I sent the following letter to my County Supervisor Estelle Fennel after hearing her make some disparaging remarks about some of her constituents. I also submitted it to both of our local newspapers. The Independent ran the letter, while The Redwood Times refused to print it on the grounds that they don’t print third party letters.
The real issue is that the business owners downtown, especially the real estate agents, don’t want their customers to see poor people hanging around town. Of course, they don’t want to admit that the real problem is declining wages and rising housing prices. Instead, they want to blame the victims, and use taxpayer resources to drive poor people out of town, even though they constantly complain about paying too much in taxes.
Dear Supervisor Fennel,
As the county considers what to do with the area formerly known as “The Jim Demulling Memorial Grove”, I urge you to consider a few facts about Southern Humboldt that you seem to have forgotten:
Everyone in Southern Humboldt, without exception, urinates and defecates. Many, if not most of them, do it in a fashion that does not comply with county codes. As the former executive director of Hum-CPR, you actively lobbied to protect the rights of land-owners who choose to use non-standard and unapproved sanitation.
Most of Southern Humboldt’s adult population consumes alcohol on a regular, if not daily basis, and at least half-a-dozen business establishments sell alcoholic beverages in Garberville alone, to accommodate Southern Humboldt’s alcohol consumers.
Willits Towing and Recovery recently removed hundreds of thousands of pounds of of junk cars and other scrap metal from rural parcels in Southern Humboldt, cheerfully, and at no cost to rural land-owners, a quantity that dwarfs the amount of garbage begrudgingly, and disparagingly removed by Eel River Cleanup. As I recall, you yourself took advantage of a subsidized program to eliminate unsightly and hazardous waste from our rural environment, by bringing in over 100 discarded tires. Clearly this community tolerates people who do not take responsibility for their garbage.
Were Federal, State and County laws strictly enforced, especially on the rural properties in Southern Humboldt, law enforcement would find flagrant violations of the law on nearly every parcel. While most of Southern Humboldt is poorly suited to agriculture, it is remarkably well suited to concealing ugly and illegal activity, a fact that has contributed greatly to its economic vitality.
As a public servant who represents a lot of ethically-challenged, full-time criminals, talk of “intolerable behavior” rings especially hollow. We tolerate a lot of ugly behavior here in Southern Humboldt, and a lot of people around here have grown obscenely rich as a result of it. That’s what makes this community special. I don’t think it fair to condemn the same behavior, only for those who endure poverty and have no place to go.
If you have managed to find a way to speak respectfully with and about the rest of your constituents, you should be able to speak respectfully about the members of this community who lack the resources to secure for themselves, the privacy of a home in which to engage in the same kinds of activities as the rest of your constituents.
If you want the poor and the young to have any respect for county government, you must first demonstrate that the county has respect for them, and their needs. As their representative, I urge you to refrain from using terms like “vagrants” to describe any of your constituents in the future. Instead, I hope you will work for a compassionate solution to the problem of greedy people, who lack compassion, intent on pressing their economic advantage against the poor and the young.
Sincerely, John Hardin
P.O. Box 2301, Redway, CA 95560