Council Re-Elected, All Arcata Ballot Measures Pass – November 7, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Northcoast Preparatory Academy’s international students, from Germany, Tanzania, Columbia and Thailand, plus visiting students from Sweden, gathered at the school’s Bayside Road Annex on election night for food, election returns and homework. The international students all favored the re-election of President Barack Obama, whom they believe is “more interested in the rest of the world.” Some expressed concern about challenger Mitt Romney making presidential policy which would negatively impact Europe based on his religious beliefs. KLH | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

ARCATA – Running unopposed, the dominant City Council paradigm of Mayor Michael Winkler, Vice Mayor Shane Brinton and Councilmember Susan Ornelas glided to victory last night.

Ornelas gained the most votes with 3,780; Winkler garnered 3,627; and Brinton 3,250. Some 382 write-in votes were received, though there were no recognized write-in candidates. Three would-be challengers to the three incumbents had failed to file sufficient nomination petitions, and didn’t pursue write-in candidacy.

Both Arcata School District (ASD) funding measures passed. E’s results were 3,811 to 1,118; F’s were 3,610 to 1,217.

Measure E will raise an estimated $1 million over five years by imposing a $49 parcel tax on roughly 5,200 parcels within the district.

Measure F will authorize the issuance of a $7 million school bond for the first time since 1998 – when the voters of Arcata voted to authorize a $5.4 million school bond under Measure C.

Together, the measures will allow the ASD to clear a backlog of deferred maintenance, hire teachers and keep class sizes down.

Measure H, the “Corps Ain’t Peeps” initiative championed by former City Councilmember Dave Meserve, won resoundingly with a 5,140 to 1,162 victory – a more than four to one margin. The measure seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution to state that corporations should not enjoy the rights of “natural persons,” and that money is not protected speech.

“We’re delighted with the mandate,” Meserve said. “We’re very happy to see people turning out to defend democracy. It sends a strong message. Our hope is that with this passing here in Arcata, other communities will adopt similar ordinances.”

Measure I, the excessive electricity tax, passed by a more than two-to-one margin, 4,287 to 1,930. Measure I will impose a 45 percent tax on excessively high residential electricity usage. The tax would be imposed only on residential usage which exceeds 600 percent over the established “baseline allowance.”

The measure is intended to deter use of residential homes as cannabis grow houses, and to help get Arcata back on track with its greenhouse gas reduction goals. Those goals have been thrown off track by the more than 600 Arcata homes consuming electricity far in excess of normal residential use.

“Yay,” said Councilmember Shane Brinton, who had championed the idea of an excessive energy tax as it made its way through the Energy Committee and then to the City Council. “My hope is that it will shut the large-scale grows down. But if they stay, at least they’ll be paying for some of the damage they’re causing. Either we’ll have safer neighborhoods, or additional revenue, or more likely, some combination of those.”

He, like Meserve with Measure H, hopes other communities will take heed of Arcata’s willingness to tackle thorny problems and succeed at the ballot box. Already, a similar excessive energy use tax is being discussed in Eureka and at the county level. Adoption in those jurisdictions would help negate concerns by residents elsewhere that Measure I will push residential cannabis growers out of Arcata and into their communities.

Brinton said Measure I’s passage affirmed traditional values of shared sacrifice for common good. “It occurred to me that Arcata is unlike other places in the country, in that they know  it’s in their self-interest to vote for tax measures that pay for local services,” he said.