Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Arcata voters are going to decide the fate of the statue of William McKinley on the Plaza, not the City Council, now that the Humboldt County Office of Elections has completed verification of signatures on pro-statue petitions.
The City of Arcata was notified today that the petition drive had obtained enough valid signatures to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot. The "Petition for the Initiative to Prohibit the Modification and/or Destruction of the President William McKinley Statute and its base and/or the Relocation from its Historic Place in the Center of the Arcata Plaza" needed 954 signatures to qualify. Petitioners submitted 1,765 signatures for review and the county verified 1,426 of them as valid.
The next step comes at the City Council's July 11 meeting, which will include an agenda item for councilmembers to certify the result and either adopt the ordinance, which is unlikely, or refer it for ballot placement.
"I'm pleased at the result," said City Councilmember Michael Winkler, who spearheaded the petition drive. "It shows that a very large number of Arcata citizens feel that they should make the decision to keep or move the statue."
Winkler cast the sole dissenting vote on Feb. 22 when the council voted 4–1 to remove the statue.
"It's not unexpected news, but it's very good news for the people of Arcata," said David LaRue, petition co-organizer. "They'll now have the opportunity to express their views in a safe environment, one that Mayor Sofia failed to provide them."
LaRue was referring to the raucous Feb. 22 City Council meeting which was dominated by anti-statue advocates, with some citizens who wished to retain the statue feeling intimidated and declining to speak their opinions.
"I think that one of the most important jobs held in our community is that of the voter," said Mayor Sofia Pereira. "I trust that they will make the best decision for our community."
Pereira was wary of predicting the outcome of the July 11 council meeting, where the only choices for the council appear to be adoption of the pro-statue ballot measure as an ordinance or its placement on the November ballot. "We'll see at the meeting where a majority of the council goes," she said. "Since there's been a lot of conversation about putting it on the ballot, I imagine that's what will happen." But, she said, she can't foresee that meeting's result.