County ballot measures see mixed results, Arcata incumbents re-elected

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – Several county-level ballot measures had mixed election results, with proposals to tax marijuana and establish mobile home park rent control achieving success.

But a departmental consolidation plan and a sales tax increase to make headway on the county’s spiraling road repair backlog were struck down by voters.

Measures Q and R defeated

The county proposed to create a new department, the Office of the Director of Finance, by consolidating the auditor-controller and treasurer-tax collector offices and responsibilities into a single department with one leader.

A related measure, Measure R, asked whether the Director of Finance should be a position chosen by voters or appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

The consolidation was promoted as a means of easing the burdens on two small departments that struggle to keep up with increasing amounts of work.

But 54.8 percent of voters sided with the measure’s opponents, including the current auditor-controller and treasurer-tax collector along with the county’s former clerk-recorder. There was doubt about whether a single department would be more efficient and the loss of two elected positions – the auditor-controller and the tax collector – apparently tilted the majority of voters against the measure.

Measure S approved

An excise tax on marijuana cultivation in unincorporated areas easily gained voter support, with a 66 percent approval majority.

The new tax establishes rates of $1 per square foot for outdoor grows, $2 per square foot for mixed light grows and $3 per square foot for indoor grows.

The rates were significantly higher when supervisors initially formulated them, mirroring those seen in other counties. But small-scale growers strongly contested them and even the lower rates proposed in the measure are opposed by many cultivators.

The measure’s supporters included county law enforcers, who view the tax as a way to ensure that growers pay fair shares for a variety of essential services such as public safety, public health, social services and environmental protection.

Measure U defeated

For many years, residents have complained about the condition of county and city roads. And it’s taken many years for road repair backlogs to reach unmanageable levels – the county unincorporated area’s backlog has gone beyond the $250 million mark.

Advanced by the Humboldt County Association of Governments, essentially the county and all its cities, Measure U proposed to catch up on the backlogs by adding a half-cent to local sales taxes.

That would have generated $20 million in road repair revenue over the next 20 years. But in addition to road work – and perhaps to voters’ chagrin – airport service retention and trails and transit infrastructure maintenance were part of Measure U’s spending plan.

The county’s Board of Supervisors supported the measure, although some supervisors were doubtful that voters would tax themselves after doing so with the recent Measure Z public safety sales tax increase.

Those doubts were warranted, as a 52.4 percent majority rejected Measure U.

Measure V approved

Despite being outspent by opponents and enduring a controversy involving one of its lead campaigners, the Mobile Home Park Space Rent Stabilization Initiative Ordinance gained a 55 percent approval majority.

The ordinance’s main provision ties rent increases in county area mobile home parks with 10 or more spaces to the annual consumer price index.

A $5 per month fee for each mobile home space will be charged by the county to cover its costs of administrating the rent control program.

The campaign in support of the measure focused on the takeover power of out-of-town corporations, who were described as rent-gouging predators.

Opponents of the measure included owners of local mobile home parks, who said their rents are reasonable. Another opposition argument was shared by the county – that using the consumer price index as a basis could actually yield higher rents over time.

Measures succeed in cities

Residents of cities also considered local measures and approved all of them.

In Arcata, the city’s Utility Users Tax was renewed with a 52.1 percent approval majority. Initially approved in 1996, the three percent tax on electricity, gas and other utility services provides $900,000 in General Fund revenue per year. The income is used for public safety services and road repair. Voters approved extending the tax for another eight years.

Also in the city, the Arcata School District gained easy approval of Measure H. It renews the $59 per parcel tax that would have otherwise ended in 2017. The measure achieved a 78.5 percent approval majority.

District voters also approved Measure I with a 74 percent majority. The approval vote authorizes sales of $3.9 million of general obligation bonds.

Both measures are for funding education programs and facilities at Arcata Elementary School and Sunny Brae Middle School.

The Jacoby Creek School Bond Measure K was passed with 615 votes, or 58.91 percent.

In Trinidad, voters approved Measure G, which renews the city’s three-quarter percent sales tax for funding essential services. The measure gained a 59.2 percent majority.

Arcata incumbents re-elected

Arcata City Council incumbents were victorious last week, easily holding onto their seats and defeating their challengers.

Susan Ornelas was the top vote getter, with 2,768 votes, or 28.38 percent, followed by Michael Winkler with 2,491 votes, or 25.54 percent, and Paul Pitino, with 2,293 votes, or 23.51 percent.

Challenger Valerie Rose-Campbell received 1,130 votes, or 11.58 percent, and Daniel Murphy received 961 votes, or 9.85 percent.


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