On one point, anyway, it's easy to agree with all the folks who stood up at last week's Eureka City Council meeting and pleaded for that body to put a critical zoning change for the Balloon Track property to a vote of the people -- it's long past time for the question of that property's future to be settled. The Balloon Track has been a source of idiotic politics and posturing and spite in this county for at least 11 years, when a similar measure sponsored by Wal-Mart was defeated by voters. Its sell-by date expired long ago. It has curdled, and it reeks.
Sadly, the present measure -- approved by the council by a vote of 3-2 and coming to a ballot near you this fall -- does nothing of the kind. It merely ratchets up the spite and recrimination once again, and this time for no solid purpose at all. The current City Council could and would approve the same zoning change -- required by Security National for its big box-anchored Marina Center development -- well before the ballot measure reaches voters.
For all intents and purposes, the fate of the project now rests with various state agencies -- especially the California Coastal Commission -- which, under California law, and for better or worse, have effective veto power over the development. That's the law, and that's where it rests. But that apparently doesn't suit Security National's oddly Manichean approach to business, in which villains must be smited in the process of getting deals done.
"The only way we're gonna cut through this stuff is when we get an affirmative vote from the citizens," Security National's Randy Gans told the Council, with a sneer. "We're going through a process with some bureaucrats. State agencies. They need a firm message from this city."
They may get it; they probably will, in fact. It's a mystery why anyone imagines that a plea from a politically insignificant city in the northwest corner of the state will have any effect whatsoever on the deliberations of a state body, but one can legitimately question whether getting the damn thing built has ever been Security National's principal goal. Somehow it has always played out more like a scheme to punish the enemies of capitalism, rather than a capitalist undertaking in its own right.
Last week's column, in which we urged a marriage between the cash-strapped Eureka Inn and Oregon's fabulous McMenamins hotel/restaurant/brew pub/movie house chain, prompted a gratifying outpouring of enthusiasm. Some readers lit up the comments section on our Web site. Others turned to the Face Book, signing up to the campaign on both the Journal's fan page and McMenamins'. Still others literally waved us down on the street and started babbling in our faces about how psyched they were about the whole idea.
"A truly inspired idea," wrote Chloe River Peart. "McMenamins knows how to do great community," wrote reader "KZ." "Our grand Inn deserves this chance to be her old self again!" wrote Eireen Young.
The Journal went through the trouble of trying to get in touch with McMenamins management through all the appropriate channels, without success. However, another eager reader -- Phylis Geller of Arcata -- gatecrashed the scene by sending off an e-mail directly to a member of the McMenamin family. She received a response almost immediately, which we reproduce here with heavy heart (and with the permission of its author, Dan McMenamin):
"Thanks for thinking of us, at this time however we are unable to take on any new opportunities. There are so many towns and communities we would like to be a part of (and could be down the road) but we are completely buried in projects for several years into the future that have already been slowed by the economic downturn. We do look at all requests and welcome ideas for new locations, we are just not able to act on all of them. Thank you again for the consideration and please do not hesitate to send us ideas down the road."
Sad news, sad news. Well, it was worth a ... hold up, now! A moment's Googling reveals that Mr. McM sent an identical note to a member of the "Bring McMenamins to Puyallup [Wash.]" Facebook group a few months ago! What's more, a helpful page admin affixed an addendum to this correspondence: "Note to fans: Don't let this stop you. We heard the same thing when we first contacted them about Tacoma."
Thank you, Puyallup. Solidarity forever. We in Humboldt County shall not rest until both our towns are McMenamized.