(As seen in the Mad River Union newspaper / May 3, 2022)
Right now the historic confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson are underway--historical as she is the first Black woman ever nominated to sit on The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
What strikes me is that there is currently an African American, Justice Clarence Thomas, and there is the female Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, seated on the highest court in the land. Yet I don’t find that either of those attributes have engendered any sense of comfort that either of those two will look out for my rights, or those of many of my fellow Americans.
I celebrate Ms. Jackson being the first Black woman on The SCOTUS and, I stand with Cory Booker and second his sentiments on this matter (see 10 minute video at: cspan.org). However, what I find even more intriguing in regards to social justice, is that Ketanji Brown Jackson is also the first nominee in the history of The SCOTUS to have once served as a public defender!
That brings me to Ben McLaughlin, candidate for Superior Court Judge here in Humboldt County
Most Judges are former prosecutors, as is Ben. He served seven years as a Deputy District Attorney and during that time he had a 90% conviction rate. Impressive numbers, and one reason why he has earned the endorsement of so many in law enforcement, including Del Norte County District Attorney Katherine Micks, the retired police chief of Arcata Tom Chapman, and the retired chief of police of Eureka Steve Watson, Fortuna City Councilman and former Fortuna police officer, Humboldt County Deputy Sheriff and District Attorney Investigator Mike Losey, as well as the endorsement of former District Attorney Paul Gallegos. But, Ben has also been endorsed by the current Humboldt County Public Defender Luke Brownfield.
You see, Ben McLaughlin has also served five years as a Public Defender. This is a significant distinction from his opponent in this race. As I reference when speaking of the current Supreme Court nominee, we want judges who understand both side of the courtroom. We want judges who understand the court room not just from the perspective of the most privileged, but also from the least empowered in our society. This experience has added to Ben's respect for all parties involved in the legal process. Including his time in private practice, Ben McLaughlin has 23 years of experience in the court room.
To me, this makes Ben McLaughlin the more qualified candidate for judge.
Ben has the proven experience that creates respect for the process and for all parties. This is why we should elect Ben Mclaughlin Superior Court Judge on June 7th.
You can visit his website: Ben4Judge.com to learn more, and he seems to respond to all email directly, which I think is pretty cool!
Eureka’s criminalization of homeless people is costing taxpayers more than it would to provide housing and it is also failing to reduce the number of unhoused people, a grand jury report found.
Ordinances passed by the Eureka City Council since 2012, such as ordinances against camping outside of designated areas and sitting or lying on a sidewalk in a commercial area, have been geared toward managing the homeless community rather than helping members of that community get housed, according to the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury report, “Les Miserables: The Criminalization of the Homeless in the City of Eureka,” released Thursday. The total number of homeless people that were counted in Eureka during a point-in-time count conducted annually by the Department of Housing and Urban Development meanwhile rose from 513 in 2015 to 653 in 2019.
“Our investigation found use of law enforcement as a primary tool in dealing with homelessness is counterproductive,” a Humboldt County news release submitted by foreperson Joseph Kravitz stated. “In Eureka, evacuating encampments simply dispersed problems from a contained location to a wider area of the city. Citations and arrests of homeless have not resulted in reducing the overall number of unhoused people in Eureka.”
Most of those ordinances have to do with the homeless trying to live their daily lives, particularly sleeping, which is cited as illegal camping, the report found. Before the homeless encampment at Palco Marsh was dispersed in 2016, there were 633 incidents of illegal camping that resulted in citations or arrests. Afterward there were 1,363.
Continuing to cite or arrest the homeless for sleeping in public could land the city in trouble since the U.S. Justice Department warned against prosecuting the homeless for sleeping in public in 2015 because it violated the U.S. Constitution for being cruel and unusual. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also decided in September that it was cruel and unusual to prosecute people for sleeping in public when they had no other options.
The Eureka Police Department and members of the Eureka City Council were unavailable for comment by publication time.
Vernon Price, an advocate for the homeless, said he did a public records request that found “967 unhoused citizens were ticketed within 18 months.”
“That’s not right for any city or municipality,” Price said. “That is very counterproductive to addressing the root causes of homelessness.”
The longer it takes to address those root causes, the more likely a person is to develop a mindset associated with chronic homelessness, which is tougher to address, Price said. After being homeless for about two years, a person might have developed social anxiety, paranoia and mistrust because of how they’ve been treated.
On top of that, homeless people become an eyesore to the community during business hours, which starts to affect a person psychologically in terms of “how one is looked at,” Price said.
Though there is no local monetary comparison of how much more it costs to criminalize the homeless rather than house them, the report cited several studies that illustrate it is more cost-effective to provide housing. One of the studies cited — a 2013 report on homeless from Utah — found that emergency room visits and jail stays cost $16,670 on average for each homeless person while it only costs $11,000 to provide each person with a social worker and an apartment.
The report also cited the case of one homeless man who the city spent $13,400 prosecuting for illegal camping.
“Evidence indicates that criminalizing the human activities of the unhoused is far more costly than providing transitional and permanent housing and support services,” the grand jury wrote. “Creating more debt through fines and criminal records through arrests erects steeper barriers for the homeless in finding work and qualifying for housing in an ever-tightening rental market.”
A Eureka Police Department survey of 190 homeless people found 44% of respondents had experienced homelessness for three to 10 years, 57% of respondents had a mental illness and 71% indicated that they had drug or alcohol abuse problems.
“This does not paint a portrait of a population that would respond well to citation, arrests, and constantly being moved from place to place,” the report reads. “From our interviews with the homeless and people who work with the homeless, law enforcement efforts only create more exhaustion, mental anguish, and the need for drugs to mask those states.”
The report recommended that representatives from the Eureka City Council, the police department, homeless groups and the homeless community form a committee and review the ordinances that homeless people have no choice but to violate if they want to live their lives. It also recommended that the city stop enforcing those ordinances and start collaborating with the county to:
• Provide storage sites at strategic locations for the homeless to use;
• Provide additional public restrooms throughout the community and to extend existing facilities’ operating hours;
• Increase affordable housing;
• Develop a plan to set up and finance short-term shelters and transitional housing;
• Conduct meetings at least once a month to address homelessness.
The report recommended that Eureka specifically needed to find ways for the homeless to have citation fees reduced or waived through community service, and the City Council needed to allocate more funds to the police department’s Mobile Intervention Service Team for additional law enforcement members.
More data on the homeless also needs to be collected, it stated.
While more permanent housing is the main goal, Price said immediate solutions need to be put in place to help the homeless now. Tent cities and tiny home communities have also proven to be successes and give people a much-needed sense of community.
Providing storage space for people during the day was also critical, Price said.
“How can you fill out job applications when all of your stuff is with you,” he said.
As the city moves forward, it’s important for the homeless and formerly homeless to have a seat at the table, Price said, because lived experience can help guide policy solutions in a more effective direction.
“It starts building positive lines of communication instead of battering someone psychologically,” Price said. “That begins to rebuild trust on both sides. It’s a win-win situation.”
PETITION TO HUMBOLDT COUNTY'S BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, CITY COUNCILS, AND THE HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF
We, the undersigned, do hereby petition all law enforcement agencies and governing bodies of Humboldt County to cease collaboration with Federal Immigration Officers in all local law enforcement matters unless explicitly required by law, including but not limited to not sharing jail release dates, not sharing personal information, and not using ICE agents (or other immigration officials) as interpreters.
Furthermore, we implore local law enforcement to diversify their forces to ensure that Spanish speaking officers, as well as officers of color, are represented on all departments and task forces.
We also petition our local representatives to fully support California SB 54, which would repeal existing Section 11369 of the Health and Safety Code, which provides that when there is reason to believe that a person arrested for a violation of specified controlled substance provisions may not be a citizen of the United States, the arresting agency shall notify the appropriate agency of the United States having charge of deportation matters.
Building on our rural creative class economy a better bet
By Dave Spreen of TransportationPriorities.org.
The newspaper headline read “Port seen as key to economy” and went on to report that after a roundtable discussion about ways to improve the local economy, the group of College of the Redwoods Administrators and area business owners came to a consensus that “developing Eureka’s port to increase commercial shipping traffic” was the answer.
Unfortunately, that headline was from February 1988 — over 27 years ago. We have spent hundreds of millions pursuing that goal, yet we are basically no closer. It’s not too late to change course, but if Caltrans’ Richardson Grove Highway 101 and the Del Norte Highway 199/197 road “widening” Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) oversize truck access projects are not cancelled, the international freight “port with rail” dreamers will continue to be a drain on public resources that could be better utilized elsewhere.
Opponents have suggested a smaller scale model. For example, Port Townsend, Washington, where 30 years ago folks there calculated that the train was not likely coming back in their generation, if ever, so they chose to accept that and build on local strengths. The Wooden Boat Foundation was created to attract craftspeople to the Port Townsend area and over time, rebuilt their community. By 2008 the Foundation was serving 150,000 people annually in its educational programs, events, and services at which time the Northwest Maritime Center was built on property previously owned by an oil company. Local and regional maritime enthusiasts, marine trades, local organizations, visitors and thousands of visiting schoolchildren from around the region use the center. The maritime center serves as an economic anchor for the port and community.
Locally, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District’s list of state and federal legislative priorities for 2015 includes “funding to develop a National Marine Research and Innovation Park,” which, along with the district’s short-sea-shipping initiative represent feasible projects to stimulate desirable economic growth and doable international shipping solutions without massive taxpayer subsidies.
Supporters of an international port with rail and oversize STAA trucking have for too long followed a locally unsuitable economic model that holds that industrial port development must be the primary economic driver for creating jobs and generating income for recreation and conservation improvements. The empirical evidence certainly does not support that model.
As reported in Dennis Mullins’ “Business Sense” column, “... the county continues to add jobs, has lower unemployment than about 40 of California’s 58 counties and is growing entrepreneurs at a faster rate in comparison to other rural counties.” (“Humboldt’s unemployment rate continues downward,” Times-Standard, July 19, Page D1.)
How could this be? Well, consider the newly released study by Department of Agriculture economist Timothy Wojan, which looks at the role of the “creative class” and natural amenities in rural counties’ performances during and after the Great Recession.
From the study overview: “The creative class thesis — that towns need to attract engineers, architects, artists, and people in other creative occupations to compete in today’s economy — may be particularly relevant to rural communities, which tend to lose much of their talent when young adults leave.”
In an article for CityLab.com, Richard Florida writes: “Two kinds of rural counties are experiencing growth, according to Wojan’s analysis. The first are nonmetro creative class counties close to major metros. The second are rural creative class counties that are home to colleges and universities, which are themselves knowledge economy hubs. This proximity effect is likely to become more important, as larger metros and knowledge economy hubs play an increasingly important role in driving economic growth across the nation.” (“The Fall and (Partial) Rise of the Rural Creative Class,” Nov. 11, 2014.)
Instead of turning the Humboldt/Del Norte Highway 101 corridor into I-5 Coastal, we should be renaming it “Redwood Coast Highway” and restricting it to California legal trucks only. Can you imagine anywhere on the coast south of us even suggesting STAA oversize truck access on Coast Highway (State Route 1) would be key to their economic development?
The Times-Standard reported that Humboldt was ranked second best county in the U.S. by the “natural amenities index.” (“Second best county in US,” Aug. 19, Page A3.) When two paths diverge in the woods, you can’t take both. Let’s direct transportation resources to enhance development of our rural creative class economy, not through-route access for oversize trucks in a futile pursuit of unsustainable goals.
Dave Spreen, a Kneeland resident, is spokesman for the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities. For more information, visit www.TransportationPriorities.org.
--- Notes on development of Humboldt Bay as a cargo shipping port:
While an active shipping port would have once been a source of numerous living wage jobs, modern automated ports create few jobs. Meanwhile frequent cargo ship traffic could seriously hinder commercial fishing, an industry that defies automation and instead still requires skilled workers. Large ships traffic will also impeding sport fishing, a proven source of local revenue (not to mention a cherisher activity for many us Humboldt residents!).
Here's a few footnoted quotes:
...Automation began to significantly decrease longshore jobs in the early 1960, ...the number of employed longshoremen declined from over 50,000 in 1953 to 23,000 in 1967. Since then the number has dropped to under 16,000. The cuts on the West Coast have been equally dramatic. There are now fewer than 10,000 regular longshoremen in all thirty-two ports of the West Coast. ...The loading and discharge of ships now involves ever-fewer humans… ...Longshore work will increasingly decasuaIize and more resemble warehouse or factory work: source
--- ...“If the port doesn’t automate, it will not be competitive,”
... equipment that moves containers from ships to shore cranes and trucks with minimal human labor. .. The technology at TraPac’s terminal at the Port of Los Angeles is likely to reduce the number of workers needed per crane by about 53 percent, and at transtainers — the hoisting devices for loading and unloading cargo from rail cars or trucks — by 85 percent, according to the Los Angeles Harbor Department report… source
However discouraging the job outlook for many persons “automated” out of work now or in the near future, some students of the problem insist that the long-range employment prospect is not as gloomy as it is often pictured. Assuming that automation will lead eventually to a general reduction in working hours, they point out that the resulting increase in leisure time will probably create new occupations and thus accentuate the established trend toward expansion of the service industries... It has been suggested also that additional leisure time may bring about “an increase in the demand for artists of every kind and for others catering to cultural requirements source
We believe meaningful public participation is the foundation of good government. There are several requirements to empower and support meaningful public participation. The recent special review by the planning commission did not meet these requirements. The changes made are not reflective of our goals for the future of Humboldt County.
Today we are asking you to take steps to restore the role of public input in the General Plan Update process. We are asking that you do four specific things:
Protect our supply of clean water by restoring reasonable protections for streams and wetlands. Protecting clean water is critical to our quality of life, the health of our economies, and critical to the goal of recovering local salmon runs.
Honor our communities intent to build a regional (county-wide) trail system. Restore the language in CO-G4 to read:
"Parks and Recreation. Well maintained and accessible parks offering a range of popular recreation opportunities and a countywide trail system that meets future recreational and non-motorized transportation demands."
Prioritize acquisition of land for community forests. Restore the language of OS-P1xx to read:
"Open Space Acquisition. The County shall seek opportunities to acquire high value open space lands, including community forests, and open space conservation easements. Full-fee acquisitions shall only be from willing sellers."
Do not direct the Planning Commission to re-review any more of the General Plan at this time.
The last several weeks have been divisive, wasteful, and ineffective. We are asking you—our elected representatives—to take responsibility for this unfortunate situation. In order to participate effectively we require:
advance notice of meetings
clear agendas and a clear understanding of the process
time to review changes made between meetings
In order to honor and respect the public input received over the last decade we request that you clearly focus your attention—and the work of the planning commission—on only the “shortlist.”
Now is not an appropriate time in this update process to be be rewriting or making dramatic changes to the existing draft. Please restore the General Plan process by honoring and protecting public input from the past, in present decision making, and in all future deliberations.
In response to Kay Backer's My Word of March 22, Getting Humboldt leaders to lead: Kay Backer is a paid professional spin doctor from Sacramento. Hired by local developers, she is paid to badger county government and bamboozle the public. She feigns concern for our families by shedding crocodile tears about so-called affordable housing here in Humboldt County.
It's ridiculous that Kay Backer is even treated as a legitimate voice in our local affairs just because Rob Arkley and HELP summon her to town for a meeting, or to send off an e-mail full of accusations and threats to the media. She represents nothing other than a handful of developers. Are there even five people who will admit to being a member of HELP?
It's absurd that those who pay her (they call themselves HELP but really should be called HELP-Yourself) are implying that the reason they want to build more houses is because they want to see home values drop. When has any developer ever wanted to see any housing prices drop? Do you want to see the value of your home decline?
In the Sacramento area, where Ms. Backer lives, homes are being built at an astounding rate. Strangely enough, housing prices there are still shooting up and now routinely cost about half a million dollars. Is that what Ms. Backer's backers have in mind as affordableâ€ housing?
Now Rob Arkley is threatening to use his money to sue the county unless planning officials buy into HELP's fabricated projections of housing needs. Isn't that called blackmail?
I have no objection to developers making money off constructing houses. But it's an outrage to be told that the reason they want permission to build more -- and forever change the essentially rural character of Humboldt County -- has anything to do with stopping people from moving out of town, lowering home prices or anything other than their search for higher profits.
Where will Kay Backer's concern for our community be the day after her paychecks stop coming in? Will she still be shouting HELP or just go on to her next lucrative public relations campaign?