Saturday, May 30, 2020

• City Council Meeting: Commercial Cannabis May 28, 2020

This was a long meeting, more than 4 hours which came after years' worth of wrangling and 12 months of painstaking work by the subcommittee and staff.

It's never easy to have to make a decision when the community is split, and that proved doubly true with this item. 

I'm not going to go over the nuts and bolts of this item. Here is a link to the press release (City of Wildomar Press Release on Commercial Cannabis May 29, 2020) for that purpose. Here is a link to the ordinance as it appeared in the agenda packet (use this link) if you want to drill down into the details. 

There was also a write up in the Valley News, but I found several mistakes in it and already told the reporter. Here's the link if you'd like to read it. 

Below is the video of my comments that explained my yes vote on commercial cannabis in Wildomar.
I started off by acknowledging that both sides of this argument are comprised of good people, with good intentions, have made good points, and their concerns were worthy of being heard and deliberated on. 

Which, for each council member and much of Wildomar's staff, had been the case for months, and that I was truly sorry that my vote was likely going to disappoint a sizable part of the city and many of my friends. 

I also pointed out that all five council members would be facing angry constituents when this was all over. 

Though the five of us have different methods and approaches to our elected position, we all want the best for the city and its residents... even when we're faced with a split decision on an issue that has deep emotional ties for many. 

I took issue with a survey that was done in the past and will demonstrate why I would never rely on such data to base my vote on.

Below is a slide that shows the support for Measure AA as the survey suggested. The total was a prediction that 68% would vote for it.
Slide from presentation at the April 2018 city council meeting.
Link to blog covering that meeting
Hear is a slide that shows the actual results from a legally recognized vote at the ballot box.
Link to ballotopia webpage with these results.
The math is really easy to do, and missing by 10 baseline points equals being off by 17%, well outside of even the most generous margin of error. If I were commissioned to do that survey, I would NOT be using it in my highlight reel.

The survey was of 900 voters throughout the city

Let's consider that. 

We have well in excess of 15,000 voters, but this survey only sought out 900 of them. The only way to have ever been considered is if you've submitted your email or phone number to the registrar of voters. 

I know that my info isn't listed (though my wife's is), and having seen the list of registered voters in District 3 during my campaign, I can tell you that no more than 75% have their phone numbers listed, and no more than 65% have an email listed.

In district 3 there are over 3,600 registered voters. If you divide the 900 total that were surveyed, by the five districts, that would mean roughly 180 people per district were contacted by email or phone. That was enough to satisfy the opposition, and have them proclaim that it stood for "the will of the people".

Remember, the point of the survey was to attempt to gauge what the voters were likely to do in the ballot booth of 2018. They should have put it on the ballot then, but chose not to, even though there were plenty of people urging them to... including me.

However, after the true results of the 2018 election came to bear, and the predictions of the survey nearly missed their mark entirely, then that was the precise moment to STOP using it as the base of your argument. 

If you still want to say the survey was "the will of the people" fine by me, but at least now you know why most people don't accept that.

I slotted this as the my favorite public comment
Below is a video by a public speaker identifying himself as Russ Ward and as an Air-Force Vet that has been a resident in Wildomar for 8 years. Here are some highlights, but please take the two and half minutes to watch it. 

I'm interested in making comments based on the fact that we're considering entering the market and being cannabis retailers here in Wildomar. I'm a United States Air-Force veteran, eight years I served this wonderful country, and God bless America. 

I fought in Desert Storm, and I believe in having the freedom of choice. I hear all these comments and people saying things, and I respect everyone's opinions, but [...] it kind of makes me a little sick to my stomach. 

I listened for a long time and debated whether or not I should chime in and at this point, this country is about choice, and about freedom. 

I understand people are scared about this but I think what people are saying with this, "it's ok but not in my backyard" or "it's not ok at all"... the people are going to do it regardless of whether or not Wildomar has a dispensary. 

It's going to be just like any other business. There will be enough to supply and help people in the city and if you don't want [to partake] then you choose not to.

If you want to raise your family and teach them to say, "Hey, we don't use cannabis." then that's your choice. 
— Russ Ward, Wildomar Resident


To compromise or not to compromise?
The only other issue I'm going to cover here is compromise in politics

It was fairly evident that there was going to be little compromise from the opposition even dating back to last year. Which, if they were the majority, that would be one thing.

However, when you know coming in that you're going to come up short in the vote department, why wouldn't you trade your vote for something you personally are stating the community would want?

I don't comprehend standing on principle when it's going to cost you more of what you wanted. Like it or not, even on a city level, this is politics and compromise is often necessary for one side or the other; that's how things get done.
Real life example of being willing to trade a vote for something that would benefit the community.

Back in the January city council meeting representatives from the Santa Rosa Plateau asked for $5000 of taxpayers money to help them get past the devastating fires from last year.

I don't know how common that is, but I'd never seen such a thing in all the years I'd been going to city council meetings... which extends years before my election.

I asked what they were willing to give Wildomar in exchange for that money. 

All I got was puzzled looks.

I suggested that they could offer Wildomar residents free admission to walk on their trails for a month. I even suggested that they could make it in the hottest time of the year, but still, there was no willingness to make that happen.

So, though I had been willing to trade my vote for something that I thought the community would benefit from, I remained the lone nay vote due to lack of willingness to compromise. 

Funny addendum... though the Santa Rosa Plateau only asked for $5000, the council offered to give them $10,000 instead.

I was satisfied with the draft ordinance for commercial cannabis as it was presented. It already had a 600 foot buffer zone when it came to "sensitive uses" which included schools, daycares and parks.

I asked if we could get another vote, or two, in favor of the ordinance (that we all knew was going to pass) in exchange for pushing out the distance from 600 to 1000 feet.

The response I got was, "My vote can't be bought like that."

I can respect that, but if I knew I was on a losing end of a vote (like in the green box above) not only would I have made the suggestion to begin with (like in the story above), but if the suggestion would have come from another source (fellow council member or in the case of the Santa Rosa Plateau above, from them) I would change my vote to get some form of concession that I could share with my constituents... telling them, "I couldn't get what I wanted, but was able to get something."

Use this link to the video of the suggestion of a compromise

That's it, end of blog.

I'd like to state again that this was a difficult situation and it caused all of us stress and sleepless nights, and I'm sure that's true for many members of the community on both the pro and con side of this as well. 

Now that this is behind us, I'd like to see the various community leaders move to the middle and help the healing to begin. Part of that isn't tolerating lies and distortions on your Facebook pages/posts, allowing such things to go unchallenged is keeping the divisions going.

Another part is that you won't look to sue the city over this, just trying to gum up the works and cost the taxpayers money in legal fees by throwing one losing lawsuit after another at your neighbors, trying to derail what is years overdue in coming.

If you truly have the best interests of the community at heart, I challenge you to prove it with calming words and actions rather than just giving it lip service as you continue to rip at its seams.

Below is the video of the hour and eight minute council discussion and vote.

Complete four hour video below

This blog was highly edited from the first version, it had been cathartic to write, but it was better off getting shelved. 

Still, I made some graphics that were going to be included. I'm going to put them here, without explanation. For those that don't know the background, they can infer what they might have represented. 

One person actually suggested that I equated Sriracha sauce to retail cannabis. Sad and pathetic.
FB Stats as of 10am (5-30-20) regarding the press release as shared by WR's facebook page.
Stats after Wildomar's press release was shared on Wildomar Rap. I would love to compare their stats to these. 
Everyone knew that a baseball reference was coming... right? 
•                •                •

Things that are done, it is needless to speak about. Things that are past, it is needless to blame.

– Confucius 

Wildomar Rap imagines that most people may agree with the wisest man Earth's ever known, but knows that they can't resist themselves at the same time.

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