Eureka, California: proposed renovation of industrial area
I just returned from voting in the California Primary. I had learned a few things about who was running, and was able to pick out my choices for both houses of Congress from the bewildering number of candidates (we have an open primary, which has the effect of blurring the political affiliations of the candidates), but one thing about ballot was particularly disconcerting to me. Four positions for the leadership of the local Democratic committee were on the ballot, and I recognized many of their names as former Republicans who had recently changed their affiliation from Republican to Democrat, and had run successfully for positions on the Eureka City Council. Because California has open primaries, these candidates had been able to insert themselves into the Council Democratic ticket without any endorsement from the Party itself. It was reported that they were able to win with a lot of cash funnelled to them by the local Chamber of Commerce, and some of their subsequent austerity measures somehow was offset by large donations to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, obstenstibly to repay the Chamber.
Anyway, the same people were again on the slate, and now they were actually trying to take over the leadership of the party itself. How can this happen? There definitely are some divisions within the local Democratic Party. In this area, almost no one can be elected unless they have the "D" next to their name. But critics of the traditional leadership have complained that they are too concerned with environmental issues. This puts them at loggerheads with local developers, who seem to think that the government is too restrictive when it comes to building permits.
Leading the opposition is Robin Arkley, probably the richest local citizen, rumored to be a billionaire, though his wealth is probably subject to a lot of vicissitudes in the real estate market. Several years ago, he and his wife proposed to donate a large tract of land, once the property of the now nonexistent railroad, to be used as a public park and community center. The City was at first delighted, but soon rejected their proposal, after learning that the land was severely polluted with PCBs, making the land a potential superfund site. If the City had accepted the donation, they would have acquired a crippling financial burden. I talked to my brother, who is an environmental engineer in Colorado, and he said, basically, that Robin Arkley is screwed.
Since then, Arkley came up with a plan to develop the site himself, which he proposes to beautify with a natural area, and a Home Depot building center. His efforts to obtain permits to pursue this plan was met with a lot of opposition. For one thing, his opponents in City Hall, mostly Democratic, asserted that any political go ahead that he received from the local governance would be nullified by the laws of the State of California, which has a special set of building codes which pertain to coastal areas. Arkley's plan to deal with the pollution issues was basically to pave it with a parking lot, and to create a landscaped marshy area for ducks and other wild birds to swim in. A few blocks away, a large building occupied by a flea market was condemned for public use, because the levels of PCBs in an adjoining drainage ditch were revealed to be in excess to permissable levels. By how much? The numbers were truly shocking. The results from earlier tests, it was theorized, had been faked. If people used to do that in the City of Eureka, why can't we do it anymore? Arkley seemed to be asking, rhetorically. In addition to this environmental mess, the selection of a Home Depot seemed to fit into a larger plan. One of the leaders of the local Democratic committee owns a large building center, and the profits of this locally owned business would be undermined by Home Depot. The opponents to Arkley's building plan unified mostly on the anti big box issue. Eureka doesn't need any more big box stores.
Thenceforth, in the latest elections for positions in the City Council, the slew of Conservative Candidates handily won, and a new Republican mayor was elected. All of them ran on a more jobs, more growth platform, and "Hey isn't the new Marina Center a good idea?" was part of the plan. The point I would make here is, that people don't seem to notice what is really going on in today's politics.
Now, they want to actually take over the Democratic Committee. All this isn't the end of the world, for anyone, but I wonder if this is what may happen in America's future corporate fascist state. When we go to the polls, all the voting choices will be for candidates and referendums set up by the ruling elite. Will we know better? We will all watch television constantly, and we will be assured that everything is going smoothly. No need to worry about these things. Just keep consuming the advertized products. It's good for the economy.
Wait a minute-- hasn't this been happening for the last twenty years?