Letters To The Ed through Jan. 13, 2015

Media ignoring a huge Humboldt story

We are facing the largest story of decades and I am stunned at how little media interest there has been.

The Humboldt Board of Supervisors is considering the ordinance for commercial grows. They are considering then the economic future of our entire county.

This is huge!

For example: if the marijuana industry is taken over by large grows there will be greatly increased leakage. That is a technical, economic term meaning the person owning the grow is likely to live elsewhere, buy his trucks elsewhere and generally move the money out of the community rather than circulating it here.

So ends our community non-profits, our community network, our community. Doesn’t this seem huge to you? A very large part of our community has been maintained strictly by the small growers. Hey, there’s lawyers from Sacramento here talking to the Supes. The big grows want in!

If you value our community call or write your Supervisor immediately! They already closed the public hearing on this despite huge numbers in the audience. Back room time! Cram your voice in there fast!

vbass@co.humboldt.ca.us

rbohn@co.humboldt.ca.us

efennell@co.humboldt.ca.us

mlovelace@co.humboldt.ca.us

rsundberg@co.humboldt.ca.us

Robert Sutherland
Hummap (Humboldt-Mendocino
Marijuana Advocacy Project)
Ettersburg

Meat industry failing despite gov’t sell-out

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans released yesterday by U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services mark the ninth time in a row that the meat industry has successfully suppressed scientific findings recommending reduced meat consumption.

The reduction was recommended by the government-appointed Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in a 571-page report based on review of thousands of studies.

Reduced meat consumption was first recommended in 1977 by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs in Dietary Goals for the United States, a precursor to the Dietary Guidelines. The meat industry forced the committee to destroy all copies of the report and to remove the offending recommendation from a new edition.

That wanton government sell-out to the meat industry has replayed itself with every new edition of the Dietary Guidelines since then. Dietary Guidelines for Americans shape school lunches and other government food support programs and underlie public health campaigns to lower rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Fortunately, American consumers are not easily duped. Sales of plant-based meats, cheeses, milks and ice creams have skyrocketed, and every grocery store provides seemingly countless choices of fruits and vegetables.

Sincerely,
Andre Madden
Arcata

Thank you and farewell

To the Community of Arcata and Humboldt County,

The last three weeks Harry and I traveled through the Sinaloa and Chihuahua states of Mexico. This was a gift of time to reflect and to adjust to transition.

I have loved every minute of being the executive director of the Arcata Chamber and manager of the California Welcome Center. In November, I wrote a letter for the chamber newsletter listing some of our accomplishments in the last three and a half years.

I spoke at my farewell party and thanked many people (though Greg Anderson and Noon Rotary were unintentionally omitted). I do not want to be redundant and I want to be brief in this missive.

Thank you to the well over 100 people who took time from their busy holiday schedules to fill the Plaza View Room and attend my farewell party, for the proclamations, for the gifts, the sentiments, the phone calls, meals, cards and thank you for just being you and accepting me.

As you continue to grow I wish each individual and business continued success. Be patient with each other as you adjust to change, forgive each other as you learn and please take time to celebrate the community that is Arcata and Humboldt County.

With sincere appreciation,
Sandy Scott
Asheville, North Carolina

Cornelius would be delighted

Dr. Rossbacher,

I just read Kevin Hoover’s article in the Dec. 30, 2105 Mad River Union and was impressed at the progress you have made in such a short time. I know my father would be delighted with what you have done at Humboldt.

Keep up the great work and we hope to see you the next time we are in the area.

Sincerely,
Ron Siemens
Danville

Note: The writer’s father is former Humboldt State President Cornelius Siemens. – Ed.

Help a Rising Star get to Carnegie Hall

I am a senior at Eureka High School, and I want to express my sincere gratitude for all the wonderful people and programs that have helped me to reach for the stars. I would not have had the opportunity to express myself through music without the help and encouragement of my teachers and fellow musicians.

A special thank you to Eureka High School’s “Limited Edition” – Vocal Jazz Ensemble. This group of extraordinary students is a joy to sing with and I invite the community to attend our concerts at Eureka High.

Finally, I want to express my deep appreciation for the Rising Stars Foundation, whose generous support through scholarships has enabled me to receive extra instruction and performing experience by participating in regional and state honor choirs. My upcoming trip to sing in Carnegie Hall on Feb. 7 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and would not be possible without their financial support.

As you can imagine, the costs of the trip to New York are daunting, and we are still looking for additional funds to cover the remaining expenses for myself and my family.

Donations to support my trip are welcome, and any support from the community would be greatly appreciated. Please make checks payable to James Cory McCubbrey and mail to Rising Stars Foundation, 901 Myrtle Ave., Eureka, CA, 95501. Thank you!

Sincerely,
James Cory McCubbrey
Eureka

How to honor Susie and Lucille’s legacy

Thank you so much for pulling together a fitting tribute to Lucille Vinyard and Susie Van Kirk for the Jan. 6 issue of the Union.

Your article mentioned their strong connections to the local North Group Sierra Club and the eerie fact that they co-sponsored a fund with that organization to send local children to environmental camp. 2016 will mark the 21st year of the fund, which provides a camping experience for children in our membership area of Humboldt, Del Norte and western Trinity counties.

Through donations to the camper fund, we have been underwriting four children to a five- or six-day overnight nature camp in Orick.

If readers would like to recognize and honor Lucille and Susie in this manner – hopefully starting several members of the current generation along the path to better our natural world – here is how to help.

Checks should be made payable to “North Group Environmental Education Fund” and mailed to North Group Sierra Club, P.O. Box 238, Arcata CA 95518. All contributions are tax deductible.

Sue Leskiw, treasurer
North Group Sierra Club
Arcata

Overcoming the underworld

THANK YOU, Paul Mann, for such an intelligent and well-balanced article (Humboldt’s Underworld, Union, Dec. 30) discussing the reasons for a high homicide and suicide rate in Humboldt County or, anywhere for that matter.

There is much to be said for the adage, “It takes a community to raise a child” ... we are all responsible when we ignore the social milieu created by poverty, violence and neglect (political decisions, not exempt, but that’s a whole other discussion).

Perhaps some follow-up articles on ways very busy people can make a difference and how these activities can be integrated into their day-to-day lives would be helpful.

It takes leadership and thoughtful planning to make things happen and Humboldt County has the brain power and skills to move forward with a plan of action to make a change. Are you up for that, Paul?

Rita Carole
Arcata

Beat meat in 2016

Once again, it’s time for New Year’s resolutions, particularly those to improve our diet and exercise routine.

Although gun violence and traffic accidents remain the leading causes of death among young people, the most dangerous weapon for the rest of us is still our fork. Well over a million of us are killed each year by high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other chronic diseases linked to our meat-based diet.

But times are changing. According to Gallup, 22 percent of American consumers are avoiding meat and 12 percent are avoiding dairy products.

Supermarket chains, along with Target and Wal-Mart, offer a growing selection of delicious and healthy plant-based meats and dairy products. Animal meat consumption has dropped by eight percent in the past decade.

Hundreds of school, college, hospital and corporate cafeterias have embraced Meatless Monday and vegan meals.

Fast-food chains like Chipotle, Panera, Subway, Taco Bell and White Castle are rolling out vegan options.

Let’s make this New Year’s resolution about exploring the rich variety of plant-based entrées, lunch meats, cheeses, ice creams and milks, as well as the more traditional green and yellow veggies. The Internet offers tons of recipes and transition tips.

Ernie Steele
Eureka

McKmonumental decisions

As per your editorial, yes, let’s have that conversation about the McKinley statue. Katherine Stokes Morehouse claims that the McKinley statue makes Arcata distinctive. Without it, Arcata would be relegated to the “sameness of other rural small towns.” (Letters, Dec. 16, 2015). I beg to differ.

Just look around this country and you’ll see numerous statues, busts and portraits dedicated to dead white males – of dead white presidents in particular. They litter the landscape in cities large and small all across this nation. Walk into the HSU library, and you’ll be confronted by the portraits of past presidents in the lobby – all white and nearly all male. San Jose has its own McKinley statue. What’s so distinctive about that?

No doubt, the McKinley statue has historical value and significance. So does the Confederate flag. And those flags are coming down, as should Arcata’s McKinley statue.

I’ll spare you the history lesson concerning McKinley’s tenure (Spanish-American War, imperialist expansion, etc.). I trust you know it. The only real good argument for keeping the statue concerns Arcata’s unique history.

In this regard, Stokes Morehouse talks about the role of George Zehndner in bringing the statue to Arcata. Zehndner was 80 years old at the time. He must have been about 35 years old when the Indian Island massacre took place, when the last Wiyot woman was slaughtered and the rest of the tribe driven out of Arcata. What was his role in this, if any? Did he speak out or participate, or was he silent? Maybe we should find out.

So yes, let’s have this discussion this history. All of it, not just the selective memory of it – a memory that elevates white males, while all but effacing indigenous history. You know, the history that of Arcata that dares not speak its name. It’s a history of massacres, unspeakable brutality and genocide. Where’s the monument to that?

When you speak of history, whose history? Why have we never thought to honor a member of the Wiyot tribe? After all, we are living on Wiyot land. The Wiyots inhabited this space for eons before the whites showed up, along with other indigenous tribes. And certainly have a greater historical claim to the land.

Why not work together with the Wiyot tribe to come up with a statue or memorial to honor their history, their elders? Now that is something would make Arcata truly distinct among cities. It would not entirely make up for the shame, but it would go some way towards reconciliation and healing.

Lisa Pelletier
Arcata

Cannabis conundra

It has been very interesting to watch our community develop regulations for cannabis cultivation.

Whether we like it or not, cannabis cultivation is an intrinsic part of Humboldt County’s culture and economy. Conservative estimates suggest the pot industry represents half of Humboldt’s economy. Most of us believe that the real number is even higher than that.

It’s also clear that cannabis cultivation creates a range of social and environmental problems. Many illegal and legal grows dewater our streams and introduce toxic herbicides, pesticides and rodenticides into our environment, poisoning water quality and harming sensitive species.

Already state agencies such as the regional water board are taking on these issues and Humboldt County is preparing to pass an ordinance to regulate grows as well.

This is an issue that clearly affects McKinleyville as much as every other community in the county. I propose that the McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee  send a letter to the board of supervisors commenting on several aspects of the proposed ordinance. After careful review, discussions with growers, environmentalists, lawmakers, and local Tribal leaders, I think there are four main issues to address.

First, is about the water. Although I do not think the county can or should restrict anyone’s adjudicated water right, I urge this body to consider recommending mandatory water forbearance mid-May thru the end of October as a prerequisite for any ministerial permit.

As the drought just taught us, even in this wetter corner of the state, we must work hard to protect in stream flows.

Second, I am convinced that the conversion of forest and timber lands to pot farms is a possible consequence of the coming green rush.

I suggest we recommend that the county require a conditional use permit for cultivation on TPZ lands. We need to protect our timber resources and many of these TPZ parcels are in sensitive watersheds.

Third, the proliferation of this industry should generate enough revenue such that our law enforcement and permit enforcement agency is adequately funded. Thus, the county should implement some sort of tax or revenue strategy for growers to maintain law enforcement.

Finally, we should limit the number of permits. The coming legalization of recreational cannabis use could result in a boom of growers. Already, it is estimated that there are grows on over 3,300 parcels in Humboldt County based on a survey by Lost Coast Outpost looking at satellite data. Some of these parcels host multiple grows.

I believe we should enter this pool on the shallow end. That is we should cap the number of permits, give it some time to see how things are going, and revisit the permit limit.  As to what this number should be a good question for discussion, however I do not think we should double the number of grows immediately.

I look forward to a constructive conservation with you all.

Sincerely,
Craig Tucker
McKinleyville

Tried and true tactics

My husband and I live in the Lazy J Ranch senior mobile home park in Arcata. Like our neighbors, we own our own mobile home but rent the space that the home sits on. The owner of the Lazy J Ranch, our landlord, is FollettUSA, a large national investment company with multiple owners and investors.

As you might know, there has been a flurry of activity in California mobile home parks in the last decade as investors swoop in to buy them up, gentrify them and move in wealthier new tenants who can pay $2,000 or more per month for the space that their home sits on.

The home page for the Mobile Home University, mobilehomeuniversity.com, has this leadoff sentence: “Affordable Housing is the hottest arena in commercial real estate right now.”

When we read the numerous newspaper articles about what’s happening in other mobile home parks across California, we can see the handwriting on the wall. We don’t want this to happen to the Lazy J or to any other mobile home park in Arcata or in Humboldt County.

We hope our space rents won’t climb all the way to $2,000/month, but at the Lazy J we have already seen incoming resident monthly rents quickly climb from $375 (2013) to $475 (2015), a whopping 26.6 percent increase in the two years that FollettUSA has owned the Lazy J.

Like many of our neighbors, we would like the City of Arcata to draft and adopt a sturdy space Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) to keep our space rents in line with inflation. Typically, rent increases would be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) with a floor (low) of two to three percent and a ceiling of six percent per year. The ordinance would also have a mechanism in place to make decisions about fair returns to the owners of the park.

Dr. Kenneth Baar, a rent control expert, said that “regulation is useful in protecting housing affordability, adding that none of the state’s 100 [mobile home rent stabilization/control] ordinances have been struck down in court as invalid.” (The Monterey County Weekly, March 5, 2009).

The administration of the RSO can be of minimal cost to the city. For example, the mobile home owners in the City of Marina in California pay $3.50 per month to cover the costs of RSO administration in their town, which is similar in size to Arcata and has similar mobile home park demographics to those in Arcata. Santa Cruz County assesses a registration fee to cover their mobile home space RSO administrative costs.

The experience of the City of Marina with its mobile home space RSO has shown that park owner threats of expensive litigation are greatly exaggerated these days. Past decades of RSO litigation have ironed out the basic issues of fair returns, vacancy control and capitalization expenditures.

The modern well-written space RSOs in California have very little litigation costs for cities because park owners pay for the litigation when their challenges fail, which has been the usual case in recent years.

The five-year lease that FollettUSA offered to the Lazy J residents last month has many loopholes that will result in high space rents. The lease has a five-year amortization for capital expenditures and repair costs. Also, residents have no voting power about capital improvements.

According to Attorney Bruce Stanton from the Golden State Manufactured Home Owners League (GSMOL) in a letter about the five-year lease for the Lazy J mobile home park (Dec. 8, 2015), the lease allows “pass-throughs which shall add on to the monthly rent load significantly.” He also states, “…the rent provisions are very one-sided.”

Although FollettUSA’s five-year lease is lopsided financially in their favor, the most important reason they are offering it is that anyone who signs the lease will be exempt from rent stabilization ordinances.

Signing tenants up for leases longer than one year is a tried and true tactic of park owners so that the pool of tenants fighting for better space rents is greatly diminished.

On Wednesday Dec. 16, the Arcata City Council voted for staff to study ways to keep mobile home parks in Arcata affordable. We are encouraged by this vote because it includes a good look at space rent stabilization ordinances.

 Sincerely,
Linda Derksen
Arcata

Terror Territory

Having had ample opportunity to compare our little slug farm with settings in this country and others, my wife and I have concluded that at least for our purposes, there is no better place on Earth!

One significant caveat persists. When comparisons are made as above, specific references are in order. Let’s consider “security,” just how safe are we are in this pretty place, in spite of the recent hysteria over another mass shooting. Comparatively few of us have hand grenades or even AK-47s on this curve of the coast for protection, so crime is rampant; why, just 15 years ago, a thief walked in our back door, while we were on a picnic, and stole a calculator and the remnants of a roast turkey. (In Uganda, where there are more weapons, this would not have happened; the guards at the front gate would have made short work of the turkey taker and had a feast themselves!)

During the last two decades of the 1900s, in much of East Africa, weapons of all descriptions were readily available. During the time, while assigned to develop an international school in Uganda, we were ready for almost anything. Consequently, I lost only one school van and two teachers. (Only one was killed.) Perhaps they are more fortunate in East Africa; they have more weapons and they haven’t got a president like ours, who keeps trying to keep even the dedicated terrorists out of the gun shops and airports.

So – given our short supply of guns, terrible things can happen, even in Westhaven. A couple, our good friends, live just down the road. These folks are as cordial and gentle as anyone we have ever met. Quite literally, they would not intentionally harm a spider! My friend, an attorney, is extremely cautious in how he articulates even the simplest verbal exchange.

Here is his story as I recall it: One dark night, he awoke suddenly and discovered an ominous figure looming over him. My friend sat up and responded in good form. “May I be of help?” he enquired as politely as the situation would allow. The bewildered intruder, at a loss for an appropriate answer, vanished like a shadow! (Too bad, one might conclude; the NRA wasn’t involved!)

Hang on; there’s more to this harangue. In a long-winded rationale (Times-Standard, “My Word” Dec. 12) an HSU professor, declares: “I can envision the nearly universal arming of the citizens of the United States … through government-aided purchase … A significant margin of protection will be afforded to all.” In short “Gun Immunity” is like “Herd Immunity.”

Right? But why stop with government-gifted guns, if you are serious, professor? Why not request helicopter gunships, mortars and submachine guns? Those without the expertise or ability to handle military hardware – of grade school age and above – would carry long knives and mace.

Now that we have been initiated into Terror Territory by fundamentalists, Republicans, gun wackos, arms peddlers and hate mongers of every description, let’s see if we can’t cultivate a little exciting East African anarchy.

John C. Wiebe
Westhaven

Paul’s fine, Susan’s wrong

I’m with Sofia: I’m confident Paul will handle the mayorship well, and I appreciate Susan expressing her concern. I just think she’s wrong.

Jamie Flower
Arcata

Countering corruption, collusion and croneyism

On Thursday, Dec. 10, Paul Pitino was selected to be mayor of Arcata for the next year.

A meeting this time last year was very important because Paul openly stated that he wanted to be mayor during his short two-year term and also to have the important assignments given to the mayor per the protocol manual. Even though Paul was given the vice mayor appointment last year, it was not without some pain and controversy. So much so that I encouraged the public to view that meeting in my letter to the editor one year ago. Paul was standing up for changes that are needed and are long overdue.

Today’s meeting was even more interesting and even more revealing as to who the Arcata City councilors are, as well as some of their fundamental perspectives that affect all of the citizens.

I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in Arcata politics and government to watch the video of today’s meeting. It is a bird’s eye view. You may view the meeting at cityofarcata.org, City Council meetings, under today’s date. The meeting is just under one hour long but the most important parts take place within the first 37 minutes.

My view on the process of how the mayor is selected as well as how the important assignments of Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCAOG) and Humboldt State liaison are determined, has not changed in the last year.

Arcata’s protocol manual must be revamped and updated to make it fair and equitable for every serving city councilmember to have the opportunity to be mayor and to also have these assignments, sometime during their four-year term or shorter term if possible.

I completely disagree with the viewpoints that not every elected member of the City Council is equipped to do these things. If a person is elected by the populace, that is the only requirement they should need. To have it be any other way leaves government open to corruption, collusion and cronyism, some of which I have witnessed during my watch of local politics during the last 20 years.

Most people know that abuse of power is something that occurs quite frequently in every level of politics and the citizenry must be on guard to not allow our governments and government agencies to fall into these ways of operating. The biggest barrier to us having a corrupt free government is our lack of campaign finance reform, however the process of how positions of power are filled is equally important, in my mind.

I agree with the idea put forth in the meeting that Joint Powers Association (JPA) agencies that elected officials serve on should have some type of training that is automatic for newly elected officials. In addition, the city should require that there is a mandatory meeting between newly appointed members and members who are stepping down from important JPA assignments to help make the transitions easier for everyone.

CONGRATULATIONS PAUL! Thank you for your great service to all of us in Arcata.

Dana Quillman
Arcata

Respect for our history

I echo the concerns of Arcata residents about street people leaving too much of a trace on the downtown. I, along the other downtown property owners, have appealed to the police department and to the city to take some action about this on several occasions with no response whatsoever. Having said that, I do not believe that any connection can be made between the statue of William McKinley and the problems of litter and filth in Arcata.

I understand that there is a move on the part of some local residents to remove the statue of William McKinley in the name of cleaning up the Plaza. I’m sure the City of Arcata is the ultimate decision maker on this issue and am therefore addressing my comments to them.

While it is possible that many current residents do not like the McKinley statue, it is important to be aware that the stakeholders in this discussion are not only current residents, but past residents and future residents.

Those people who profess their love for Arcata more than likely love it for its character, and the McKinley statue and the people who believed it was important to put the statue there are a part of the character of Arcata.

The statue has been part of the fabric of Arcata for over 100 years, more than two thirds of the time that Arcata has existed. My thoughts are summarized by my Facebook post below:

While I’m definitely not a fan of William McKinley, I’m not at all in favor of removing his statue. This sculpture, by a very prominent artist of his time – Haig Patigan – represents Arcata’s booster past, the civicmindedness of George Zehndner and the nation’s grief after a presidential assassination. The Arcata mindset wasn’t always as it is today. It’s OK to keep this reminder of a different time with a different mood.

According to Wikipedia:

“Zehndner presented the statue to the city of Arcata on July 4, 1906, as ‘a gift to the city of Arcata for all time to come.’ Two thousand people, more visitors than the town had ever received, came to Arcata for the unveiling.”

Two thousand people. At that time the population of Arcata was about 1,000. So the town was filled to twice its normal size for the dedication of this statue. I believe it’s appropriate to show some respect for the past by retaining this symbol of turn of the 20th century Arcata.

The statue connects Arcata not only to its own past, but to the nation’s past and the San Francisco earthquake.

McKinley is depicted with his hand outstretched, as it was when he was shot; the statue was rescued from the rubble of the earthquake and made its way to Humboldt County by steamship two months after the earthquake.

No redwood tree, bandstand or statue of nymphs could convey the sense of time and place that the McKinley statue does. It makes Arcata distinctive where any replacement would relegate Arcata to the sameness of other rural small towns.

Please retain this sense of time and place for the sake of past residents and for future residents.

Katherine Stokes Morehouse
Arcata

Past, present and future

Regarding the McKinley statue plaque issue, hopefully everyone will cool down and compromise. Here’s what I would suggest.

A footnote to history:

This statue of President McKinley by Haig Patigian was dedicated on July 4, 1906 after the president was assassinated in 1901.

It is part of Arcata’s history. However, times were different then, and many today find fault with his imperialistic policies.

May we learn from the past, plan for the future, and live in the present.

  Sincerely,
George Green
    Arcata

Trinity Hospital correction

The Dec. 2 Mad River Union carried an article about Trinity Hospital, located in Arcata. It included a statement that the current hospital is in the same location as the original, which burned down in February 1943.

As an Arcata native and one who was born in the original Trinity Hospital, I can assure you that the original hospital was located on 13th and G streets, which is not the location of the current hospital.

For further reference, see Images of America Arcata by Jessie Faulkner, page 97.

Respectfully,
Jackie Ravano
McKinleyville

On Mr. McKinley

There’s a move to send McKinley packing and it seems McKinleyville is more than willing to accept this refugee from Arcata.

This has been considered before, but he’s still standing. Whether you agree or disagree with his politics and actions, McKinley has been part of the Plaza and the history of Arcata for many years.

No matter what the final outcome is, the concrete planter surrounding the base should be removed to expose the beautiful circular granite steps that I used to play on as a child.

Also, there is a USGS benchmark that is the basis of the elevations for the west side of the city located on the base of the steps. And remember, McKinley is featured in the City of Arcata’s logo.

There must be other things in Arcata that need attention and to spread this energy on.

Do you really believe that by removing McKinley on the Plaza, you will improve the quality of life in Arcata?

Scott Baker
McKinleyville

Arcata’s APD angels

We are Maine residents who flew to Arcata last week to look for our 25-year-old daughter. Before coming, we contacted the police department, who gave us pertinent information about where to find her. And when we arrived they proactively aided our search.

What impressed us was not only their courtesy and helpfulness of the detective we spoke to on the phone, but the officers’ professional approach to a troubling social issue which affects almost all American communities in all parts of our country. Arcata certainly confronts the issues of substance abuse and vagrancy on a serious scale thereby creating more pressure on its police force.

From what we experienced, the officers we met walked that delicate line between public safety and human sensitivity with extraordinary patience and self-control – no easy feat on a daily basis. We thank them.

If you believe in angels, the truth is that one never knows when they might appear. My wife and I do believe in angels, and in our few days in Arcata last week we came to believe that you have a community that has its own core of angels – and we have placed our faith in them.

Bill and Sydney Patten
Mount Desert, Maine

Taxpayer beware

As you bump along our potholed county roads, do you ever ask yourself why the roads are in such poor shape? Do you ever wonder who or what agency controls the spending of taxpayer dollars allocated for transportation? Do you ever wonder why there is so little effective mass transportation in our area, particularly in the unincorporated areas of the county? Do you ever wonder why there are no bike lanes on the highway and county roads? Do you ever wonder why there are so few pedestrian walkways or multi-use trails particularly in the unincorporated areas?

The answer to these questions relates to the fact that the private citizen who actually pays the taxes that fund transportation projects has no say in how the funds are spent.

Transportation dollars generated by the 18 cent federal gas tax and state taxes related to transportation, such as your registration fees and state gas taxes, filter down through a series of bureaucracies that dilute the accountability and responsibility for project selection and spending.

In California, the governor appoints the head of CalSTA, the State Transportation agency (Brian Kelly, unelected). Within CalSTA, there is the California Transportation Commission (CTC), comprised of political appointees headed by Will Kempton (unelected). The CTC delegates to Caltrans, a massive bureaucracy headed by Malcolm Dougherty (unelected). Finally there is HCAOG, our regional transportation agency made up of members of city governments and one lone county representative.

Needless to say, all these levels of government have their overhead costs to cover, so under the much-derided “trickle-down” theory very little actually trickles down to address the transportation needs of our county.

Making matters worse, what actually trickles down is allocated to projects that have been on the drawing board for years and inevitably result in projects that are massive, grossly over-budget, functionally obsolete and unneeded while contemporary needs are left unaddressed.

Nor do these “legacy” projects address reducing greenhouse gas emissions or adaptations to sea level rise or climate change.

A group of local citizens has formed to take a look at the situation. Called Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP) and made up of citizen activists, we believe that the limited transportation dollars available should be spent as follows:

• On maintenance of existing infrastructure, particularly where crucial failures are clearly looming (Last Chance Grade);

• On addressing the safety of the highway where fatal accidents have occurred in significant numbers (see CRTP’s study on District One State Highway Fatalities at transportationpriorities.org);

• On sustainable development in light of climate change and sea level rise;

• On mass transit, on bike and pedestrian alternatives, and on alternatives to freight movement by truck.

Instead, what do we actually get? Bloated projects like the Alton overpass (justified years ago when logging and lumber trucks were coming and going from the Carlotta mill, now defunct), the Willits Bypass (a two-lane six-mile bypass of Willits at an astronomical $300 million and counting), the massive Indianola overpass that siphoned away all the county’s road maintenance funds for the foreseeable future and two projects to increase oversize truck traffic and create an alternative to I-5 (the Richardson Grove and Smith River Canyon projects.)

Taxpayer beware! The transportation bureaucracy is coming to the realization that the income stream from the gas taxes is drying up. Fuel-efficient cars and less driving mean less money. Now the state is embarked on two new ways to make up the gap instead of looking at reducing the bureaucracy and making project selection and spending accountable to the public.

The state is pushing (1) a project to get counties to pass yet another tax increase to generate highway maintenance funds and (2) a pilot project to charge motorists for miles driven. While the details are still sketchy, the fee for miles driven would obviously heavily impact rural drivers and would be an additional tax (called a fee) in addition to, but not in place of the federal and state gas taxes.

CRTP is advocating for better project selection, more careful spending and more accountability. You are welcome to join us by checking our Facebook page and website. Let’s get more citizen input into the picture before we contribute more tax dollars.

Barbara Kennedy
Weott

VDUs straining Trinidad

The Tuesday, Nov. 11  Trinidad City Council meeting included a review of issues with the city’s Vacation Dwelling Unit (VDU) ordinance and the City Council was unanimous in their recommendations for further direction and modifications to be made to the existing ordinance. Councilmembers also voted unanimously at their August City Council meeting to recommend an urgency moratorium on issuing VDU licenses and unanimously voted to recommend a cap on the numbers of short term vacation rentals in Trinidad. We are asking that the Planning Commission and the City Council of Trinidad restrict VDUs to commercial zones and remove/phase them out in residential zones. Some property managers in the community say that allowing these vacation rentals anywhere in the city is a “property rights issue.”

There is no property right in a residential zone to rent for fewer than 31 days. That is a common residential zoning stipulation. The owners of 230-plus residential properties in Trinidad do have the property right to rely on the zoning that describes what is allowed on their property. Trinidad’s Municipal Code states that a residential zone is intended to “provide a fishing village atmosphere” and “...visitor services should not create conflicts with residential areas. Commercial development and tourist accommodations are not compatible with maintaining residential neighborhoods.” These vacation rentals have a detrimental effect on the community character, civic life, public, health and general welfare of Trinidad. Vacation rentals also put a serious strain on residents who are the only enforcers of the current VDU Ordinance.

Home Occupations in residential neighborhoods were designed for residents with fishing occupations who live in Trinidad, not for transient hotel accommodations without management onsite. The limited public services provided by our residents and for our residents  are overburdened. Protecting our Trinidad neighborhoods from these de facto hotels and maintaining the character of our community neighborhoods must be the priority in Trinidad.

We all care about our quality of life in Trinidad and the ongoing lack of entry-level housing for residents; please let City Council and Planning Commission members know how you feel and submit testimony at the upcoming Planning Commission and City Council meetings. The City of Trinidad must address how VDUs are negatively impacting the character of residential neighborhoods. Go to the Facebook page, “Saving Trinidad Neighborhoods” for more updated information.

Kathleen Lake and Tom Davies
Trinidad residents

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