OPINION: The Big Story in McKinleyville

(Note: This was printed in the April 25, 2012 edition of the McKinleyville Press. I think it’s still relevant in light of last week’s MCSD meeting with Assemblyman Wes Chesbro.)

ramblingbox.column.new.2.21.13.Sometimes to biggest stories aren’t the sexiest stories. There’s no carnage, scandal or high drama. They don’t have screaming 60-point Helvetica Black headlines. They don’t make newspapers fly off the racks like stories about prostitution stings or massive grow house raids with mountains of nugs and stacks of cash.

In the case of McKinleyville, the biggest story taking place right now is spread out over a series of smaller articles, filled with bureaucratic acronyms like MCSD, HCAOG, LAFCO and McKMAC. On the surface, these individual articles might seem kind of boring – the McKinleyville Community Services has nominated one of its own board members for a seat on the Local Agency Formation Commission; the MCSD seeks a seat on the Humboldt County Association of Governments; Supervisor Ryan Sundberg wants to create a McKinleyville Community Advisory Committee.

Sounds like a snorefest. But put them together and you have a whopper of a story. McKinleyville wants to be in charge of McKinleyville, rather than be at the mercy of outside forces. It’s a sea change, and the Powers That Be are on board.

It’s like the unincorporated community was a gangly teenager just a few years ago, growing by leaps and bounds, but still under parental control, unable to make decisions for itself. Now McKinleyville is all grown up – an adult. And it doesn’t want to be told what to do anymore. It wants to be emancipated. It wants to be in charge of its own destiny.wherehorsehavetherightaway-533x400

But this is hampered because the town is unincorporated, and therefore at the mercy of the County of Humboldt when it comes to services like land use planning and road construction and maintenance.

The conventional wisdom is that incorporation is unfeasible. The rules governing incorporation make it financially impossible for the town to become a city.

So McKinleyville, lead by its Community Services District and supported by Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg, is taking a different tact.

If McKinleyville can’t be a city, then it should at least have as much influence as possible over the services provided by the county.

The MCSD has stepped up to the plate. It’s thrown off the shackles that, years ago, kept it from commenting on planning issues. Now it freely weighs in on the issues, as it did at its last meeting when the Board of Directors agreed to send a letter to the county regarding the hiring of a new interim planning director. At that same meeting, the board met in closed session to discuss its lawsuit against the county regarding rezoning of McKinleyville properties for high density development.

There’s an effort to get MCSD Director Helen Edwards on Humboldt’s Local Agency Formation Commission, which controls local government boundaries and annexations. The MCSD is trying to get a seat on the Humboldt County Association of Governments, which prioritizes transportation funding and decides on how much low-income housing communities must provide.

Next week the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the creation of a McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC.) This committee would give the town a stronger voice on issues like planning, roads and police protection.

Little by little, piece by piece, McKinleyville is assuming greater control over itself, and that’s a good thing.