Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Rebuttals to the arguments have been received for and against Measure M, the ballot measure which would reverse the City Council’s Feb. 21 decision to remove the statue of William McKinley from the Arcata Plaza.
At last week’s City Council meeting, Community Development Director David Loya said the project EIR was about 80 percent complete, and should be circulated for comment by mid-August. At the Sept. 24 close of comment, any comments collected will be responded to, with the final EIR available around Nov. 21.
Alternatives under consideration are moving the statue into storage, shipping it to a new home elsewhere or doing nothing at all. If Measure M passes, it will override all other options, and the statue will remain where it is.
The City of Arcata has engaged two Humboldt State student interns to compile historical information on the statue, and that will be made available at cityofarcata.org/787/McKinley-Statue. Loya said a $2,000 historical study that is part of the EIR could be uploaded soon.
Meanwhile, the rebuttals to the ballot arguments reiterate arguments made in the initial pro and con statements. The pro-Measure M argument makes the claim that statue removal could cost up to $525,000 and entail the dismissal of eight APD officers or “the entire Recreation Department” in order to make up the expense.
That figure is more than eight times the $65,000 the city estimates the removal project could cost.
City Manager Karen Diemer said the $65,000 is expected to cover cost of environmental review, General Plan amendment, removal and storage of the statue from the Plaza. But, she said, even that figure may be far in excess of the actual expense, thanks to possible private assistance.
“At this point I would estimate $15,000 (which includes staff time) for the CEQA process and the remainder would go towards removal,” Diemer said. “We are verifying suggested relocation options. Today I can say we have a legitimate offer by an individual to remove and relocate the statue at no cost to the City outside the area to a location that would preserve the statue and provide public viewing.”
At the council meeting, several speakers excoriated Councilmember Michael Winkler, a signatory to the pro-Measure M rebuttal, for what they alleged was insulting and inflammatory language. Of particular annoyance was the use of the term “shrill” in characterizing anti-Measure M activists.
Councilmember Susan Ornelas said she was reading a “thick book” on civil discourse titled Taking the War Out Of Your Words which she was donating to the library in hopes of elevating the public dialogue.
“I really believe if we could get 10 percent of our community to understand how to communicate like this, we could actually get over some humps,” Ornelas said.
Vice Mayor Brett Watson said his advice to all concerned was to educate the public. “That’s what’s important to me,” Watson said, “That we put all the information out there so voters can make an informed decision.”
“I just want to echo the importance of community education,” said Mayor Sofia Pereira. “I do hope that everyone that’s engaging in this community is holding themselves to the high standard of using factual information to the best of their ability.”