Midterm elections are such a yawn, right? Well, this one actually has a few hot-button issues you may care about. GMOs and $12 an hour for hamburger flippers?
I was taught in journalism school that newspapers should have an opinion about the news they cover. In Humboldt County that means pissing off half your readers every election, the ones you happen to run into later in the street. (Opinion writers for big city papers don't have to face such immediate scorn.)
But here goes. These are a few of my favorite contests on a scale of how depressed I will be when I wake up the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 5.
Eureka City Council. Come on, people. Why didn't anyone run against Marian Brady? Do you really think these current council members are doing much more than keeping a chair warm? Where's the vision for Eureka? And accomplishments? (No, it does not count to take personal credit for things the new police chief is doing.) There are some city staffers and a lot of good Eureka citizens serving on committees, all working hard to move this city into the current century. They are just not on the council. Mike Newman? When he was asked to help get the Bay Trail between Eureka and Arcata moving forward, he famously said, "Rails first, then trails." If the Bay Trail had not been approved, the Caltrans U.S. Highway 101 project would still be in permanent limbo, too. Ward 5's Chet Albin, recently appointed to fill a vacancy, is blunt-spoken and has shown a willingness to vote his mind, even if it means breaking from the group. His opponent, Natalie Arroyo, however, is a strong progressive candidate with solid ideas, and a better bet to lead Eureka. Newman's opponent, Kim Bergel, did not do well in last week's Rotary debate. But neither did Newman and he's the veteran. I think Newman has had his turn.
Measure P, no GMOs. It's going to pass. All my dear liberal, environmental friends love this ballot measure. What's not to like? And how can anyone oppose something backed by so many of our local organic farmers and the North Coast Co-op? Poor Journal staff writer Heidi Walters had to report on this contentious issue (Oct. 2, "Fear vs. Hope"). We haven't had so many vitriolic letters in a long time. But I'm voting no. Science matters, and it simply doesn't support this ban in this county at this time. It's an answer to a problem we don't have. By the way, the story's headline, "Fear vs. Hope"? Terrific.
Measure R. This one is a little tougher. There's no evidence that increasing the minimum wage drags down business, proponents say. (True, in urban areas.) There might be a small, one-time bump in prices of goods and services, but that would be offset by the increased spending power of minimum wage earners, right? I have to admit when I first heard of this, I didn't think it had a prayer of passage because it was so extreme — $12 an hour, up from $9? Not Obama's $10.10? To take effect in 90 days? I know a lot of my fellow small business owners in Eureka who absolutely support increasing the minimum wage, but oppose this specific measure because it is poorly written and targets only businesses within the Eureka city limits. Kudos to Berit Meyer (Ramone's Bakery and Café) and Dennis Rael (Los Bagels) for publicly opposing Measure R in a letter in last week's paper.
Finally, tax increases. You could probably comb through the budgets of Blue Lake, Fortuna, Eureka and the county and find wasteful spending or appropriations you disagree with. However there's no question that local governments are getting hit from all sides — declining contributions from the state, more responsibilities (prison realignment), skyrocketing retirement and health care costs, increasing expenses for goods and services. Something has to give. I don't like the idea of Eureka with fewer cops, the county continuing to put off its deferred road maintenance, the DA's office going on horribly underfunded, and Fortuna depleting its reserve funds. Vote yes.
It's now officially too late to request a vote-by-mail ballot, but you can still swing by the county elections office in Eureka on H Street and Harris and pick one up. Ballots can be mailed — early, please — or filled out and dropped off at the polls. Even more fun, just show up to vote Nov. 4 and prove all those election forecasters wrong.
PS: This election is twice as important if you live in the city limits of Eureka. Don't let us down!