The following reflects the Union’s positions on some of the choices on the Nov. 4 ballot:
Arcata City Council
Arcata voters have been well-served by Mayor Mark Wheetley. Wheetley has invaluable skills and experience, is well-connected around the region and state and is dedicated to Arcata. He deserves re-election for another four-year term.
Sofia Pereira represents the next generation of Arcata leadership. She has a consistent record of accomplishment and is well-prepared for a council seat. Her ideas about waste reduction and deepening Arcata’s alliances with Humboldt State and others are forward-thinking and realistic. It’s exciting to see this able person’s public service career taking off, and she deserves your vote.
Paul Pitino is a persistently constructive actor on and off the City Council, where he has previously served. He attends city meetings all the time as a citizen, promoting progressive projects such as the dog park and transportation safety. Energetic, full of ideas and positivity, we look forward to Pitino’s (re)election to the open two-year term.
Among the other four candidates are those with impressive energy and potential. Arcata will be fortunate if they continue to participate in city affairs, gain more experience and familiarity and try again next time.
Measure P is a well-intentioned initiative backed by activists who are, by their lights, fighting for Humboldt’s food security and independence. They mean well and their idealism is admirable, but Measure P is a counterproductive waste of energy and intentions. There are real, urgent problems which would benefit from that good effort.
New technology and procedures have made possible extraordinary gains in agricultural productivity and the nutritional content of crops over the past few centuries, and especially in recent decades. That’s progress, which, with a growing population, has never been more needed. It didn’t happen by mindlessly denying innovation.
Now, another progressive technique known as biotechnology is further expanding our ability to feed ourselves.
We’ve searched and searched for a reason to support Measure P, and found nothing. It’s become apparent by the shapeshifting, say-anything arguments in favor that its backers aren’t really clear on the concept either. If they have an evidence-based case, they’re hiding it under mountains of fearful conjecture.
You’ve recently read in these very pages that genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are associated with all manner of menaces to health, the environment and the economy. GMOs, we’re told, endanger bees and babies, and are associated with infertility, autoimmune diseases, birth defects, mass suicides, increased pesticide use and contamination of organic crops via pollen drift. Even worse, when GMO pollen infects a neighboring family farm’s crop, Monsanto will then sue the family farmer for theft, doubly victimizing that family.
In the final days before the election, the message is, OK, never mind science, but be afraid anyway. Fear is the common theme in all the anti-GMO arguments. Fear helps push broader narratives, whether they really apply or not.
As the zany claims have dropped away, Measure P advocates have settled on the mom-and-apple-pie argument – we need this measure to protect farmers. That too, is without basis, precedent or backing by any evidence.
It’s a false choice between organic and conventional farming. Both are booming, and neither jeopardizes the other. We have choices.
Now we are asked to limit our choices and those of food producers by reclassifying farmers who use biotechnology as lawbreakers.
We are often presented with the argument from popularity that goes, “What about all the countries that have banned GMOs?” First, most haven’t. Some countries' politicians just haven’t approved them yet, out of the same fear mongering we’re experiencing here. We don’t need to buy into that baseless, destructive fear.
A more convincing argument from popularity might be the tens of thousands of farmers who voluntarily choose to use biotech. They aren’t doing so because it harms their businesses; who are we to dictate their choices?
There should be very solid evidence at hand before we criminalize farmers who use an approved, proven and productive technique, especially in the name of “fairness.”
The nightmare scenarios Measure P is supposed to prevent have never happened, anywhere. Any organic family farm losing its livelihood due to GMO contamination would obviously be intolerable. Had this imaginary tragedy ever played out in the real world, we’d know all the victims by their first names. They don’t exist.
Opposition to GMOs is cultural and tribal in nature, and not based on any true-life experience, science or reason. Measure P, which will probably ride into the law books on a tide of trumped-up fear, is another embarrassing attempt to override logic with legislation.
In 1897, an Indiana legislator tried to redefine pi as being 3.2 by force of law. Texas wants to install Creationism in its school textbooks. South Carolina has outlawed consideration of sea level rise in coastal planning.
Now, Humboldt is poised to join the ranks of the wrongheaded by outlawing a harmless, incremental technique for making crops more drought-, disease- and pest-resistant, productive and nutritious.
If you don’t like proprietary organisms, change patent law. If you don’t like corporations, outlaw corporate personhood and regulate these reckless entities. If you don’t like GMOs, go organic – it’s all labeled. But don’t turn farmers into crooks for no good reason.
Measure P won’t stop biotechnology, here or anywhere else. Federal law, which approves biotech, overrides local law and renders P legally incapable of standing up to any kind of court challenge.
Measure P does offer one crucial and defining choice – between making public policy based on fear, folklore and superstition, or science, information and reason. No on Measure P.
While Humboldt County has no shortage of thieves, criminal predators and assorted wingnuts, it has a dire shortage of peace officers to try to keep the crooks and creeps under control.
Burglars, major drug distributors and environment-shredders are no longer jailed. They are checked in and out, and are back doing what they do within hours. Meanwhile, scarce law enforcement resources mean fewer cops and longer response times.
Humboldt citizens must step up and provide adequate funding for law enforcement to maintain public safety.
The reason for the shortage is simple – there’s not enough money.
Measure Z offers a relatively painless solution to get more funding. It’s a simple half cent sales tax increase. For every $100 you spend on taxable goods, you’ll have to pay an extra 50 cents. In the big picture, that’s chump change. But it adds up.
It’s estimated that the sales tax increase would generate $6 million a year, money that would be spent on public safety and essential services. It would be used to hire more deputies and more investigators. Money would also be provided to rural fire departments.
Vote yes on Measure Z and help improve public safety.