City, Measure M proponents at odds over cost of removal of McKinley statue

City claims cost is $65K, campaign for initiative says $525K

The future of the statue of William McKinley will be decided with Measure M, which is on the November ballot. (Shaun Walker – The Times-Standard)

The city of Arcata and proponents of Measure M, which will determine the fate of the President William McKinley statue on the Arcata Plaza, are at odds over the cost of removing the statue.

Arcata Community Development Director David Loya said after multiple reviews, the city stands by its estimate of the cost of removing the McKinley statue, which is $65,000. He said the estimate accounts for two days of crane operation, staff and consultation costs, and includes a cushion to ensure overages which would be contained.

“We’ve padded it significantly,” he said.

The Yes on Measure M campaign is stating, however, statue removal will cost $525,000.

Councilman Michael Winkler, who posted the half-million cost on the campaign’s Facebook page, said the cost estimate was based on a comparison of other cities that have removed statues. Winkler, noting the source wanted to remain anonymous, came up with the estimate based on a report by a New Orleans ABC affiliate. The article stated that the removal of four monuments cost the city of New Orleans over $2.1 million — a total that when divided by four comes to the estimated $525,000.

But in the case of the New Orleans statues, the article reported the costs were inflated by litigation and security measures, factors that do not appear to be in play in Arcata.

Despite Winkler’s call for a comparison of removal to other cities, Loya said the comparison of city projects to other cities is not a normal practice.

“Paving for instance,” he said, mentioning an upcoming city paving project, “we don’t do a cross comparison to see how much it will cost them.”

Whether it makes sense to compare multiple statue removals in New Orleans to the removal of McKinley in Arcata is something Loya said he would leave to the public.

Estimates for projects are done based on local factors, he said. Loya said recently, the city hired a crane to remove three full-size redwood trees, which was a larger and more delicate project than removing the McKinley statue. The cost for that project was $6,500. Loya emphasized that he created the estimate without any kind of agenda.

“The work I’m doing is not for or against Measure M,” he said.

Loya is following directives given to him by the council, he said.

Loya said the draft Environmental Impact Report is publicly available and encourages people to provide comments on the report. The comments will be incorporated and addressed in the final EIR if the final EIR is necessary, which depends on the outcome of the vote on Measure M.

New report on statue

As part of an ongoing study commissioned by Arcata City Councilwoman Susan Ornelas, Arcata City interns Steven Munoz and Paul Hilton released the second installation of a report detailing the history of President William McKinley and George Zehndner, the man who commissioned the statue in the Arcata Plaza. The report was shared with the Times-Standard on Tuesday.

When asked why Hilton chose to intern with the City to create the report, he said he wanted a research experience that was community oriented. His previous research experience, he said was largely based on matters pertaining to subjects that tend to remain isolated in academia.

“I was just interested in what McKinley was doing,” he said. “If people want to say this substantiates removal of the statue, that’s their decision.” Hilton said the sources used to compile the report are all available on the city’s website.

The newest report begins by discussing McKinley’s military service with the Union Army. Hilton said during his research, there was no indication as to why McKinley joined the Union Army. McKinley’s service helped him gain political support, the report states.

The report states, after he became president, “McKinley appeased domestic calls for the expansion of U.S. influence by rubber-stamping the Spanish-American war” and the occupation of several countries. One of them, the Philippines, “saw the government-approved use of concentration camps to suppress the citizenry.”

It goes on to describe McKinley’s approval of the annexation of Hawaii, despite the opposition of the annexation by “the vast majority of the former Kingdom’s residents.”

The report also said McKinley’s “continued policies of displacing, discriminating against and abusing native people.”

He did this by overturning treaties, abolishing tribal governments, and invalidating their laws. By signing the Curtis Act of 1898, McKinley removed from the Five Civilized Tribes “an estimated 90 million acres of land formerly reserved for Native Americans.”

Although McKinley “was a veteran of the Civil War, and an espoused abolitionist,” the report says, during his presidency, he “turned a blind eye to repeated occurrences of mass lynchings of black Americans in the South.” The report quoted a letter titled, “Open Letter to President McKinley by Colored People of Massachusetts,” which read, “you have seen our sufferings, witnessed from your high place our awful wrongs and miseries, and yet you have at no time, and on no occasion, opened your lips in our behalf.”

The report ends by saying that while McKinley simultaneous used rhetoric “about worldly justice and how the U.S should function as a role model,” he was also, “known for his ‘extraordinary and incomprehensible silence on the subject of wrongs’ done to Black and Native Americans.”

The full report can be read below.

Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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