG DOGS motorcycle club, and the National Harley Owners Group (“HOG”), as well as two of the hundreds of motorcyclists in Humboldt County we are writing to remind all motorists and motorcyclists (especially newer and younger drivers) that May is Motorcycle Awareness Month in California.

I encourage those who operate four – wheel motor driven vehicles to please “share the road” with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe.

Motorcycles are vehicles with the same rights and privileges as any motor vehicle on the roadway. Riders come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and genders. That one you pass in the safety corridor may be your office secretary, a teacher, your school librarian, your doctor, your next door neighbor, or even your friend’s wife (me!).

Motorcyclists are reminded to make themselves visible to other motorists. Additionally, riders should take a moment to review the aspects of motorcycle safety: regularly inspect, repair and replace warn parts of your bike, wear protective gear at all times, including a helmet, ride within your skill limits, ride un-impaired and become a life-long learner by brushing up each year and taking refresher rider courses offered through the California Motorcyclist Safety Program.

Information for classes can be found on this web page:  californiamotorcyclist.com/.

Thank You to the Humboldt County Board Of Supervisors for proclaiming May, 2017 as Motorcycle Awareness Month in Humboldt County!

Jerry Hull and Phylis Geller

Living in strange times

Two items arose this week which jumped out for comment. The first involved revisions to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) which the GOP hopes to be a replacement for the current Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare.

The original AHCA was never acted on because it was clear there were insufficient GOP votes to pass in the House due to the opposition of a conservative group of Republicans known as the Freedom Caucus.

So revisions were made this past week which were acceptable to most of this group. The revised bill maintained a required level of insurance (minimum essential coverage) and the restriction not to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions.

However, language was also added which would allow states to opt out of these two provisions if they so choose. Now this is where the GOP tried to pull a fast one.

The health care law requires Congressional law makers and their staff to obtain their health insurance through the marketplace under these rules.

But the GOP members didn’t want to possibly lose these two provisions for themselves or staff, so they added a section which stated they were excluded from these opt out provisions. Nice trick.

In other words, the GOP House authors were willing to put forth a replacement health care bill to the public which could very well result in insurance coverage they wouldn’t have wanted for themselves or their staff.

Having been brought to light, I understand now that any proposed revision will no longer contain this privileged exclusion.

Secondly, I shouldn’t have been too surprised when, while discussing the presidency with Reuters news, Trump commented,”… this is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier.” Later he doubled down by adding, “I like to work. But this is actually more work.”

Well I’m not sure what candidate Trump was thinking on his way to winning his turn in the White House. Perhaps he thought he could get by with the same bullying and bluster he had used to get elected in the first place.

Whatever his thoughts, I believe part of his problem is he didn’t do much homework. One early indication arose back in February during a meeting with the nation’s governors at the White House. Trump exclaimed, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Really? All he had to do was look at the current ACA itself. A Google search seems somewhat indefinite on the actual page count, but one finds numbers ranging from 900+ to 20,000 pages or more.

If this doesn’t define complex, I don’t know what does. And of course, since then, he’s seemed to have had numerous difficulties dealing with Congress-related issues or idiosyncrasies of the Constitution although I must give him credit for getting a Supreme Court justice approved (although unprecedentedly by the “nuclear option”).

So perhaps now that Trump realizes things aren’t so easy, he’ll spend less time with tweeting and golf, and more time learning a more effective way to do his job which should make things easier for him, but I’m not sure it will be better for the rest of us.

Sherman Schapiro
Blue Lake




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