The Eureka City Council moved forward this week with including a land acknowledgement at the the beginning of its meetings, unanimously approved the creation of citizens advisory board for the police department and chose Linc Housing, a company out of Long Beach, as the developer for 107 affordable housing units across three city-owned properties.
At Councilmember Natalie Arroyo’s request, the council considered Tuesday whether to include a regular acknowledgement in council meetings that would fall between the councilmembers’ roll call and the pledge of allegiance specifically noting that the meeting is taking place on the ancestral lands of the Wiyot people, who have lived in Humboldt County since time immemorial. Councilmember Kim Bergel said she liked the idea but the acknowledgement needs to be more than just boilerplate language.
“I think it’s important, I think it’s a sign of respect,” she said. “The thing about this though, I don’t want to do a land acknowledgement because it’s the thing to do … I don’t want to do gratuitous land acknowledgement. I believe it needs have some substance.”
Bergel said she’d like to see the city consult with the Wiyot Tribe on a more regular basis to “continue to develop our relationship with the tribe,” and noted that she watched a 90-minute lecture by Humboldt State University Native American Studies Chair Cutcha Risling Baldy (a Journal contributor) on the subject, in which she counseled that, done right, land acknowledgements should include reference to all Native peoples who lived in the area, Native terms for the land and present tense language to honor Native people’s continued existences on the lands.
Bergel said the acknowledgements can be “precious, imperative and important” but need to be done with research and thought. Arroyo agreed, saying the city should consult not just the Wiyot Tribe but other tribes and rancherias in the area about what they’d like to see in an acknowledgement, saying it’s also a good opportunity to open dialogues about what else the city can do.
Ultimately, the council voted unanimously to approve the acknowledgement in principle but not to implement it until January, giving the city time to consult with local tribes. Final language of an acknowledgement will come back before the council before then for final approval.
In other matters, the council unanimously approved the creation of a seven-member citizens advisory board to the chief of police that will review citizen complaints, review officer disciplinary actions, department policies and critical incidents to offer input and suggestions. While the board’s meetings will be public and subject to the Brown Act, its members, who will be appointed by the mayor and approved by the council, will be bound by confidentiality agreements that would allow them to review confidential personnel documents. The board will not have any independent authority to discipline offers, investigate citizen complaints or change departmental policy, but is hoped to serve as a liaison between the department and the public, and increase transparency.
In approving the board’s creation, the council also voted to require its members to undergo implicit bias training.
Finally, the council voted unanimously to award the affordable housing development project to Linc Housing, which had put forward plans to convert three city-owned parking lots — on Sunny and Myrtle avenues, Eighth and G streets, and Sixth and M streets — into apartment complexes with a combined 107 units of affordable housing.
Watch the entirety of the council’s meeting below.