Today’s Eureka Rotary Humboldt County District Attorney debate was interesting to say the least. The League of Women Voters (LWV) hosted the format and I came away with information I was not privy to before. I have met with 2 of the candidates but have not officially endorsed or committed my vote to any at this time. Each candidate had a one minute opening statement.
Arnie Klein opened the forum at equated politicking around the room reminded him of “Speed Dating.” He outlined long experience and referenced the Rotary flag with, “Is it the Truth? Is it Fair?
Allan Dollison spoke of 19 years as Attorney and half of that time he was in the DA’s office. He also served in Iran and Iraq and is currently Lieutenant Colonel in the National Guard.
Elan Firpo said she was the only current candidate actually currently in the DA’s office and explained her executive experience prior to becoming a lawyer.
Maggie Fleming outlined her 20 yrs of experience and how she actually worked with 3 different elected Humboldt County DA’s.
(Nobodies opening gave them an advantage. Arnie was the most clever.)
What is the biggest problem in Humboldt County?
Allan: “Crime in Eureka!”
Maggie: Drugs need to be addressed.
Arnie: Need to go after serious crime offenders. Explained, “Arnie is for the people!”
Elan: Mental health is the biggest problem. Pointed out one person being arrested 359 times. “We need to focus on getting people healthy.
(I feel Elan gave the best answer and solution based approach.)
What is your opinion on Marijuana?
Arnie: “We need to take back the streets!” MJ will be lowest priority but will go after trespass growers and environmentally bad grows.
Allan: “There have been new studies about the bad mental effect of MJ. It is an intro drug. “ He said we need to look at Colorado laws and corporate grows.
Elan: “There are Growmaniacs, criminals coming to raid and pollute. The problem isn’t the plant.” She would have a vertical prosecutor trained to specialize in grow situations.
Maggie: She pointed out that it was a statewide issue and she is against environmentally invasive and trespass grows and the crime because of them.
(Again, Elan had the best answer and addressed how she could help the DA’s office do better. That is what everyone is looking for.)
How many people have had work under you that were responsible to you?
Maggie: She said she had 14 to 18 under her, but then back tracked and noted she was just filling in for Wes Keat.
Elan: Started off really confused and hard to understand, but finished with explaining she had 30 high level employees under her that oversaw 3,000 workers down chain. She had the power to hire and fire at least 50 at a given time.
Allan: He said about the same as Maggie. He had also filled in for Wes Keat. He had been recently promoted to head up a troop battalion of 140.
Arnie: Has led departments in Beverly Hills, West LA, Compton and Tulare. He joked that everyone up there had at one time been head of the Humboldt office.
(Allan was able to explain easily and understandable and gets extra points for his service record.)
Who are your largest donors and how much is the largest donation?
Elan: Named Jasion Chand and Neal Ewald but didn’t divulge amount.
Arnie: “My campaign chair and fiancé Kitty is my largest donor, but I have many donations from past fellow prosecutors from past DA offices.” One from Vegas gave him $500.
Maggie: Said her largest donors were her family and wouldn’t divulge anything else.
Allan: “I am my largest donor at $20,000. I also have been given $500 from Robert Helm.” Helm was a past fellow combat soldier.
(Allan was straight forward and answered the question.)
What do feel about the Homeless issue?
Maggie: Pointed out that this was a mental health issue that impacts caseloads. “Some of the people won’t accept help.”
Allan: Pointed out “Being homeless is not a crime. They are more times victim!” He felt there needed to be proper services and has been involved in the StandDown program for homeless vets.
Arnie: “They are sleeping under the bridge! In 2010 there were 150 that swooped into Garberville.” Said they were ruled by the “Law of the gun!”
Elan: Said there were chronic problem people that just need to be “Safe and warm.”
(Allan once again made good points.)
What is the one thing you would change or do different than the current DA?
Allan: “Need more resources. Did you know that the DA’s office has not prepared or presented a budget to the Board of Supervisors that last two years?”
Maggie: The oversight of the department. She worked in the past with many experienced prosecutors and said there are young ones in the DA office now. Because of plea bargains there is a lack of confidence from the community.
Elan: Pointed out a lack of “Vertical Prosecutors.” Felt there needed to be a focus on training to more specialized focus. Such as one for drugs, one for environment, one for victim witness and so on.
Arnie: Said you can only do so much. He said he would deputize prosecutors in community areas so they wouldn’t have to travel all the way to Eureka. Those people would know the problem people. “Switching chairs on the Titanic won’t do anything!”
(Elan gave reasonable solutions instead of complaining about current problems.)
What about realignment and how do you deal with petty crime with no repercussion?
Maggie: Said we needed to treat the problem locally and work with law enforcement.
Arnie: Pointed out we have an ugly jail. “Put people in jail if they harm people.”
Allan: “Realignment was a terrible idea for the State to put the responsibility on the county and let them try to figure it out!” Pointed out that there are only 3 people currently with house monitors in the county. He wanted to hold people responsible for violent crime.
Elan: Said that people have figured out how to get around AB 109. She pointed out getting long term sentences for Meth dealers.
(Allan is so right here. But why aren’t more people monitored instead of in jail? That is the bigger question.)
What would do about Panhandling? (C’mon LWV. You couldn’t pick a better question?)
Arnie: ”Nuisance, but least of problem.” Noted it was bad for business. Felt they needed to be cited but not a major public safety problem.
Elan: Felt the money they were collecting was for drugs. Said the trim jobs that bring people into the community helps cause this problem. Not a DA’s job.
Maggie: Also pointed out the trim workers and said citing them and doing a work program would help issue.
Allan: “I have been in big cities and see less here.” Deal with in homeless court and don’t criminally prosecute.
(I will agree with Allan that this problem is bigger in some cities. Portland and SF comes to mind. Part of Maggie’s work program seems to be good solution. And it is just a nuisance, like Arnie pointed out. I have seen studies/survey that shows that nearly 90% of the panhandlers supplement their intake. And many of the same use for booze and drugs also.)
Maggie: Explained that everything she has done in her campaign is “Transparent.” Then became defensive and pointed out that people should check her opponents claimed work record and where and when she actually did. (Wow! I was shocked and noticed all the people around me shuffling uncomfortable in their seats. I have had multiple people I respect give personal testimony of Maggie’s competency and character. This was not good!
Elan: Had to use some of her time answering the alluded to accusation of past work history. She then pointed out that the DA’s office has excellent attorneys.
Allan: He and Maggie were once in a DA’s office of 20-25 attorneys. Said midnight release policy should be stopped. Pointed out 2 murder cases that happened with early release and Maggie’s agreement that early release would continue. He also let it be known current Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey has endorsed Maggie.
Arnie: “Need communication and teamwork! Just because you coach youth soccer team does not mean you can coach in the NFL!”
(So who am I supporting or voting for? I just don’t know. You only meet an Arnie Klein once in a lifetime. Great guy. Funny and smart. Old school. Allan? I just can’t seem to get past the de-barred from practicing law for not producing services paid for and rendered. Practice law? Fine. Hold the position of DA? That is a higher standard. But I love his commitment to God and the USA. Maggie? This debate is my first real exposure with others in the room. And it wasn’t good. At previous Democratic Central Committee and other public gathering meetings she was engaging and nothing but positive. Why the attack on Elan? Got me. Maggie is the clear frontrunner. Better to keep positive. Elan? I have met with Elan a few times. I gave her advice early in her campaign. She politely listened and considered. She fed me cookies at Arts Alive in Eureka a few times and always smiled as she manned her booth with her two kids. I am leaning Elan, but I will wait to see what comes up. Arnie might buy me a beer and take it away!” Joking , please.)