Dear Jack Nounnan,
I’m writing you to let you know about a problem I’ve had in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse.
As you may know, I own the McKinleyville Press, which is a non-corporate, locally owned, independent community newspaper. I serve as the newspaper’s publisher, editor, reporter, photographer and paper boy.
For years I’ve had a newspaper rack at the Humboldt County Courthouse, first on the Fourth Street side. Later I moved the rack to the Fifth Street side. I never had a problem with theft or vandalism, until recently.
About a month ago I was delivering newspapers and discovered that the padlock had somehow been broken off my rack and stolen. So I had to go out and spend $10 on a new padlock. That might not sound like a big deal to most people, but these are tough times and little expenses like that can add up.
I figured that the incident was just a fluke and tried to put it behind me. Then, about two weeks ago, I was dismayed to discover that someone had kicked in the plastic window on the front of my newspaper rack.
My first thought was that I should dip into my meager bank account, purchase a new window, then take an hour or two way from my regular newspaper duties to dismantle and remove the old window and replace it with a new window. (It’s not an easy job, being that the racks are several decades old and the bolts are rusty.)
But then I had to wonder: Do we have a pattern here? If my newspaper rack was targeted twice in one month, might it be targeted again? Maybe.
So I had to replace the rack and move it to the Fourth Street side, away from the Occupy protest. I could no longer afford to do business there.
I don’t know who targeted my rack. Was it an Occupy protester, or someone just hanging out with the protesters? I don’t know.
But the incident demonstrates that there is a problem in front of the courthouse. Either misguided protesters are engaged in the vandalism, or the protest is attracting a criminal element, which seemingly cannot be policed by the protesters.
I would have thought that my newspaper, and the rack that dispenses it, would be a welcome addition at the protest. After all, the McKinleyville Press represents the opposite of corporate-dominated, plutocratic media. The Press is locally owned. It’s non-corporate. It’s a micro-media enterprise. It’s even printed letters and columns sympathetic to the Occupy movement.
I also would have thought that with a 24/7 protest taking place in front of the courthouse, my newspaper rack would be safer than ever before. Protesters, after all, are sitting only a few feet away from it. But that’s not the case.
The fact that the Occupy protest site is inhospitable to a local community newspaper makes me really sad.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that my complaint is trivial compared to some of the major problems we face in today’s world. We’ve got people going hungry. Health care is inadequate. The nation is engaged in endless conflict overseas. The list goes on and on.
But it doesn’t make sense to take it out on small businesses, or to allow a scuzzy element to run wild and make things more difficult for local mom & pop businesses that are just trying to survive.
I hope that organizers can do something to change the situation in front of the courthouse and make it welcome again for the entire community.
Remember, we’re all in this together.
Thank you for your time,