Everyone should already know that justice is a joke here in Humboldt County, so I thought a look at this year’s crop of District Attorney candidates might be good for a laugh. Personally, I’m just glad to see our current D. A. Paul Gallegos step down. Hand-picked, and financed by Humboldt County’s dope yuppies, Paul Gallegos seems like the kind of D. A. that organized crime would support.
Paul Gallegos always struck me as a showboat. Whenever I saw Paul Gallegos in the halls of the county courthouse, I expected to see a camera crew following him around. He always dressed “to the nines,” bearing this feckless expression that makes him look like they hired him to fill the suit. He looks more like a TV anchorman than a District Attorney. I have no idea whether he’s any good at his job, but I doubt that he is, because I don’t trust anyone who devotes that much energy to their appearance.
No, the County of Humboldt has never charged me with a crime, so I have no experience with the criminal justice system here, but I do enjoy a good civil lawsuit every once in a while. As a result, I spent a fair amount of time at the county courthouse in Eureka back when all of the current candidates haunted it’s hallowed halls. Lawyers do more of their work in the hallways of the courthouse, than they do in actual courtrooms, so I had the opportunity to watch them all, in action.
Visiting the county courthouse always reminds me of why I live in the country: florescent lights, tile floors, people who smell like dryer sheets, people who just smell, women wearing make-up and high-heels, men wearing dry-cleaned suits, cops, and an endless parade of humanity who go there to have their souls crushed. No one looks happy. No one looks healthy. No one looks like they want to be there. “This is what civilization is all about,” I remind myself, “an oppressive, artificial environment full of bad vibes.”
I pity the people who work in that environment, especially the clerks, secretaries, and court reporters, but also the commissioners, officers and department heads who work in all of the county offices, and even the lawyers, prosecutors, judges and County Supervisors. A lot of people would call those good, high-paying jobs, or at least relatively secure jobs with decent benefits, but go to the courthouse and look into their eyes. Do these people look happy to you? In the long run, how and where you spend your day matters a hell of a lot more than how much money you make, and security = death.
Good-looking people are few and far between at the courthouse. Interns and entry-level office help tend to look the best, but they go downhill fast in that environment. In that environment, the eyes grow hungry for a pleasing form, and anything less than grotesque will do. In the courthouse, Elan Firpo looks pretty good.
Anywhere else, she’s just another mom in a minivan, but if the D. A.’s race were a beauty contest, Elan Firpo would win, hands down.
Here in SoHum, Elan Firpo seems to be winning the yard sign vote, and the Firpo signs seem to occupy the same places that previously sported Gallegos signs. In an area so dependent on criminal activity, it seems that many people around here prefer an ornamental District Attorney.
Personally, I wouldn’t vote for an attractive D. A. Jobs don’t come any uglier than that of District Attorney. The D. A. deals with murderers, rapists, child molesters, wife beaters, and every other low-life sleaze-ball in the county, and needs to know every little detail of their grisly crimes. Being immersed like that, in the worst of the worst, takes it’s toll. A few years of that could turn Elle McFerson into Angela Merkle. No one wants to see that happen to a pretty face.
I’m not saying that a woman couldn’t handle the D. A. position, or that Elan Firpo is not qualified for the job; I’m saying that no one should take the job of D. A. unless they’re already ugly, and have proven that they know how to handle it.
I don’t remember what Maggie Fleming looks like, but with over 120 jury trials under her belt, I can imagine. Maggie Fleming also gets points with me for her writing. Of the three candidates who managed to get a blurb in my sample ballot, Maggie Fleming did the best job of writing hers.
I don’t think well of people who can’t write. I figure that if you can’t write well, you probably don’t think very well either. I imagine that writing skills, knowing how to convey information clearly, articulately, and gracefully, helps greatly when presenting a case before the jury, and I’ll bet Maggie Fleming does a great job of that.
I’ve seen a few of Maggie Fleming’s signs, mostly on property belonging to “old money,” the ranchers, descendents of the original settlers, and the people who made Roger Rodoni an unbeatable force for so many years. Although these days, I feel nostalgic for our old cowboy County Supervisor, I still don’t trust the political machine that got him elected.
I’m suspicious of Allan Dollison for other reasons. I don’t know why, but every time I see Allan Dollison, he reminds me of someone involved in the JFK assassination. I don’t know whether he looks like someone in the Zapruder Film, someone on the Warren Commission or maybe one of the actors in the Oliver Stone movie, but he always reminds me of the assassination of President John F Kennedy. I know that President Kennedy was long dead before Allan Dollison was even born, but I still don’t trust him.
Allan Dollison is proud to have served in the Iraq War. No one should be proud to have served in the Iraq War. I realize that people take pride in serving their country, and that the military builds certain skills, but the Iraq War was the biggest crime against humanity of the 21st Century, at least so far. Participating in it is nothing to be proud of. Allan Dollison promises to shake up the D. A.’s office, but I just can’t get behind an admitted war criminal with connections to the JFK assassination.
Which brings me to the fourth, final, and my personal favorite candidate for District Attorney, based on my personal experience at the courthouse, Arnie Klein. If you think of the 2nd floor of the county courthouse as a coral reef ecosystem: lawyers are dolphins, their clients are tuna, and the court reporters, clerks, and secretaries are angelfish. In this scenario, the judges would be large groupers, each ensconced in their own little cave, while the cops are barracudas constantly circling the scene. The criminal defendants, on the other hand, are just chum. If you imagine the Humboldt County courthouse that way, Arnie Klein was the big shark.
In reality, the courthouse is nothing like a coral reef ecosystem. There’s nothing natural about a courthouse, and nothing about it nourishes life. Quite the contrary. The courthouse is a place of dispute, violation, and punishment, and it consumes the lives of those who inhabit it.
You can immediately see what working at the courthouse has done to Armie Klein’s face. The guy has more wrinkles than a relief map of the King Range. Arnie Klein doesn’t just look like he’s been to hell and back, he looks like that’s his daily commute. That’s what a District Attorney should look like.
I understand that Arnie Klein has been sick. That doesn’t surprise me a bit. If he gets the D. A. job, I bet it will kill him. That’s OK. Arnie Klein probably wishes he were dead already, and his family has got to be sick of looking at him.
From watching Arnie Klein in action, it became clear to me that he loved his job, and was very good at it, despite the toll it took on him. Arnie clearly belongs at the courthouse. When he dies, they should stuff him and mount him on a pedestal in the hallway on the second floor.
I can’t tell you about Arnie’s writing ability, because he failed to get a blurb in my sample ballot. I had to look for his ad in Savage Henry to make sure I spelled his name correctly. Apparently, Arnie believes he can win the D. A.’s race solely on the strength of his popularity with illiterates. That might seem like a bold strategy, but not that many people in Humboldt County read, and those that do, tend to ask embarrassing questions, so it’s best to ignore them anyway.
After hearing him on Ed Denson’s KMUD radio show, I worry that Arnie Klein has more personality and charisma than the entire Board of Supervisors put together. He might be able to rally enough public support to pressure the supervisors to pump up his budget, at the expense of social programs for the poor. Social programs, even the few that remain, do far more to protect the property owning public than any amount of money spent on new Deputy D. A.s. I’m sure Arnie doesn’t see it that way, but don’t forget, Arnie is a shark, and all he sees is chum.
Well, chum, that’s my take on the 2014 Humboldt County District Attorney’s race.