During tonight’s meeting, the Eureka City Council will discuss an array of important issues on a jam-packed agenda, including the city’s controversial Syringe Exchange Program operated by Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction (HACHR.)
Syringe Exchange Program and HACHR
The council will discuss two separate items of HACHR-related business tonight, starting with the potential repeal of the city’s resolution supporting the Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) operated by HACHR. If the council moves forward with the repeal, it would replace the existing resolution — which was adopted by the council in 2016 — with one that excludes any HACHR-specific language and supports the establishment of a mobile syringe exchange program in favor of a centralized location. You can view the new draft resolution here.
“Centralizing causes neighborhood issues,” Eureka City Manager Miles Slattery said in a recent phone conversation with the Outpost. “You have people who are preying on that population, people who come to deal drugs.”
The recommendation to replace the resolution is based largely on an undercover investigation into HACHR’s operations by the Eureka Police Department, the report of which includes observation of multiple cases of on-site drug sales and use at HACHR’s Third Street center.
HACHR responded with a statement saying that it has a zero tolerance policy on drug use and sales on its property and also outlined planned steps to address this issue moving forward, including “seeking funding to hire a staff person whose primary duty will be onsite monitoring of activities and ensuring our participants are accountable to their agreements with HACHR.”
But even with HACHR taking steps to address the EPD’s allegations, the city says that it has had other issues working with the organization and will also consider tonight approving a letter to the California Department of Public Health opposing the reauthorization of HACHR’s SEP, which is set to expire on October 8. In the letter, the city says that HACHR has been inconsistent in adhering to the city’s SEP ordinance and that staff “refuses to collaborate with both the City and the neighboring community.”
HACHR Executive Director Lasara Firefox Allen says that the organization has worked very hard to cooperate with the city, without sacrificing the level of harm reduction it provides to the community it serves.
“The main thing we want the community to know is that we’re still just focusing on our people,” Allen told the Outpost, adding that the last several months have been particularly difficult for HACHR. “The fires and evacuations have all been having an impact. We’re doing our best to keep our people as safe from COVID as possible, trying to help reduce the rate of transmission.”
Both Slattery and Allen said they hope that they can continue to work together and hope that tonight’s meeting can help them reach an understanding that will allow HACHR to continue providing this essential service for the community.
“We are trying our best to be heard,” Allen told the Outpost. “I feel that the only way things will improve is to keep an open line of communication.”
Bar, Restaurant and Retail Program
In other business, the council will consider establishing a Eureka Bar, Restaurant and Retail Program, which will distribute $175,000 in CARES act funding to help businesses adapt their services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Any bar, restaurant or retail business can be eligible for the program, as long as it has been operational since or before March 1, 2020. The funding will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis and the amounts distributed will vary, based on the specific needs of the applicant.
The program will have six components, according to the staff report, which include:
City installed temporary parklets to expand outdoor dining.
Expansion of sidewalk and parking lot uses.
Outdoor food courts to encourage takeout from restaurants.
A #DineOutEureka social media campaign.
A cap on the fees that delivery apps may charge restaurants.
Reimbursable expenses for businesses that have already made these efforts.
As a part of adopting this program, the council will also consider imposing a 15 percent cap on delivery fees charged to restaurants by third party delivery companies and subject those who violate the cap to a fine of up to $1,000 per day.
The enforcement of the cap would last through the remainder of the COVID-19 emergency and could potentially come back to the council for permanent adoption, the staff report says.
Neighborhood Mini Grants
The council will also receive a report on the established Neighborhood Investment Mini Grant Program, a $10,000 Board of State Community Corrections Grant distributed by way of the Eureka Police Department.
Applicants will be eligible for up to $500 to fund a proposed project in their neighborhood. Both individuals — over the age of 18 — and registered non-profit organizations can apply and types of projects could qualify. Examples in the staff report include community gardens, free food pantries and neighborhood block parties (although a traditional block party probably isn’t a great idea during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Eureka City Council will discuss all this and more during tonight’s regular meeting at 6 p.m. The council will also hold a special, closed-session meeting at 5 p.m. to discuss labor negotiations and two existing lawsuits.
You can watch the council meeting on the City of Eureka’s website or on Cable channel 10.
You can view the full agenda and instruction on how to participate in the meeting here.