Collin Yeo: The 2020 Mad River Union Arcata City Council Candidate Questionnaire

Mad River Union

Welcome to the exhaustive, and probably exhausting, 2020 Mad River Union Arcata City Council Candidate Questionnaire, starring Stacy Atkins-Salazar, Emily Grace Goldstein, Nicholas Matthews, Oryan Peterson-Jones, Paul Pitino, Sarah Schaefer, Kimberley White, Michael Winkler, Collin Yeo and Camilla Zapata.

Every election cycle we find out things we should have asked the previous batch of candidates, and update the questionnaire with those questions plus whatever new issues have cropped up.

In submitting the questions to the candidates, we stipulated the following:

• All questions are optional. Answer or ignore any you like.

• Please number your responses so we’re clear which question you’re answering. Feel free to combine them, that is, apply one answer to more than one question.

• Try and be as succinct as you can. With 10 candidates, there is going to be a lot of pressure on our pages.

• But feel free to direct readers to other, or online resources for more expansive responses via links.

• Answers won’t be edited in any way other than to take out double spaces. We won’t alter any wording, nor correct spelling, punctuation or usage.

Some candidates followed the guidelines more faithfully than others. Experience over the years has shown some correlation between a candidate’s expression and their performance in other areas, and that’s why we don’t make any corrections. What you see is what we got.

At the top of each page are the questions we posed to the candidates, with their responses below. The way to use this thing is to look at the numbered questions, then find the numbered answer. This may require some flipping back and forth between pages, but given the widely varying length of the candidates’ responses, there was no practical way to make sure the questions and their answers were always on the same page.

Just for fun and to change things up a bit, we went with reverse alphabetical order in listing the candidates’ answers.

Oh, and sorry about the 9-point type. With 10 candidates, multitudinous times call for desperate measures.

A sincere thank you to all of the candidates for putting up with our inquisitions, deadlines and for giving the voters of Arcata 10 worthy choices for the three open seats on the five-member City Council.

The questions

1. Why are you running for Arcata City Council? (Give your elevator pitch.)

2. How much time can you devote on a weekly basis to council business?

3. Are you comfortable with reading and assimilating lengthy or technical staff reports and contracts?

4. What are your areas of special focus and/or expertise, and what initiatives might you undertake?

5. Which, if any, outside organizations would you like to serve as council liaison to?

6. To what extent should Arcata involve itself in national and international issues, or stick to local business?

7. Are there any recent City Council actions or outcomes you’d have handled differently?

8. Have you reviewed the City Council Protocol Manual? If so, do you have any thoughts on it? Does it seem complete?

9. What do you think of the City Council’s goals?

What do you think of:

10. The city’s plans for upgrading its wastewater treatment system

11. The city’s efforts to achieve equity

12. The city’s housing policies

13. The city’s sustainable forestry policies

14. The National Police Foundation and Humboldt County Grand Jury found grave systemic shortcomings in the Arcata Police Department’s investigation of the killing of Humbodt State Student David Josiah Lawson. For months, APD assured the City Council and the public that it was doing everything it could – and yet it turns out, it wasn’t. To what extent is the Arcata City Council responsible for this failure, in terms of its oversight responsibilities?

15. Should Arcata defund or otherwise restructure its police department and law enforcement paradigm?

16. What are your thoughts on Black Lives Matter?

What do you think about these ballot measures:

17. Measure A, the Open Space tax?

18. Measure B, the low-income housing tax?

19. Measure F, the Arcata Fire property tax?

20. Are there any state propositions you feel strongly about?

21. What’s your magic wand top three changes you’d make to Arcata?

22. If while serving as a councilmember, you make a factual misstatement, will you correct it?

23. Are you committed to serving out your entire term, and is there any reason that you can’t?

24. Do you have any conflicts of interest that will prevent you from participating in council business? (These could include business relationships with individuals and companies who have matters on which you’d have to rule, such as major developments.)

25. Has Arcata’s response to the coronavirus pandemic been adequate?

26. Is Arcata adequately preparing for climate change?

27. Which Arcata services would you improve or reduce?

28. Do you agree with Arcata’s long-term efforts to de-emphasize private vehicular travel in favor of alternative transportation?

29. What are your thoughts on reducing traffic on the Plaza, possibly by lane closures?

30. From time to time it is suggested that a parking facility be built downtown. Thoughts?

31. Do you support recent water and wastewater rate increases? If not, how would you fund improvements to the obsolescent wastewater treatment plant?

32. Does Valley West get its fair share of city resources?

33. Does Arcata do right by its seniors? Youth?

34. Does the Plaza Farmers’ Market need any adjustments?

(Background: we’re talking about normal times. It’s been suggested that the market has become overly bloated with features, and might better be located elsewhere, such as at the Community Center. There is also pushback by some Plaza merchants who say the Farmers’ Market does nothing for them, or even hurts their business.)

35. Did you support removal of the McKinley statue, and why or why not?

36. Does Arcata’s relationship with Humboldt State need any adjustments or improvements?

37. Arcata is on a perpetual cycle of its natural areas being left trashed, then volunteers going out and cleaning them out, and then repeating that sequence ad infinitum. Can anything practical and systemic be done to break this cycle?

38. Will you handle situations where regular order is challenged any differently that recent City Council have?
(Background: Over the last 20 years, impassioned activists have at times refused to observe speaking time limits, shouted down citizens with whom they disagreed, even halted council meetings and blocked journalists from accessing Council Chamber.)

39. What is the role of science in City Council decisionmaking? For example, how will you handle it when community members’ strongly held opinions clash with science, for example on climate change, or community water fluoridation?

40. Should Arcata fluoridate its water?

41. Is Arcata properly handling regulation and management of its cannabis industry?

42. Are traditional community organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Arcata Main Street still relevant?

43. Rather personal questions, optional of course

44. What’s your ideal Arcata day off?

45. What news sources (not including the Mad River Union) do you consider credible and how frequently do you access them?

46. List any volunteer work that you do.

47. Which of the other two City Council candidates are you voting for? (Feel free to mention any other candidates for local, regional, state or even national races you like.)

48. Pick one: Lennon or McCartney.

49. Pineapple on pizza, yea or nay?

50. Oxford commas, yea or nay?

51. What’s topping your playlist right now?

52. Any podcasts you might recommend?

53. If you aren’t elected, will you still try to serve and improve Arcata? How?

Collin Yeo

1) First and foremost I decided to run because a few different people in the community approached me and asked me to do so. I have been a music and culture writer for the North Coast Journal for the past three years and during that time many people have come to know me as a passionate defender of marginalized people and leftist politics and economics. I have a rapport with the community which is literally based on listening, a quality that I feel is extremely important for an elected representative. My whole platform, in fact, has been built entirely on policies which people in this community have told me they were passionate about. I consider the position of city councilperson to be one of community advocate, and I intend to advocate for people who often don’t have much of a voice at the table.

2) I am self-employed and have very little personal overhead, so I can devote 25 hours a week to this position, more if there’s an emergency. But more to the point, the position is “at large,” so I will always make myself available to the concerns of the community as much as I can.

3) Yes. I’m a constant reader, and a large part of my job as a writer involves learning about, processing, and understanding new information. I enjoy that sort of thing, I’m wired for it.

4) I am a lifelong member of the working class, and as such I intimately understand the issues of working people, of renters, of those who are not operating at the elite level of society but rather common folk. I am specifically interested in affordable housing and rent control, as secure shelter and housing is far too precarious for far too many people in our community.

5) I am a fan of True North and have been impressed with that organization for some time. I would happily be a voice for them on the city council. But more to the point, I am happy to listen to and engage with many of the great organizing groups in our community.

6) The local is the first step towards the global, and we should consider ourselves as a part of the world community. As such, we as a city should divest ourselves from companies that are actively destroying the future of a habitable world. Similarly, we should absolutely reject any politicians, organizations, and ideologies which promote exclusion and exploitation if we wish to continue building a more just and civil society.

7) While I applaud the efforts of the city for an eviction moratorium, I favor a longer period of time, as the economic effects of the pandemic are just getting started.

8) Yes I have and it is very thorough. My only suggestion would be an update of Chapter 8-City Council Meetings, to clarify what changes need to be made to meeting protocol and informing the public in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

9) I support the broadly-worded six general goals for the city, and am specifically in support of policy objective 10, “Collaborate with other jurisdictions and non-profits to maximize regional effectiveness and increase funding opportunities,” as that wording can, if charitably interpreted, include the development and implementation of multi-city public banking in California as a means to address the housing crisis, among other issues.

10) I believe that the scale of the project is quite massive, but that the project itself is necessary for the future of the city.

11) We have a ways to go but we have made some positive hires and are having discussions which are long overdue.

12) I would like to see Measure B passed and a general rezoning in the new city plan with a mind towards affordable long term housing. 

13) The city’s forestry policy is best viewed as a public utility. There is certainly room for improvement in the area of trail maintenance and accessibility, but overall everything is vastly preferable to what a private entity would be doing with the land.

14) It is the council’s job to hold the police department fully accountable for its behavior and to demand public transparency in its actions. To the extent that those needs weren’t met, the council holds some culpability for that. If elected I will push for accountability, civilian review, reform, and transparency for the APD.

15) I believe that the city should restructure its police department and take a hard look at what law enforcement means in 21st century America. I believe that the amount of training that officers have in this city has improved, however I also believe that it is more appropriate for unarmed personnel to handle non-violent cases and that a restructuring with that in mind would in fact benefit both the public and the police department and its officers.

16) Black Lives Matter is one of the most important social movements in my lifetime and is unfortunately desperately needed today. We live in a racist society but we do not have to live in a racist society forever. Seeing humanity in our fellow citizens and collectively working to destroy the vast machines of racist oppression and exploitation which go back to our nation’s founding and which are codified in its institutions is the most noble pursuit for any American seeking justice. There is no room for divergence on this issue of human rights.

17-18) I support Measures A and B because they both exhibit what really makes this community great, which are vast and beautiful green spaces, forests, and marshes, and the ability for people of any class and economic means to share those spaces as an invested member of this community.

19) I support Measure F, the only criticism which I have heard from some of my fellow Arcatans is that the flatness of the tax does not take into account some people who own a home but are on fixed incomes and do not have the same resources as other homeowners in the community.

20) There are many state propositions which I feel strongly about. I am vehemently in support of Props 15 and 21, as the progressive taxation from the former and local rent control possibilities from the latter would both be very good for the majority of people in our community. I am strongly opposed to Prop 19 which I feel is a carrot and stick piece of legislation being pushed by the real estate industry with far too little carrot for the unfair tax break it is offering to people who were lucky enough to buy property generations ago. Prop 22 is also a terrible anti-labor piece of legislation which if passed will require an absurd ⅞ majority to overturn. A naked power grab from Uber and Lyft, whose workers would be far better served if those predatory companies just spent the nearly $200 million dollars in advertising on improving the lives of its workers. Gross, a hard no on 22.

21) Top three changes I would like to see happen in Arcata if I had a magic wand. I’m sad to say that none of these items should exist in the metaphysical realm of possibility but we live in an age of austerity and injustice.

1) I want Josiah Lawson’s killer brought to justice. His murder is a shameful and tragic part of our community’s story and for the good of his family and our town his case needs to be resolved. 

2) I would want Arcata to be a city located in a state where the ultra-wealthy paid their fair share of taxes and that money was then invested in the public good. That’s the only form of “trickle down” economics that I believe in, only it wouldn’t be a trickle it would be a vast delta of plenty.

3) I would house every single person who wants to live in our community in a dignified home that provided for their needs and fit the aesthetics of our charming town.

22) Of course, provided that it’s a serious misstatement and not just a mild turn of phrase or something that would constitute hair-splitting.

23) Yes absolutely. I wouldn’t be running if I were not committed to spending the full amount of time and energy that the position requires.

24) No.

25) Overall I am impressed with the city as well as the community’s response, which is borne out in our low infection rate. There is always room for improvement, but overall I believe that the city has managed this pandemic well so far.

26) That is a difficult question to answer, as we are still learning how rapidly and by how much our climate is changing. I would suggest that Arcata is as a whole taking the issue seriously, which puts it ahead of a great many other communities across America. A consensus on the vast threat that climate change represents is certainly more cohesive here than in places where science deniers run the show.

27) I would like to see an improvement on our transportation system, which is a concern that many car-less Arcatans have shared with me, particularly during the pandemic.

28) In general, yes. As long as we consider the needs of our county’s rural population who still require vehicles to work and shop here, as well as the needs of those who do not enjoy the same mobility as the average citizen.

29) I am in favor of this idea, or perhaps even making the plaza vehicle-free, provided that we offset the changes with parking elsewhere and that we work with our business owners to make sure that their needs are met as well.

30) If it could be done efficiently with minimal environmental and aesthetic impact, I am open to the notion of a parking structure, provided that the public is allowed to participate in the project.

31) I am in favor of the rate change provided that the funds are being efficiently used to meet the demands of a growing public on aging infrastructure.

32) Not really. Valley West is in bad shape at the moment, but I look forward to positive development there in the future.

33) It’s difficult to gauge. Like many Arcatans, I have intergenerational friendships going in both directions, but I don’t have any children or grandparents. I believe that in general the city is pretty good to its citizens.

34) I like the Farmer’s Market and I think that the North Coast Grower’s Association has done a pretty good job managing things, particularly during Covid. If anything I feel that the city should provide more support to NCGA, particularly when it comes to mask enforcement and waste removal.

35) At first I was somewhat agnostic to the idea either way, but as I heard from members of the community, particularly those from the native community, I came to support the removal. In retrospect it seems bizarre that a statue of William McKinley was ever here to begin with. Apart from being assassinated by an anarchist, there are very few laudable qualities about the man’s political career. In general I tend to think that statues of politicians age about as well as an industrial meat locker during a midsummer power outage.

36) Yes. The city should be more open to listening to the voices of the students, particularly those who are from minority groups who feel unsafe here. I also believe that the city council should have exchanged a public letter with President Jackson about the public’s concerns regarding the San Jose State football team’s use of HSU’s facilities during a pandemic. I spoke with many citizens who were very vocally concerned about that issue.

37) What I believe we would need is a cultural shift in some attitudes about dumping in public spaces, but more pragmatically, if we really want to keep our spaces clean we need to pay people to do that. I admire and applaud our volunteers, I myself have volunteered my time picking up trash in Arcata, but ultimately I believe that it’s the city’s responsibility to keep the city clean. 

38) I played in punk and metal bands for over a decade and I’m not too bothered by unconventional public decorum or shouting. Some people feel that they will not be heard in any other way and in some cases they are correct. They have my sympathy and some groups even have my solidarity.

39-40) Science is what we use to determine the boundaries and nature of the material world, so science is extremely important in the development of public policy. However, science isn’t an objective blanket term to most people, and emotional arguments often get confused for scientific discussions in the general public discourse. Arcata, and Humboldt County in general, is somewhat known for this sort of thinking. While I have seen reputable publications publish studies and opinions which suggest that we should revisit the 75 year-old practice of water fluoridation, I haven’t seen anything yet which convinces me that fluoridating water in minute doses as we do in Arcata is harmful. Which is not to say that I couldn’t be convinced if strong data from a reputable source (i.e. not your uncle’s Facebook page) were to become known to the public. There’s very little strict orthodoxy in the evolving library of knowledge that the scientific world provides for us, and rethinking previous discoveries and assumptions in the light of new data is generally a good thing.

41) In regards to permitting and business growth, more or less. In regards to labor rights and prevailing wages, no.

42) Yes, although the structures of these organizations, particularly the Chamber of Commerce, are probably due for some modern upgrades. As long as these organizations don’t hold hegemony over the economic discourse, of course.

43) Reading in a good book from Northtown Books or the Tincan Mailman during a picnic in Redwood Park, a run at the marsh, a bike ride through the bottoms, and a cocktail at the Alibi or Richard’s Goat are all pretty nice on their own. When taken in together over the course of a day, in fog or sunshine, it’s a little slice of paradise.

44) We have great local media here and I am very lucky to be a contributing writer to the media landscape. Apart from this publication, The North Coast Journal, Lost Coast Outpost, and Red-Headed Blackbelt are all good bets for readers who are hungry for local coverage. Nationally/ internationally it’s a bit more of a grab bag but I am a fan of the Intercept, Jacobin, The Nation, The Wall Street Journal (gotta peek over the fence and see what the moneybags are planning) the baffler, and Current Affairs from New Orleans. I tend to regularly read something from the L.A. Times, The Old Gray Lady, the Guardian, and the Washington Post weekly but I try not to give those papers too much credit, particularly after watching Judith Miller sell us an illegal war in real time when I was in my 20’s.

46) I am happy to share the race with so many good candidates and am assured and strengthened in the knowledge that no matter who wins the city will be in good hands. In terms of policy strengths, research, and temperament, I am really impressed with Camilla Zapata. But I want to stress that voting in this race is very hard for me because there are so many excellent candidates who have a plethora of great qualities. 

47) Harry Nilsson

48) Sure why not. Depends on the slice.

49) Yes, absolutely.

50) Locally I really enjoyed the last record by White Manna, ‘Arc,’ and my brother Ian just released a banger track and a video on YouTube under the name Ruffian called ‘Red Giant.’

Other than that I’ve really been enjoying the folk songbook of the French composer Charles Gounod. In my truck I’m usually blasting Thin Lizzy or Morphine on a good day.

51) Yes. I tend to like history podcasts and am a huge fan of Age of Napoleon, Mass For Shut-Ins, The Dollop, and Mike Duncan’s Revolutions. I also co-host a podcast with my friend Kit who lives in L.A. It’s about philosophy, religion, and politics and it’s called ‘Bad Faith,’ which has become somewhat annoying because some more established podcasters in NYC just popped up about a month ago and took the name without asking. But we’re on Spotify and Twitter and other platforms. [email protected] and @BadFaithPodOG on Twitter.

52) Yes if I am not elected I’m not going anywhere and I will still continue to be a writer, gadfly, and man of the people about town. I’ll continue to write about local issues and highlight our many people and their diverse needs as we navigate this big scary time.


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