80% Discrimination and Local Elections

Matthew Owen is running for City Council Member for Eureka’s Second Ward as, coincidentally, am I.

We disagree on quite a bit even though we both have been active Associate Members of the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee (HCDCC).

Our first public disagreement this election cycle is on the current mind-numbing “At Large” electoral system Eureka uses.  You can find my opinions of it here and Matthew Owen’s opinions of it here.

Basically Matthew will say the system “ain’t broke” while I’ll agree with Bob and Pam Service that we have a local democratic crisis.

(Search for Eureka City Council 7/5/16 on access humboldt and start at 10623)  I had to remove this  video as  it was loading and running with the home page.


Mr. Owens believes there is wisdom in the current system because it will help distinguish the lazy from the non-lazy candidate.  Seriously, laziness is a recurring theme in local right-of-center politics and from a recent pre-election conversation with Matthew, not to mention his latest post, it appears this will be another election cycle with this talking point.

But laziness aside, let’s look at the repeated contention that a True Ward system means 80% Discrimination.  First of all, I don’t think Matthew is clear on the concept of discrimination.  Discrimination is on/off.  Either you are discriminated against or you’re not, there is no such thing as being partially discriminated against.

Matthew’s argument, from his post, is this…

You would not have any say (vote) for the City Council candidates in the other four wards. In other words, for each Eureka City Council election only 20% of the voters (one out of five wards) would have a say and 80% of the voters would be discriminated against.

Which simply doesn’t make any sense.  Do you feel 99.9977%* discriminated against as us Humboldtians who have voted for Congressman Jared Huffman don’t have a say in the rest of the 434 Congressional Districts?

Eureka Ward
Madsen now Arroyo, Newman now Bergel

Matthew is playing the victim here when he is actually one of the ones with more power (or in this case representation).  What Mr. Owen and those that use the spurious argument of “don’t fix what ain’t broke” won’t tell you is the “At Large” system is clearly about … maintaining power.  Yes, maintaining 80% more power for those people who will vote more often.  These voters are people who tend to own property, tend to have a stable life, tend to be older and better educated, tend to pay attention to local issues and might even have a financial stake in how the elections go.  These are also people who tend to live in the more affluent parts of town which include (generally) most of the Forth and those parts of the 5th and 3rd that approach Henderson center.  These are the people who tend to vote the way Matthew and those that will support him vote – trending conservative and Republican.

That is what is at stake here.  It is about democracy.  Neither Matthew nor I are fans of “exclusion in the Democratic (sic) process“, but I would argue that Matthew isn’t being honest in his definition of democracy when he concludes that the True Ward system isn’t clearly more democratic.

The local system is in crises as evidenced by the lack of candidates, especially those with left-of-center views that do not have easy access to critical political infrastructure such as cash from local businesses or for that matter, high profile property for signs.  The result is less choice in elections and lower rates of participation as people appropriately feel disenfranchised.

The True Ward system is an exciting addition to November’s ballot and I’m hopeful that Matthew, John Fullerton (announced candidate for the Fourth Ward), and I (and hopefully one more candidate) will have a honest and informative debate on why we hold the views we do.  Who knows, maybe a genuine debate will help spur interest sparking a trend of more public participation in local elections.

* 100%-1/435 where 435 = the number of Representatives in the United States House of Representatives.


Filing for Eureka City Council Begins Today…

…and ends August 5th.

From City Clerk’s page here,

The next regular municipal election in the City of Eureka will be November 8, 2016 to fill the following elective offices:
  City Council – Ward 2
City Council – Ward 4
The Nomination period to file for offices is July 18, 2014 through August 5, 2016.  Nomination forms can be obtained at the City Clerk’s office

What this means is today when the office opens will be the first time that prospective candidates may pick up the paperwork required to file with the City.  This will include gathering 20 signatures.

I’ll be picking up the packet after work today.

So if you know anyone who would be willing to run against John Fullerton and possibly Melinda Ciarabellini in the Forth – OR- if you know someone who lives in the 2nd who would given likely candidate Matthew Owen a run and would be someone who would follow in Linda Atkins’s very formidable footsteps please let me know.  My number is (707) 496-5311.

I haven’t been able to give organizing a campaign the focus it deserves I was hoping to have a leave of absence or limited hours granted, but this was not in the cards due to program needs.

Therefore, if I am going to give this part-time job as a Councilperson a run with a the type of campaign I feel Eureka residents deserve, then I will be putting in my two week’s notice with my current employer, Humboldt’s Department of Health and Human Services today.

If you are thinking about a run for the Second and you are someone who could defeat a candidate such as the rumored Matthew Owen and could be endorsed by those who have worked on the Bernie Campaign please do call me by noon today.

For the rest of Humboldt residents, if you know someone in Eureka who would consider a run for the Forth, it’s go time.  I’d love to hear from you or the candidate as I would love to share campaign resources.

No matter the election, those satisfying the status quo seem to find a candidate to run without fail.  We left-of-center folks haven’t been as fortunate, organized or motivated.  I’m hoping we can point to November 2016 as the election we were able to reverse this fundamentally undemocratic trend.  We in Humboldt and Eureka deserve at the very least a functioning democracy.



HAF Hosts Meeting on Houseless This AM

Via the Time Standard on their front page, there is a meeting today from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Humboldt Area Foundation which can be found about half-way between Eureka and Arcata off of that Indianola cutoff you drive by many times each week.

There should be plenty of parking, the address is 363 Indianola Road.

TS meeting

For those of us who will be working this morning, would someone please set their cell-phones to record?  If there is an audio file and it is unavailable on local media, I’d be happy to host it.

Click here for the article written by Hunter Cresswell of the T-S.

A Reminder of Why it’s BLM not ALM

From Fusion via Ohio State Senator Nina Turner’s Twitter feed.

5 Paragraphs on why it’s Black Lives Matter.  From GeekAesthete of Reddit…

Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

The problem is that, in practice, the world doesn’t work that way. You see the film Nightcrawler? You know the part where Renee Russo tells Jake Gyllenhal that she doesn’t want footage of a black or latino person dying, she wants news stories about affluent white people being killed? That’s not made up out of whole cloth — there is a news bias toward stories that the majority of the audience (who are white) can identify with. So when a young black man gets killed (prior to the recent police shootings), it’s generally not considered “news”, while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate — young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don’t treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem but racism among prominent Democrats continued “well into the 20th century.” Can you imagine? But we’ve been working feverishly for decades to keep our shameful past swept under the rug, so virtually nobody knows this anymore.

And here is Sean Hannity putting the Black All Lives Matter trope to action.  It’s cringe worthy to hear Sean talking to the reporter through his ear-piece then the reporter having to translate Sean’s questions to people who generally had great answers.  Also, the due process that Sean asked about in one of his questions is exactly what Black Lives Matters is about.  There has been no due process for people like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile




Nina Turner is a State Senator from Ohio.  I began following her on Twitter a couple of months ago and after hearing about the “vicious, calculated, and despicable attack” on police officers I went to her feed to get a little perspective.

It turns out that Nina not only is an African American mother but she is also a mother of a police officer, so she gets this.

12 hours ago (before news of the slain police officers) she was tweeting this.

and this…

Then an hour later, after the murders in Dallas, this…

and this…

2016 will not be the divisive year for Democrats that 1968 was.  We cannot and will not let events that are paralleling 1965 where a racially-charged traffic stop lead to the Watts riots and the indelible images on the relatively new broadcast medium of television fueled the reactionary politics of fear and hate for decades to follow.

We now have a tragically ever increasing volume of mind-numbing videos that continue to prove America’s two tiered justice system and we will get to a place where love trumps hate.

But not yet, not last night.

Remember, we can beat this.  We will find and convict those who killed the officers last night.  We will also fight to find justice for those who should still be alive today such as Philandro Castile and Alton Sterling.

The justice that will eventually come will not be exactly what any of us would like it to be.  We’d all rather, as Nina tweeted, that none of this had to happen at all.  We also have to keep in mind the difference between murder and killing.  Because of whom was wearing the uniforms when people die 100 times out of 100 a slain officer will be murder, and even in the unbearable litany of black deaths in the hands of officers (not to mention white deaths), 99 times out of 100 we will be seeking justice for a killing, not murder.

Understanding the difference between a killing and a murder is critical.  If we can understand this and teach this, then there is hope we can continue to improve on the notion of justice for all in our nation.  And in today’s society, justice for all means focusing with clarity on the fact that black lives matter.

Wave at or salute or thank a peace officer today for the work he or she does.  Let those of us  who can spread the love and respect we all deserve.

Continue reading “#unacceptable”

Eureka’s Electoral System: It IS Broke…

…and it DOES Need Fixin’.

The consensus from those that spoke against the agenda item at the Eureka City Council meeting last night that would put the current system on the ballot this November was that Eureka’s “at large” electoral system ain’t broke and it doesn’t need fixing. (Note:  If you will watch this online, this debate starts just over 3 hrs into the meeting.)

On the other hand, Democratic Central Committee Chair (and friend) Bob Service made the argument that far from being not-broke, Eureka’s democracy is in crisis.  He pointed out that half of those sitting behind the dais had run unopposed.  Does anyone wish to argue that our record of unopposed elections isn’t broken?

Councilmember Marian Brady brought up the specious argument that 80% of Eureka would be disenfranchised by a true ward system.  Councilmember Ciarabellini disagreed with Councilmember Atkins’ who referenced City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson’s report that the current system represents a potential financial liability under the California Voting Rights Act by saying we’re not “doing polarized elections”.

But in the end, it was the progressive majority that won the day late-night once the 5 votes had been counted.  Councilmembers Kim Bergel, Linda Atkins and Natalie Arroyo voted to put Eureka’s electoral system on the ballot this November.

Say-what-now? … Ward what?  … At-large whos-it? 

Here is the current *sigh* map from the city of Eureka. (This was found as the top hit from Google-the other map from the city available here does not include the names of the councilmembers)

Eureka Ward

If you are keeping score at home, just go ahead and cross out Newman and Madsen (may he rest in peace) and update this with Bergel and Arroyo respectively.  But these are the current geographic boundaries of Eureka’s 5 wards. This November, in addition to getting a chance to vote for a return to democracy in Eureka (yey!), Eureka residents will get the chance to vote for 2 city councilmembers – those that will represent the 2 even numbered Second and Fourth Wards.

We will vote for councilmembers from the Second and Fourth Wards every Presidential election year.  During the other even-numbered general election where the top of the ticket will have our Governor, we vote for the odd-numbered Wards 1, 3 and 5 and the City Mayor.

When I say “we” I mean all of Eureka.  If you are within the boundaries on that map you will vote for 2 council members in one cycle (2016,2020,…) and 3 council-members and a mayor in the other (2018, 2022, …).

So from an individual voter’s perspective, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a great deal of this argument, it’s an embarrassment of riches.  You get to vote for all of the Council.  That is our current system, what is known as the “at-large” electoral system.

The True Ward System:

What we will be asking the voters this November is if we would like to move to a system where only those voters in a respective ward would be voting for their representative.  This means that the voter Antonio, who might happen to live in the Fourth Ward, will be only voting for  his representative this November and will trust the good people of the Second to be able to chose their candidate.  It’s simple, it’s clean and it looks a whole lot like…(ahem*cough, cough*)…EVERY OTHER COUNTY STATE AND FEDERAL ELECTION ON OUR BALLOTS!!???

So how will the true ward system help alleviate Eureka’s current crisis of democracy?  Let’s look at the numbers…

In 2014 when Kim and Natalie won elections and Marian ran unopposed (3rd, 5th and 1st Wards respectively) there were 14,325 registered voters in the City and 7,400 of them came out to vote.  Here is a clip from the election results from last cycle’s hotly contested Third Ward.

Kims Election

Remember, 14,325 was the number of registered voters in all of Eureka and all of the Eureka elections  here show the exact same number of ballots cast and registered voters.  Frank and Marian’s uncontested elections had many more “under-votes” (those that didn’t bother to vote even though they returned a ballot) but all the contests had the same number of ballots and registered voters.  Remember also that registered voters is some percentage of eligible voters and some smaller percentage of county residents who also might have deep concerns about our shared future (those under 18 come to mind).

In the 113 days that separate the day a candidate can file their papers with the city (July 18th, btw) to the general election on November 8th under the current system, if a candidate hopes to speak with all of the registered voters of Eureka, she or he would have to talk to 129 per day (assuming registered voters stays relatively consistent.   What kind of conversations would you be able to have other than “Hi, my name is Marian please vote for me this November.  I’ve gotta go, have a wonderful day…. By the way your yard looks beautiful.”

Under the true ward system this number would be divided by 5.  This means, in this imaginary world where a candidate will speak to each and every voter this could conceivably happen as this would mean she would have to contact 25 registered voters per day from the day she files to the day of the election.  This is a number that is obtainable and will mean the potential for more real back-and-forth conversation between representative and constituents during election season, and hopefully will result in more connections between representative and constituents that will continue into the term.

It also, btw, will mean that those without money to use on local broadcast media  or to plaster the Times-Standard will have a fairly good chance to make up for this with hard work and a good ground game.  And in this case the ground game will have a chance to be much more substantial.

In the end, that is what the modern day faux-populist conservative is really against.  They will be talking about everything else under the sun this summer and fall in the build-up to this election, but in the end, they will be protecting the status-quo as it allows for those with means, connections, time and organization the best chance to maintain control over local elections.

That is the 80% disenfranchisement that Marian was speaking about last night as the Council voted to put this question on the ballot.  It isn’t that 80% of the people will be disenfranchised, it’s that those people who already know they are going to vote, (and let’s be honest) also know for whom they will vote, will see their influence drop by 80%.

That isn’t disenfranchisement, it’s democracy.

Thank You!

Thank you Linda, Natalie and Kim. Although quite an esoteric topic that may seem way beyond the bread-on-the-table aspects of politics, I believe your vote last night to offer a Eureka voters a chance to return a large dose of democracy to our voting system will mean a more participatory future for city affairs.  Huzzah! (*begins crossing fingers*)

Ward Elections in Eureka on the November Ballot!

Huzzah.  Vote was 3-2.  More later.