City Council Selects New Assignments Amid Public Rancor – January 4, 2011

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

CITY HALL – Per the Arcata Municipal Code, recently re-elected City Councilmembers Alex Stillman and Mark Wheetley were sworn back in for another four-year term Tuesday, Dec. 14. The special meeting of the council was attended mostly by City staffmembers.

Wheetley expressed gratitude to voters for his re-election and pledged quality service to all. “I’m here to represent everyone that lives in the City of Arcata,” he said.

Stillman, who was openly pleased to have been the top vote-getter (besting Wheetley by 34 votes) said she was “thrilled” to be returned to the council, and said this term will be her last on the council, completing a total of 16 years of service over two eight-year terms.

“Our City is really forward thinking,” Stillman observed. “I look forward to four more wonderful years of helping Arcata be better and wiser and be proud of who we are,” she said.

Next, the council internally elected the new mayor and vice mayor. On a motion by Michael Winkler, Susan Ornelas was unanimously elected mayor. On a motion by Wheetley, Winkler was elected vice mayor. That whole procedure took exactly one minute.

After swapping chairs so that newly anointed Mayor Ornelas could take the council dais’s center seat, she offered thanks to Stillman for her service and looked ahead. Ornelas said her varied experiences have given her life skills which she will use as mayor to forward many City initiatives. She said her orientation was toward sustainable use of land and resources.

“We’ve got some great projects going from Samoa Boulevard up to Valley West. We’re working on senior housing, we’re working on trails, transitional housing, and we’re also working with businesses to provide business loans to kind of counter the current economic conditions of our greater state and country.”

Ornelas said the state’s water crisis and woeful economy, plus program cutbacks at Humboldt State, though out of Arcata citizens’ control, will nonetheless affect the City and that citizens should be heard on these issues.

“I see this as a year that we all need to be more resourceful,” Ornelas said. “I want us to really wake up to our neighbors... get to know them. That’s really what a community is, sharing and moving forward.”

Winkler said Arcata is doing “amazingly well in these difficult economic times,” and lauded Arcata’s environmental protections and compassion for the underprivileged.

The council then reconvened as the Arcata Community Development Agency and Arcata Joint Powers Financing Authority, electing Ornelas and Winkler as chair and vice-chair of those bodies.

Bitter words

The next night, the newly constituted council departed from the perfunctory program got down to the nitty gritty of naming the councilmember representatives and liaisons to various outside bodies, both in Arcata and in greater Humboldt.

Most assignments were settled without dispute (see list above), but when it came to naming the representative for the Humboldt Waste Management Authority (HWMA), things got tense.

Stillman said Winkler had told her that he was interested in the role, and that she had taken some phone calls on the matter. Councilmember Shane Brinton, who has served in that role for the past year, immediately spoke up and made a pitch for his reappointment as HWMA rep.

He said that several issues before the HWMA were maturing, including a plastic bag ban and acquisition of the Arcata Community Recycling center’s Samoa Processing Facility. He said continuity at the HWMA is vital, as fellow representative Eureka City Councilmember Larry Glass was not re-elected. He noted that he had just been elected vice chair and expected to be named HWMA chair this year.

Stillman said she received “public calls” on the appointment, and asked Winkler to say something. He said he had long experience in recycling. “This is something that I feel very well qualified to do,” he said.

Ornelas said she had received calls from HWMA boardmembers who requested Winkler be Arcata;’s rep because of his “very reasonable, calm demeanor.” Brinton asked if the unnamed callers had said that he wasn’t reasonable and calm, but Ornelas said that hadn’t been mentioned.

Wheetley said Brinton had done a good job but that with Winkler’s “great experience” with waste reduction, appointing him would be a “positive change.”

Brinton attempted some horse trading, saying that since he had supported Winkler for vice mayor and as representative to the Humboldt Transit Authority, he made a “respectfully request” that Winkler withdraw his request to be HWMA rep. But Winkler didn’t respond.

Stillman began to make a motion, but in something of a breach of protocol, Brinton interrupted her and nominated himself for HWMA rep. It didn’t get a second. Wheetley then made a motion which included  Winkler as HWMA rep and Brinton as alternate.

Ornelas called for discussion, and with his voice slightly trembling, Brinton cautioned his colleagues. “I would like to impress upon you the ill will that you will engender if you remove me from the Humboldt Waste Management Authority,” he said.

Brinton said that he had made an effort to get along with his colleagues despite the fact that he represented a more politically progressive segment of the community which is not satisfied with the other councilmembers’ more centrist orientation.

“I’ve really tried to bring it together and bring it back from the days when everyone was yelling at each other in this council hall, but this is really insulting,” he said. “I feel like this is really an effort to further marginalize me and I’m just not pleased with it.”

Wheetley’s motion carried 4–1, with Brinton dissenting. A number of other appointments were processed without drama.

Ornelas made a conciliatory gesture to Brinton, saying she was “sorry that you got a little offended,” but that he would likely enjoy serving as representative to the Redwood Coast Energy Authority.

But Brinton wasn’t mollified. “Well I just expect that if I really start to make progress at RCEA and feel like I’m really accomplishing something I can have that taken away from me in a year as well, but I’d be happy to work my hardest at it,” he said.

The council then took a break. As the councilmembers adjourned, Winkler and Brinton exchanged words, with Winkler asking Brinton for his assistance with the HWMA assignment.

“Fuck you, Michael,” Brinton shot back. The curse was clearly heard by viewers watching the meeting on Access Humboldt, and can also be heard on the archived video of the meeting.

Anger and analysis

The harsh exchange was a precursor to a more complete expression of Brinton’s unhappiness, which he offered during the Council and Staff Reports section of the meeting.

Brinton openly wondered why he had been denied the HWMA appointment, speculating as to whether it was because he hadn’t supported Wheetley during the recent election. “I just have to wonder what it was that compelled all of you to take away the appointment that I cared most about,” he said. “I have to think that today’s decision was based on something else other than HWMA... There’s clearly some sort of animosity directed toward me in this situation and I don’t appreciate it because I feel that I give and I give and I give and it just wasn’t very nice.”

Saturday, Brinton was still upset by what he saw as an undeserved  snub by the rest of the council. “I was surprised and upset by the decision of the other councilmembers,” he said. “I’ve worked hard on the HWMA and I’ve earned the respect of my fellow boardmembers.”

Brinton intimated that there may have been more to his colleagues’ decision than Winkler’s calm resonableness.

“There appears to be something else going on here,” he said. “I’m still finding out more about it. My understanding is that the councilmembers were lobbied by an outside interest.”


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  1. Mark Sailors said:

    I do think that someone should be prosecuted for the flagrant brown act violations that occur here in Arcata.

    Believe me Robert, my father was a Posse Comitatus nut bag minus the racism,that’s why he distanced himself from them. He was also a member of the Alaska Independence party. He also hosted a conspiracy theory radio show called “radio free america” so trust me i am more than familiar with the arguments that you put forth. The fact is the courts have ruled against sovereign citizen argument time and time again. So much so that the people that MAKE A LIVING teaching it to people have been accused of, and convicted of fraud.

  2. Robert Benson said:

    As to the fluoride, aren’t People who care about their health, instead of just trusting a doctor, annoying? Who do they think they are, questioning corporate/government information? The medical industry is regulated by the government, so they must be right, right?

  3. Robert Benson said:

    I apologize for prying. I was attempting to ascertain the veracity of a report that I received from a Sunny Brae resident who claimed he came home to you snooping in his garage and trapped you in with his remote controller; thank you for the contraversion.

    As to the standing requirements mentioned above, under the Sixth Amendment, the accused has the right to confront the accuser/injured party; if there is no injured party, how can you cross-examine the claimant for actual damages? Additionally, under the Sixth Amendment, the accused has the right to be informed of the nature of the accusations; the Constitution provides for Common Law criminal jurisdiction and Admiralty criminal jurisdiction; Statutory jurisdiction is neither (see

    As to the goofazoidal slop, I learn it from you. Don’t you remember berating me with irrelevant and ridiculous questions, before the election?

    Mark Sailors,
    Your assumption that my legal points have been refuted by the courts is without evidence; the state court and prosecutor have categorically avoided my constitutional challenges, without asserting relevant case law. You can look up the cases in the courthouse.

    The US Supreme Court has, for a long time, now, recognized the fundamental right of the People to travel on the highways, that a license is a tax or duty and that the legislatures may not tax a fundamental right. Rather than ruling according to precedent, the courts use all manner of subversion to avoid such rulings, assumedly, due to the great revenues generated by extrajurisdictional application of the statutes, which are only rightly applicable to governmental and commercial entities. Neither state nor federal constitutions provide the government with regulatory powers over the People; statutes are regulatory, by nature. I will say it again…the People are sovereigns, not subjects. Jurisdictional fraud is a real and provable.

    Back to the subject of the article: Where is the oversight in Arcata? In one night, Alex Stillman violated the Brown Act, twice; Police Chief Chapman assumes office, though not legally appointed (denial of opportunity for public comment), and the panhandling ordinance was not legally passed (Alex Stillman was, under Brown Act law, required to recuse herself from the vote, as she did during the drafting of said ordinance). Governmental impunity breeds corruption and tyranny.

  4. kevpod said:

    Well then they should develop homeopathic fluoride treatments for total mental domination.

  5. Mark Sailors said:

    I hear fluoride is more effective as a mind control agent at LOWER dosages……that’s why the man is lowering the recommended dosage in the water……..

  6. kevpod said:

    I was referring to this particularly obtuse gem of a sentence: “Sixth Amendment requirement for standing; though, the challenge may earn you a court ordered visit to perjurious psychologists.”

    Maybe if I wasn’t so drunk and could get out of this damn garage it would make better sense to me.

  7. Mark Sailors said:

    Well my point is that you tend to use esoteric legal points, some already refuted by the courts, as a basis to file lawsuits and to drive an unlicensed vehicle as some sort of temple, protected by international treaty and US constitutional law. These all just happen to be tactics espoused by the Sovereign Citizen Movement. I was trying to let Kevpod know you were in fact speaking English, just a certain interpretation of the definition of words in English.

  8. kevpod said:

    Robert, Robert, Robert… what happened to the cordial gentleman I came to know during the City Council campaign?

    I generally ignore goofy shit people make up about me, but since it seems important to you, I have never been involved in a DUI or imprisoned in a garage. Satisfied? I doubt it. So go ahead and bring on the next round of goofazoidal slop.

  9. Roibert Benson said:

    What is with the avoidance? Please, answer my question about the DUI and the garage imprisonment, or was your silence evidence of your Fifth Amendment Right assertion? I always answer your questions, why will you not reciprocate?

  10. Roibert Benson said:

    kevpod, in English? I understand the Bill of Rights seems foreign to many in media and politics, but it IS written in English.

    Mark Sailors,
    Thank you for the expose’ on the Sovereign Citizen Movement, your research skills are unprecedented. Did you have a point, or were you “just saying”?

  11. Mark Sailors said:

    Sovereign Citizen Movement
    Origins: Çirca 1970; fully developed by early 1980s
    Ideology: Anti-government, some white supremacist elements
    Outreach: Vigilante courts, seminars, shortwave radio, the Internet, “schools of common law”
    Notable Episodes: 1996 Montana Freeman standoff; 1997 Republic of Texas standoff Tactics “Paper terrorism,” including frivolous lawsuits, frivolous liens, fictitious financial instruments, fictitious automobile-related documents, and misuse of genuine documents such as IRS forms; various frauds and scams
    Hot Tactic: “Redemption” (see below)

    The “sovereign citizen” movement is a loosely organized collection of groups and individuals who have adopted a right-wing anarchist ideology originating in the theories of a group called the Posse Comitatus in the 1970s. Its adherents believe that virtually all existing government in the United States is illegitimate and they seek to “restore” an idealized, minimalist government that never actually existed. To this end, sovereign citizens wage war against the government and other forms of authority using “paper terrorism” harassment and intimidation tactics, and occasionally resorting to violence.

  12. Robert Benson said:

    Touche’, kevpod. You are quite correct on both counts; my oversight and your community-destruction agenda. So…what about the DUI and the garage imprisonment? You know, without a damaged party, any legal action is challengable – Sixth Amendment requirement for standing; though, the challenge may earn you a court ordered visit to perjurious psychologists.

  13. kevpod said:

    Wait, you left out demonizing the homeless. An oversight on your part or am I slipping up on my community-destruction agenda?

  14. Robert Benson said:

    Dun, dun, dah… it’s kevpod to the rescue; saving his advertisers from well-deserved public scrutiny; demonizing their opposition; polishing turds; and spinning hard truths into phantoms of the fringe. Who can withstand the literary Juijitsu of he who reportedly gets locked in Citizen’s garages, while snooping around (trespassing) on private property. Offend and condemn the response is the modus operandi of ill-willed local politics! Enjoy!

  15. Mark Sailors said:

    Just wondering why no one is seeking any of the legal remedies that are available? I understand that it is an ACTUAL crime to violate the Brown act.
    Main Body
    Page 44

    Individuals or the district attorney may file civil lawsuits for injunctive, mandatory or declaratory relief, or to void action taken in violation of the Act.
    54960; 54960.1
    Ch. VII
    Attorneys’ fees are available to prevailing plaintiffs.
    The district attorney may seek misdemeanor penalties against a member of a body who attends a meeting where action is taken in violation of the Act, and where the member intended to deprive the public of information which the member knew or has reason to know the public was entitled to receive.
    Ch. VII

  16. Paul Hooker said:

    Getting back to Shane. At first I thought he was just a whiner, but after reading this week’s Eye, I have changed my mind. Violations of the Brown Act should not be taken lightly, but neither should a public official cussing on public tv. However, I think that what Shane has brought to light should be checked into. If we can get our recycling done cheaper, or, even get paid for it, we should. The citizens of Arcata owe ACRC nothing. My wife recently took a bag of newspaper down and got charged $5! Also, Shane, while you are at it, check out what is going on with the green waste. It is turning out to be not at all what the Arcata citizens were promised in the beginning of the so-called Mandatory Garbage and Recycling Service.

  17. kevpod said:

    No, we didn’t cover the Fifth District race other than publishing all the opinion that came in about it and campaign event notices. We haven’t covered Blue Lake politics for a couple of years now. If we’re going to do that, we have to do a complete job of it, and we were fully occupied with the seven-candidate Arcata council race. If you’d like to know more about our coverage decisions and resource allocation, feel free to ask.

  18. Mitch said:



    The Eye covers Blue Lake as well as Arcata. Blue Lake is in the Fifth District. We hear many dog-bites-man stories about Gallegos fund-raising, Shane Brinton getting upset when shafted, and so on. I’m wondering whether The Eye has covered the DUI and everyone knows what I’m talking about.

  19. Mitch said:


    Why don’t you cover DUIs as well as you cover the f-bomb? One seems an awful lot more significant than the other. Or did you cover it?

  20. Mark Sailors said:

    Generally the “f you” is inside the head, not verbalized. Sometimes it is, and I cant hold that against someone that feels that they have been wronged, especially in a public forum.

    PS Not a Shane supporter, nor a detractor. I am just someone that can understand dropping the f bomb.

  21. kevpod said:

    I won’t belabor the point, but when I read, “Like i said sometimes “fuck you” is all you are left with,” it sounds like the statement, not just the sentiment, is being justified.

  22. kevpod said:

    The point is, leaders have to take responsibility for their actions and utterances, even if we like the other things they do. Period.

  23. kevpod said:

    Sarah Palin’s supporter’s cannot bring themselves to admit that her gunsight-riddled “hit list” was inappropriate, even though she called the crosshairs “bull’s eyes.” They’re finding all kinds of rhetorical workarounds to excuse that horrible lapse of judgment, which one can fairly argue was an incitement to violence.
    Here at home with a case of strictly verbal violence, Shane Brinton’s supporters are calling his breach of civility understandable. But strenuous attempts to justify and excuse it doesn’t do him any favors. As you noted, Mark, anyone can blow up in the heat of the moment. It’s the follow through that is telling, for both Palin and Brinton.

  24. Mark Sailors said:

    Also, it is not “calm reasonableness” to pretend to listen to people when you already have your mind made up on the issues, it is hypocrisy at best, and polite platitudes at worst. Having meetings and getting public input only works if the public input is meaningful and all voices are given equal standing.
    This whole thing stinks of backroom politics as usual.

  25. Mark Sailors said:

    Reasonable people may differ on their opinions.
    That’s why no matter what happens, I love this country.
    Would we have preferred that the F bomb was used outside of the council chambers…….probably, can I understand the lone young person feeling alienated and marginalized by the council……. indeed I can.
    We have all dropped the F bomb in the heat of a disagreement, lucky for us most of us don’t work where our comments are broadcast to the entire world.

  26. kevpod said:

    Those council decisions I cited may or may not be good ones, but the point is that they are by no means the way Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh would have voted.

    “Like i said sometimes “fuck you” is all you are left with.”

    I’ll never agree with that. It’s a failure of intellect, though surely a forgivable one in the heat of the moment. It served no constructive purpose other than to alienate and deepen divisions. There’s no credible defense for that kind of conduct by an elected official in City Council Chamber. The lack of any contrition only compounds the offense.

  27. Mark Sailors said:

    The latest assassination attempt in Arizona has my political blood boiling.
    Didn’t mean to imply that the current council was AS conservative as those mentioned, just that they are not progressives.
    Defending the youth protection act was a complete waste of money, and was impossible to win and everyone knew it. The same thing goes for the offshore Navy testing. It sucks but the council is not in a position to dictate to the federal government nor the military.
    The way it went down smells like backroom good ol boy politics as usual. The only person under 40 on the council gets railroaded off his choice appointment………
    Like i said sometimes “fuck you” is all you are left with.
    As one citizen, I do not feel the need to be apologized to. Frankly I think Shane deserves an apology for how he was treated by his peers.
    Again just my opinion.
    Not that I am a fan of “smart meters”, but i am pretty sure that the courts have already made their position clear in regards to the powers the PUC has: “the California Supreme Court has determined that: “. . .
    the commission’s powers are not limited to those expressly conferred on it: The Legislature further authorizes the commission ‘to do all things whether specifically designated in [the Public Utilities Act] or in addition thereto, which are necessary and convenient’ in the exercise of its jurisdiction over public utilities. Accordingly, ‘the commission’s authority has been liberally construed’
    “(see Consumers Lobby Against Monopolies v.Public Utilities Commission (1979) 25 Cal.3d891, 905 [160 Cal.Rptr. 124, 603 p.2d 41]

    As you know I am not a huge fan of the city council overstepping its legal jurisdiction.

  28. kevpod said:

    Would Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh have pushed to expand the sustainably managed Arcata Community Forest? Would they have committed the City to the Arcata Crossing transitional housing project? Approved lunch service at the NCRC? Would they have defended the Arcata Youth Protection Act? Would they have endorsed an opt-out for Smart Meters? Opposed Navy sonar testing off the coast?

    What do you have to do to be a “real” liberal these days – tell your colleague “fuck you” on the council dais and then not apologize to him and the citizens?

  29. Mark Sailors said:

    Well, sometimes “fuck off” is all we are left with. Knowing that I have seen 3 council people talking about city matters outside of council, I am sure they don’t understand, or don’t care about Brown act violations.
    Shane, they are working to get you marginalized and then voted off the council. You are not conservative enough for the current administration in Arcata. And before you tell me that the council is progressive not conservative , don’t. Compared to REAL liberals and progressives the current council might as well be Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh.
    Just my opinion.

  30. kevpod said:

    Right you are, Nico. Because when it comes to problem solving and community building, nothing beats telling people to fuck off.

  31. nico said:

    This is just another in the stream of coup’d’etat efforts to marginalize the previously long existing recycling programs and to strengthen the arcata garbage company’s stronghold. Arcata’s garbage situation is laughable and ridiculous. Nobody should do anything but question the activities Alex Stillman has her elite gloved mitts upon 😉 Follow the money.

    Keep telling them to Fuck off Mr. Brinton because the system esp. in Arcata IS completely rigged!!

  32. Ceasare Caligari said:

    When our elected servants use filthy language in public, one can only wonder what sort of clandestine activity has been interrupted. I must assume that Mr. Brinton was about to stick his hand in some cookie-jar. It is high time that the people pretending to care for the environment, but are scheming for the main chance, be turned out. I must assume that Mr. Brinton falls into that group.

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