Anaheim Council Brain Trust debates legalizing Cannabis.


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As you’ve probably noticed, SOME entity or entities exercising control over the Anaheim Council really, suddenly, wants to bring legalized, regulated, taxed cannabis dispensaries into the heretofore SQUARE city of Anaheim.  This would require first a 2/3 Council vote (5 votes – thanks to Kris Murray’s “Taxpayer Protection Act“), and then a tax measure to be put on the November ballot and approved by the public.  But right now, after studying the last Council meeting, it’s hard to see how that could possibly happen.

It’ll always be a question now how Mayor Sidhu would have come down on this issue.  He did provide the third vote April 21 to agendize the motion, but now he’s been forced to recuse himself thanks to the publicity following Duane Roberts’ discovery and publication of his son Rohan’s deep involvement in the industry.  In retrospect I really wish Duane had held off on that – cannabis is still so controversial in this town, and Sidhu’s conflict so obvious, that his voting to move this forward would have been a GODSEND to our movement to recall him.

Now, with only six councilmembers left to make the decision, there are just TWO – Lucille Kring and Jordan Brandman – who are definite yesses on this, and they’d need to convince three others, just to get it on the ballot.  But boy are Kring and Brandman gung-ho, and impatient to make this happen!  Which makes it strange how lackadaisically Lucille agendized the matter at the end of the April 21 meeting, after midnight, nearly forgetting to, as Duane tells the story:

…just as Mayor Harry Sidhu was making his final closing remarks, Councilwoman Lucille Kring abruptly interrupted him.

“Mis… Mister Mayor, first of all, I forgot to do an agenda item,” Kring interjected.

“O.K., Councilmember Kring. Go ahead,” Sidhu replied, sounding a bit exasperated.

“Really, really, really, really fast,” said Kring…

Or was that just a bit of Lucille kabuki?  In any case she’s now hellbent to get this on the November ballot, even lying shamelessly to her old West Anaheim supporter Jodie Mosley that “There will be no pot shops in West Anaheim,” and resisting as long as possible the reasonable move to continue discussion to the next (June 9) meeting.

Jordan Brandman, who has spoken enthusiastically about marijuana legalization since at least his brief 2014 Congressional run, is the only other booster. On May 12 he told a far-fetched story that, when campaigning in district 2 two years ago, countless voters complained to him about all the illegal pot shops in that district, and when he explained to them that the only way to get rid of them is by bringing in legal dispensaries, “EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM” responded, “Then DO IT!” Yes, he really insisted that every single one told him that. As always the strange young man strains credulity. Especially when we’ve seen how anti-cannabis letters poured in 250 to 120, and MANY of them from West Anaheim.

Those two boosters are countered by the two staunch anti-pot, quality-of-life conservatives, West Anaheim’s Denise Barnes and Anaheim Hills’ Trevor O’Neil, and those two don’t generally agree on much.  They’re passionate on the issue to the point of “reefer madness,” and they credibly claim that their constituencies agree with them, so I don’t see them changing their minds.

That means, if I’m not mistaken, that if our two cannabis-kleptos want to get this measure passed and onto the ballot, they are going to need the votes of BOTH Jose Moreno and Stephen Faessel, which looks unlikely, PLUS ONE OTHER, which looks impossible.  

Since first seeing the proposal the previous Thursday, Jose hadn’t expressed an opinion, rather, as is his wont, soliciting interminable public input, and asking interminable good questions.  But like many who come from a background of education he really seems reluctant to expose young people to any “bad influences,” and toward the end of the meeting he reminded us that he had “lost a brother to drugs.”  So, “liberal” as the haters may paint him, he doesn’t seem like a likely yes vote.

That leaves us with the perennial passion play of Mayor Pro-Tem Stephen Faessel, who had to run those long hours of the meeting with the Mayor recused. As each of the other five got long turns to speak, Stephen kept passing until everyone else insisted on hearing from him. I’ve always had the impression that Stephen regularly votes in ways he really doesn’t want to, as though he were somehow coerced.  This blog has lampooned the pained faces he makes preceding each “decision”:

“The 5th-district Councilman’s expressive face traversed a full kaleidoscope of extreme discomfort… He squinted his eyes into little slits as though he had a migraine, he grimaced as though remembering a near-fatal accident or imagining a horrendous torture. He wrinkled his nose as though detecting flatulence, he raised his eyes to heaven like a crucified man and shook his head like a wet Pomeranian. He ducked down nervously as though evading gunfire, he puffed out his cheeks and exhaled as though blowing out a birthday candle, and furrowed his brow like a President agonizing over a possible nuclear strike.”

This was a teleconference meeting, but if you closed your eyes and listened you could still see his face going through those familiar contortions.  And when Stephen came to his conclusion, he sounded as old-fashioned and anti-weed as Trevor and Denise. He finished off with, “If I vote my conscience, it would have to be a no.” If he votes his conscience? See, I’m RIGHT! Somebody forces Faessel to vote certain ways, and it’s often against his conscience, and that’s when he looks like this:

Remember that if Stephen ends up voting yes on June 9 – he will not be “voting his conscience” in that case, but someone else’s.

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It’s refreshing to see Anaheim’s kleptocrats in disarray on something this big – they are nearly always so lockstep, disciplined and prepared.  Much of the big money machinery was missing from this campaign – the Chamber, Disney, the trade unions all silent. Only the police and fire unions bothered weighing in, with police union chief Edgar Hampton (he of the taxpayer-paid $400K salary) penning a startlingly illiterate piece for the Kleptoblog.  (Matt fixed his spelling when I made too much fun, but did not fix any of his sentences.)

Hampton’s down!

Back to the May 12 meeting. Lucille was inexplicably desperate to get this done, and sent to the registrar for the November ballot, as quickly as possible! It was hard to understand her urgency – this could still get onto the ballot as late as August. Most members seemed to agree with Jose who wanted to continue the matter till next meeting, June 9, for more public input. In response Lucille painted a nightmare scenario of council meetings being OPENED UP AGAIN by June 9, and there being EIGHT HOURS OF CONTENTIOUS PUBLIC COMMENTS!

She finally gave up with an offer that I don’t think really made any sense, and I doubt anyone else understood either but they wanted to wrap things up because it was getting late – she would agree to put this off to the June 9 meeting, as long as – NO MATTER HOW THE VOTE TURNED OUT – they would send it to the registrar for the November ballot that night.

I don’t really think that’s gonna happen, the way she pictures it, whatever that is. Anyway I’m actually agnostic on the matter – one of these years Anaheim will inevitably join the 21st century, but I’d rather it happened when we have a more honest government, and in either case it’ll be up to the people.

(PS, here’s the proposed ordinance, and the staff report.)

 


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.