McK committee to decide whether it can discuss racism

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee will not discuss racism or the Ku Klux Klan when it meets Wednesday, July 26. Instead, it will discuss whether to discuss racism, and if a majority of the committee members agree to do so, then the matter will be placed on a future agenda.

McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee member Craig Tucker tried to get the issue placed on the May 31 agenda, but committee Chair Ben Shepherd refused to do so, saying the issue is outside the committee’s purview.

A frustrated Tucker, at the May 31 meeting, argued that he should be able to get items on the agenda. Ultimately, the committee reverted to a policy it had previously approved, which allows items be placed on the agenda if two committee members support doing so. Kevin Dreyer gave his support to Tucker’s request.

But, according to Shepherd, Dreyer did so with the understanding that racism would only be placed on the agenda if it was determined that the issue did, in fact, fall under the committee’s purview.

According to Shepherd, the issue is not part of the committee’s purview based on the rules and regulations updated in October 2014 by the Board of Supervisors.

Those rules state:

The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee is tasked with gathering input from the community and providing advice on matters which relate to services which are or may be provided to the McKinleyville Community Planning Area by the county or other local government agencies. The advice to be provided by the MMAC includes but is not limited to advice on matters of public health, safety, welfare, public works, public financing and proposed annexations that may affect the local area covered by the MMAC. The MMAC is not intended to address countywide matters unless those matters have a localized impact within the area mapped on Figure 1 [which is basically a map of McKinleyville] and described as the territorial jurisdiction of the MMAC.

A secondary responsibility of the MMAC is to review, comment and provide advisory recommendations to the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors on proposed zoning amendments, and General Plan petitions and amendments located within the McKinleyville Planning Area related to conformance with the McKinleyville Community Plan. The MMAC will also discuss and provide input on long-range planning issues.

The rules also spell out what the committee is not allowed to do:

The MMAC will not review, comment and provide advisory recommendations on the subdivisions, conditional use permits, special permits, coastal development permits or variances unless they are part of a larger project which also includes a General Plan Amendment or Zone Reclassification. The MMAC will make recommendations on proposed zoning, General Plan petitions and amendments, but is not a decision-making body. The MMAC will not have authority to make, set, provide interpretation of or enforce county ordinances, policies or laws.

Shepherd interprets these rules as disallowing a discussion on racism.

Shepherd said that while he may get some bad press for having the committee stay within its scope, “that is my job as chair.”

In an email, Shepherd wrote “I did not unilaterally place the topic on the agenda because I believe that it is likely outside the scope of the committee as described in the Rules, Regulations and Procedures and Operation of The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee, revised in October 2014. This document gives us the power to advise the Board of Supervisors on McKinleyville matters. It is best, in my judgement, to rely on the collective wisdom of the committee members to decide if this is within our scope.”

Tucker was out of town last week, but when interviewed in June he explained his reasons for wanting the committee to discuss racism.

Tucker said that when he tells people he is from McKinleyville, they respond with “McKlaneyville” and mention a persistent rumor that the town has a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist organization with a history of terrorism.

A search of the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, turns up no mention of the Ku Klux Klan in McKinleyville.

Tucker said he does not know whether there is a serious problem with racism in McKinleyville, or whether it’s a  perception problem.  An advisory committee meeting, he said, would be the proper venue for the community to discuss the issue.

The committee meets at 6 p.m. at the Middle School Conference Center located at the backside of McKinleyville Middle School, 2285 Central Ave., McKinleyville.


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