On gas prices and recalls
by JUDY HODGSON
This past month we received a number of telephone calls asking us to please look into rising gas prices. While the calls are flattering, I couldn't help but think, what could we possibly uncover that already hasn't been reported by the news agencies with a lot more resources. But the calls keep coming so we decided to have George Ringwald, our on-call Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, look into it. (George won a Pulitzer many years ago when he was a reporter for the Riverside Press Enterprise.)
A good reporter usually starts a story with no preconceptions, but George growled something about, "You know, we're spoiled -- AND we have poor memories."
See his unbiased report.
Turning to another hot-button issue -- the Eureka recall effort.
You may have read last week that the Humboldt Taxpayers League has come out against the recall effort, predictably citing "the expense" of $30,000 for a special election. (Eureka recall effort update, Sept. 28)
I agree that the recall effort should be abandoned -- but certainly not because of the expense. It's because it's aimed at the wrong person.
Before I explain why, let me say that two complaints in the recall petition against Councilmembers Jack McKellar and Maxine Hunter Meeks are valid.
1. The flip-flop. Meeks and McKellar joined Councilmember Jim Gupton and voted to place the Arkley balloon tract project on the ballot for an advisory vote -- then they voted to table the measure, essentially killing it. Whether an advisory vote is a good way to guide public policy is irrelevant. The flip-flop was politically motivated.
2. Denying citizens the right to speak. At a later meeting, the council agenda included a public comment period prior to the vote on the city manager's contract. But when the comment period came up, with the exception of six speakers, Meeks, McKellar and Gupton denied all others the right to speak. That was outrageous behavior and angered many citizens.
But on the issue of the firing of Harvey Rose, Meeks and McKellar have been consistent and we all have the right to our opinions. McKellar has always opposed Rose. Meeks says she originally supported Rose, but changed her mind last year after a long period of reflection. She confirmed to the Journal last week that she did not support Rose at contract renewal time in February.
That leaves Gupton, who has been anything but consistent. He supported Rose in February, but not three months later in May. Why? In the absence of a better reason (Gupton still does not return our calls except last week when he called to say he wasn't talking to us), we have to assume it was because he very much wanted to be reelected in November and he felt he needed financial support from key business leaders, some of whom undeniably wanted to see Rose gone. Gupton led the charge to fire Rose, then was forced by his own health problems to withdraw from the November race.
Gupton also made the motion to table the advisory vote on the $3 million offer from the Arkleys. And, he continued to raise excessive obstacles to accepting the Arkley's gift.
(What's excessive? Meeks asked for a cleanup estimate and a report on the cost of park maintenance options, two reasonable requests. Gupton wanted a no-strings gift from the Arkleys -- conjuring up images of Lucy snatching the football away from Charlie Brown -- and Gupton wanted prior approval from the Coastal Commission, two virtually unattainable demands.)
Good civic leaders work toward making things happen, by figuring out how to say yes to a good project. They don't get mired down in personality conflicts. This community could have had that balloon tract development -- a mix of very much needed light industrial space, a park and parking -- underway. Instead, the eyesore continues.
Gupton obviously can't be recalled. (He wouldn't have been anyway since the election is so close.) And while you may not agree with how Meeks and McKellar vote sometimes, like city managers, there is a proper time to replace them.
Recalls are very divisive and should be reserved for particularly egregious midterm behavior by elected officials.
The recall committee members should declare a partial victory -- they provided a way for angry citizens to vent -- and they should withdraw their petition. I think they got the attention of McKellar and Meeks.
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