Partisanship and Public Spaces

John Chiv has been frustrated this election season that Austin Allison met the requirement to gather 20 signatures, one of the requirements to be a Eureka City Council member at City Hall.

Here are links to his articles:

August 17th:  Linda Atkins, Neal Latt and others in City Hall lobby trying to get signatures in for a new candidate in Ward 4

September 17th:  ” City has not received a formal complaint regarding this issue so, she cannot opine either way since no formal investigation has been conducted into the alleged conduct.”

November 1st: Like Hillary Clinton, Linda Atkins can claim she did not know about CA Code 8314 in her support of Austin Allison

November 22nd: Now that there is an official complaint, will the City of Eureka still not look into Austin Allison?

November 29th:  Eureka citizen files complaint with DA, state attorney general and FPPC on possible violation of election code

And this is one of just two wanna-be scandals about which persistently Mr. Chiv persistently made hay about this election season.


I was there that day and was one of the signatories, let me describe what happened from my perspective.  Allen McCloskey was planning to run when he found out he had a serious medical issue he would have to confront during this election season.  Somehow, he was able to find another candidate to run against John Fullerton at the eleventh hour.  Trust me, this is not an easy feat. (Of note, John also imagines manipulative and progressive dark clouds unrelated to health issues surrounding Mr. McCloskey’s sickness which he was blogging about as late as 10 days before the election.)

It was the day the signatures were due for the Fourth Ward.  It was a week day afternoon and the signatures were due by, I believe 5:30.  This was the 11th hour.  I received a call from the North Coast Peoples Alliance’s Tamara McFarland to see if I could meet them after work to sign Mr. Allison’s papers.  At the time it was as if Christmas had come early.  This was the greatest of news and I was so happy to participate because it meant despite my personal inability to find a candidate to run in the 2nd, we had a chance to offer a different perspective to the people come November without conservatives walking into both open ECC seats.

I showed up, signed the papers, briefly stuck around to shake Austin’s hand and thank him and celebrated with the others that the November election would again have meaning, at least in one of the two contests.

That’s what happened.  Seems pretty innocuous, in fact I’d say it is a great story.

But not of course for those who are afraid of election contests that they might lose.  So let’s look at Mr. Chiv’s questions which he handily numbered for us on his post on September 17th:

Three council members were present, recruiting people. People were calling from City Hall while signatures were being gathered

1. Three Councilmembers, Brown Act violation?

2. Isn’t it illegal to campaign on public property?

3. If this is not considered campaigning, why?

I’m not a lawyer and I with John Chiv hope DA Fleming removes all semblance of a partisan hat when either answering these questions. Having said that, here are my answers to John’s questions.

  1. Is it a Brown Act violation?  No. None of the three current City Council-members organized the signature gathering and as citizens of Eureka themselves, they have every right to sign whomevers papers they would like.
  2. Isn’t it illegal to campaign on public property?  Is it?  What about when candidates or their volunteers are on the sidewalks with campaign signs.  Should campaigning on private property be illegal?  Really John?  Think about that question for one moment in the context of the first amendment.
  3. Is this campaigning?  It was not campaigning.  It was a short term meeting place to allow people to sign paperwork required for City Council-members.  In fact Council-member Atkins happened to mention to me that she had City Clerk Pam Powell had been kind enough (Linda’s characterization as I remember it) to allow us to use the foyer of City Hall to gather the signatures.

And let’s think about the use of City Hall a little more.  That foyer is empty of activity 95% of the time I enter City Hall.  The desk holds a few pamphlets for the public and on occasion a volunteer or presumably security person may be seated behind the desk, but this only happens rarely.  This is generally unused room most of the time.  Now to gather those signatures, we could have set the meeting place at the bench outside the building on 6th Street or on the sidewalk, or at my favorite barber Bob’s hair-cut salon across K Street.  I imagine under John’s rubric of no campaigning in public spaces, we could have only had these signatures gathered within Bob’s shop or some other private property.

And isn’t the lesson there chilling?  Let’s ignore the free speech issues for one moment.  What about our public spaces?  City Hall is our building, why should Eureka citizens by default be afraid of using it for their own civics-oriented ends?  Shouldn’t City Hall be the ultimate location for a last-minute signature gathering event?

Lookit, it is important that City Hall not be open to the City Clerk’s favored Party schwag nor volunteers from her favored candidate sitting in the foyer lecturing passers by on their candidate.  That would not be right and I don’t need to find the CA Code to know it’s illegal, because it’s not right.

But Austin’s signature gathering was not that, it was the place that 40 people met to gather signatures at the last minute.  A place that was apparently approved by a City official who had the authority to allow it.

And if the roles where reversed, I would hope that she would have allowed candidate Fullerton the same courtesy because as Eurekans we should be good like that.  Imho that was the perfect use of our public facilities that day.  I know, and am somewhat saddened, that Mr. Chiv disagrees, but such is politics and I don’t hold it against him or Mr. Tuel who surprise, surprise, was a Fullerton (or at least anti-progressive) partisan online.

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Liberal Humboldt:  “Reading John Chiv so you don’t have to”.

Sorry, John, but this is really ridiculous.  I’m truly hoping that someday I can help to persuade you that some of your past and present crusades were a little off.  This is another one of them.  In my opinion.

John, one question for you.  If you truly do see this use of a public space as partisan and thus inappropriate, would you see that a progressive partisan could level the same accusation of Mr Tuel for using a public official’s time on answering a clearly partisan and inappropriate accusation?




7 thoughts on “Partisanship and Public Spaces

  1. SMH says:

    And somehow I missed John Chiv’s highly principled protests against the vast disenfranchisement of millions of voters, often African American overwhelmingly.. by the Republican judges removal of the Voting Rights Act provisions and the subsequent Republican led efforts to make voting harder and more difficulty.

    Anybody here have to wait 6-8 hours to vote?…didn’t think so, oh that’s right, we have about 2% people of color here, I forgot for a second.

  2. mresquan says:

    From the Times Standard on Dec.9th 2009

    “Bass is scheduled to hold a press conference at noon today on the front steps of the Humboldt County Courthouse to officially announce her candidacy.”

    Where was the outcry of inappropriate use of public space then?

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