“In America, getting on in the world means getting out of the world that was known before.” — Ellery Sedgwick.
For the first time in living memory every candidate supported by Republicans lost to progressive Democrats in all four open seats in Eureka, including mayor.
his is the result of improved voter-contact and reduced campaign costs from Eureka’s new true-ward system. Also, voter turnout has increased nationwide due to the corrupt republican developer in the White House.
New voters are being inspired by local citizen-candidates who “run against the system,” AKA “draining the swamp.” However, once in office, they are soon overwhelmed by “the system” that enriches entrenched privileged elites whose lobbyists, developers, attorneys and power points inundate city hall with promises of “trickle down” public benefits while often omitting the far-higher costs of their proposal’s long-term negative impacts.
A recent example is the national Carrington Corporation’s “proposal” to leave their downtown property in blighted condition unless Eureka pays for a $450,000 traffic signal. (In 2019, Caltrans will install a traffic signal one block away from Carrington’s development at no cost to Eureka). Neither the developer, nor city staff calculated the collateral public costs of Carrington’s desire to add more fast food chains to Eureka’s saturated market, in effect, the cost of more welfare, Medi-Cal and food aid needed for more part-time poverty wages; the costs of additional injuries and fatalities on Broadway; the jobs lost by small, locally owned competitors; or the obvious need for more effective abatement ordinances to hold owners of blighted commercial property, like Carrington, accountable, not rewarded.
Eureka’s City Council blindly dismissed all collateral public costs and approved the $450,000 public subsidy to the Carrington Corporation claiming it will be repaid from tax revenues generated by Carrington’s lessees. This is a claim still used for every new national hotel chain saturating Broadway creating vacancies at locally owned competitors, now noticeably part of Eureka’s growth in commercial blight, vandalism, and targets for arson.
Rural America is awash in blighted hotels, vacant fast food chains, acres of empty parking lots, abandoned malls and big box eyesores illustrating how “growth” is not always progress. In fact, national chains rely almost entirely upon out-of-state and offshore suppliers, a business model becoming less viable each day as 17 years of expanding wars-for-oil mark the immanent collapse of “cheap” fuel, and the imperative for every community’s laser-focus on regional economic, food and energy sustainability, not deeper dependency. $450,000 is better invested in establishing a fund to replace Eureka’s efficient trolley system enhancing resident’s quality of life, increase property values, address climate change, depleting oil, and Eureka’s unprecedented injury and fatality statistics for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Or, $450,000 could provide hundreds of low-income Eureka youths with university scholarships, or wage subsidies for employment experience in meaningful trades, programs that would reduce high rates of property crime.
Arcata’s moratorium on big box and fast food chains allows diverse, locally owned businesses to flourish, attracting new residents and their higher paying industries, while Eureka’s saturation in national chains attracts scores of predators targeting the working poor with pawn shops, payday loans, slumlords, rent-to-own, bail bonds, reverse mortgages, check cashing, job scalpers, among other profiteers benefiting from turning the poor into the destitute and then passing the high costs of poverty onto government, (documented in Humboldt County’s disturbing Community Assessment and Trends Reports).
November’s election was a referendum against business-as-usual in Eureka. Yet, the development industry’s undue influence continues, not simply in extorting public subsidies, but in having our City Council and staff dutifully parrot development industry talking points, for example: “growth is progress,” “trickle-down benefits,” “deepening retail diversity,” “tax revenues repay public costs,” “try something new” and “a catalyst for other businesses” among other platitudes spoken at the City Council meeting Nov. 14, (available online). Using public hearings to repeat speculator’s groundless clichés, instead of basing large public subsidy awards on sound urban planning, doesn’t mean city officials are unintelligent, it means they think we are.
Eureka residents are not idiots; we’ve been deceived by a baseless “trickle-down” orthodoxy embraced for decades by consecutive City Council’s prolonging and worsening Eureka’s haphazard development legacy of subsidizing the whims of wealthy speculators who generally win every candidate they back … until now.
It will take many more progressive City Council majorities to develop the courage and independence to change course by consulting professionals in urban planning, economics and science before rubber-stamping and subsidizing projects that are inconsistent with future revitalization in a sustainable green economy.
George Clark resides in Eureka.