Mad River Union
ARCATA – Arcata City Councilmember and former Mayor Michael Winkler can often be found scrubbing, scrapping and spraying away graffiti from the shopfronts and alleyways of downtown Arcata.
“I started about a year and a half ago, I’ve removed thousands of stickers,” Winkler said.
It’s one of many projects to improve Arcata that Winkler has undertaken in his eight years as a councilmember, a record he hopes to continue if re-elected this November.
On his list of issues to tackle in the future are shutting down butane hash oil labs, expanding the Arcata Community Forest, improving bus services out of the county and building clean and sober houses for Arcata’s homeless community.
Winkler said he also hopes to serve as chair of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and bring manufacturing jobs in alternative energy such as wind or solar power into the county.
Winkler moved to Arcata in 1997 to earn a degree in Environmental Resources Engineering at Humboldt State. He worked for 25 years as an electronics engineer in Chicago and the Bay Area and is currently a co-owner of an energy consulting business.
Winkler originally ran for City Council in 2008 with the intent to improve Arcata’s bus services and encourage bicycling and walking over driving.
He served on the Humboldt Transit Authority for seven years, helping to expand bus service to the rest of the county and increasing routes from one an hour to one every half hour.
Winkler is probably best known for his work to crack down on grow houses in Arcata’s neighborhoods.
“I learned how concerned people were about indoor marijuana grows, home invasions, and attack dogs in yards,” Winkler said.
He said he took a lead role in an effort to drive indoor marijuana growers of Arcata’s neighborhoods by creating a 45 percent tax on excessive electricity use. In 2012, the tax passed as a ballot measure with 70 percent of the vote.
“In the past five years we’ve gone from something like 1,250 large-scale grow houses, down to about 60 now,” Winkler said.
“I’ve seen a very marked change, I’ve see more young families and small children, in a way that I never saw before. It’s much more relaxed, people felt like they were under siege before, now neighborhoods feel like neighborhoods.”
Winkler said the issue he has been least successful pursuing was opposing contributions to the city from the Blue Lake Casino.
“I’m adamantly opposed to gambling; it’s an attack on the poor, it advertises the possibility of riches and, for some people, it’s addictive,” Winkler said.
Winkler proposed to the City Council in 2014 that Arcata stop taking money from the casinos. He feels it is inappropriate for the city government to benefit from what he considers a harmful enterprise.
“Nobody else on the council supported me, it was just like ‘okay you said that, but we’re not interested’.”
Winkler said he hopes his record of successful projects will convince voters to re-elect him in November. He said his accomplishments have depended on his ability to work with the community and represent both liberals and conservatives.
“I find common ground with people, which is why I think I’ve been effective and had a council that works by consensus and less by confrontation and passing things by narrow margins.”