Public Safety group still debating basics of its existence

Andrew George Butler
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Arcata’s Public Safety Task Force gathered June 28 in City Hall's Council Chamber for their sixth of 10 slated meetings. Ten of the 12 members on the task force attended the meeting, which was led for a second time by Heather Equinoss. a project management specialist who was brought on to direct the meetings and help the committee reach a common goal.

The task force, made up of Arcata community members, business owners, social service workers, and Police Chief Tom Chapman, was instructed to identify and propose solutions to various threats to public safety within Arcata. The goal is to give their findings to the city so that they may be implemented in Arcata.

The task force, against the gentle nudging from Equinoss, spent an hour mired in terminology and verbiage. A “charter” declaring the Task Force’s intent and mission quickly became the subject of scrutiny. Members of the group, after five previous meetings, returned to debating their original intent. They seemed divided, not knowing whether they wanted to design city projects, generate solutions to problems, or to simply identify the most outstanding threats to Arcata’s public safety.

Josh Neff, owner of the Minor Theater, said at one point, “we are here to find potential solutions, if we can’t do that, why are we here?”

Even the word “solution” came into question for ve minutes, as a lively philosophical debate about whether or not it is appropriate to claim one has a “solution” followed.

“When you assemble a diverse group of folks, differences tend to occur,” said Equinoss. “This meeting was their first real pass at identifying the problems they see most active in Arcata.”

After a bit of successful nudging Equinoss had the Task Force members write down on large note cards what they perceived to be biggest threats to public safety in the city. Top results were: The use and sale of illegal drugs, transients and their pets, a general lack of police resources, poverty, loitering, mental health, poor education, racial tension, insufficient microaggression training across most governmental agencies, and car camping.

The task force, now having attempted to put their arms around the breadth of woes weighing on Arcata, agreed to research and collect data on anything and everything related to their now long list of problems. This data will go to task force chair Anjali Browning, who will arrange it for the task force to view during their July meeting.

Only a handful of community members attended the meeting, and even fewer remained until its end. Equinoss said that this brand of committee tends to function best when community members are involved, outside of the committee itself.

With four scheduled meetings remaining, the beleaguered Public Safety Task Force appears to be picking up a bit of momentum.

“The talent and will to make a change is clearly within everyone on the committee,” Equinoss said.







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