Group pursues new 'Emerald City' in Humboldt Co.

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Jun 21, 2007
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A group of Humboldt County residents is attempting to form a new city in the heart of California's famed hub of marijuana cultivation - an effort aimed at ensuring the area receives its fair share of county services.

The project, dubbed Emerald City, is in its earliest stages, with supporters seeking to raise $7,500 to fund a financial feasibility study, which is the first step in the city incorporation process.

The boundaries of the proposed North Coast city haven't yet been determined, but it would incorporate Garberville and Redway, both located about 50 miles south of Eureka with about 1,000 residents each.

Jim Lamport, the project's main proponent, said a new city would provide residents of the southern part of the county with greater political sway. County budget cuts are threatening local services, including a sheriff's substation in Garberville, where Lamport owns a legal document service.

"There's a feeling, shared by quite a few people, that we need a stronger, bigger political voice," he told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Emerald City could generate revenue by taxing its top crop, marijuana, as well as other businesses, Lamport said. In recent years, law enforcement agents have seized millions of pot plants worth billions of dollars in Humboldt and neighboring counties - a hefty haul that authorities say represents a mere fraction of the crop.

But some residents and local officials question whether the plan makes fiscal sense for the county and the surrounding community.

"Creating a new jurisdiction doesn't create new revenues, so the residents would have to shoulder the burden of responsibilities and services currently provided by the county, but with their own limited tax base," Humboldt County Supervisor Mark Lovelace told the Press Democrat.

Lovelace said he supports exploring the idea of a new city, but described incorporation as a "difficult and complex process."

Though Emerald City remains almost entirely conceptual, the moniker has already elicited strong reactions, said Lamport. "A lot of people like the name. The people who don't like it really don't like it," he said, adding that it is only tentative.

The name has roots in fiction - as the capital city of the Land of Oz in "The Wizard of Oz" - but also refers to southern Humboldt County's position at the center of the so-called Emerald Triangle, a pot production region that also includes Trinity and Mendocino counties.

About 15 years ago, Lamport led an unsuccessful effort to incorporate southern Humboldt County and northern Mendocino County into a new entity, Sequoia County. He failed to get enough signatures to place the initiative on the ballot.


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