[Note: This post has been corrected from a previous version, which misidentified which wards some of the candidates are competing to represent. The Outpost regrets the errors.]
Eureka City Council candidates gathered at the Samoa Cookhouse Wednesday for a forum hosted by the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group. As attendees sipped soup and chowed down on cornbread, the candidates discussed their visions for our harbor and how, if elected, they plan to promote its use and development.
Six of the nine candidates running were present; Hailey Lamb (Ward One), Jeannie Breslin (Ward Three), Joe Bonino (Ward Five), John Fullerton (Ward Three), Anthony Mantova (Ward One) and Leslie Castellano (Ward One).
The two incumbents, Ward Three Councilmember Kim Bergel and Ward Five Councilmember Natalie Arroyo, were not present. Ward One candidate Caroline Brooks was represented by husband and Campaign Manager John Chaffin.
Among attendees were Fourth Division Harbor District Commissioner Richard Marks and his opponent, Eureka City Councilmember Marian Brady, who is about to be termed out after eight years on the council.
The candidates were asked the following questions: “What is your vision of the City’s strategy for the development, use, and maintenance of the harbor?” and, “As a member of the City Council, what you do to advance this strategy?”
Each candidate was given three minutes to answer the question; most had clearly written their answers ahead of time. Local resident Dennis Mayo acted as timekeeper, waving flags crafted from toy laser swords to let candidates know when their allotted time was up.
Selected in random order, Ward Five candidate Bonino was the first to present. He mentioned the vision already outlined in Eureka’s General Plan Update, which he says mentions not restricting fishing our shipping activities in the harbor.
“My vision is to make sure they live up to those words,” Bonino said.
Bonino was not as focused on increasing tourism as some of the other candidates. Though he understands the need for a certain amount of tourism, he expressed a fear of forces trying to change Eureka’s waterfront into a version of San Francisco’s Pier 39.
“We need this harbor to be a working harbor,” he said.
Incumbent Kim Bergel was working and unable to attend.
Mantova said the three main areas he thinks need focus in the harbor are jobs, a variety of industry and tourism.
He stressed that jobs are the No.1 priority, saying that although tourism is very important we can’t survive on the success of that industry alone.
“We need to really get serious about union wage jobs and living wage jobs,” Mantova said.
Castellano discussed the importance of different groups working together, saying “anything that needs to happen needs to happen by developing a coalition.”
Castellano stressed the need for economic development and sustainable tourism while also focusing on environmental factors. She discussed the importance of staying on top of regular dredging of the bay and the necessity of ongoing eel grass maintenance.
Chaffin said Brooks’ plans to improve the waterfront to promote the “ease of commercial fishing,” noting that there are only two locations to dock a boat on the boardwalk between C and F street. Chaffin also talked about his wife’s plan to work with the Harbor District to improve the pulp mill to “encourage entrepreneurship and alternative energy sources.”
Lamb said that the three areas she finds most important when discussing the harbor are tourism, working closing with the harbor commissioner and promoting culture. Lamb discussed her idea to create a “Native American cultural center” to teach people about local history and creating things like a “video of the week” to advertising the different activities available in the bay.
Incumbent Arroyo was unable to attend the forum but had submitted a short written statement beforehand which was read by forum host Scott Hammond.
Arroyo’s statement mentioned that she has been enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve since 2012 and cited her experience working on environmental restoration projects for Humboldt Bay, including with Humboldt Trails Council and the Salmonid Restoration Federation. Arroyo wrote that she would prioritize healthy fisheries and food production, encourage tourism and reasonable economic development.
Breslin thinks there is much more we could be doing with the harbor, starting her comment with, “Our bay is one of our most underutilized resources, and we can do better.”
Breslin supports Eureka’s Waterfront Revitalization Plan and said that she welcomes the idea of working with Development Services Director Rob Holmlund to create marketing strategies to promote the harbor. She cited her extensive marketing experience as one of her advantages. She also mentioned (possibly appealing to the older demographic of the audience) that she, unlike her opponents, is retired, giving her ample time to dedicate to the City Council.
Fullerton was the last candidate to share his vision and plans for the harbor. He said he dreams of a working harbor, which to him means “shipping, shipping and more shipping.” He stressed the importance of the fishing industry to our economy and talked about his desire to expand our oyster beds, which would improve job opportunities.
In his closing statement, Fullerton mentioned that he hopes to change the overall tone of politics in Eureka. He said City Council meetings lately have been filled with hostility and he dreams of a world where “we can disagree and still be friends.”
At the time of publication there is no video available of the forum. Though the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group has assured the Outpost it will be on their website soon.
This was the last scheduled candidate forum before the election, so you may want to look through past videos and visit candidates’ websites to brush up on their campaign platforms before November 6.