Kevin L. Hoover
ARCATA – An Arcatan for 10 years, Josh Mohland combines the fresh perspective of a relative newcomer with the fondness for Arcata only someone who has lived and worked here can know.
Born in Berkeley in 1982, Mohland grew up in Vallejo and Benicia. He’d planned to pursue his computer training at one of the high-end Bay Area universities until his family visited Arcata in 1999. His is one more of the love-at-first-sight stories that have brought so many civic contributors from elsewhere. “I immediately fell in love with the place,” he said.
In public statements and on his website, joshmohland.com, the slender, affable software engineer has placed his campaign platform on three central pillars: economic growth, capitalizing on cannabis and improved nightlife in Arcata.
His motivation is, in part, one of self-interest. “I can say without reservation that I plan to spend the rest of my life in Humboldt,” Mohland said. “I’m just hoping I can afford Arcata.”
He also hopes to spend the next four years on Arcata’s top decisionmaking body. It’s a big jump from citizen to the council hot seat, since he hasn’t served on any of the City volunteer committees or commissions which have familiarized many who later became councilmembers with Arcata’s civic processes.
But it’s not like he isn’t used to working with people. At HSU, Mohland was the Associated Students public relations coordinator and served on various HSU committees. “I’ve worked with committees before, just not with municipal governments yet,” he said.
To Mohland, improving the economy is the basis for addressing any number of practical, political and social issues, from creating housing to fueling Arcata’s vibrant cultural life.
“Economic Development is the hub of the bicycle wheel,” he said. “If it’s working, the rest of the things just fall into line.” He hasn’t attended any of the Economic Development Committee’s Monday meetings, but looks forward to working with it as a councilmember.
Implementing the Economic Development Strategic Plan offers a suitable roadmap, he said.
“The health and stability of our economy directly helps in reducing blight, keeping our community safe, and providing recreation opportunities such as our annual festivals and fairs,” Mohland said.
As for Arcata’s underground industry, cannabis, Mohland believes that legalization and licensing would bring it out from the shadows and make possible a rational and beneficial industry.
The keys to unlocking cannabis’s economic benefits are communication and innovation – getting the stakeholders to talk and then plugging in Arcata’s collective creativity.
“We’ve got a really good base and foundations to build upon,” he said of the current Land Use Code guidelines for cannabis production and sales. “We should re-examine it to see if its working, if there are issues not addressed and loopholes being exploited.”
When it comes to cannabis grow houses, Mohland’s stance generally reflects the sentiments underlying the LUC. “Individual medical patients can grow,” he said. “But when you’re talking about people doing industrial agriculture in residential neighborhoods, you have a problem. That’s not what housing is to be used for. The goal is to get anyone growing more than what an individual patient would want into a legitimate operation.”
Said Mohland, “I’d like for us to be known not for our grow houses, but for having a model medical cannabis industry that other cities can look up to as being safe, sustainable, and responsible... Marijuana shouldn’t be ignored here any longer.”
A proposal he doesn’t see going anywhere is the excessive energy use tax, calling it “a pipe dream” because of the estimated $500,000 expense of getting PG&E to do the billing.
Further, he said, it could have an unintended consequence – motivating illegal growers to expand operations to pay the higher tax. “They might think, ‘We have to get another house to grow more because we have to pay more for electricity.’”
One tax he does favor, with reservations, is Measure G, the three-quarter cent sales tax increment. “It’s a mixed bag,” he said. “I don’t like sales tax at nine percent, but it’s providing a much-needed source of revenue.” He’s pleased with the enhanced law enforcement and road repairs the tax has made possible, but would like a better solution than making goods and services more expensive.
“Long-term I’d like to drop it and create other sources of revenue,” he said, alluding to his emphasis on economic development.
Another program Mohland supports in the North Coast Resource Center (NCRC) and its lunch service. “I’m definitely in favor of them serving lunch,” he said.
Relocating the NCRC is probably a futile task, he believes, and the effort should be spent making the most of the Arcata Service Center location. “No matter where they look, they get the backlash because they attract a very visible crowd,” he said. “Downtown is a good location. If we can provide support and create a culture to respect for the neighborhood, we’ll have a lot of success. It comes down to working with all the stakeholders and working out a compromise.”
The planned Arcata Crossing transition housing complex at 250 E St. could be “a very useful service to have for Arcata,” Mohland said. “I’d like to see it get built. Funding is my biggest concern.”
He’s extremely concerned that operational funding for Arcata Crossing be secured before it’s built, rather than create such a facility and have funding fall off after a year or two, leading to closure.
Mohland opposes, and spoke out against the recently passed anti-panhandling ordinance. “There was a lot about it that struck me as overreaching,” he said. “I understand the need and what it was trying to address, but it was rushed through without enough public comment.”
He supports a downtown public restroom, but not as an exclusively City-funded project.
“It’s worth exploring, and would relieve pressure on Co-op and Ace Hardware,” he said. “But there’s always that one percent that will vandalize it and make it difficult for everyone.” He’s in favor of some level of privatization, having a business involved with the restroom’s operations and maintenance.
Mohland appreciates Arcata’s natural gems, the Marsh and community forests. “We’ve managed the forest pretty well,” he said.
He supports the Arcata Ridge Trail Project linking Sunny Brae with Valley West, but as far as rail-trails between Arcata and Eureka, he thinks the debate has stagnated.
“It’s back down to money,” he said. “We don’t have the population base to support a railroad, even bus ridership isn’t at maximum capacity. I don’t see a lot of progress being made on either front. The best thing we can do is to get both sides to sit down and get some kind of compromise.”
Mohland would like the City to catalyze improved nightlife with strong law enforcement downtown on weekend nights, and making possible more all-ages and 18-and-up shows in City facilities, “so youth have more things to do to keep them out of trouble.”
Arcata is “not as bike-friendly as it should be,” he said. “It’s something we can do a lot better on.”
For Mohland, Arcata’s future depends on the economy, communication and creativity. His driving dictum: “Economic growth for Arcata and keeping it sustainable.”