Union Q&A: City Council Candidate Sofia Pereira

Sofia Pereira. Facebook photo

Mad River Union

ARCATA – The Union gave all three Arcata City Council candidates some homework – a long list of questions, viewable here.

The following are Arcata City Council candidate Sofia Pereira's responses to the Mad River Union's Council Candidate Questionnaire. The responses have not been edited in any way. Any questions the candidate did not answer are listed at bottom. Some questions may have been inapplicable, or answered by a response to a related question.

Thanks to all the candidates for their responses.

Don't forget to vote Nov. 6!

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Why are you running for public office in Arcata?
I’m running for re-election to continue leading the community through some of the major challenges facing us and lead us to solutions that will continue to make Arcata the best city on the North Coast to live, work, and study. ​Our campaign is based on advancing Arcata’s values: a fair economy and an inclusive community that fights for social justice and environmental sustainability. In my second term, I will continue to listen to all parts of our community, including those whose voices aren’t often heard, to find collaborative solutions.
If elected, are you committed to completing your four-year term of office?
Yes.
What are your long-term political aspirations?
On an individual level, my aspirations are to serve another four years on the Arcata City Council to address a housing shortage that’s making Arcata schools and our community out of reach for too many families and working people, plan for sea level rise and address climate change, and make Arcata a safe and inclusive community for all our residents.
On a broader level, I work daily with women and young people in this community and beyond on building their political power. I invest my time in other people’s political journeys because it’s never about one person or one office. It is about creating a more equal, just, and inclusive government that represents the people it serves.
Do you have any business entanglements that will prevent you from participating in a decision?
My husband and I occasionally rent our guest room through Airbnb. If the city were to make a decision relating to Airbnb or vacation rental, I would likely need to recuse myself.
How many hours per week do you/can you devote to City Council business?
It varies by the week, but it would average out to at least 20 hours a week. This is factoring in meetings and meeting prep, research, and attending community events as a representative of the city. It’s important to be well-rounded and avoid burnout, so I balance my city commitments with family time, recreation, and my full-time job as a nonprofit director.
What sorts of public service have you conducted?
As a Humboldt State student I experienced first-hand the impacts of California’s worst recession and the CSU budget cuts and was motivated to get involved. Organizing hundreds of phone calls to state representatives, I worked hard to ensure funding for HSU was protected. My experience as a student advocate showed me how government affects our daily lives and it inspired me to work in government to advocate for others. I went on to serve as the Associated Students President at HSU and eventually worked on legislation and policy for several years. I had the honor of working for Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro as a field representative and served the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services as their legislative analyst, advocating for rural representation.
If you’re an incumbent, what have you learned during your service?
I have learned that wherever there is a challenge, our community looks for the opportunity to address it. Our community is made up hard-working people who are committed to make Arcata an incredible place to live, work, study, and play. I have been fortunate to work alongside so many dedicated people in our community, from the parents of Arcata Elementary to the residents of Lazy J Ranch mobile home park. There is a lot that can be done when we work together.
What if any council decisions would you revisit, and handle differently?
There is not a vote that I can recall I’ve second-guessed, because by the time an issue is voted on, I have considered all the public’s comments, the facts, and our long-term goals as a community. However, over time we learn more and sometimes have to adjust what we have on the books. For example there were unintended impacts under the sewer lateral ordinance we passed early in my term. That is something we are working to address now that we have a better understanding of how it is affecting real estate transactions in Arcata.
If you’re a non-incumbent, what city committees or commissions have you attended, and why?
What are Arcata’s top five challenges?
In no particular order:
Housing for all incomes
Addressing sea level rise and climate change
Public safety
Valley West
Wastewater treatment system upgrade
Has the city adequately addressed downtown public safety issues?
We’ve made great improvements to address the state of the plaza and our downtown. We now have two dedicated officers, drug dealing downtown is being addressed, and we are working with partners like Arcata Main Street and Community Pride and Peace to bring more family-friendly events to the plaza.
Even with all that we’ve accomplished the past four years, we have more work to do. That’s why we created a plaza improvement task force to implement priority projects that will make the plaza and our downtown more attractive. I’m proud to have also secured $150,000 in this year’s budget to help fund these projects that will be community-driven.
Plans have been aired for changing the Plaza – closing off streets, replacing parking spaces with greenspace and so on – do these ideas have merit?
We have to think outside the box and explore new ideas to make our plaza more attractive for residents and visitors to enjoy. I think it is worth trialing these new ideas to see what works for our downtown, and incorporating ideas around accessibility. I appreciate the work that groups like the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities have done to spark new ways of looking at our downtown.
Should we reduce the number of bars on the Plaza and downtown, or disperse them, or what?
In an ideal situation we would have bars decentralized like we see with some of the newer bars in Arcata.
Does Arcata need a dedicated Animal Control officer?
I haven’t heard a demand for this, but I’d be open to hearing reasons why this would be necessary.
What are your general thoughts on taking advice and testimony from non-Arcata citizens – residents of neighboring communities – on Arcata affairs? What kind of weight do we give their testimony?
I ultimately represent the people of Arcata. I will always listen to the ideas and perspectives by those who are affected by our decisions, whether they live, work, study, or recreate in Arcata. All of those perspectives help us to make an informed decision.
Do you feel that all sides were allowed to be fairly heard at the Feb. 21 City Council meeting on the McKinley statue?
We’ve had some problems with City Council meetings recently, in terms of people feeling welcome and even safe, jeering and other incivil behavior.
How can we ensure comfort and equal treatment for all of our diverse citizens at City Council meetings, especially during contentious issues?
Arcata City Council Chambers will always serve as a laboratory of democracy. Sometimes democracy is messy and there’s no dress rehearsal for the public process. You do it live, and you learn how to evolve the process. And while folks had different experiences on February 21st, there were months of public input that led to our decision, including a follow-up meeting in March, where after several hours of public comment, we upheld our decision.
Regardless of the issue, over the past several months as mayor I have worked hard to ensure our meetings provide fair and equal treatment by providing clear guidelines and enforcing them as necessary. There are times where residents may choose to not comply with our standing procedures, and in each of those situations I use my best judgment in the moment on how to proceed. While the public process is rarely perfect, I believe we are working towards an environment that is respectful.
Are the advisory committees and commissions genuinely useful or just more bureaucracy?
The more we bring different perspectives into the decision-making process the better. When addressing community issues, it is useful to bring in subject matter experts and engaged residents who can help bring new ideas and energy to a project. However, we must also make good use of a volunteer’s time by providing sufficient staff and council support. Not every issue requires an permanent committee, like the plaza improvement task force we created to implement plaza-specific projects.
How will you vote on Measure M?
I’m voting “No” on Measure M.
Some councilmembers voted in favor of removing the statue on Feb. 21, but now extol the value of the voters deciding this issue. Any thoughts on the seeming inconsistency?
I made my decision to vote in favor of relocating the statue after months of consideration. It was not a decision I made lightly or on a whim. I shared my concerns about this issue going to the ballot for the very reasons we are seeing in play now. We see the division in our community over a ballot measure where after November 6, there are winners and losers. After November 6, we will have to find a way to heal as a community, regardless of the outcome. I believe we could’ve found a reasonable solution that showed respect for all sides by going through the public process. That’s what drove me to join my colleagues in voting 4-1 to relocate the statue from the heart of our plaza.
What should replace the statue?
If we are to move forward with relocating the statue, we should leave the center open for some time. I don’t think we need to rush with a replacement and get a sense of what it feels like with the open space in the heart of our plaza.
Protesters recently occupied Council Chamber. At one point, they blocked a news reporter from taking photographs of their activities, essentially halting reporting from our City Hall during a major news event. What are your thoughts on this?
A free press is critical to a healthy democracy, including at the local level. The press should have the ability to report in public spaces, including city hall.
How is the firearm storage necessary, enforceable and not putting citizens at risk by delaying their access to defensive firearms?
The ordinance we introduced is essentially codifying in Arcata law a common, responsible practice of storing a firearm in a locked container if it is not on the person (or within their reach), or not secured with a trigger lock. This ordinance is a preventative measure that will help educate the public on these standard storage practices to ensure firearms don’t get into the wrong hands.
What are you doing about the lack of affordable housing in Arcata?
In my first term on the city council, we approved a substantial number of market rate and affordable housing units. I voted to support the Village because we need a diverse range of housing solutions to meet the needs of families, young professionals, seniors, and students. We also know that even with new development we are still unable to meet the demand. We are working on an infill development strategic plan that will attract and streamline new housing and mixed use projects for low and middle income residents.
When out-of-town corporate interests threatened the homes of low-income seniors and families in our mobile home parks, I worked with the residents to ensure that they could afford to stay in their homes for years to come with a rent stabilization ordinance. I’m working with our local homeless service providers on bringing in state funds for rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, and new housing development for their clients.
Will you hold the next housing development proposed for the Craftsman’s Mall to the same criteria as the development that was rejected?
My approach was to balance the need for housing with the concerns from the community. I supported the Village after several conditions were met, including the requirement for payment of property tax even under the ownership of Humboldt State and capping the number of beds at the proposed 602. While there was opposition to the project, the proposal had many great features that would have addressed the housing needs for many students. I will continue to evaluate projects fairly, and make tough decisions that meet the housing demands of our community now and into the future.
Does the successful influence of “dark money” in Arcata politics – unidentified developer contributions to ACRH, opponents of The Village – concern you?
It’s concerning anytime money that can’t be traced is funneled into our political process. This is one of the reasons why I pledged to not take any corporate or business contributions for my campaign.
What is your evaluation of the present state of city and citizen relations with Humboldt State University, and the forecast?
We need to work closely with Humboldt State on many of the issues that face our community, especially housing. Oftentimes we characterize the relationship with HSU as being between the administration and city officials. I have worked hard these past four years to create partnerships with all of HSU, including students, faculty, and staff. We have created several internship opportunities for students, appointed HSU faculty, staff, and students to city committees, and created a partnership focused on achieving racial equity in Arcata. During HSU’s transition in leadership and into the future, I will continue to advocate for our shared mission to make this community welcoming and prosperous for all Arcatans.
Has the city and Humboldt State done enough to bring justice for David Josiah Lawson?
We have directed all available resources to this case because solving this investigation is a top priority for us. We only have one chance to create the best case possible, and I appreciate our interim police chief’s approach in leaving “no stone unturned”. This may mean the process takes longer than we’d want, but it’s better to get it right than to move hastily. However, for the sake of David Josiah Lawson, his family, and our community, I hoped it had been resolved much, much sooner.
Have we made the city sufficiently welcoming to minority students?
We must continue to work on making our community inclusive to all of our residents, including students of color. Over two years HSU, the city of Arcata, local businesses and nonprofits came together to work on racial equity in our community through Equity Arcata. Since its inception, we have seen community members and students work alongside each other to address housing, offer bias training, and bring the community together over food. There is a lot more work to be done, and we are fortunate to have some many dedicated residents who want to strengthen our ties with students. If you want to get involved you can go to www.equityarcata.com.
Do you support creation of a safety corridor between Humboldt State and downtown?
Yes, and this will likely be a priority project for the public safety committee we formed. We are working with Caltrans and community members to ensure the path between HSU and northtown Arcata is safe and well-lit.
Is Valley West adequately served by city resources and mindshare?
What can we do to improve access to and from Valley West?
Over the past four years we have brought more attention and resources to Valley West, but new challenges have arose with the increase in homeless encampments. We have done work with the residents of Valley West to improve our parks, including adding Carlson Park and access to the Mad River. We are currently working to improve pedestrian and biking safety. We are doing regular community clean-ups with groups like CommUnity Pride and Peace. We are working with our homeless service providers to expand their capacity to serve those who need food and housing. There is much more work to do, and I am grateful for the efforts of organizations like the McKinleyville Family Resource Center and CommUnity Pride and Peace who bring support to the work we’re doing and steadfast community advocates like Lucy Salazar who continue to bring attention to the many needs of Valley West.
Should Arcata do more to ensure food independence?
Yes, we need to continue supporting our local farmers in the grocery stores and farmers markets. Food independence is good for our economy and community health, but also essential during an emergency.
Should Arcata do more to ensure energy independence?
Are we doing enough to address climate change?
I’m proud of the work we’ve done since I’ve been on the council to move towards energy independence. I supported community choice energy, which allows residents to power their homes with 100% clean energy and will help fund local clean energy projects. The city now powers all of its buildings and operations with 100% clean energy.
During my first term I advanced the city’s first zero waste action plan and supported the creation of a regional recycling process, bike share programs, electric vehicle charging stations, and expansion of our trail system with the Humboldt Bay Trail - North. ​I am also a part of a coalition calling on Governor Brown to end fossil fuel extraction in California.​ In my second term we will advance planning around sea level rise and emergency preparedness for natural disasters. We will continue to implement zero waste solutions to divert from our landfills and reduce greenhouse gases. We will continue to advance local clean energy and alternative modes of transportation to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Does Arcata do enough for its senior citizens?
Seniors are becoming a larger percentage of the local homeless population. We need to continue to make safe and accessible housing a priority in Arcata and help seniors stay in their homes. We passed rent stabilization for mobile home parks, which house mainly senior residents. We currently have a grant from the state to provide tenant-based rental assistance to help low-income residents, including seniors, pay their rent. We need to work more closely with the Area 1 Agency on Agency on their home-sharing program. There is a lot more that we can do to ensure seniors in Arcata have a good quality of life. Ensuring seniors can stay in their homes and live independently is key.
Does Arcata do enough for its youth – children and teenagers?
We have great recreation programs for our youth, from our playgroups to our support of Special Olympics. We need to continue supporting our recreation programs and maintaining our park system. Our newly renovated Greenview Park is now a destination for children and adults of all abilities and is a shining example of what is possible when we work together. We’ve worked together to improve safe routes to school. We revitalized our juvenile diversion program with Measure Z funds to provide a school resource officer and a counselor at Arcata High School. We have made headway these past four years and need to build upon the work we’ve done to make Arcata a great place for children to grow up in.
Has Arcata done what it should to address homelessness?
There is a lot of work to be done about homelessness in Arcata. As the city council’s representative on Arcata’s homeless services working group, I am working with partners like Open Door, Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and Arcata House Partnership on providing outreach and services in the Valley West region, adding more beds to our shelters, and creating safe parking areas for families to
 use. We have been trialing with DHHS and Arcata Police Department a mini-MIST (mobile intervention services team) and are hoping to expand that further throughout the city. This will help get those who are on the streets connected to services that can help them. Our new lease of the Annex property with Arcata House Partnership makes it easier for them to deliver services to their clients and serve families. We also need to recruit more landlords and support existing landlords who currently work with the county and Arcata House Partnership to provide housing to those who have experienced chronic homeless.
Has Arcata found the right balance on cannabis cultivation and sales?
We are still in the process of transitioning into a legalized market so while it is premature to determine if we’ve struck the right balance yet, there is a lot we can learn from our work with the Cannabis Innovation Zone. After much public input, we took a measured approach when approving the Medical Marijuana Innovation Zone, which eventually became the Cannabis Innovation Zone. I believe we can create room for cannabis to thrive while still maintaining the economic diversity we’ve created in Arcata with light, niche manufacturing and food products. We can’t rely on any one industry to support our economy, but cannabis will continue to play a significant role as our community evolves.
What are your principal news sources (besides the Mad River Union)?
For state and national news, the Sacramento Bee and the New York Times, respectively.
Are the Arcata Chamber of Commerce and Arcata Main Street fulfilling their responsibilities?
I’ve had the privilege of working with Arcata Main Street recently to bring more family-friendly events to the plaza. Together we’ve enjoyed the Fairy Festival, live music and dancing on the plaza. This work is possible thanks to the hard-working staff and businesses at Arcata Main Street. The same entrepreneurial and can-do spirit is found at the Arcata Chamber of Commerce. I look forward to working more closely with our partners who are dedicated to supporting our local businesses and creating a more lively downtown.
For nature time, do you prefer the Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary or the Arcata Community Forest?
Tough choice! I’m fortunate enough to be in walking distance to the community forest so that’s typically where I’ll go when I want to be amongst nature.
What do you like about your fellow candidates?
While we have different perspectives on the issues and approaches to decision-making, I have no doubt that my fellow candidates care about our community and its future. The voters have a tough choice!
What are the last two books you read?
Talk Matters!​ by Mary Gelinas
Dear Madam President​ by Jennifer Palmieri
Do you play any musical instruments?
My vocal chords. I used to sing with a choir in high school and in college.
You can wave your magic wand over Arcata one time. Suddenly...
Everyone has what they need to live a safe, healthy, and fulfilling life in our community. That’s what we’re working towards.
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Questions not specifically answered (possibly not applicable)

If you’re a non-incumbent, what city committees or commissions have you attended, and why?

Is Arcata business friendly?






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