Letters to the Editor: Let us remake ourselves, our towns and society in a more rational fashion

McKinley again?!?

His head is once again on the chopping block, which happens about every 20 years. Whether to keep him or not, that’s always the big question. However, there are a few other things to consider.

The McKinley statue was a gift to the City of Arcata and that gift was accepted by a resolution. If the City Council decides to remove him, is this an indication of how the City handles gifts and would that discourage future gifts? Because the statue is over 50 years old, its removal will require an Environmental Impact Report. Who will pay for the EIR and who will pay for the statue’s removal? Context and relocation must be addressed in the EIR. Arcata Main Street wants the Plaza placed on the National Register of Historic Places. How will the removal of the statue affect that designation?

The Arcata City Council is wondering whether or not to place the decision of McKinley on the November ballot, which also has its own costs. It is important to note that the vote would still be advisory and the council would still have to bite the bullet and make the final decision. Whatever the decision, some of us will be happy and others not.

Don’t we love Arcata? Always something.

Alex Stillman
Arcata citizen

McKmeltdown movement

We are excited about the opportunity for positive change on our central town plaza. The movement to transition from the McKinley statue to something more reflective of our current community is strong.

The idea of replacing the existing statue with a kinetic sculpture has already been proposed. We are writing in support of this concept, as well as expanding on it with ideas that could make it more relevant and widely supported.

We suggest that a call to artists be published, seeking to commission a new piece of public art. The specific requirements would include melting down the existing statue and reusing its metal to create a kinetic sculpture. The repurposing of the metal would be required to be one of the sculpture’s primary components. This would create both an energetic and a material exchange, symbolic of Arcata’s environmental and artistic stance.

A kinetic sculpture would give movement and liveliness to the square and be a draw for locals and tourists of all ages. The kinetic sculpture race has become nationally known as a fun and innovative component of our community. We see this as an opportunity to emphasize a positive aspect of our public image.

Turning the old statue into something new could serve as an example in the ongoing debate about the many politically charged statues throughout our nation, generating good publicity for our town. The re-use of the old statue’s materials would include and reference the past.

The installation of a plaque with a statement of intent, what the metal was in its original state and some history about the process of its’ transition would be an integral part of this project.

We see it as community driven project. A call to artists would be widely distributed and a sum of money offered for this important piece of public art. Funds would need to be raised for both the commission and installation. The proposals could be reviewed and judged by a diverse community group, including Plaza business owners, historians, local tribe representatives, City Council members, Plaza police patrol, as well as artists and other interested citizens.

We back this idea as a way for McKinley, and Arcata, to transform, not hiding the past, but stepping into the future with a sense of possibility and responsibility.

Jeannie Fierce, artist, member, Arcata Artisans Gallery, Co-owner Wildberries Marketplace
Anna Oneglia, artist, member,
Arcata Artisans Gallery

Is life possible in Arcata?

What makes a city the vital life-center of a community aside from a good newspaper and a colorful population?

New York has a bay, a river, universities, and a beautiful centrally-located park; San Francisco has a bay, a river, universities and a beautiful, centrally-located park; Arcata has a bay, a river, a university and a baneful, centrally-located bronze statue. (And – Yes, there’s that fantastic forest on the slopes to the east.) These cities are exemplary to other centers, and alike in that they belong, not only to residents but also to those of us who visit and value them. The little city of Arcata, given some thoughtful town-planning, could become a paragon for development for California. The next Planning Commission meeting is February 27. Very soon Planco will address the questions and proposals made by citizens.

Developers on this curve of the coast are faced with a raft of incredible problems. Quakes, fires and floods are anticipated and planned for, however, another major problem is endemic. Every year, about a thousand college freshmen arrive with cars right on schedule, and this beautiful little town becomes a car-cluttered quagmire! Mad River Union was right on in featuring the Dec. 20, 2017 guest opinion by Greg King: “What if they built The Village and nobody came … with a car?”) Greg spells it out: “HSU could, like other colleges, prohibit first-year students from bringing cars.” Alert town planners and thoughtful University administrators will, no doubt, have considered this suggestion with regard to the major developments proposed for Arcata. Reportedly, AMCAL, the company scheduled to build “The Village,” “would be happy” to build dorms with 369 fewer parking spaces. Consequently, there would be more ferns and less fumes, more reading, and less road rage, more stars and less street lights. A beautiful little park in that bustling building complex would be a pleasant surprise.

My wife and I live in a coastal woodland south of Trinidad. Arcata is our favorite little city among the many, in the various continents where we have lived and worked. I have very little to add to Greg’s suggestions. We knew this resourceful activist years ago when he was a youngster, in what was a rural area west of Santa Rosa. His parents, Tom and Jessie King, were good friends. (Incidentally, “King Range” is a family namesake.) Greg abandoned promising career opportunities and risked all in becoming a notable conservationist - on track with John Muir and Lucille Vinyard. Greg lives in Arcata, and like the rest of us, hopes that horror that happened in Santa Rosa will not occur elsewhere!

A small portion of Greg’s January article is copied as follows: “HSU affords Arcata and North Coast many cultural, intellectual and economic opportunities that only a college can provide ... Municipalities around the world are planning for the benefit of PEOPLE with great success. … Arcata policymakers and planners can and should create a transportation paradigm that nurtures and rewards car-free travel. That’s the future. Let’s embrace it.”

John Wiebe

Drone issues need answers

Daniel Mintz highlights the intention of corporations to test their drones in Humboldt county in his article, “ACV a corporate droneport?” Mintz points out that this decision will be up to the Board of Supervisors, but should it be? In a time when major corporations harvest, mine, and sell users’ data throughout the entirety of the internet, should the public subject themselves to physical surveillance as well?

While this opportunity may be beneficial for the corporations and the county, how will this benefit the citizens? Added tax revenue at the expense of privacy? Who are these “large corporations” and what kind of data or tests will they be conducting or gathering? In a time when the FCC is proposing to rollback regulations that keep privacy barriers in place, how can the public subject themselves to other forms of surveillance? The time of unlimited technological growth at the expense of our privacy needs to end.

The idea that the rurality of Humboldt is beneficial is ridiculous. The whole idea rurality is what has brought many people to this area. It is what has brought students from the cities here to escape the bustling, noisy, intrusive, and overseeing nature of the city. These tests from unnamed corporations will be nothing but an additional intrusion into the privacy many have sought.

The decision on whether or not to approve this measure absolutely needs a public comment hearing. The rural populous should have the opportunity to comment on a decision that allows further intrusion into their lives.

Freddy Brewster

Don’t drone me, bro

I am writing to express my concerns regarding the possibility of using ACV as a testing ground for UAS, or “drone" aircraft. The article in the Mad River Union dated January 31 has no information about rules and restrictions that would protect the quality of life here in McKinleyville or the safety of residents, yet these are necessary considerations. The article quotes David Marshall as saying that the rural quality of this area means that “if something bad happens it won’t be a big deal,” but of course it would be a very big deal to the resident whose body or property was crashed into by a drone.

I am a retired commercial pilot and I have an understanding of aviation safety requirements, as well as empathy for the public’s need to protect quality of life parameters, such as noise. I live on Azalea Avenue in view of the ACV approach. Over the years this neighborhood has been increasingly impacted by aircraft noise, and both the increase in number of flights and the transition to jet aircraft have contributed to this problem. Also, Coast Guard helicopters regularly violate the FAA’s minimum AGL (above ground level) requirement for flight over a populated area. We already have too many aircraft flying low and disturbing the peace in McKinleyville. I have been talking with my neighbors, and none of us want to see (or hear) any increase in air traffic.

In addition to exacerbating the aircraft noise problem, low-flying drone aircraft would create invasion of privacy issues, as they are generally used for video purposes and are often guided using the video data. Would your backyard still feel private when a drone flew over you, and you knew that there was someone watching the video feed from its cameras?

Public safety is, of course, a huge issue. People involved in an “experiment” should be volunteers, and not be subjected to potential hazards against their will, or without their knowledge. The article in the Mad River Union is in agreement with various articles in the Wall Street Journal over the last year that while drone technology has a variety of potential commercial applications, it is still a fledgling technology. As such it is a danger to a residential community.

Two years ago I was standing at the arrivals gate at the airport, watching my wife’s flight on final approach. Suddenly a Coast Guard helicopter crossed over the field from the west at very low altitude, in violation of control zone regulations, and the United Airlines pilot correctly aborted his landing approach and flew around for a second (and successful) approach to landing.

While I have great respect for both the safety mission and courage of the Coast Guard, either their training parameters or lack of experience make them a wild card in our local airspace.

While helicopters are large and easy to see while on approach, drone aircraft are not, and the safety of passengers who use ACV requires that we do not permit any other potentially unpredictable aircraft hazards.

Thomas Fossier

A double standard

At the State of McKinleyville meeting on Jan. 18 at Azalea Hall one of the audience members asked the question “why did the Planning Commission (PC) remove the restriction to keep Cannabis operations at least 600 feet from a school bus stop?” Supervisor Sundberg’s appointee to the Planning Commission, Ben Shepherd answered the question.

Mr. Shepherd said that all of the public testimony at the Planning Commission hearing recommended that the restriction be removed so that is what the PC did. He went on to say that if folks wanted a say in these decisions they should show up to the hearings and testify.

This is a “double sandard” on the part of Mr. Shepherd. At the same PC meeting where they eliminated the 600-foot requirement, there was a hearing on the volatile hash lab request for a zoning change and cannabis application from Mercer Frasier (MF).

During that hearing virtually all testimony was opposed to the MF application, except the applicant and their representatives. In this case Ben Shepherd led the charge to approve the application and zoning change to heavy industrial and he and a majority of the Planning Commissioners walked right over public comment. So much for listening to the public testimony which included the water district that serves most of the water customers in Humboldt County.

The same “double standard” happened on a previous MF application for another volatile hash lab in the Willow Creek area. This lab would be next to a major recreation area called Big Rock and it would be near a school.

The Willow Creek Community Services District (WCCSD) and many community members opposed this application and zoning change and yet Ben and a majority of the Planning Commissioners approved the application and zoning change. So much for listening to public comment. It would appear that moneyed interests overrule the publics concerns for water and safety.

So what does our supervisor think about all of this? Here is a post he made on the McKinleyville Watch page just the other day.

Ryan Sundberg: I heard this was passed at the Planning Commission meeting last night, I am not sure what the vote was though. Sounds like it is likely to be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. It won’t be rubber stamped, all projects are carefully reviewed and follow strict CEQA and State laws. I have not reviewed the project yet (so I don’t know if I will be for or against) since it has not been to the Board, only the Planning Commission. If you have comments further for me on this, please email to [email protected]

Thanks, Ryan. Sounds good right? If this is true then it should be no problem for Mr. Sundberg to vote against this application and rezoning request. The community is watching closely and will see if the Board of Supervisors (BOS) listens to community concerns or if the fix is already in to approve this project. The fact that this project was on the consent agenda for approval at the PC shows that there was intent to simply approve this without much public input.

Many in the community feel that the stage was already set for approval of this project awhile back when the BOS approved the General Plan designation to changed the allowed uses to heavy industrial for this project. This change was done with the knowledge of the MF application for the hash lab so that everything would line up later to approve the application. The earlier BOS hearing archives on the General Plan Update can be reviewed to verify this information.

Other comments made by the Planning Director John Ford and several Planning Commissioners at the MF hearing were also stated incorrectly. They stated because the GP designations for the MF parcel and been changed that planning law required a zoning change to match that GP change. There is no such planning law. In fact it works just the opposite to what was stated. The correct statement would be that if a zoning change was going to be made then it should be consistent with the GP designation, but does not have to as the GP is simply a guideline. There are many case in county planning where zoning changes were made that were not consistent with the GP.

Additionally, there are several zoning options that the PC could consider for the MF parcel that would be consistent with the GP update, without making it heavy industrial.

The real question here is do our elected representatives and appointed Planning Commissioners listen to community concerns and act to protect our water supplies, or do they do the bidding of the moneyed interests, public concerns be dammed.

Barbara Russell


Separate truth and fiction

“Me, too,” we should all say, “time’s up”for sexual harassment and abuse of power. With these current concerns, can we also include discussion about misuse of domestic violence laws, bully tactics by some family law attorneys, and the complacence of judges who allow these tactics?

Domestic violence law allows court orders for the emergency eviction from the home of a violent person who threatens to hurt his or her partner.

However, though surprise eviction is intended to protect abused partners, there are attorneys who have misused the domestic violence evictions to grab, for the attorney’s client, the evicted partner’s property and gain child custody, without the court first hearing the evicted party’s side of the story.

Such misuse of domestic-violence evictions weakens the law’s protections. When there is not an emergency, lawyers should not be allowed to claim one.

When there is not a clear history of domestic violence, before eviction the county should investigate the attorney’s claims. The county has a District Attorney, Public Defender, and the court’s family law investigator. They can check the allegations. Such investigation can determine whether there is truly an emergency, and whether the case justifies ex parte denial of an accused person’s basic rights.

The court, by endorsing false allegations and legitimizing lies, fosters abuse of laws intended to protect people from domestic violence, inflicts unjust denial of constitutional rights, causes excessive legal costs, and destroys family relations.

As our awareness grows – of human rights and gender stereotypes – we should not allow such misuse of domestic violence law. Perhaps the next generation of Superior Court judges will hold family law attorneys to a higher standard.

I am interested in your readers’ own stories, whether they support or dispute my views: please write me at [email protected].

Jon Hedlund


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