Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
CITY HALL – With crisp dispatch aided by zero public comment, the Arcata City Council last week chose to appoint a replacement for outgoing Councilmember Mark Wheetley rather than hold a costly election. Even Councilmember Paul Pitino, who had forcefully argued for a special election, seconded the motion to appoint the new member. He voted along with his colleagues who wished to trade the extra $30,000 or so election expense for the mere $1,000 involved with making an appointment.
The vote was 3–0, with Councilmember Sofia Pereira absent and the outgoing Wheetley abstaining. He is taking a position as city manager for the City of Fortuna.
To maximize public involvement, the appointment process will resemble an election in many ways. It will require a nomination petition signed by 20 Arcata voters, includes an exhaustive application and candidate forum. The new councilmember may be appointed as soon as April 19, and will serve out Wheetley’s term until December, 2018.
Applications are available at the City Manager’s office at City Hall, 736 F St. Applicants, who have to live in and be registered to vote in Arcata, must pick up and return completed forms by Friday, March 24 at 4 p.m.
Complete requirements are listed here.
Wheetley’s four terms, expertise and “pithy statements” on the City Council earned him a cake, a certificate of appreciaition honoring his 12 years of council service and encomiums from his colleagues and the public alike.
“I wish you lots of luck in Fortuna,” said former Councilmember Alex Stillman. “I think you’re going to do really well down there.”
Wheetley thanked the council and said he was glad it went with the appointment process. “I’m very honored to have been elected to four terms by the people of Arcata, and I took that responsibility very seriously and I tried to do the best I could in terms of representing the city at every opportunity I had,” Wheetley said. “When all is said and done, it’s been great serving with all of you and many councilmembers over the past 12 years.”
He offered high praise for the work of City of Arcata’s staffers as well, saying the council’s accomplishments are “reflective of the quality of staff that we have here.”
Despite the arduous application process, five aspiring councilmembers have taken out papers. The field of potential candidates is, as some observers have noted, easily as impressive as that which stepped up during the last two council elections.
• Jason Akana is a member of the Arcata Planning Commission. He could not be contacted before deadline.
• Josh Neff, who serves on the Public Safety Task Force, said all of Arcata’s challenges and opportunities interest him, including growth, waste treatment, housing, sea level rise and conditions downtown, and more.
He said improving public safety – of which he is a “huge advocate” – will improve conditions on several levels, from making Arcata a better place for children to providing better jobs.
“I want to contribute more to the community where I work, live and raise children,” he said.
• Alison Robbins has served in local municipal and tribal government and worked with seniors, and with her children now grown, would like to make a civic contribution with council service.
Among her issues are improved community broadband, which she says will enhance everything from city services to digital learning, and create opportunities for community engagement. Lack of medical personnel including skilled nurses, and training for them, is a big problem. “We don’t have people up here that we need,” Robbins said.
Transportation needs wide improvement, including conditions for pedestrians, and urban greenspaces should be preserved. Robbins thinks an “opportunity village” with tiny houses is a promising idea for homeless and low-income individuals.
“This is the end result of 20 years of being involved,” she said.
• Valerie Rose-Campbell has run twice for City Council, in 2012 and 2016. A Valley West resident, she has championed issues confronting working-class families – rental costs, living wages, childcare and schools.
“I want to make a positive change in Arcata for the year-round community of families here,” she said during last year’s campaign. “I think they’re taking a general back seat. They’re overshadowed by the students.”As a parent, physician availability has been a big concern, along with public safety, transportation, the environment, local self-sufficiency, waste reduction and the cannabis economy.
• Brett Watson serves on Arcata’s Economic Development Committee. He said the current City Council is “a good group,” and that the vacancy presents “an exciting opportunity get on their team and achieve its goals.”
Among many issues with which he’s concerned, Watson would like to help the City successfully execute its new Zero Waste Action Plan. A volunteer at the Senior Center, he is concerned about housing for senior citizens, calling them “the most vulnerable part of the population.”
Diversifying Arcatas economy to make it sustainable as possible and continuing will require “finding a good balance between embracing Humboldt State, cannabusinesses and environmental tourism,” Watson said. He cautioned against overreliance on cannabis, though, and would preserve opportunities for other kinds of businesses.
Watson supports Arcata designating itself a sanctuary city, lauds the Public Safety Task Force and wishes to imporive safety for bikers and pedestrians.
“I really love the City of Arcata,” Watson said.