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November 16, 2006

From the Publisher

What's not to like?


I have decided to rename this column -- my column -- the Raging Moderate. First, it has a nice ring to it. And second, if last week's elections are any indication, I'm not alone; there are a lot more RMs out there.

I am thrilled with the national change in course away from the current one, which can be summarized as tar-babied in Iraq, fiscally mad and led by way too many who are morally challenged. I wasn't at all surprised that voters leaving the polls listed "corruption" as their motivation for turning incumbents out of office. It's a good, all-purpose word meaning everything from Enron to congressmen who stalk underage pages.

Speaker-in-waiting Pelosi (mother of five!) does look a bit like a surprised real estate agent, but what's coming out of her mouth sounds downright sensible. I am particularly happy that Sens. Feinstein and Boxer will have even more powerful committee assignments coming up. I interviewed both for the Journal in 1992 when they first ran for the Senate, and Feinstein has visited here several times since. She hasn't forgotten this corner of the state. (She once told me her Russian immigrant parents almost stayed permanently in Eureka when they journeyed from Russia and down the West Coast to San Francisco.) Boxer, I remember thinking at the time, was so left-of-center that I didn't think she could survive a statewide race outside of her home district in Marin. I'm happy to have been wrong.

Yes, yes. Locally, the results are not all final. But there's a lot to like! Can you imagine Arcatans electing the two most qualified and ... normal, council members out of the lot, and in the very same election voting to keep fluoride in the water?

The real action, of course, was in Eureka. Many expected a clear referendum on the Balloon Track/Marina Center, and it didn't happen. (Sorry, Times-Standard. We're sticking with "track.") I was surprised by the relatively easy win by Glass. (I owe The Dandy a double mocha something.) Glass officially changed his place of residence, toned down his anti-Marina Center rhetoric, underwent a makeover (haircut, new clothes) and with the fund-raising help of one political group, Local Solutions, cruised to victory. He'll be an interesting addition to the council. On the other hand, Leonard appears to have hung on against a good and tough challenger, and Jones against a weaker one.

For mayor, Bass appears likely to unseat La Vallee. (Did he really call the Arkley's Marina Center proposal a "strip mall" in his radio ads?) Don't be fooled when you read that the post of mayor is largely ceremonial. It wasn't when Nancy Flemming was mayor for 12 years. She often set the agenda and pushed for hard change, especially in cleaning up the city and the waterfront, all before the Arkleys' private redevelopment drive began. Even if Flemming is not successful in her bid to unseat Neely in the 4th District, she ran a credible campaign and came so close from so far down after the primary.

It was a kinder, gentler election in some ways. Where were all those outrageously negative ads? Two years ago we had last-minute Kerrigan hit pieces by the anonymous "Eureka Coalition for Jobs," and funny money -- originally raised for the 1999 anti-Wal-mart effort -- rechanneled into the (unsuccessful) pro-tax Measure L campaign. On the flip side, we had the Taxpayers League's incompetent bookkeeping practices exposed during its "L No!" campaign. (CREG, an anti-Marina Center group, appears to have hired the same bookkeeper as the League. "We don't know where our money comes from! We pass the hat!")

This election year, of course, we had the requisite big spenders (the mysterious Esther Saunoras of Petrolia; Bill Pierson backing all anti-Marina/anti-Home Depot candidates; Cherie Arkley backing her friend Flemming, but otherwise keeping her big money out of other local races). And we had other semi-anonymous 501(c) issue groups like CREG running campaigns for their slate of candidates. If you like the Marina Center (Humboldt Business Council), may we suggest Flemming, Bass, Wolford, Leonard and Jones? If you don't (Eureka Civic Association), how about Neely, La Vallee, Kuhnel, Glass and Abrams?

Voters said, "Wait a minute. One race at a time. This is not just about one issue."

What I'd really like to see next election is for these well-meaning 501(c) groups to keep really good records and to provide us with more information. Let's have a roster of your members, your dues structure and a list of who specifically contributes money to a candidate or slate. Then we can eliminate this fuzziness about whose money is speaking. It's not that hard. But then, what do I know? I'm just a raging moderate.


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