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August 31, 2006

 In the News

Who's a Eurekan?


As you drive around Eureka these days, you may ask yourself -- are all the "Tish Wilburn for City Council" signs? Where's the evidence of her campaign? Any objective political observer would have to mark Wilburn as the long shot candidate in the race for Eureka's First Ward seat. Doesn't that just mean she has to work harder? Maybe. But for her part, Wilburn says that no one she knows is too worked up about the Nov. 7 election ... yet.

"I think everyone is just kind of waiting until after Labor Day, like normal human beings," she said Friday. Being a normal human being herself, she's going to save her energy for that final sprint. No doubt she's out stretching her limbs as we speak.

Politically, the city of Eureka is a pressure cooker, and its thermostat is veering dangerously into the red. You've got a major election this time around -- the city's mayor, its county supervisor and the majority of its City Council are all up for vote. All of the county's usual political forces are itching for another fight, and, for once, there's no other election of importance elsewhere that might prove a distraction. Once a rock-solid bastion of the Humboldt County old guard, recent elections have shown that younger folks and refugees from the big city have pushed Eureka's politics well to the left. The old guard is pushing back. Sometime in the next 10 weeks, this pot's going to blow.

Issue A-1 is, of course, the Balloon Track, that sprawling stretch of nothingness on the edge of Old Town. Rob and Cherie Arkley, town billionaires, want to build a Home Depot there, and they promise jobs and a boost to the economy. They call their project "Marina Center." Well, some people say, there's nothingness and there's negative nothingness, and a Home Depot is worse than nothing -- it's a first step toward turning Eureka into yet another bland, white-bread Nowheresville, U.S.A., and our best chance at stopping the thing is to elect like-minded citizens to the City Council, which will have a veto over the proposal.

Both sides know how to fight. And, pace Wilburn, when we've all finished paying our respects to the contributions of the American laborer this Monday, you can bet your bucky they will.

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First on the agenda: Where does Larry Glass actually live? The candidate for the First Ward seat -- representing downtown, Old Town and a good portion of the city's rundown West Side -- has already been anointed by Local Solutions, the progressive political action committee. He's the founder of the Citizens for Real Economic Growth (CREG), the preeminent anti-Marina Center group, and he's owned The Works, a Eureka music store, for over 30 years. But no one ever thought of him as a Eureka resident -- his place is out there on Old Arcata Road, near Indianola. People are just starting to unleash the "c" word -- "carpetbagger!" -- and they're already chuckling over the fact that a group named "Local Solutions" is plumping for an imported candidate.

What's the facts? Well, those are the facts, pretty much. But Glass has complied with the letter of the law, and he makes a proud and unashamed case for his candidacy.

Up until May of this year, Glass hadn't even been registered to vote in Humboldt County for a good long while. He had been registered in neighboring Trinity County, using the address of a vacation home he owns up near South Fork Mountain. Then, last May, he filed his affidavit with the Humboldt County Elections Office, officially becoming a citizen of our county. But when he did re-register, he used his Old Arcata Road address, which is far outside the Eureka city limits. A few weeks ago, on Aug. 7, he re-re-registered, this time giving the address of an apartment in Old Town -- within the city limits, now, and within the First Ward. Three days later, he filed as a City Council candidate.

Reached last week, Glass insisted that the address he gave is now his actual address. He lives there. "I knew I would be under scrutiny, so I knew I actually had to move to Old Town to run," he said. "So I did that." He would have made the move sooner, he said, but a deal for a different apartment he had been shooting for fell through. The house on Old Arcata Road? He's handing that over to his daughter.

Glass said last week he knows that people have been talking about it, and he was ready to talk back. All in all, he said, he's spent over 30 years at The Works and in Eureka. He knows the town like the back of his hand. He knows just about everyone with a business in his neighborhood. He's paid sales tax to the city time out of mind, and he's paid his business license fees to the city. Does it really matter where he lays his head?

"I've always been frustrated because you can't count where you work as where you live, even though you spend the majority of your time there," he said. "So I've remedied that now, and I'm willing to make that change in order to remedy the other changes I've seen around here."

So, how's life in the big city? Glass said that his day-to-day is a lot simpler now because his girlfriend also lives in Old Town, and because he's able to walk back to his place and spend his lunch hour at home. But there haven't been any surprises. "To be honest, I've spent the majority of my adult life here in Old Town, wherever I've been living, so I'm no stranger to the night life here," he said. "I'm not seeing anything I'm not already very acquainted with."

One of his opponents -- Tish Wilburn -- says, in her typically snarky style, that if elected she would change the laws so that you have to live in the city for six months before running for elected office in Eureka. "He's a carpetbagger!" she shouted, gleefully. But Glass' main competition, incumbent First Ward Councilmember Mary Beth Wolford, was more magnanimous. "I think every candidate needs to meet the requirements stated in our elections procedures, and he has," she said last week. "He's moved into the Old Town area, and he's registered to vote." She said she was ready to challenge Glass on the issues.

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Moving into cyberspace: Who the hell is running Everyone knows is an anti-Marina Center web site run by Mike Buettner, a Eureka web designer and all-purpose agitator on matters of coastal development. But No one knows. Which is all the stranger for the fact that the "tract" site doesn't do anything except load up Buettner's "track" web site, which contains writing and information pertaining to the Marina Center proposal.

The question came to a head when an anonymous poster on SoHum blogger Eric Kirk's web page insisted that everyone change their links from the Buettner page to the mystery one. Why? And who put up the mystery site to begin with? There are four theories.

Maybe the mystery people want to get everyone used to going to their site, and will soon insert their own politically charged content into Buettner's pages. Maybe they simply want to monitor the traffic going to Buettner's site. Maybe they want to make a political point -- to some, and for some reason, calling it "the Balloon Tract" signifies an opposition to all things Arkley. Or, most likely, maybe someone just wanted to make sure that people find the page, whichever URL they happen to type in.

Buettner was initially puzzled, but he came in with some partial intel Tuesday afternoon. "It seems some of the CREG folks recall 'someone' buying the TRACT domains, but no one remembers who it was," he wrote the Journal.

Whoever it was, we note that the mystery site is hosted by 1&1 Internet, which is just about the closest thing the web hosting world has to a big box store -- vast, impersonal, dead cheap. But our will to know trumps the temptation to scold., step forward. All will be forgiven.



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