For those of us who love the sport of politics, let me be the first to say, "Wow, Eureka!" Who says your vote doesn't count?!
In 33 years of reporting (or closely watching the reporting of others) I cannot recall election night prelim results being reversed. Last week, after all those straggling ballots were counted, Kim Bergel pulled ahead by 46 votes and, once the election is certified, will unseat Ward 3 Councilman Mike Newman. My statistician-husband called it a victory so narrow it was "by chance alone." (Number geeks will understand.)
How different will this new council be? Very.
Historically, city council members have been businessmen who often served to protect their own economic interests. They needed government help to pave streets and sidewalks and put in sewers for their developments, plus provide police and fire protection. After that, they wanted minimal government and the least interference with commerce as possible. That was very much the scenario 40 years ago in Arcata until the 18-year-olds got the vote and swept young, progressive, pro-planning, pro-environment candidates into office practically overnight. With that sudden and dramatic change to progressive/liberal leadership came early and enthusiastic support for recycling, the Arcata Marsh project, the community forest, bicycle lanes and trails ... and a flood of other new ideas.
Change came more slowly to other cities, including Eureka. I've closely watched the Eureka City Council since the Journal began publication in 1990. I rather liked the 12-year reign of Mayor Nancy Fleming — even with her close business ties. The council had many of its priorities straight: historic preservation, focus on the waterfront and Old Town, tourism promotion. A lot of very visible projects were started and accomplished. The following four years under Mayor Peter La Vallee the city's focus shifted a bit toward a more Arcata-style agenda, but the council was bipolar and got less done. More recent councils have been made up of people with less imagination, fewer ideas — and they seemed to waste a lot of time and emotional energy on a divisive agenda. Potential council members had to pledge allegiance to one controversial private development (the Marina Center) and the east-west rail line boondoggle.
Hopefully those days are behind us. The council will still have Marian Brady representing the old guard. Melinda Ciarabellini's independent streak has been a pleasant surprise. (She really stuck her neck out supporting Bergel over Newman.) Then there's Linda Atkins, the token liberal from the old council who has been shamefully marginalized for years. With Arroyo, Atkins and now Bergel, the progs are driving the bus and it will be exciting to see where it's going.
In other political news, the Journal is going on record in support of the Times-Standard's editorial of Nov. 13 calling for the immediate resignation of Aaron Newman from the Harbor Commission. He can no longer say, "I haven't heard anything negative," as he told the T-S, with a straight face.
The T-S is taking some guff online for calling him a "poacher," as did the Journal after Newman pleaded guilty to the misdemeanors of illegally obtaining hunting tags, lying to a state agency and misusing abalone tags. Let's look at some facts: As soon as Newman lied under oath saying he lost his deer hunting tag, it invalidated the first tag, meaning Newman took that four-point buck by illegal methods. Similarly, his plea for "misuse of abalone tags" was for not tagging his catch correctly, and therefore taking them by illegal methods. His admitted conduct is absolutely poaching.
There is no specific charge of "poaching" in the penal code or fish and game regulations, but harvesting fish and wildlife without following the rules is, by definition, poaching. Newman's pattern of behavior stretching back 10 years as documented in court filings is extensive and screams habitual poacher.
He is no doubt a good man in the eyes of his family and many friends, one who has accomplished much in his life. He just doesn't think the rules applied to him. Because of that arrogance, he does not belong on a commission dedicated to the principle of conservation. And shame on fellow commissioners for not calling for his resignation. If an elected official is convicted of offenses while serving in office, especially ones so closely related to the job he is supposed to be performing, he should resign and not wait for voters to do the job for him.
— Judy Hodgson