Mad River Union
ARCATA – The Wednesday, March 21 City Council meeting is described as "special" on its official agenda, likely because the subject matter – a 112-year-old hunk of bronze – has forced the meeting to be held at the Arcata Community Center, 321 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. The council meeting begins at 6 p.m.
The agenda includes some routine matters, such as the Annual Report by the Economic Development Committee, consideration of the Western Greenbelt Plan, a committee appointment and ceremonial matters.
On the Consent Calendar is a wrongful death claim by the parents of Ervin Sweat, Jr., the man shot to death by police on the Plaza on Sept. 9, 2017. The claim, which will be routinely rejected and sent to the city's insurance carrier for evaluation, asks for damages "in excess of $75,000." Named in the claim are the City of Arcata and APD and HSU police officers. The claim alleges that officers were "negligent and malicious in their dealings with Decedent Ervin Sweat, Jr., and used excessive force against him by shooting him and killing him."
The first item under Old Business is "Consider a Voting Process to Assess the Community's Preference for a New Location for the President William McKinley Statue."
The last meeting that included the statue as an agenda item, on Feb. 21, saw City Council Chamber packed to capacity, mostly with anti-statue advocates clamoring for removal of the longtime Plaza fixture. Notes a staff report, "The statue has been the subject of much discussion and debate spanning over several decades." The City Council has met at the Community Center in years past in order to accommodate crowds, on controversial matters of homelessness and corporate regulation.
At the March 7 City Council meeting, during the normally dry Council and Staff Reports segment, Councilmember Susan Ornelas offered a written "suggestion" (see below) that the council consider a multiple-choice advisory ballot measure listing preferences for the statue's post-Plaza destination. Among the nine listed options was the "Plaza Center," where the statue is located now.
A staff report states that "Initial review with the Humboldt County Elections Office indicates that the Humboldt County voting system cannot produce a ballot that would allow for the type of vote we are requesting. For ballot initiatives in the county’s voting system, the question must be answered with a simple yes or no vote. An update on the options for processing the vote will be presented at the council meeting."
The staff report says that more detail on costs associated with the ballot measure will be presented at the meeting, adding that "An additional measure on the November ballot would add approximately $5,000 to the cost of the election. Arcata currently has 9,611 registered voters. A mail-in or staff-supervised election process that required either manual counting of the votes or staffing a computer system to administer the vote would cost more than adding a vote to the November ballot. It is estimated that the cost to print and mail ballots to each registered voter is approximately $6,000."
Back to the plaque
Last Thursday's meeting of the Historic Landmarks Committee (HLC) included appointment of a two-person subcommittee to develop language for a new plaque to replace the one recently removed from the corner of Eighth and H streets. The plaque indicated the Historic Landmark designation for the Jacoby Building. It was removed for its misleading reference to "Indian troubles."
HLC Chair Don Tuttle said he and member William Rich will consult with the Wiyot Tribe and the owners of the Jacoby Building in formulating more appropriate language. "We'll have to see what's acceptable to all parties," Tuttle said.