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Offsides! 

Once again -- see this week's "Mailbox" -- my neighbor Neal Latt upbraids the Journal for ideological impurity when it comes to matters Arklish. Here's where it stands, in case you're keeping score. I wrote a column positing that the great mass of Eureka voters were, are and forever will be indifferent to his tribe's epic fight with Rob Arkley. Latt admits the point ... and blames it all on Arkley! Quelle surprise!

As best I can surmise from my reading of Latt's text, my personal treachery in this great dispute is twofold. For one, I have declined to carry my assigned share in bringing the fight to the enemy as regards Arkley's big-box-based Marina Center proposal. For two: I have insinuated that Marina Center opponents have sometimes been maybe somewhere less than 110 percent forthright and innocent and pure in presenting their case, and that too has undermined the cause.

But what can I do? In the very same letter, Latt refers to Security National's "patently illegal cleanup plan" for the Balloon Track, the abandoned rail yard adjacent to Old Town where Arkley demands to build. "Patently illegal" ... according to whom? Not according to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which has given Arkley the A-OK. Not yet according to any court of law on this Earth. Not even -- yet -- according to the California Coastal Commission.

What Latt might mean to say is that the California Coastal Commission has decided to rehear the City of Eureka's decision to grant a permit that would allow site remediation on the Balloon Track to begin, on the grounds that the applicant and the City did not adequately consider alternative means of remediation that might have a less detrimental impact on wetlands. Might I suggest that this formulation was rejected as insufficiently zippy?

Hey, though! To Latt, and to those of the Lattvian persuasion, I say, "Buck up, Frownypantses!" You, me, they -- we're all pretty sure that the state Coastal Commission is going to dick the thing to death. Assuming that happens, you and me (but not they) will be perfectly agreed that the Commission has acted legitimately, and in accordance with the powers and duties assigned to it by state law.

What's more, there's an election coming up, so you get another chance to try to make Eureka voters care (as do they). Two City Council members, a member of the Board of Supervisors and a city measure devoted specifically to this topic.

In the interest of avoiding further heartache, might I make a suggestion? You might want to try untwisting your political arguments from your legal ones. Both are perfectly acceptable arrows to keep in the ol' quiver, but you want to be sure you're reaching for the right one at the right time.

Here are the political arguments:

1. Rob Arkley is a bad actor who must be stopped. Even without leaving the confines of the Balloon Track proper, the gentleman in question has given his opponents plenty of corn for their cakes. Unfortunately, the legal value of this thrust is zero. Assholes have equal protection under the law.

2. The Marina Center development would devastate small business. Perfectly legitimate and moving case to be made here, but one of little practical use at this point. If Marina Center opponents swing the City Council and the ballot initiative loses, then this thing comes back into play as a policy question rather than a political one. The developers still need plenty of permits that only city government can give them.

3. Security National's plan for toxic cleanup would leave unacceptable levels of pollutants at the site and in the bay. You might find them unacceptable, and you might have every right to. In practical terms, though, this argument is looking pretty dead. There might be tweaks here and there -- some additional wetland remediation, maybe, or more testing, or something -- but as it stands the cleanup is pretty much a go.

 

Here's the legal one:

 

4. Parcels zoned for public use should not be ceded to commercial development, especially in the coastal zone, as it would violate the spirit of the California Coastal Act. And etc. Here we go. The least sexy, least rousing, least politically useful attacks of all are the ones that will carry the day, in all likelihood. The Coastal Commission has a hundred ways to scotch the thing, and nearly as many reasons to do so.

 

You're welcome!

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Hank Sims

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