Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – The statue of president William McKinley towered once again over the American Legion Post 274/Boy Scout Troop 9 Easter Egg Hunt last Saturday morning, possibly for the last time.
But not certainly, despite the City Council’s historic decision to take out the 112-year-old Plaza fixture.
Petition to keep statue filed
A petition which would overturn the City Council’s order to remove the statue of President William McKinley from the Plaza has been submitted to the City of Arcata. It is being processed by Arcata’s city attorney, who has 15 calendar days to create a title and summary for possible placement on the ballot.
Whether the measure shows up on the Nov. 6 ballot depends on whether backers can gain enough petition signatures from registered Arcata voters. Ten percent of Arcata’s 9,611 registered voters must sign the petition for it to qualify.
The City Council voted 4–1 on Feb. 21 to remove the 1906-vintage statue.
“The City Council made a mistake,” said petition organizer David LaRue, who created a Facebook page now titled, “Let the People Vote on Our McKinley Statue.” “They tried to go over the heads of citizens of Arcata. The statue was a gift to the citizens of Arcata, not the City Council.”
The draft petition, submitted by Arcata residents LaRue and Stanton Reynolds, includes multiple “whereases” establishing the statue’s origins and legal premise. It then states in essence that moving, altering or harming the statue is prohibited, and that if it is moved before possible passage of the ballot measure, then it has to be put back.
Obviously alluding to the council’s Feb. 21 decision, the petition specifically states that “All laws, regulations, resolutions, or ordinances of the City of Arcata to the contrary are hereby repealed.”
LaRue said he is willing to abide by a decision by voters, whatever it may be. “We just want to use the tools the republic offers us to fix this mistake,” he said. “At the end of the day, our only desire is to see that the people of Arcata are able to vote on the issue.”
He said he has 27 volunteers ready to hit the streets and gather signatures, and is looking at having a booth at the Farmers’ Market.
LaRue noted that the removal project’s Environmental Impact Report, estimated to account for $50,000 of the overall $65,000 cost, won’t be necessary if the citizens vote to remove the statue.
“They’re [the City Council] willing to spend $50,000 just to avoid a vote of the people,” LaRue said.
Statue removal advocates have stated their opposition to a vote on grounds that many indigenous people who are offended by the statue don’t live in Arcata, and won’t be able to vote.
Once the ballot title and summary are available, petition backers must publish a legal notice in a legally adjudicated newspaper, then collect at least 961 valid signatures by May 29. If the measure qualifies, the petition applicants will get a refund of their $200 filing fee.
Removal plans proceed
According to City Manager Karen Diemer, the petition drive and possible ballot initiative won’t affect the city’s continuing to carry out the City Council’s statue removal decision, in terms of both paperwork and physical logistics.
The CEQA document and General Plan amendment required for removal will continue to be developed via the Planning Commission. A draft EIR and amendment will be developed, circulated for public comment, then finalized by the Planco and sent on to the council for adoption. There is no strict timeline for the EIR.
That could come before the City Council in September or October, possibly a little earlier or later. If any ballot measures have qualified, the council could at that time decide whether to wait and see what the voters want, or simply proceed with their removal decision.
There will be another public meeting in April or early May, but it won’t involve the City Council. That will be a scoping meeting with city staff involved with implementing the move.
Likely taking place in April or early May, the meeting will study all the known project alternatives and what’s involved with them. These include removal and storage, removal and relocation in arcata, removal and relocation in the region, removal and relocation to some distant place, the no project alternative – leaving the statue where it is – and any other options that may arise.
“We’re just making sure that we consider everything,” Diemer said.
Mayor Sofia Pereira defended both the council’s decision and the right of citizens to challenge it.
“As a council, I believe we made the right decision,” Pereira said. “Now we need to move towards healing as a community. I don’t believe bringing this issue to the ballot will achieve that goal of forward progress and healing, but everyday citizens have a right to petition for a ballot measure, regardless of the issue at hand. Time will tell what the outcome will be. In the meantime, we as a city are moving forward with the public process we outlined and continuing our work on the many priorities before us, like the Plaza, housing and cannabis.”
City of Arcata press release
Arcata, CA, March 30, 2018 – The City of Arcata has initiated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review as approved by the City Council for the removal of the McKinley statue.
The current scope of the project determined by the Arcata City Council vote on Wednesday, Feb. 21 is to remove and store the statue and amend the City’s General Plan, which identifies the McKinley statue as a part of the Plaza Historic District. At the City Council meeting on Wednesday, March 21, Councilmembers discussed alternatives to determine where the statue would be relocated following removal, which will be taken into consideration during this process.
The McKinley statue is identified as a historic feature of the Plaza in the City’s guiding document called the General Plan, and this designation requires the City to complete an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prior to taking further action. The intent of environmental review under CEQA is to describe the potential impacts of removing McKinley to city officials and the public prior to removing the statue.
The City of Arcata Community Development Department is currently finalizing a full project summary and will consider the impacts of alternative options for the relocation such as placing the statue in storage, relocating the statue within Arcata, relocating the statue regionally or relocating the statue outside of the region.
In addition, Community Development Department staff is compiling a list of verified alternatives for statue placement following removal, and any interested community members are encouraged to come forward with offers and suggestions to be reviewed and considered.
The EIR process will be initiated by a public scoping meeting, which is estimated to take place at the end of April or early May. Following the meeting, the City will complete a Draft EIR and circulate it for 30 days, which is estimated to take place in June or July. The public and other agencies will have the opportunity to comment during this period.
Next, the Community Development Department will respond to input on the Draft EIR and prepare its findings. The findings will then be brought to the Planning Commission, who will make a recommendation to the City Council. These actions will be made at public hearings, currently estimated to take place in late summer through October.
The current timeline for the EIR process is estimated at six months, which is subject to change based on the number of public hearings the process requires.
Additional details will be announced as they become available.
Community members with offers and suggestions for the relocation of the McKinley statue are encouraged to call (707) 822-5953 or email [email protected]
Notice is hereby given by the persons whose names appear hereon of their intention to circulate the petition within the City of Arcata for the purpose of prohibiting the modification and/or destruction of the President William McKinley statue and its base and/or the relocation from its historic place in the center of the Arcata Plaza.
We request that a ballot title and summary be prepared for the proposed initiative ordinance.
Arcata, CA 95521
Initiative to prohibit the modification and/or destruction of the President William McKinley statue and its base and/or the relocation from its historic place in the center of the Arcata Plaza
Notice is hereby given by the persons whose names appear hereon of their intention to circulate the petition within the City of Arcata and the reasons for the enactment of the proposed ordinance is as follows:
Whereas the statue of President William McKinley was the first major work done by noted Armenian immigrant sculptor, Haig Patigian and
Whereas the statue survived the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fires of 1906 and Whereas the statue and its base were a gift to the citizens of Arcata by George Zehndner which he intended as a “gift for all time to come”(Dengler) and
Whereas the Arcata General Plan (H-3g) declares “The following principal features of the Plaza which define its historical character shall be preserved:
1. The McKinley Statue at the center ofthe Plaza.” and
Whereas the statue has been a key historic feature of the
Arcata Plaza since it was erected on July 4, 1906 ; therefore,
Be it enacted by the People o f the City o f Arcata:
Section 1. The following are prohibited; modification, destruction, relocation from the historic place in the center ofthe Arcata Plaza ofthe President William McKinley statue and/or its base
Section 2. Ifat any time before or after the enactment ofthis ordinance, the President William McKinley statue and/or its base has been relocated from the historic place in the center of the Arcata Plaza, the City of Arcata is required to expeditiously restore both to that location
Section 3. If any provision ofthis act or the application thereofto any person or circumstance is held invalid, that invalidity may not affect other provisions or applications ofthis act that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions ofthis act are severable.
Section 4. All laws, regulations, resolutions, or ordinances of the City of Arcata to the contrary are hereby repealed.