Politics pervade City Council meeting

THE NEW NORMAL Police have been standing by at Arcata City Council meetings since August, when protesters blocked public access to Council Chamber. KLH | Union

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – With a complement of Arcata Police officers standing by in Council Chamber, the City Council processed matters political last week.

The police were on hand to ensure that democracy could be conducted, following the shutdown of two successive council meetings and abrogation of press freedom in the chamber in August.

That protest, over the seeming lack of progress in solving the killing of Humboldt State student David Josiah Lawson, was led by civil rights advocate Renée Saucedo.

During the occupation of the chamber, protesters prevented a reporter from filming the event, eventually relenting but maintaining a stream of verbal abuse against a reporter.

The two-night occupation led to a continuing presence by police at the council meetings, which have suffered no further disruptions.

Lawson advocates have continued to press the council for action on the investigation into his killing, characterizing APD and city efforts as woefully inadequate.

At last week’s council meeting, several speakers objected to the National Police Foundation reviewing APD’s handling of the case, including the initial response to the crime scene on April 15, 2017.

Speakers said the organization had been recommended by resigned former Police Chief Tom Chapman, whom they consider responsible in part for the lack of progress in identifying a suspect.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that a foundation run by police could review a police department,” said a student named Ollie.

Several speakers asked for weekly updates in the Lawson investigation.

Green Party member Kelsey Reedy objected to the police presence, describing the chamber as “dripping in cops” which made her fearful for her safety.

“There’s no reason for this,” said Reedy, who had actively blocked public access to the City Hall chamber during a protest event in August. “Like we never posed any safety issues. Like why? Nobody should be in fear to come take part in their city, to take part in their community and to speak to those representatives who are supposed to be representing us.” Her remarks drew enthusiastic applause.

Political positions

The council also took positions on some local and state ballot propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Councilmembers were polled, and unanimously supported Prop 1, bond funding for housing assistance.

The council unanimously rejected Prop 5,  changing requirements for certain property owners to transfer their property tax base to replacement property.

Councilmembers also rejected Prop 6, which repeals SB1, the Road Repair Accountability Act and  eliminates certain road repair and transportation funding and requires certain fuel taxes and vehicle fees be approved by voters.

Measure K, the Humboldt County sanctuary initiative, gained unanimous support. So did Measure O, which continues the county’s sales tax for public safety and other uses.

Some members of the public demanded that the councilmembers reveal how they plan to vote on Measure M, which would reverse the City Council’s decision to remove the McKinley statue.

Councilmember Paul Pitino is voting no, as is Mayor Sofia Pereira. Councilmember Michael Winkler, who helped the measure gain ballot placement with a petition drive, is voting yes on M. Councilmembers Brett Watson and Susan Ornelas declined to disclose their vote.

On other ballot measures, the council was split, and chose to make no non-unanimous endorsements.

Online resources for today’s concerned voter

The city has posted multiple election-related resources at cityofarcata.org/306/Elections.

These include financial and other statements by the campaigns for council candidates Sofia Pereira, Valerie Rose-Campbell and Brett Watson, as well as research on William McKinley and his Plaza statue.


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