I read with interest Bob Doran’s article regarding the City of Arcata’s regulation and financial abuse of such venerable events as the North Country Fair, and truly empathize with Matthew Cook and the Same Old People’s predicament (“Keep Off the Grass,” May 14). But I wonder why the Journal chose to spotlight an event that occurs just once a year when these same political pressures are brought to bear on other events, including one that occurs on Arcata’s Plaza weekly, seven months of the year for the last 31 years?
As a vendor at the Farmers’ Market for the last 22 years, I’ve noticed the Market’s treatment by the city has been traditionally one-sided and patently unfair. The city’s micromanagement began a decade ago, when City Manager Dan Hauser decided to squeeze the farmers into all but the last foot of the sidewalk, and then totally retreat to the street the following year. As vendors were backed into the street, the City feared a problem with traffic safety, necessitating the Market pay as much as $5,000 per year for traffic cone removal. This was paid on top of other new or increasing fees levied by the City, eg. nearly a grand for city permits and nearly five grand for portapotties per year. The seller’s permit for each vendor was doubled, and then doubled again, until every vendor now pays the same business license fee that the Plaza storefronts pay, even though the farmers only sell for five hours one day a week for seven months, and some vendors only sell a few days in any year!
Other insults came as more profitable events (to the city coffers) came along, causing the city no problem in edging the Farmers Market off the Plaza entirely. During the first year of the Oyster Festival, it could only be held by being added to the Farmers’ Market use permit, yet now the Market has been pushed off the Plaza by the same event it originally sponsored!
The most recent assault by the City came from Police Chief Randy Mendosa, now also serving as city manager. In years past, when customers of a handful of Main Street businesses abandoned their illegally parked vehicles early Saturday mornings, farmers could call tow trucks to haul the cars away for impound so the farmers could sell their weekly product. Beginning last fall, Chief Mendosa decreed that this was no longer legal, and despite the posting of signs every few feet, farmers who wanted to sell in the space they had paid licenses for would have to tow any vehicle at their own expense and could not be reimbursed by fees or fines. Meanwhile, the city collects $200 per ticket!
This early in the season, there have been as many as five vehicles a Saturday towed at $100 each. Given the number of cars towed last season, this new policy will cost the Market $7,000/year. I know
of no other jurisdiction that has such reluctance to impound illegally parked cars in areas with such prominent signage. It seems fairness is seldom a guiding force for politically correct Arcata.
When each of these policies added new burdens to the Farmers’ Market, the city turned a deaf ear to the pain they were inflicting and could offer no mitigation. Because of this, some farmers even consider moving the Market to a different venue (and a couple of local property owners have shown interest). In that way, the City of Arcata could save their precious parking spaces, benches and grass for the street people, their avocations and their music every Saturday. Imagine that, citizens of Arcata, and consider whether you want your city to tax, fee and regulate every local tradition out of existence.
Bob Filbey, Blue Lake
Sweet Spot: Bob Filbey wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.