John Hardin / @ 7:44 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: The Sorry State of Human Rights in Humboldt


Last week I chased down 2nd District Supervisor, Estelle Fennell to find out why she removed Chris Weston from the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission. Having been to a few HRC meetings, it was clear to me that Chris Weston actually cares about human rights. Most of the HRC commissioners seemed surprisingly indifferent to me. I mean, we have lots of “rights” fanatics around here, at least when it comes to property rights, the 2nd Amendment, and privacy protection, but the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission has got to be the most tepid organization designed for the purpose of promoting human rights, ever, in the whole history of the civil rights movement. I doubt that butter would melt in half of the commissioners mouths.

Estelle told me, emphatically, that HRC Commissioners serve at the pleasure of the Board of Supervisors, so you can bet that we have a weak Human Rights Commission, because that’s what the Board of Supervisors wants. Chris Weston came to the special meeting of the HRC in Garberville, to hear about human rights abuses in Southern Humboldt, from the people who suffer them. Estelle Fennell couldn’t be bothered. Chris Weston wanted human rights issues agendized and acted upon by the HRC. Estelle, apparently, didn’t. Therefore, Chris Weston had to be removed.

Just look at Estelle Fennell’s atrocious record on human rights: She worked to pass two new laws to criminalize poverty, one prohibiting people from asking for help, and the other prohibiting sleep, laws which fly in the face of the most basic of human rights. She supported Measure Z, which shifts the burden of taxation away from land-owners, who reap most of the benefits of county government, and onto the working poor and homeless, who can afford it the least, and to whom the county offers little more than evictions and jail time. Most recently, her decision to hire a poorly qualified new Public Defender with a weak record, a decision which demoralized the County’s well-respected Public Defender’s office, will only make it less likely that the County will respect the rights of indigent defendants. Considering her record, putting a commissioner on the HRC who actually cares about human rights would be out of character, so we shouldn’t be surprised that Estelle Fennell rescinded Chris Weston’s appointment.

I asked Estelle Fennell, directly, why she removed Chris Weston from the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission. She didn’t want to tell me. She told me that Chris knew why she removed him, and that I should ask him, so I did. I invited Chris Weston to appear as a guest on my radio show, the Memorial Day (May 29) edition of KMUD’s Monday Morning Magazine. On my show, Chris told us that the reason Estelle gave Chris for why she removed him, was that he created “friction” within the HRC.

“Friction!” We’ve got teenage kids beating homeless old men with baseball bats in Southern Humboldt, and she’s worried about “friction” within the HRC. A man was set on fire in Garberville, but she’s worried about “friction” on the HRC. As Chris Weston said on the air, “Human rights don’t get defended without some friction” and “if it weren’t for ‘some friction’ blacks would still be slaves, and women would still be the property of men.”

I think it will take “some friction” to address our continuing problem with violence against the poor and homeless in Southern Humboldt. We have a serious human rights problem in Southern Humboldt, and ignoring it won’t make it go away. If Ron Machado were gay, the incident where he was set on fire would be national news, and the perpetrators would face federal Hate Crime charges, but because he was poor, white and heterosexual, in Humboldt County, he’s just good kindling. That’s a cultural problem and it’s a cultural problem caused, not by poor and homeless people, but by the people with six-figure incomes around here, like Estelle Fennell.

We call it a “community” here in Southern Humboldt, but what goes on here is more like a casino. As long as you have money, we don’t care who you are, or where you got it; you’re welcome to stay and play. If you don’t have money, on the other hand, you’d better scram, even if you were born and raised here, even if you have a job and work here, even if you think you are part of the community here. To the rich people around here, like Estelle Fennell, you’re not a contributing member of the community, you’re just a loser, and you are taking up valuable real estate, so move on. That’s how a casino operates, but you can’t build a community that way.

We don’t make “community” a priority, here in Humboldt County, we make money our sole priority, and ignore the social, cultural and human consequences of that decision. Our current Board of Supervisors has created an atmosphere conducive to gamblers that lures shady business people and outright criminals into our community to loot us of our quality of life, ruin the environment, and exploit us economically, while it sweeps the social problems their policies create for our community under the rug, or out the door.

They ignore the housing crisis. They ignore the addiction problem. They ignore the dead bodies. They ignore the violence against the poor and homeless. They ignore the sex trafficking, and they ignore the people in our community who are suffering. All they see is money. Everything else, they just brush off, throw away, or pretend it doesn’t exist. Of course, they can get away with that now, because there’s so much money around, but when this casino stops paying, the high-rollers will be gone, along with the money. All that will be left is the wreckage, and the losers. That is, the environment and the community.

It’s happening already. The smart money is getting out while the getting is good, leaving the suckers to lose their shirts on the downhill slide. Meanwhile, large scale organized crime has become entrenched in the area, institutionalizing hard drugs, sex trafficking and other crimes in Humboldt County while honest working people live in their cars or sleep under bridges because drug dealers have taken over most of the available space. That’s what’s happening to our community, and to our home, here in Humboldt County, thanks to our current Board of Supervisors.

The housing crisis here is literally killing people in Humboldt County, and Housing First won’t begin to address it. Our whole economy is based on dealing drugs, but we have almost no treatment for addiction, and we die from drug use at ten times the state average here in Humboldt County. The housing crisis forces people into the drug economy, and the drug economy drives addiction. Addiction leads to poverty, crime, hopelessness, and death. This is no accident. This is being done to us intentionally. This is how greedy parasites suck the life out of a community, and our current Board of Supervisors invited them here to do it. Now that Estelle Fennell has eliminated the “friction” at the HRC, I guess it will just be smooth sailin’ from here.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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