Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Valerie Rose-Campbell would bring the perspective of a working mother to the Arcata City Council. A Valley West resident, she’d also be that rare councilmember from far north Arcata, where she resides her husband Dalin and their four children.
Rose-Campbell, 24, has lived in Arcata 16 years. She hails from San Antonio, Texas, her life journey winding through Orange County before she landed in Arcata to raise her family. “I’m more of a California girl than a Texan,” she said. “But I still have roots.”
A playgroup facilitator for the City of Arcata, children and family form the core of Rose-Campbell’s life. While on board with most of the city’s progressive initiatives, she hopes to step up the city’s game when it comes to family values.
Arcata has put so much effort into optimizing its relationship with Humboldt State, she believes, that pressing issues confronting working-class families – rental costs, living wages, childcare, schools – may have fallen off the radar.
“I want to make a positive change in Arcata for the year-round community of families here,” she said. “I think they’re taking a general back seat. They’re overshadowed by the students.”
While Arcata abounds with amenities for others, even getting basic medical care is a challenge for parents. The limited selection there is accepts only a narrow range of types of insurance. “We’re underserved by doctors and dentists,” she said. “We have to go to Eureka for all our services.”
The limited pediatrician supply limits choices. “You get what you get,” she said. “Not everyone is so lucky.”
Recent high-profile offenses by mentally impaired individuals indicate a deeper problem, also related to lack of adequate medical care. “It goes to show what kind of a mental health crisis we have in America,” she said.
Crucial as family matters are, Rose-Campbell is far from a single-issue candidate. As with most Arcatans, public safety, transportation, the environment, local self-sufficiency, waste reduction and the cannabis economy are all huge concerns.
Downtown misbehavior has put the Plaza off-limits except during major events, where a family can blend in. A recent visit offered the sight of a man smoking a meth pipe and singing, obviously in an altered state and – he’s more the Plaza norm than a vulnerable mom and children.
After years of discussion, somewhat heightened police presence and attempts at social engineering, she said taking little kids out on Arcata’s town square is still not a wise choice.
“People are doing drugs on the Plaza,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a place I want to hang out with my children,” she said.
It’s a vicious circle. The public misbehavior is also a deterrent to businesses and employment. Store entrance alcoves are left full of filth every morning, with loud, dope-smoking travelers and their dogs dominating the streets by day.
“Professionals are not inclined to bring their businesses here with that on their doorstep,” Rose-Campbell said. The City Council is right to emphasize tolerance and diversity, she said, but that should include parents with children as well.
“They want to be inclusive, but they forgot about the families that live here year-’round,” she said. “If we focus more on building strong families in Arcata, that can build the foundation for making positive change in Arcata, and when the children grow up, they can make positive change in the world.”
More emphasis on families would make a strong defense against outside interests looking to helicopter in and raid Humboldt’s abundant natural resources. “Sooner or later, big corporate interests are going to come after out redwoods or water,” she said. “Building that foundation with families and getting that idea of living healthy in the world around us will set the tone when these big interests come in and destroy our environment. We really have to be leaders in protecting our redwoods, because no one is going to do that for us.”
Arcata’s Medical Marijuana Innovation Zone, she says, is “a start,” in keeping the cannabis industry local.
But the city is playing catch-up after lagging on capitalizing a prime asset and missing a major opportunity for leadership. “We had an opportunity to become leaders in medical cannabis,” she said. “I don’t want to see that happen again.”
Keeping things local is a big priority. When the family goes out, they patronize the small businesses that she believes are Arcata’s future, such as local restaurants.
“We’re so excited that the [Minor] theatre is open again,” she said. “I would like to see Arcata become far more self-sufficient.”
Even with all the emphasis on alternative transportation, getting to central Arcata without a car remains a fearful challenge for Valley Westers.
“I’m not comfortable taking my kids across the freeway or out West End Road,” she said. “We need a more bike-friendly community.”
You won’t see a lot of signs or flyers with Rose-Campbell’s name on them. She chose not to “print up massive amounts of paper materials,” she said. “I can’t get behind paying money to create that much waste.”
Along with her core concerns, Rose-Campbell says she has an open agenda and would vigorously advocate for the will of working people. “We’re part of the 30 percent of working people who live in poverty in Arcata,” she says unashamedly. “We aren’t sure we’re being heard.”
“I want my agenda to reflect what the people want,” Rose-Campbell said. “More leadership in an environmentally-friendly city.”