Supervisor Roger Rodoni was creaky and hoarse when he made his last stand at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday morning - at least that's the way he appeared on television - but flu or not, the old cowboy did manage to unleash a customarily acerbic defense while his colleagues held his head under the water.
The issue on the table was the board's representation in the Humboldt County Association of Governments (HCOAG), an agency consisting of local governments, concerned primarily with transportation issues. Rodoni had served as county's representative on that board since he first took office. In fact, Rodoni said, the HCOAG appointment has traditionally been held by the supervisor from Second District - it had been thus for 30 years, he said.
But that was all before last year's smackdown over the issue of whether the Hoopa Valley Tribe should be given a place at the HCOAG table. Rodoni, along with representatives for the three south county cities - Ferndale, Fortuna and Rio Dell - voted that they should not. Trinidad, Blue Lake, Arcata and Eureka voted that they should. Then the Board of Supervisors as a whole passed a resolution supporting Hoopa's right to join the agency. But Rodoni continued to buck the trend, and when Supervisor Bonnie Neely assumed the chairmanship of the board, she moved to strip Rodoni of his seat on the board and instead assume it herself. That's what was set to go down Tuesday.
Rodoni wouldn't go without a fight. He opposed Hoopa's ascension to the HCOAG board, he said, because a tribe is not a government like other governments. It is not subject to state law. "I think the one looming argument on the opponents' side - that's the one I sit on, along with three other votes - the primary argument is that tribes ... tribes are for-profit, private corporations, and they are able to do things in the best interest of that private, for-profit corporation," he said.
His main concern in this regard - or, at least, the only he saw fit to mention this time around - was that tribes can give campaign contributions to candidates for office. "Supervisor Neely, I'm sure, is well aware that $25,000 can get a politician's ear," he said, an unveiled jab at the Blue Lake Rancheria's donation of that amount to her recent reelection campaign.
When it came up for debate, though, Neely - a bit disingenuously, perhaps - tried to bar discussion of Hoopa membership, saying that the issue at hand was simply one of the county's representation at HCOAG. This drew some jeers from the crowd.
"This is a real sad process, guys," said McKinleyville's Dennis Mayo when he took the podium to offer a defense. "What's so important about making this change? Why now, and not before?" Mayo cited the case of Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass' recent appointment to the Eureka City Council, praising it for being open and non-partisan, above-board. The cases were not unlike, he said, but the Supes were doing it the opposite way.
Both Mayo and Penny Elsebusch - one-half of the tag-team Elsebusch gadfly operation - brought up another point, independent of the Hoopa issue: Rodoni also serves as HCOAG's representative to the state association of similar agencies, and therefore holds some clout in state transportation issues.
But Neely wasn't buying. She, too, had plenty of transportation experience, she said - she worked on the Confusion Hill bypass task force, and she helped get funding for the Highway 299 Buckhorn Summit improvement project written into Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent transportation bond measure. Plus, as the governor's representative on the Coastal Commission, she already has a working relationship with people in Sacramento.
"Basically, all I've done is exercise my options, according to the rules," she said. "This is not an individual seat, and it is not a district seat. This person is here to represent the county." And then the vote went down - 4-1, Rodoni dissenting - and he was sent off into the sunset.
Well, we're not quite sure that his analogy would quite hold up to any sort of rigorous scrutiny, but Dennis Mayowas right - that sure was a good time had by all at the Eureka City Council meeting Thursday night. Long story short, since you've probably heard it all already, was that after enduring a madcap race up Highway 101 in order to make it home in time for the meeting, Polly Endert, Mayor Bass' appointee to fill the empty seat on the City Council, was confirmed with a unanimous endorsement by the Council's sitting members.
It was sort of a Kumbaya moment, and Bass deserves every drop of the praise that has since been showered upon her for engineering the bipartisan process that led up to the appointment. Even Councilmember Larry Glass, who had been feeling kind of pissed off and loop-excluded when we talked to him last Tuesday, had been reassured by the time the Council meeting rolled around. After the 4-0 vote on the Endert appointment had been taken, everyone sort of milled about with smiles on their faces.
And to tell the truth, the appointment itself wasn't the evening's only olive-branch moment. The Council also unanimously agreed to appoint Glass to assist City Manager Dave Tysonin going over the applications the city has received from people interested in becoming its new police chief. Glass has expressed great interest in fixing the police department, and as someone pointed out - was it Mike Jones? - he himself has something of a background in law enforcement, having, in his youth, attended the Los Angeles Police Department's academy. The unanimous vote was a mark of confidence in the rookie council member, and was bound to be much appreciated.
Is it always going to be this way? Is the peace going to hold? Wouldn't that be nice? Sure, there are some big issues coming down the pike - not least, of course, Rob and Cherie Arkley's already divisive Home Depot-anchored "Marina Center" development - but perhaps it will be possible to respectfully disagree on matters, without each side resorting to crude caricature of the other. Perhaps the nastiest aspects of the Marina Center controversy will be punted off to the Coastal Commission, where, given the local progressive loss in November, the antis have a better chance of making a stand.
For now, it feels either like a honeymoon or the beginning of a new Golden Age, though civilian fear-mongering on both sides (all sides) will no doubt continue unabated. Sorry - this is just a nasty place that way. It ain't my fault!
Not always, though. At the beginning of the council meeting, before Endert had arrived, the Council decided to hold a moment of silence for Tish Wilburn, the cranky woman-about-town who had died suddenly earlier in the week, just after her quirky race for City Council. Then several of the councilmembers shared their Tish memories, many of them dating from the time she was known as Tish Carney and working as a reporter for KHSU.
It was touching. Mayor Bass fondly recalled her first conversation with Tish, whom she met when she was first deciding to run from council. Tish was in her intrepid reporter mode, Bass said. As the Mayor recalled it, the first words out of Carney's mouth were: "Is it true that you're just Jim Gupton in a skirt?" It got a good laugh.
Fare-the-well, Tish! You were a pain in the ass, but you managed never to be an ass yourself.