Three weeks before scathing anonymous mailers attacking Supervisor Jimmy Smith were delivered to thousands of Cutten residents, Eureka businessman Rob Arkley promised to mount a campaign to prevent the supervisor from being reelected, the Lost Coast Outpost has learned.
The promise was contained in emails the Lost Coast Outpost received through a Public Records Act request filed last month.
The backdrop to this affair goes back to the beginning of the year. On Jan. 25, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors heard what had become a surprisingly contentious matter: the reappointment of longtime Planning Commissioner Bruce Emad. Emad had announced his retirement from the commission late last year; in response to an entreaty from the board, he changed his mind and pledged to stay on until the general plan update was complete. Board Chair Mark Lovelace cited Emad’s long involvement with the technicalities of the general plan update as a reason to request his continued service.
Afterward, though, new supervisors Ryan Sundberg and Virginia Bass said that they had not understood that Emad’s term was expiring in any case, and asked the board to consider other candidates. The matter was put off until the Jan. 25 meeting, at which point the board heard heated testimony from the real estate community. Finally, the board voted 3-2 to reappoint Emad, with Bass and Sundberg dissenting on the grounds that the procedure for such appointments were flawed.
On the day after the vote, Supervisor Jimmy Smith received a harshly worded email from Rob Arkley. In addition to being an outspoken and forceful critic of Humboldt County government – the general plan update in particular – Arkley owns multiple trusts and limited liability corporations with significant Humboldt County land holdings, several of which have matters pending before the planning commission. (Though the Marina Center – a Home Depot-anchored proposed development next to Old Town Eureka – is under the purview of the City of Eureka and the California Coastal Commission, not county government.)
After expressing disappointment with the vote to retain Emad, Arkley scolded Smith and promised to exact revenge. (The supervisor, who is in his third term in office, has often played the role of the board’s swing vote.) “Your district will be made aware of your moderate talk, but extremist votes,” Arkley wrote, promising that he would oppose any potential Smith reelection campaign “begins today.”
“Your position and thumbing of your nose at your constituents will not be lost on them, I can assure you,” Arkley wrote in a follow-up email. “All of you can and will receive the sunlight that you so richly deserve.”
Three weeks later, an anonymous political mailer was delivered to thousands of houses around the Cutten area, which the majority of the residents of Smith’s First District call home. Full of factual inaccuracies and seemingly intentional vagueness, it’s not hyperbole to call the mailer a hit piece.
“Supervisors Jimmy Smith, Mark Lovelace & Cliff Clendenen voted for a new Housing Plan in Our Neighborhood!!!” was the mailer’s headline. One of the talking points it contained mentioned a “[D]evelopment of over 1,400 housing units & 300,000 square feet of Commercial Buildings on our already congested Walnut Drive.”
Those numbers indicate that the “housing plan” in question referred to the proposed Forster-Gill development, also known as “Ridgewood Village.” In point of fact, though, Smith has been consistently critical of the Forster-Gill development, and was the only supervisor to vote against it when the project’s proponents brought a proposed zoning change to the board in 2007.
The matter became the subject of high-profile, dueling letters to the editor of the Times-Standard. Echoing the language in the mailer, Jackie Saunderson of said that she was forced to reconsider Smith’s character “after learning he voted in favor of forcing the construction of thousands of low-income housing units in Cutten” – which describes neither the Forster-Gill project in particular (which Smith has voted against) nor the general plan itself.
Shortly afterward, Nancy and George Davis of the Humboldt Cutten Citizens for Responsible Development, the neighborhood group battling Forster-Gill, wrote that Smith has “worked tirelessly” to protect the neighborhood from the development.
Was the mailer a follow-through on Arkley’s promise to shine “sunlight” on citizens of the First District? On Sunday, Rob Arkley declined to comment for this story (see below). For his part, Jimmy Smith asked the Lost Coast Outpost to reconsider its intent to publish the documents in question, and declined to engage in what he characterized as a “he-said, you-said” discussion.
“I just don’t find it productive,” Smith said. “It’s not the best use of my time at all. Working for my several thousand bosses is the best use of my time.”
Nevertheless, he did say he himself wasn’t certain that the mailers originated from within Arkley’s camp. “They may well not have come from that quarter, and that’s the truth,” he said.
Bruce Emad ended up re-resigning from the planning commission in March. “Events beyond my control, in my personal as well as professional life, have made it impossible for me to devote the required time to my duties as a planning commissioner,” he told the Times-Standard. The Board of Supervisors is set to make a list of top candidates to replace him at its meeting tomorrow.
The Arkley-Smith Correspondence
(Original document, as received from the county, here.)
From: Rob Arkley
To: Jimmy Smith
Sent: Wednesday, Jan. 26, 6:28 a.m.
You never cease to amaze me at your clear desire to speak as a moderate but vote in support of positions advocated by extremists, like Lovelace. Yesterday, your vote for Emad, was another clear example. I can assure you that your district is solidly against the positions advocated by Lovelace from his Coastal Commission appointment, the Marina Center, (which he opposes) to Forrest Gill, (which is his “child” and example of “smart growth,” which it is not).
I hear rumors that you are not going to run for re-election. I doubt that. It I just another Jimmy head fake. You have nothing else to do and no other way to earn a living than as a supervisors. Look at your prior life history. Please know that my opposition to your re-election campaign begins today. Your district will be made aware of your moderate talk, but extremist votes. You can try to make me the issue, but it is and will be all about you.
Most in your district were disappointed by you yesterday, but I was gratified. Like Bonnie, whom I identified early, I saw you for what you are years ago. People will soon see and understand you for what you are.
From: Jimmy Smith
To: Rob Arkley
Sent: Wednesday, Jan. 26, 11:43 a.m.
I do appreciate your comments and what you continue to do for our community. In fact I recently spoke with staff about some of the issues your folks brought forward. They had some very prudent ideas that deserve consideration. I like many others look forward to progress on the Marina Center, I believe it will be very beneficial for everyone. I do believe Bruce will continue to do a good job as my recent appointee Dr. Nelson is.
From: Rob Arkley
To: Jimmy Smith
Sent: Wednesday, Jan. 26, 1:21 p.m.
It is unfortunate and, frankly, unfathomable, that you ceded decision and policy over the lands within your district, the targeted growth area for the extremist Mark Lovelace, to a resident of a no-growth and substantially built out area, Jacoby Creek. They have no real dog in the fight that will effect your constituents. Your position and thumbing of your nose at your constituents will not be lost on them, I can assure you.
Like I said, I identified you long ago and continue to see you for what you are: A committed liberal who wants to be seen as a centrist. I don’t dislike you, but am unwilling to allow you appear to be sitting on the fence, when you are, in fact, on the far left with Lovelace. I am delighted to see that you say you support the Marina Center, when you actually voted to have Mark Lovelace, who is hugely opposed to the Marina Center, on the Coastal Commission. You see, that is a poster child example of your saying one thing, then voting to do another. Other examples are numerous, but that may be the best.
All of you can and will receive the sunlight that you so richly deserve. Jimmy, you may as well out and admit that you are just another Lovelace. Your votes leave one unable to reach any other conclusion. Why don’t you be honest with us.
The Lost Coast Outpost attempted, via email, to seek comment on this story from Rob Arkley and/or Randy Gans, Security National vice president of real estate and development. A few hours after the message was sent, Arkley responded by declining all comment.
That correspondence, in full, is below.
From: Hank Sims
To: Rob Arkley
Sent: Sunday, May 15, 8:20 a.m.
You’re probably aware that I filed a Public Records Act request with the county a few weeks ago. It requested all e-mail correspondence between a number of people — yourself included — and county supervisors and planning staff. I received the results of that request Friday.
One of the first things I’d like to write about is the correspondence between Jimmy Smith and yourself in late January, after the Board of Supervisors voted to extend Bruce Emad’s term on the Planning Commission (see “Emad vote.pdf”, attached). And so I’d like to ask you a couple of questions about that, if I could.
1. Why did you oppose Emad’s reappointment to the Planning Commission?
2. You wrote Smith: “Please know that my opposition to your re-election campaign begins today. Your district will be made aware of your moderate talk, but extremist votes.” Three weeks later, the attached anonymous flyer started appearing in Cutten-area mailboxes. Did you take any part in the creation or distribution of the flyer?
3. If so, what did you mean by stating that Smith, Cliff Clendenen and Mark Lovelace “…voted for a new Housing Plan in Our Neighborhood”? It would seem to refer to Forster-Gill, given that it talks specifically about “our neighborhood,” but perhaps it refers to the countywide Housing Element.
4. If it’s about the Housing Element, and if you did have a hand in the flyer — or even if you endorse its thrust, I guess — how do you square whipping up NIMBYist, no-growth sentiments in Cutten with your view that the county needs more buildable inventory in the Housing Element?
From: Rob Arkley
To: Hank Sims
Sent: Sunday, May 15, 1:02 p.m.
I don’t consider you a journalist in any way shape or form. Accordingly, I will not respond to you. Out of respect for Judy, we responded to you while you were at the Northcoast Journal, but obviously that has come to an end.
Folks say that the sole advertiser on your blog is Bill Pierson. LOL. :) That explains your obsession with me.