Regarding Michael Rosenthal’s November 15 column:
Marijuana prohibition has done little other than burden millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens with criminal records. The University of Michigan’s “Monitoring the Future Study” reports that lifetime use of marijuana is higher in the U.S. than any European country, yet America is one of the few Western countries that punish citizens who prefer marijuana to martinis. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco. The short-term health effects of marijuana are inconsequential compared to the long-term effects of criminal records.
Unfortunately, marijuana represents the counterculture to many Americans. In subsidizing the prejudices of culture warriors, government is subsidizing organized crime. The drug war’s distortion of immutable laws of supply and demand makes an easily grown weed literally worth its weight in gold. The only clear winners in the war on marijuana are drug cartels and shameless tough-on-drugs politicians who’ve built careers confusing drug prohibition’s collateral damage with a relatively harmless plant. The big losers are the taxpayers who have been deluded into believing big government is the appropriate response to non-traditional consensual vices.
The results of a comparative study of European and U.S. rates of drug use can be found at monitoringthefuture.org/ pubs/espad_pr.pdf
United Nations stats unodc.org/unodc/ global_illicit_drug_trends.html
Robert Sharpe, MPA
Common Sense for Drug Policy
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Campaign Reform in Santa Monica
In the last two City Council elections, large sums of money coming from sources outside Santa Monica were used to increase the level of negativity and confusion aimed at us, the voters. Methods of psychological warfare were employed to distort candidates’ voting record. Fear images were used to paint a picture of distrust. Images and words were used to connect your hot buttons with blame aimed at a particular candidate. The owners of Shutters Hotel admit to spending over a half million dollars in a campaign to defeat Councilmember Kevin McKeown using the tactics described above. Some estimate that the amount spent may be closer to $1 million. That’s an enormous sum for an election in a city of our size. That’s a lot of will aimed at distorting our election.
The fact that it didn’t work doesn’t mitigate the effect of such tactics on the quality of life in Santa Monica. This trash enters our homes through our mail boxes. It affronts us in TV ads. It creates an atmosphere of hostility and confusion. It affronts our sensibilities and our sense of ethics. It impacts our trust. And it seriously disrupts the process of local residents choosing representatives who share their interests. We need to find a way to disincentivize the perpetrators of such tactics and take back our “local” elections.
San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Diego have adopted some form of public financing of elections to mitigate the effects of “big money.”
The State of California is considering doing the same. At the council’s request, Maria Stewart, City Clerk, created a comprehensive report detailing the various options for public financing of elections and the various ways available to pay for it. (See item 3A on the Council Agenda for October 23).
Meanwhile, an idea unique to Santa Monica began to circulate: the idea of a publicly funded “fair fight” fund. It would make funds available for the candidate being unfairly attacked to answer the attacker. When an obvious, well-financed campaign of distortion is directed at a candidate, public funds of a certain designated amount would become available to that candidate to help counter the distortion. This does not interfere with free speech. It would, however, help level the playing field when “big money” is trying to distort our election.
No answer is perfect, and if you’re a Councilmember or political operant with a reason to think this might disadvantage you, you’ll sneer and mount arguments against it. But those of us who are sick of the kind of electioneering described above think this idea has merit. If those doing the attacking know clearly that their tactic will put campaign funds in the hands of the person they’re attacking, the tactic will likely become less prevalent.
In the face of Maria Stewart’s excellent report on all the possibilities for public financing of elections, and all the ways to fund them, the council voted to reject all suggestions, and, more importantly, to end public discussion of any method of campaign reform. The fair fight fund idea has not been investigated, but it was lumped into the whole reform question, and the entire concept was voted down. (With five councilmembers present, the vote was 3-2.)
Residents of Santa Monica are accustomed to addressing the council on topics of interest through what is knows as a “12” item on the agenda. But did you know that Mayor Richard Bloom has the ability to deny this request? A request has been filed with the city clerk for a “12” item to be agendized that would reopen the dialog so a proper study of the idea of a fair fight fund can be made. So far, Mayor Richard Bloom has declined to agenize this item.
If you are tired of the level of dishonesty and negativity we’ve been bombarded with in our last elections, and you want something done about the big money perpetrating it, I suggest you contact Mayor Richard Bloom and let him know that you want the public discussion reopened. Now.
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“Oops! We Did It Again!” When I saw that headline in your November 8 edition, I mistakenly thought you were referring to the ridiculous remarks you made about me in your editorial the week before. I guess it’s becoming an annual fall tradition to misrepresent me and my views in a Mirror editorial.
Last fall you stated that it was not possible to tell what I stood for. The obvious remedy – not employed by you -– would have been to pick up the phone and ask me. After reading your editorial, I sent you a concise letter stating what I stand for, because I thought your readers who didn’t already know might want to. You chose not to print it.
Now, in your November 1 editorial, you have made more irresponsible statements about positions I have taken on public issues –– and about my personal integrity.
You wrote I was “overheard to say that the ficus trees [on 2nd and 4th Streets] will have to be removed eventually, we have the money now, so let’s just do it.” I never said that. Newspapers are responsible to check the facts in their editorials as well as in their news stories. Rather than printing what someone else “overheard” me say – again, how about picking up the phone? You would have discovered my actual thoughts on this emotional issue:
There are more than 150 ficus trees on Second and Fourth Streets. Our city’s urban forester has determined that 20 or so of the trees are hazardous and need to be removed. Trunks are decayed, roots have been pruned severely to make sidewalks safe, and branches are broken or weakened from being hit by large trucks. The forester recommends that a slightly smaller number of trees be transplanted to other locations in the city because these trees have the same problems, which will only get worse. Left alone, they will have to be cut down -– not eventually, but relatively soon. If they are moved, they can be saved.
No one responsible for the physical well-being of Santa Monicans and the financial well-being of our city can ignore an expert’s report of hazardous trees. We have had people severely injured by falling due to broken and uneven sidewalks and even being hit by falling branches. These dangers are real—not “excuses,” as you have said.
Moving from ficus to marijuana, your suggestion that the Council must allow marijuana outlets in Santa Monica to keep medicinal marijuana users from being forced underground is just bogus. Several dispensaries are located just across our border in Los Angeles.
But most nonsensical of all is your assertion that Bob Holbrook “should recuse himself because his work in mainstream pharmacies that stand to be hurt by this competition puts him in a conflict of interest position.” I work about 10 hours a week in a pharmacy near downtown Los Angeles that specializes in filling prescriptions for patients who have received kidney, liver, pancreas, heart, or lung transplants. To even suggest that the pharmacy I work for would be hurt by a marijuana dispensary in Santa Monica is at the least bizarre and very Santa Monica Mirroresque.
I base my opposition to permitting marijuana farmacies in Santa Monica on an extensive report prepared by the Santa Monica Police Department on the problems nearby cities are having. These farmacies often employ armed guards to protect the large sums of money being exchanged; I don’t want to see that on our streets. Farmacy customers have often been found using the marijuana near where they bought it. Since no commercial district in Santa Monica is far from residential neighborhoods or schools, this will be a big concern in our city. Again, these problems are real, and I believe it would be irresponsible for me to ignore them.
I don’t mind if you and I disagree on these and other issues, but at least have the courtesy and ethics to reflect accurately who I am and what I think. The community needs an accurate Mirror, not some kind of a distorted fun-house mirror.
Santa Monica City Councilmember
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I am writing to support Wendell Mew in regard to the violations he has been charged with for playing music on the Third Street Promenade.
Wendell is a jazz musician whose presence and performance on the Promenade is a treasure for Santa Monica. He has earned the right to be celebrated, not intimidated. He brings style and joy to the area, not just to those of us who live here but to the many thousands of visitors who take home enhanced memories because of him. He is an ambassador of great good will and I for one recoil at the thought that he may be punished for the passion that goes into his music.
As a longtime homeowner and resident in Santa Monica, and frequent visitor to the Promenade, I am grateful for Wendell, for his music, and for his spirited and friendly interactions, especially with children. I carry with me no devices for measuring sound levels, but as a producer of movies and television I have a fairly reliable ear and can confidently attest to hearing both live and promotional music played at a greater volume than I have ever heard from Wendell.
Wendell is a passionate artist. Santa Monica needs him. The Promenade needs him. I urge you to sympathy and lenience in your evaluation of the charges against him.