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Editor’s note: In Arcata, Sofia Pereira and Brett Watson are seeking re-election to the City Council on Nov. 6. They face challenger Valerie Rose Campbell. On Aug. 21, using contact information provided by Arcata City Hall, the Times-Standard emailed the candidates, asking them to provide some basic information about themselves in addition to answering five questions regarding their experience and their stance on important issues facing their community. The replies of respondents appear below.

Sofia Pereira

Editor’s note: No basic information submitted.

Q. Please describe your experience and what you bring to the job.

A: I’m running for re-election to continue leading the community through some of the major challenges facing us and lead us to solutions that will continue to make Arcata the best city on the North Coast to live, work, and study. Our campaign is based on advancing Arcata’s values: a fair economy and an inclusive community that fights for social justice and environmental sustainability. In my second term, I will continue to listen to all parts of our community, including those whose voices aren’t often heard, to find collaborative solutions.

Sofia Pereira

Since joining the Arcata City Council in 2014, I have engaged residents to develop solutions to Arcata’s most pressing needs: rent stabilization for mobile home residents, creating the city’s first zero waste action plan, and making our plaza more family-friendly. Advancing Arcata’s values, diversifying our economy, and working with our state and federal elected officials we are seeing more investment in Arcata.

I have a long history of serving the community. I began working in public policy as a field representative for Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro for Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte Counties where I helped residents overcome bureaucratic hurdles and worked on issues that were important to residents on the North Coast.

In 2013 I joined Humboldt County DHHS to ensure the county was prepared to take advantage of state funds and advance the programs serving our most vulnerable populations. Today I am a nonprofit director for a national women’s leadership organization, increasing the number of women leading in their communities.

Q: What are your priorities, if elected?

A: Our first priority is to address a housing shortage that’s making Arcata schools and our community out of reach for too many families and working people. We need to support the development of new market-rate housing to add more housing stock and work with our community partners to develop more affordable housing projects like we have been these past four years. We also need to address any housing discrimination and poor rental conditions that exist in Arcata.

We must directly face the real threat of sea level rise and climate change. In my second term we will advance planning around sea level rise and emergency preparedness for natural disasters. We will continue to implement zero waste solutions to divert from our landfills and reduce greenhouse gases. We will continue to advance local clean energy and alternative modes of transportation to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

We also must learn how to welcome our new residents of all backgrounds, and make Arcata a safe community for our students and community members. This includes working with residents and Humboldt State University on public safety, having real dialogue to better understand the experiences of our neighbors from different backgrounds, and take action to make Arcata a community that works diligently towards inclusion and equity.

Q: Is The Village the type of housing the city needs more or less of?

A: I voted to support the Village because we need a diverse range of housing solutions to meet the needs of families, young professionals, seniors, and students. With Arcata being a university town, we have a severe housing shortage for students and working people. Our vacancy rate is about 4 percent. In my first term on the city council, we approved a substantial number of market rate and affordable housing units. We also know that even with new development we are still unable to meet the demand. We are working on an infill development strategic plan that will attract and streamline new housing and mixed use projects for low and middle income residents.

When out-of-town corporate interests threatened the homes of low-income seniors and families in our mobile home parks, I worked with the residents to ensure that they could afford to stay in their homes for years to come with a rent stabilization ordinance. I’m working with our local homeless service providers on a winter/emergency shelter and securing state funding for rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, and new housing development for their clients.

Q: What should happen to the William McKinley statue and why?

A: After decades of debate, the public demanded the City Council make a decision about the McKinley statue and the future of the Arcata plaza, the heart of our town. The people elected me to help them sort through tough community issues and come up with a decision that best suits the community now and in the future, but also respects our shared heritage. We cannot deny or change the history behind this monument but we can choose what we want for our future. I stand by my vote to relocate the statue to a new home as it honors the important role this monument played in our community’s past. This decision recognizes what Arcata aspires for and literally makes room for a more hopeful and inclusive future. It is not a coincidence that this issue has gained the attention of national media outlets like Breitbart and Fox News who so often seek to divide our country with a wistful and whitewashed look backwards instead of deliberate, respectful and inclusive look forward. Relocating this statue presents an opportunity of change for our town, and it is now in the hands of the voters to determine the fate of the center of our plaza. I’ll be exercising my vote as a citizen of Arcata and voting “No” on Measure M.

Q: Describe what you’d like to see from the city’s next police chief.

A: Every resident in Arcata should feel secure in our community, no matter their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion. It is important that the next police chief shares Arcata’s values of a safe and inclusive community for all of our residents and will uphold our laws, including Arcata’s sanctuary ordinance.

Our next police chief must seek to build meaningful relationships and maintain regular and open communication with residents of our community, including parents, seniors, and our students. Humboldt State University has become much more representative of the state of California and our new chief will be working with new community members every fall who are acclimating to a new area.

As our department continues to work towards full staffing, we need a police chief who is committed to mentoring and supporting our officers, dispatchers and support staff in their professional development.

Brett Watson

Editor’s note: No photo submitted.

Current residence: Arcata. Occupation: Council member and business owner. Age: 37. Humboldt County resident for 12 years

Q: Please describe your experience and what you bring to the job.

A: I’ve served on the city council since April 2017. I first came to this community to attend Humboldt State and graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Forestry, Wildland Fire Management, and an Environmental Ethics minor. I’ve owned and operated my two businesses in Arcata for nine years.

My dedication to community service started long before my appointment to the council. I served for five years on the Arcata Economic Development Committee (including two years as chair), was a Board Member of Zero Waste Humboldt and Arcata Main Street, and I’m a Lifetime Member and volunteer with Friends of the Arcata Marsh. I also volunteer every week with seniors at the Arcata Community Center to help them learn how to use their smartphones and computers.

Serving on the city council has been a privilege and a responsibility I take very seriously. In my job on the council, I make myself very accessible by creating biweekly office hours and returning all constituent emails or calls in a timely manner. Ultimately, I think the job of any good public servant is to search out the facts of the issues before me and to ensure I’m accurately representing my constituents when making decisions. I’ve been very committed to representing the citizens of Arcata and will continue to do so if elected for a four-year term.

Q: What are your priorities, if elected?

A: I have an ambitious agenda for another four-year term. First and foremost, we need to create more living wage jobs and work to diversify Arcata’s economy. A large part of this involves making Valley West and the Plaza more inviting locations through continued beautification and improved public safety. I’ve worked hard to build strong connections with local business owners and citizens to gain a deeper understanding of the issues in these areas. We’ve already started working on solutions through the creation of the Plaza Design Task Force and I’ll continue to be an advocate for the residents of Valley West.

I’m also passionate about expanding safe and affordable housing for all residents of our community. The city has been proactive in identifying locations suitable for new housing and we need to work closely with the public to foster community buy-in for new projects in our neighborhoods.

For decades, Arcata has been a leader in sustainability and environmental protection. I intend to keep it that way. A major plank of my platform is to make Arcata a zero-waste city. The council previously passed the Zero Waste Action Plan and I’m proud to have voted for the creation of the Zero Waste Task Force. I am also an advocate for the preservation of public lands, including expanding the Community Forest and providing more access for all users. Finally, we must realize that Arcata will need to cope with the effects of climate change.

Q: Is The Village the type of housing the city needs more or less of?

A: Arcata absolutely needs more housing, but we need housing that’s available to all members of the community, whether it’s students, families, seniors, you name it. I don’t believe we should concentrate such a high number of students off campus and very close to neighborhoods. My primary request of HSU was that they allow for a small percentage of “The Village” to be mixed-use housing, which would be available to faculty, staff, and students with families. I believe this was a very reasonable concession to ask for and it’s not a radical idea. Many other universities have similar housing arrangements. This would create a more diverse and cohesive community environment that would not be offered by the “single student” model, but would still make sense for HSU to manage.

Affordability is also a concern. A common definition for affordable housing is housing plus utilities equal 30 percent or less of one’s income. A bed in “The Village” was projected to cost about $900/month. This means a student would have to make $2,700/month for the housing to be affordable. While this is on par with the dorms, it’s not attainable for many students and we received public comment from students expressing they couldn’t afford housing through the university.

Going forward, the city will work to support plans for developments that will be the most compatible for surrounding areas. We must also take into account how much infill our infrastructure can accommodate, and future projects need to earn community trust and buy-in upfront.

Q: What should happen to the William McKinley statue and why?

A: I’ve always been a proponent of putting the issue on the ballot so it could be decided by Arcata citizens. To me, it comes down to a matter of process and the fact that so many residents felt left out of the decision. The use of taxpayer money for removal is also another reason I believe the statue’s fate should be determined by Arcata citizens. My hope is that this will give the issue a sense of finality and I support what the voters decide in November.

If “No” wins, I want options in place to relocate the statue off the Plaza in a fiscally responsible manner. I’m in favor of leaving the space open for the benefit of the public to enjoy during our many community events.

If “Yes” wins, I will work to add plaques to the statue that give it historical context and discuss the impacts it has had on our community. It’s also important to me that the Wiyot are given the opportunity to be an author of the language on the any plaques and to share their perspective on the statue and the history of our area.

Q: Describe what you’d like to see from the city’s next police chief.

A: This is obviously a very important decision for the City of Arcata and I’m in full agreement with our chosen criteria for hiring a new police chief. First, a successful candidate must demonstrate an understanding of the broad inequities facing our communities of color and be committed to fair and impartial policing methods. This person must be someone who fully supports community-oriented policing and provides clear and transparent communication with the public. Developing a rapport with the community will go a long way toward building trust, which is essential in APD’s efforts to serve our city and its residents. I’d also like to see a chief who supports APD’s staff and who will build and lead a multigenerational department that is actively working to reflect the diversity of our city. Ultimately, the goal of APD is to ensure safety in our community. I have full confidence that our city will hire someone who agrees with these core principles.

Valerie Rose-Campbell

I live in the Valley West/ Giuntoli area of Arcata. My current occupations are as a playgroup leader with the most amazing team of woman at the city of Arcata, a human resource manager with a dedicated team striving to create an industry standard for our cannabis community at Emerald Employment, a co-creator in a family of five, and a student for life. I am 36 years old and have lived in Humboldt County for most of the last 18 years.

Valerie Rose-Campbell

Q: Please describe your experience and what you bring to the job.

A: Councilmember would be a new experience for me, but I am no stranger to leadership roles or trying something new. I first learned about leadership when placed in JROTC at an Orange County high school. I didn’t think I would like it at first, but I quickly rose through the ranks and by senior year I was leading a staff, a drill team, and was second in command to a cadet battalion of 120 of my HS peers. Looking back, I can now see how this set me up to be resilient as my continued lived experience was full of challenges. In between then and now, I traveled up and down the coast participating in or managing people and projects in public relations, non-profit, child and foster care, cannabis, and film related industries. 3 years as a playgroup leader and an admin for Humboldt Moms Facebook group has given me the opportunity to connect with families all over our community and a renewed passion for educating myself on topics related to mental health, race, and ACEs. I have also recently continued my education with an AA in Sociology & Communications, became a certified California Naturalist, and was trained to help educate our community on topics for raising socially conscious children through conversations about race. The culmination of these experiences means that what I will bring to the job is an intention to grow from the challenges we face as a community. Together we can “Grow Arcata Up.”

Q: What are your priorities, if elected?

A: When I first moved to Arcata, it was clear to me that people here wanted to live environmentally sustainable lifestyles. Over the last 10 years there have been challenges with recycling and compost programs and I believe that the intention for this lifestyle has declined systematically. When I first moved to Arcata, I thought I was surrounded by peace, love, unity, & respect. It wasn’t until I encountered my own brand of discrimination that I realized our systems were not created for equality and were failing at equity. The intention I see to combat this reality is continually met with opposition and apathy. When I first moved to Arcata, I thought we all had a golden ticket to a college education in our backyard. Then my time in the HSU dorms was over and the barriers to completing my degree became overwhelming and my intention to graduate was derailed. If we want to live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, or live in a world with social justice and access to education after high school, we have to make changes as a community. As a councilmember, it will be my priority to listen to the needs of the community and act accordingly. It will take a concerted effort of the city and the focused intentions of the individuals of Arcata to grow themselves up and become the change we want to see in the world.

Q: Is The Village the type of housing the city needs more or less of?

A: I have excluded the piece on the village project since it was already voted on.

Q: What should happen to the William McKinley statue and why?

A: I was raised in a red state that told me I had to support the ideals that built our nation. I thought something was wrong with me for not being as passionate as those that recited this message. Then, I discovered more about the history of modern humans and how people were mistreated in the name of building our country into the capitalist society it is today. I now understood why blindly respecting or supporting such ideals never felt right to me. I will not respect or honor anyone that built their legacy on the slaughter, selling, and mistreatment of human beings, even a president; past or present. We can’t change our past. Instead, we must face our history, all of it, and vow to never let that kind of horror be acceptable ever again. We have been given a choice to remove a symbol of generational trauma from our community. I don’t understand why anyone would want to stand in the way of anything that could help heal our community. The McKinley statue should have been removed years ago in our proudly proclaimed progressive little town of Arcata, and placed in an appropriate space for viewing and learning. Education on this matter should have been a priority at first so called “fringe group” opposition in our college town.

Q: Describe what you’d like to see from the city’s next police chief.

A: There are many qualities that the next police chief will need to have in order to be successful. Aside from a reasonable amount of experience and education, this person will need to be able to relate to the citizens of Arcata. All of them. Not just the privileged. This person needs to be a bridge not a barrier, and know how to deescalate people, not talk down to them. This person will need to understand our economic climate, our cannabis industry, our student population, the complexity of family dynamics, our court systems and procedures, our physical and mental health care desert, our opioid crisis, our transportation issues, our housing crisis, and how important it is to be trauma informed. While any officer that fits this and more qualifications to become a police chief would be great, I do wish that positions like this were not often recruited from out of the area. A lack of understanding of these issues can easily create an unsustainable work/job life to out of the area recruits in any field, creating many challenges that affect not only the individual but the community at large. While bigger cities may seamlessly transition when positions become vacant, it is harder for us to recover as a community when a beloved medical provider leaves or a police chief suddenly resigns.

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