Hauser's retirement at the age of 63 seems to mark
the end of one of the North Coast's longest political careers.
He was elected to the Arcata City Council in 1974, and served
there for eight years, four of them as mayor. (He was an early
advocate of the groundbreaking Arcata Marsh wastewater treatment
facility.) Voters elevated him to the state assembly in 1982,
and he continued to serve there until term limits pushed him
out in 1996. After leaving the legislature, he served for a brief
spell as executive director of the North Coast Railroad Authority,
the public agency that owns the long-dead train line to Humboldt
County, and also as a consultant to new members of the legislature.
The city of Arcata, his home base throughout these years, hired
him back in 2000.
The next items on the Hauser agenda are all about
travel: He and his wife, Donna, will be touring the American
West by rail this summer before heading on a tour of China and
Tibet in the fall.
1. To some sectors of the county, and to viewers
of the Bill O'Reilly program, Arcata city government is a watchword
for loopiness and insanity. In the space I've allotted you here,
prove them wrong.
Well, certainly some of the things that the council
may do are a little off-the-wall and not in the mainstream of
Humboldt County, but they've got a very diverse constituency
to represent. On the other hand, as a city government, I'd put
the quality of our employees, especially the police department,
up against any in the county. It's a top-notch, very capable,
very skilled police department. They're working under adverse
conditions, they're understaffed, but they're one of the most
effective police departments in northern California.
Fiscally, we're very sound. Our reserves are very
prudent. Our income is very diverse -- we're not dependent on
any one income stream. There are some communities that are so
dependent on the sales tax, for example, that a slide in the
retail sector devastates them. We're very well spread out. Certainly
sales tax is our most important source, but it's not so critical.
Minor downturns don't affect us. And we haven't had any downturns.
We've had progressive growth in our sales tax revenues and our
transient occupancy taxes, and so forth, and it's kept our city
2. One of the things that I always thought was
sort of an untold story is that people don't realize that in
some ways, Arcata is the industrial base of the county. And that
dates back, I think, to some forward-looking decisions that you
and your colleagues took while you were on the council.
Arcata recognized early on that the economy in
Humboldt County was changing from the timber/resource base --
that we needed to diversify and encourage other things, especially
light manufacturing. And it's paid off. Some of those light manufacturers
are in direct sales, so we receive one percent of their sales.
And you'd be surprised at the number of local businesses that
do direct marketing over the Internet. It's helped a lot. It's
helped stabilize us. When we lost the two auto dealerships, we
really didn't see a downturn in sales tax revenue. Normally,
you would think that that would be a major hit.
3. What are the biggest challenges that your
successor is going to inherit?
Overall, he's not going to have any particular
problems, in that the big-ticket issues have been dealt with,
or are being dealt with as we talk. There's a current three-year
contract that won't be opened for some period of time, so there's
some stability there. It gives him the opportunity to work on
some of the ancillary issues, such as morale.
One of the issues I do believe he'll be faced with
is the need to reorganize some of what our departments do. We
tried to make an attempt at that last fall, but it was not successful.
I think it's going to have to be revisited and reintroduced.
Should public works include water and wastewater? Right now those
are in environmental services, and that's not really necessarily
There are ongoing issues. Relations with the state
of California -- every city's got to face that. We just wrapped
up the major cable television franchise agreements, but there's
a movement in the legislature to eliminate those agreements.
For local government, that's a very big income issue.
4. It's interesting -- those things you mention,
those wouldn't be the first things that pop to mind when thinking
about the challenges Arcata faces. They're very internal. I think
people would say that Issue #1 is the homeless issue, and the
Plaza, and safety.
I don't think those are issues that are going to
lend themselves to quick fixes. They're certainly going to be
on the plate for ongoing consideration. But with last night's
Council meeting, we've pretty much exhausted any potential sites
to relocate the Endeavor to.
I think ultimately, the council's going to have
to make a decision. Can the city provide any level of services
to the transient homeless population? Or should it? But that's
going to be a political decision. It's not a city manager's decision.
5. Well, it's funny how sometimes people have
identified you as the "problem."
Yeah, I'm the bad guy.
Number one, you have to understand that the way
the state of California is set up, cities are neither funded
nor equipped nor have the statuatory requirement to provide any
level of services for transient populations. At best, that is
a county responsibility. I don't believe that Arcata is equipped
or capable of ever meeting the demand that is out there.
Certainly, Arcata could scale back and provide
a program for resident needy families -- a food bank type of
system, for seniors and low-income and so forth -- but for the
city to provide ongoing services for nomadic or transient populations
is taking on something that would be devastating for the city.
And I believe that the services that are provided are in great
part what brings about the large numbers that congregate on the
Plaza and move through town day in and day out.
Most of the information we have is extremely anecdotal,
and is based upon observations only. But to the best we've been
able to determine, there is at any given time a true homeless
population of 110 to 130 people. In addition to that, which we
might be able to deal with, you have at least that number and
maybe more that move through on a weekly to daily basis. I see
them move by, all day long, in both directions, and I rarely
see the same face twice. But you know where they're headed: to
the Endeavor or to the Plaza. And to only accomplish begging
... it's not something that contributes to the community.
6. How would you compare city government today
with the time when you were on the council, when you were young?
One of the things that I've seen and observed is
that even though we had some fairly strong personalities and,
definitely, different opinions on how to do things, we more often
worked together as a team than we did against each other. It
was a combination of being willing to work together, and of occasionally
reducing your own ego for the benefit of the city. And I would
also argue that we had strong leadership.
7. And that's something...
It's not as evident today.
Certainly there are some council members who are
very capable, very qualified. But there does not seem to be any
interest in working together as a group. About the only time
I've seen them work together as a group is in selecting on a
8. How much of it, too, is the fact that certain
councilmembers seemed not focused so much on the city as on the
great issues of the day?
We were focused primarily on the city. I think
that's a fair observation. But also on how we could accomplish
things on the city level that were reflective of bigger concerns.
The Marsh is part of that. The larger-scale problems, of energy
and environment and so forth, were always in our consciousness,
and it resulted in things like the Marsh, preservation of ag
lands, the bus system and so on. Those sorts of things.
9. So, you've had a long and distinguished career
in public service -- in the assembly and here. What are some
of the highlights? What are you most proud of?
Well, the Marsh, of course.
I loved being in the legislature. I had a great
time. It was a hard job -- seven days a week. I was fairly good
at it. I had 307 bills signed into law by Republican governors
-- the biggest one was probably the ban on offshore oil drilling
on the North Coast, which was later expanded to the entire state.
A ban on harvesting Great White sharks. A lot of fishing legislation.
We didn't always accomplish what we would have liked to, but
a lot of the things I'm very pleased with. The bulk of the legislation
went to help people and to protect the environment at the same