From the time the Journal was founded in 1990 up until a few election cycles ago, we endorsed candidates and made recommendations on ballot measures. They were ultimately my endorsements as editor/publisher -- and later as publisher when the two positions were split -- with substantial input from the reporting staff. It's not that I think those of us in the news-gathering business are smarter than our readers. It's just that we pay close attention and often have better recall than most. We have to, in order to do our job.
Since we have a new editor this election cycle, Carrie Peyton Dahlberg, I brought up the should-we-endorse question at a recent staff meeting. It was met with groans and sighs. Why piss off half our readers when their minds are made up? Nobody cares about newspaper endorsements! Isn't it just a vanity thing for the publisher? (Ouch.)
OK, then. I'm not telling you how to vote. But since this is my column, I will tell you how I would vote if I lived in your district. Then you can tell me why I'm either pretty smart or very wrongheaded in an email or letter to Carrie (email@example.com) for next week's paper. We'll budget extra room. Please use your real name and provide a daytime contact number. We must be able to contact and speak with you directly before noon on Monday, May 21.
Let's go from the easiest race to hardest: District 3. When you have an incumbent who is intelligent, honest, hardworking and in tune with the priorities of his district, he deserves to be re-elected. Mark Lovelace.
The District 2 representative certainly has a less homogenous constituency. After all, there's city folk and all those back-to-the-landers in the hills. What a mess of a district to represent. Incumbent Clif Clendenen, of the Fortuna apple-growing family fame, came into office as a businessman and pro-conservationist. (Yeah to both.) He became a moderate voice on the board and currently serves as chair of the North Coast Railroad Authority, among other appointments. That's all well and good, but if you read the Journal cover story last week, "District Soup," you will know that this election is all about the General Plan update -- which after 13 years, 300-plus meetings and 70-plus public hearings -- has moved at a glacial pace to the Board of Supervisors for approval. Clif understands the plan and, more importantly, is on guard against those who are trying to undo these years of process. He, too, deserves another term. His opponent, Estelle Fennell, until recently held a paid position for HumCPR, an advocacy group that spends all its efforts trying to water down the General Plan update. I'm very leery of this kind of lobbyist being elected to the board. Don't mess this up, District 2.
By the way, if you have forgotten just how important the General Plan update is, spend a little time on-line. The Journal has been reporting on this since our cover story of Sept. 7, 2000, called "What's the Plan, Humboldt?" If you search site:northcoastjournal.com and "general plan update" you will have 163 Journal entries -- 10 Google pages -- of reporting and commentary. No, you don't have to go back 13 years, start with some more recent coverage. How about "Why Do People Hate Kirk Girard?" a cover story Nov. 3, 2011? Or "General Babel," an editorial written by Ryan Burns, April 14, 2011? I also recommend, "Town Holler," June 18, 2009, a story that asks and answers the question, "The general plan update: important opportunity or colossal bore?" Or "Deliberate," July 15, 2010 -- one of my personal favorites. (Be careful. If you just search the Journal website and "general plan," you will get a mind-blowing 4,500-plus entries.) Some of the commentary pieces were written by former Editor Hank Sims, who now blogs for Lost Coast Communications, in his Town Dandy column for the Journal.
Now let's talk about District 1. Jimmy Smith is retiring and he leaves behind some big shoes to fill. This new supervisor will need to get up to speed quickly and have the courage, strength, independence and intelligence not to be misled. District 1 is a three-way race and might even go to a run-off. I hope it does because it needs more scrutiny. I sat in to hear the candidates Monday at the Eureka Rotary luncheon at the Wharfinger.
Annette De Modena is a fairly recent arrival in Humboldt County. She said she was excited about the "new" Prosperity 2012 effort but seems unaware of Prosperity's history: three years of very hard work and preparation before it was adopted by the county in 1999. She wants "harbor revitalization" linked with an east-west railroad line. From the forum I attended, I'll give her one point: She was the only one who would directly answer the question, "If not you, who would you vote for?" (She said, although Rex Bohn has "name recognition," Cheryl Seidner has "a deep, dear, abiding soul" and was a friend of hers. She'd vote for Cheryl.)
This is a two-way race. Bohn, with his ubiquitous round baseball signs even outside the district he is running in, is the equivalent of apple pie. He is an Energizer bunny who says yes to any good cause. I personally have attended perhaps a half dozen fund-raisers where he has served without pay as a very able and entertaining auctioneer. One was for the elementary school, Fieldbrook, down the street from my house here in the rural 5th District. He gave up a night of his life for my local school. I admire him. I thank him every chance I get for his civic involvement and service.
I am concerned, however. As reported in our Journal blog and in the newspaper, there have already been campaign shenanigans -- phony telephone polls that would so obviously benefit Bohn. Who's running them and why? If I were a candidate, I'd want to know and perhaps put a stop to it. It's not enough to shrug your shoulders and say, "It's not me." Voters want to know where this phantom support is coming from and why. Voters want to know if he will be beholden to people other than those listed on his campaign contribution reports.
Cheryl Seidner, former Wiyot tribal chair and retired administrator for Humboldt State University, is a late entry into this race. She was asked to run by several people concerned about the balance on the board, including Assemblyman Wes Chesbro and former Assemblywoman Patty Berg, among others. She is certainly qualified. If I had one adjective to describe her after hearing her speak, it would be "thoughtful." It's kind of refreshing.
You can read the Journal's coverage of these three races on-line at
http://www.northcoastjournal.com/news/2012/05/10/district-soup/ if you missed last week's paper.
And for U.S. Congress? It's a robust field vying to replace Mike Thompson. The top two -- Jared Huffman and someone other-than-Jared who will come in second -- will face off in November.
I might bring out my bully pulpit again in the fall for the congressional run-off.