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In past elections after we finished interviewing candidates, writing stories and editing letters, the editorial staff sat around and discussed endorsements. Generally, reaching a consensus was easy. That was not the case this year.

One staffer asked, then why endorse at all?

Because it's part of our job as a newspaper -- not only to report and write stories on the news pages, but to digest the news, develop opinions and provide community leadership on the editorial pages. With that mission in mind, these are my recommendations as publisher:

In the race for Eureka mayor there are two credible candidates -- both are qualified, motivated and sincerely want to serve the community.

The mayor's job in Eureka is very different from the other cities in Humboldt County because the mayor is elected directly by the voters for a four-year term. Who serves as mayor is a statement about the city itself. Many have argued that the mayor's duties are mostly ceremonial, but don't be fooled by those who say the mayor has no power. The mayor plays a huge part in setting an agenda for the city and by acting as its host and ambassador.

Two years ago when he ran for a seat on the Eureka City Council we endorsed Peter LaVallee saying, "We favor LaVallee because of the depth and breadth of his knowledge, his budget experience and a unique perspective that he would bring to the council." Also in LaVallee's favor this go-round is his support for the big-box ordinance winding its way through city channels which, as I understand it, will require additional public scrutiny -- but will not prevent -- large chain retailers from locating here.

This election the office under consideration is not council member but mayor. LaVallee's strongest suit, social services, is primarily the county's responsibility, not the city's. And his main opponent is Cherie Arkley.

If you like what has been happening in Eureka these past four years, Arkley deserves some of the credit. She has been a significant part of that effort both on the council and in her private life. There has been a fire lit under the city's butt to clean up its streets, restore its old buildings and waterfront, plant trees and establish walking trails, all to make Eureka more liveable. Equally important has been a change in attitude to get rid of the down-in-the-mouth economically depressed loser image and to be proud of and protect the city's assets.

The Journal is endorsing Cherie Arkley for Eureka mayor because of her track record on the council and numerous city committees, her can-do attitude and her unwavering support of the arts. She is unabashedly pro-business. Her knowledge and the success of her family's own company are strong assets to draw upon when guiding the city and the region's economic growth.

Many who oppose Arkley have more than a discomfort with her family wealth, but to discriminate against the wealthy when they want to serve in public office is not unlike discriminating against the poor or anyone else.

Finally, Arkley's actions speak loudly. She has been on the council for four years and there has not been a hint of using her position for personal gain. I can recall only once or twice she recused herself -- and left the room -- when an issue came before the council where she had a potential conflict of interest. One issue was a large private donation from her and her husband to get the waterfront boardwalk project underway. For that she should be thanked, not condemned.

The Eureka Council races hold some exciting possibilities. There have been one or two council seats merely kept warm the past few years, but fresh replacements are on the way. In the First Ward, Mary Beth Wolford, director of the Humboldt Senior Resource Center and enthusiastic historic preservationist, is a solid choice. In the Third Ward, we favor Charlene Cutler-Ploss. If she brings half the enthusiasm with her to the council that she has already displayed on various committees, she'll be a great asset. And finally, we welcome Mike Jones, Fifth Ward, who is running without active opposition.

Heading north around the bay to Arcata, we'd like Jim Test to return for four more years. Test has the right attitude to be elected ("Arcata is flat-out a superior place to live") tempered with his calm, no-nonsense demeanor. And Elizabeth Conner has earned her stripes for a council seat by having the longest resumé of community activism in a relatively short period of time.

Moving farther north, in the 5th District we enthusiastically endorse Jill Geist for supervisor. It says a great deal that of her four other opponents in the primary, all are either publicly or quietly backing her. Many in the community of McKinleyville will recall that Geist brought a certain calm and civility with her when she was elected to the board of the McKinleyville Community Services District, something that was lacking in the past. She is a bit of a wonk with her background in science, but we need someone on the Board of Supervisors who is not intimidated when confronted with big fat government documents. Believe me, she will do her own homework. We particularly like her expertise in water issues. She wants the county to aggressively pursue funding for a full-time county staff person to advocate on river issues, an idea that is long overdue.

On ballot issues, we recommend yes on two county measures: a tax for Veterans' buildings and maintaining the transient occupancy tax (bed tax) at 10 percent. And although some Eureka city officials are selling Measure X as a vote for police and firefighters (the money will go into the general fund for all city services), voters in that city should continue the 3 percent utility tax.

Although the state Assembly race has caused a lot of noise, Patty Berg should have no trouble replacing Virginia Strom-Martin, who is endorsing her. (See this week's cover story.) State Sen. Wes Chesbro is cruising to a second term. And our very favorite politician in recent months, Rep. Mike Thompson, is a shoo-in for another term in Congress. (He certainly deserves our vote for refusing to sign a blank go-to-war check for President Bush.)

Finally, as one writer on the staff put it: Hold your nose and vote for Gov. Gray Davis. Bill Simon's "privatize everything" is a little out of sync with the times even for us fans of free enterprise.


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