Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – A group that sprang from discussions of Community PRIDE Project participants is mounting an unprecedented effort to dismount the Plaza’s statue of William McKinley.
Under the name of “Transforming the Heart of Our Community,” the group held a community meeting Sunday afternoon at the Hotel Arcata that was attended by more than a dozen people.
Organizers plan a slow and systematic approach, beginning with a petition drive to qualify a ballot initiative so that Arcata voters can decide the matter. That will require gaining 1,200 valid signatures by Monday, May 2, 2016 so that a measure may appear on the November 2016 ballot.
In recent years, McKinley has been condemned as a cultural imperialist and worse – a glowering relic whose values are out of step with today’s Arcata. That once-marginal view appears to have gained some traction in the mainstream, though to what extent is not known. Many still value the statue as a unique and historic artifact, and Arcata’s premier piece of public art.
Commissioned by Arcata pioneer George Zehndner and wrought by sculptor Haig Patigian, the statue was installed in 1906. In the 1990s, the statue’s marble steps were covered by a planter during an overall Plaza refurbishment.
As to what would replace McKinley, the “Transform” group will work to forge a post-Bill vision. Ideas are abundant, and include a gazebo, bandshell, Native American murals, a redwood tree and more. It’s been suggested that McKinleyville might be a more suitable home for the 25th president, and some McKinleyvillers agree (see story, below).
Costs are unclear, but would include removal and replacement of the weighty statue as well as creation of some kind of environmental impact document.
The McKinley remove-and-replace movement plans further meetings, which will be announced on its Facebook page.