Andrew George Butler
Mad River Union
ARCATA – The Arcata-based non-profit and Facebook collective known as CommUnity Pride and Peace (CPP) formed several action committees Oct. 11 to tackle some of the issues facing the city.
CPP group administrators Stephen Geider, Ken Hamik and Sasha Miksis facilitated the meeting at the D Street Neighborhood Center. All three implored the 40 or so community members, business owners, city staff and police officers in attendance to not just talk about the problems facing the community, but to come up with concrete solutions.
Among the items of interest at the meeting was an update on the progress various sects of the community had made towards removing/relocating the McKinley statue and the nearby plaque at Eighth and H streets which refers to “Indian troubles.”
Seventh Generation Fund Program Officer Louis Gordon shared that removing the plaque is as simple as convincing Jacoby’s Storehouse’s owners, who also own the plaque, to remove it.
Removing the statue of William McKinley, however, is trickier. The statue is owned by the city and is listed as a “community resource.”
Removing the statue, Gordon said, would require a change to the Arcata’s General Plan. There are only four changes allowed to the General Plan in one calendar year. To make the necessary change would require either a direct majority vote from the City Council, or a vote by the public.
The idea of a public vote did not resonate with everyone as a sound idea. One woman said “You can’t have a bunch of ignorant white people vote on the statue; we know what the [verdict] will be.”
After the larger group had finished sharing various community notes, it split into three different action groups; drugs and alcohol (on the Plaza), homelessness, and racial issues, with the goal of brainstorming at least one tangible step towards a solution for each issue.
The Drugs and Alcohol Action Group focused on the Plaza and how to combat substance abuse issues that, according to many of the business owners in the group, affect their livelihoods and safety.
According to Anjali Browning, chair of Arcata’s Public Safety Task Force, 40 percent of the the calls Arcata Police respond to are alcohol related, with many of those calls on the Plaza.
The group focused on alcohol sales to already intoxicated individuals as a large part of the problem. Legally, an intoxicated person cannot be sold alcohol. The consensus of the group, which included an Arcata Police officer, was that many local businesses were not honoring that law. The group decided that to alleviate the sale of alcohol to intoxicated people they would contact local businesses with liquor licenses and encourage more responsible liquor sales.
The Homelessness Action Group focused on the Plaza and its homeless population. The group decided to start by searching for a way to implement a “code of conduct” for the Plaza and its visitors. This code of conduct, which would generally work to suggest socially acceptable and friendly behavior, would be enforced by community members as well as police. Hamik suggested that business owners work in shifts to help develop more of a community policing presence on the Plaza.
The Racial Issues Action Group had an extensive dialogue and committed to meeting once a month. The topic of ignorance as a driving force behind racism surfaced many times during the discussion. The group collectively acknowledged that education would be key in correcting systemic racism.
At the end of the meeting Hamik, Geider and Miksis implored those in attendance to keep the momentum going until real solutions are found.
“Patience is a virtue,” Hamik said. “But sometimes, it’s a weakness.”