I like Bill. Bill McKinley, that is, the guy who’s been hanging out in the Arcata Plaza since 1906. People who want him removed try to associate him with various crimes to which he is not connected. He should be removed, they tell us, because in the 1860s indigenous people were being sold in the Arcata Plaza. But in the 1860s young Bill was not selling slaves in Arcata. He was thousands of miles away, fighting to free slaves in the south. A staunch abolitionist, Bill joined the war as a private at the age of eighteen and ended it a major.
George Zehndner, they go on to tell us, the man who paid for the statue actually indentured a seven-year-old native girl himself in 1860. I know nothing about George Zehndner, but I have taken a good look at the statue pedestal and I can confirm that the statue is of our man Bill, not George Zehndner.
Others argue that Bill does not belong in the Plaza because he had nothing to do with Humboldt County. I would point out that Alexander von Humboldt had nothing to do with Humboldt County either, but we have made him our own. Like von Humboldt, Bill has become one of us. At this year’s Oyster Festival, I spotted him cleverly disguised as Poseidon, god of the sea, complete with a flowing beard and trident. A couple of weeks later at the Fairies Festival he carried a magic wand in his right hand. As Bill McKinley did in real life, his statue is always willing to help out. Our Bill has become a part of Arcata, as natural to the Plaza as the two beautiful—and not-at-all native—palm trees that tower so majestically behind him. I’m voting yes on Measure M.