Measure M adversaries reflect, own their mistakes and excesses

Ned Schneebly
Mad River Union

ARCATA CITY HALL – Mea Culpas billowed like diesel fumes from a crane lifting a statue last week as the shared, lived history of the McKinley statue removal was reviewed by those involved in the decision.

“We should have let the voters decide in the first place,” agreed members of the City Council majority who voted Feb. 21, 2018 to have the 113-year-old statue removed without any vote of the citizens. “A decision that historic had to be made by the people, just out of respect for democracy. Had we not had a public vote, there would have always been an asterisk that said, ‘we don’t know what the people would have decided.’ The statue’s friends would have been able to claim the town wanted to keep it. Now they can’t, the removal was the clear choice of the overwhelming majority of citizens and the damn asterisk is on we three – for making the statue problem all about us. The word is ‘hubris’.”   

At this, professional meeting-goer Ken Sowhatsky involuntarily burst into song, reprising the chorus from Cher’s 1989 mega-hit, “If I Could Turn Back Time.” But his atonal blurt quickly subsided, and he looked around, stifled the ideomotor flare-up, he cleared his throat and resumed sitting quietly.

The council majority’s leadership in ushering in the promised post-statue era of healing and unity seemed to drop defenses and hostility among statue partisans in the chamber.

“Boy, did we blow it,” said Nob Enemus of the Yes on Measure M group. “We made the lamest arguments made in any election ever in the history of the human race – yeah, we checked.”  

“Any lucid analysis of McKinley’s conduct reveals yes, the positives we emphasized. But his passivity over racism-in-progress, the disenfranchisement of Native American tribes… the list goes on, but we now see that these are the very moral atrocities that outrage us about the current administration.”

“Hey, how about that goofy cost estimate we foisted off on the public?” said Enemus, pointing out one sentence in particular. “It says here, ‘Don’t believe wild claims that our McKinley statue can be removed for ‘only’ $65,000.’”

As chuckles broke out in the Chamber, Enemus struggled to be heard above the rising laughter. “Look, in a way we were right, right? It only cost what, $16K and change?

So yeah, the wild $65K claim was waaaay off, just like we said.”

Enemus’ acrobatic logic brought pained expressions and reddened faces, even among the small assemblage of former mayors and recumbent bicyclists that formed his delegation, until he added, “Of course, our estimate of removal costing $525,000, or causing the layoff of eight cops or the end of the whole Recreation Division was full-throttle dingbat, to put it lightly.”

Sitting Councilmember Dork Dinkler, who put his name to the grotesque $509,000 miscalculation, said only that he was looking forward to applying his financial acumen to the next city budget at upcoming council hearings.

But the worst was yet to come. “Think that’s stupid?” Enemus asked, rhetorically. “Our most ludicrous, ignorant and privileged argument was that the ‘out-of-towners’ don’t have the right to tell Arcata what to do. Here the European settlers arrived, and within a few years they’d wiped out everyone here, stole their land, cut down the forests, turned the creeks into sewage ditches, made the wetlands into a garbage dump, killed off the fish and birds and, to cap it off, divided up the land with artificial borders. Now, we, their descendants, had the unbelievable gall to tell the region’s indigenous people that they weren’t from here and can’t help decide this.”

With that, Enemus and the rest apologized and backed slowly out Council Chamber to gather outside for a good cry.

Next up were the anti-statue forces, led by Wanda Condescenda-Jeremiad, fresh from her latest  appearance on FoxNews’s Tucker.

Condescenda-Jeremiad offered a short but withering self-critique for her camp’s excesses, from yelling at everyone to epic incuriousness about fellow community members who might think slightly differently.

“We did what it is that that we did all wrong,” she said. “To be blunt, we acted like jerks. It turns out, we could have achieved our goal without calling people names, flipping them off, shouting them down and all that. Oops.”

Continued Condescenda-Jeremiad, “We were clearly wrong that Arcata was a bunch of white racists who couldn’t make a proper moral judgment. From here on out we’re saving that term for the real racists, since there are plenty enough of those.”

“There’s more though,” she said. “We ripped Dinkler for petitioning for a ballot initiative in the name of democracy, Dumb, huh?” she asked rhetorically. “They when Measure M failed, all we could talk about was the 2–1 vote in our favor. So it turned out he was our best ally, and helped our case more persuasively than we ever could have with the name-calling.”

“But the big takeaway was, we made the same mistake the council did – we didn’t trust the people. They got rid of the plaque, the statue and approved Measure K for the trifecta. Pretty impressive. That cost estimate though...”

After a massive group hug, the former adversaries agreed that in the heat of the statue battle, they'd all behaved more than a little bit ridiculously.

Then they ran into a rainbow for the story’s perfect end.




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