Vice Mayor Shane Brinton: Welcome To Arcata – August 16, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

City Councilmember Alex Stillman, Vice Mayor Shane Brinton, Mayor Michael Winkler, Councilmembers Susan Ornelas and Mark Wheetley during a brief planking session earlier this year. It’s not something they normally do, but Arcata’s elected leaders try to be responsive to citizen requests. KLH | Eye

Shane Brinton

Arcata Vice Mayor

ARCATA – The beginning of a new school year is always an exciting time in Arcata. The streets bustle with activity and new faces abound. As Vice Mayor of Arcata, I want to take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to Humboldt State University students. We are excited that you have decided to attend HSU and we are honored that you are joining our community.

Aristotle wrote that “a great city is not to be confounded with a populous one.” Arcata is perhaps the ultimate confirmation of this truism. This is a small city with big ideas. It’s a community that prioritizes environmental stewardship, protects local businesses, supports family farmers, celebrates the arts, and pioneers innovative ways to live and work more sustainably. We prefer to set trends rather than follow them.

Arcata Vice Mayor Shane Brinton

You may have heard that Arcata is “liberal” or “progressive.” That’s true enough, but it doesn’t sum us up, nor does it explain what really makes us tick. Like the historic “Prairie Populists” of the Great Plains and the Midwest, our values are the product of our unique surroundings. They are deeply rooted in this place – our public spaces, the land and water, our institutions and businesses, and the experiences we share here.

You will notice that Arcata is a well-planned and thoughtfully built community. This is not a place littered with the monotonous strip malls and drive-through restaurants of “Anytown, USA.” We have a walkable downtown, pleasant commercial areas, livable neighborhoods, and great parks. We pride ourselves on the preservation of our historic buildings while carefully pursuing new development that is consistent with the look and feel of our community.

The Arcata Plaza – our historic town square – was built in 1850. If a city can be thought of as a human body, the Plaza is our heart. It is a gathering point for social and political activities, a center of commerce, and the site of our Farmers’ Market. It is the location of many major events, including the North Country Fair, the Fourth of July Jubilee, and the Oyster Festival.

Cradled by forested hillsides, fertile farmlands, and a beautiful bay, Arcata is a place of great natural abundance. For thousands of years before Europeans arrived here, the Wiyot people lived on this land in harmony with nature. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for our use of their ancestral land. Today it is a place where urban meets rural and where a culture of hard work meets an appreciation for the great outdoors.

Make sure to visit the Arcata Community Forest and the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary. These are wonderful city-owned recreation areas that also serve economic and infrastructural purposes. The former is managed as a sustainable working forest. The latter is an essential part of one of the most innovative wastewater treatment systems in the world.

The Marsh is perhaps the best example of Arcata’s longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship with HSU. In the 1970s, HSU faculty and students helped the City of Arcata develop the system, which combines traditional wastewater treatment practices with the natural processes of a wetland ecosystem. HSU faculty and students continue to assist with the management and further development of the Marsh, which has become a popular recreation destination for locals and tourists alike.

HSU students contribute to the community in many other ways too numerous to list here. Whatever your interests are, you will have plenty of opportunities to get involved. From habitat restoration and engineering to organic farming, poverty relief, business development, political activism and beyond, Arcata is a place where you can really make a difference.

This is also a festive city. It’s a place to have fun and celebrate community. I enjoy going to concerts at the Jambalaya, the Arcata Theater Lounge, Humbrews, and the Alibi. As you enjoy yourself, please also take care to respect the community. At 25, I’m probably not much older than many of you, so I’m appealing to you as a peer as well as a city leader. Let’s keep our streets clean and our public spaces safe. We’re a community, which means we’re all in this together.

As you get to know Arcata, I hope you will come to care for it as much as I do. This is a remarkable place full of passion and energy for social change. Whether you are only here for a few years or you are planning to stay longer, please embrace Arcata, contribute to it and take advantage of the many opportunities it has to offer. You have my best wishes for a productive and successful school year.

Shane Brinton is Vice-Mayor of Arcata. He is running for a second term on the City Council. He can be reached at (707) 845-9372 or


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