The Arcata City Council, minus Mayor Sofia Pereira, voted 4-0 to put the issue of the Mckinley statue on this year's November ballot. Their vote reverses an earlier decision to remove the statue, which was made in February this year.
The statue stands in the center of town and has divided many community members--some who see McKinley as a symbol for racist imperialism and others who see him as an American hero. Those mostly in favor of keeping the statue, led efforts to gather enough signatures to put the decision up to a citizen vote in the upcoming election.
Council member Susan Ornelas said that although the council had previously decided on a majority vote to start the removal process, that they should honor the petition from more than 1,400 Arcata voters.
"While it is frustrating for people who had a decision, it is really all part of democracy," Ornelas said. "We were exercising our rights of a democracy to make a choice. We did that. Citizens were exercising their rights of democracy to have that petition signed, so this is the legality of the situation."
Like the public, not all of the councilmembers agreed on the fate of the statue. Council member Paul Pitino previously showed support for the statue's removal, while Council member Michael Winkler advocated to keep the statue in the Arcata Plaza. Ultimately what they did agree on was to let the voters decide.
Nathaniel McGuigan, co-chair of MEChA at Humboldt State University and advocate for McKinley’s removal, doesn’t agree with putting the issue on the November ballot, but he said he is hopeful for a favorable turnout.
“But in the end, the right side will win. The people who are pro-removal of the statue will win,” McGuigan said.
The statue itself, according to the Arcata City Council, could cost close to $65,000 to remove and the process would still need to go through the California Environmental Quality Act.