Oddly, one or my proudest moments in this town was a few years back when an envelope showed up in my office with 10 “I Like Eureka” stickers tucked inside. I had performed some slightly cool act the previous week, and the still-anonymous people behind the funny-looking, not-slick, maybe not-even-on-brand I Like Eureka campaign had decided to recognize it.
Eureka takes a lot of guff, much of it from its own citizens. Certainly, there are issues. We’ve got urban problems in the middle of this vast rural area. We need housing at all income levels. Sometimes, we can be yokels (see the airport name for one innocuous example). We can have bush-league corruption (Google Humboldt coroner Corvette). We need to do better.
And yet, in our subversive way, many of us say, “yes, but I like Eureka.” There’s also the corollary “Love Where I Live” crowd, who post photos online of trillium, boats at Woodley Island, redwoods, and beaches.
Objectively, there is a lot to be proud of locally, such as these recent accomplishments: the Redwood Skywalk at the zoo, the coming Redwood Trail, Arts Alive being back, and the clean-up and redevelopment of the harbor. Eurekans have chosen to tax themselves more and, as a result, roads are getting fixed, traffic safety will be improved, and maybe I won’t find myself driving like I’m racing on a road course – road course racers make lots of sharp turns – while cruising down a straight street. We’ve got more economically significant projects in our near- and mid-term future than any time in recent memory.
Our fellow citizens volunteer a lot, from participating in from Keeping Eureka Beautiful to Rotary initiatives to volunteering with Food for People to promote conservation. I have lived or worked in big cities from San Diego to Boston, and in other rural places like Mentone, California and Greeley, Colorado. Nowhere have I seen a more engaged, and actively pitching-in, citizenry.
For a few years now, I wasn’t giving back quite as much as I probably should. In part to remedy that, I recently accepted an appointment to the Eureka Planning Commission. I don’t expect it to be loads of fun. It’s unpaid work, a significant amount of it, and the stakes for participants in the process are often high, making it stressful all-around. But it’s meaningful. Mayor Susan Seaman asked me to serve and, in addition to being a friend I have trouble telling no, Susan is Eureka’s cheerleader in chief. She recognized early on that how we talk about our community truly matters.
If we speak of the glass as half-full, it fills up a little more. Actions matter too… if more of us go out on the boardwalk, the boardwalk gets nicer.
The good news is playing your part can be enjoyable, even if some things are working or are emotionally charged. Do things like…
• Picnic at one of the gulches.
• Take that bike ride on the boardwalk.
• Initiate a friendly conversation with a neighbor.
• Plant trees.
• Run for office.
• Say something nice to the shopkeeper who goes the extra mile to beautify their part of the street.
• Better yet, be that shopkeeper.
• Be a Big Brother or Big Sister or volunteer at CASA.
• Try plogging.
• Take on a Meals on Wheels route.
• Let Mayor Susan know you’re interested in serving on the Transportation Safety Committee (or one of the other commission openings you can view here: https://new.ci.eureka.ca.gov/depts/city_clerk/comm/board_n_commission_vacancies /default.asp).
If we all do a little and speak positively, it will have an enormous influence.
Michael Kraft is the compliance and government affairs officer for Papa & Barkley, a wellness-oriented cannabis company that manufactures its products in Eureka. He likes Eureka, lives just south of the city limits and has worked downtown for years. He can be reached at email@example.com.