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When I first heard of this Measure I wondered where the county could find legal justification to impose a tax on grass, and so when I got the voter’s guide I went straight to the impartial analysis and sure enough there’s a Business and Professions Code number 19348 which says counties can impose a marijuana tax.

(a) (1) A county may impose a tax on the privilege of
cultivating, dispensing, producing, processing, preparing, storing,
providing, donating, selling, or distributing medical cannabis or
medical cannabis products by a licensee operating pursuant to this


And for good measure there’s also Revenue and Taxation Code section7284 which says that the county can require license and regulate any lawful business within its jurisdiction and impose a “license tax” accordingly.

But it can’t be measured/calculated by income or gross receipts of the business.  Income tax is left to the state and federal governments.  So it’s based on the square footage of the cultivation area.  One dollar per square foot of outside cultivation.  Two dollars for each square foot of mixed light cultivation.  Three dollars for strictly indoor.

The money will go into the general fund for general use rather than earmarks, which for some reason doesn’t make Kent Sawatzky happy so he submitted the opposition in the Voter’s Guide.  Yes, it can be used for raises, retirement, or whatever.  It can also be used for roads.  And paperclips.

We need the revenue.  It’s an industry which weighs heavy on public resources and infrastructure.

Works for me.

Sales taxes are regressive.  Transportation should be financed nationally and statewide, from a progressive tax system along the lines of Europe or at least the US in the 1950s and 60s.  Money should be allocated to regions according to need.  Economies of scale.  Transportation and infrastructure should be covered by those government entities with the power to impose income tax.

But since the late 70s and as consolidated in the early 80s national spending has been redirected towards the military and state spending in California has been greatly impacted by limitations on the ability to generate revenue.  Moreover, we passed term limitations which, as I’ve argued in the past, negatively impacts rural areas since nobody is in long enough to establish relationships to ensure money flows outside of the concentrations of voters needed to win statewide positions.  And in order to pass this tax proposal, we need two thirds of the vote – which is ridiculous.  We probably won’t get it.

So rural counties must fend for themselves.  Which means we’re forced to fund through sales taxes.  And we’re not taking in enough, apparently.  So if we need more, we need to impose sales tax increases.

Some of the objections:  No set structure on how the money will be spent.  No guarantees that local contractors will be hired.  Vagueness in the tax payer oversight committee function and structure.  Municipalities already have their own taxes.

Thing is, we elect people to allocate the money.  We entrust them with that.  If they fail, they lose elections, and if they don’t then that’s the voters’ choice.  A committee, regardless of specific function, will provide one added element of sunshine, though personally I think the idea is silly.  I would actually be happier if we were talking about an increased tax to go into the general fund to be used as needed according to priorities set by the body we elect to do so.

It seems we need the money.  So, yes on U.

And who is Ken Sawatsky?

Would regulate rent increases for mobile homes in parks with ten or more spaces within the unincorporated portions  of Humboldt County.  Increases would be allowed based on cost of living increases based on the CPI.  The county would post the rate of increases and landlords could either increase rents with proper notice or bank the increase for another time.  Landlords can exempt themselves by offering long term leases pursuant to Civil Code section 798.17, offering security for a waiver of rent control provisions (Landlords have been offering such leases in anticipation of the possibility the measure will pass, but there’s no time limit on such an offer).  And unlike San Francisco’s rent control and others, the measure includes vacancy rent control limiting increases to 5 percent (the lack of such provision has led to failures of rent control to stabilize anything in other jurisdictions).  It also does allow a landlord to request an exemption when costs exceed CPI.  It allows for rent increases for new capital improvements with consent of half the tenants.  Lastly, it allows for mandatory rent decreases if costs to the landlords are reduced.

Yes, yes, yes! I know – government red tape, blah, blah, blah.  Low to moderate income renters are provided little protection in this country.  This measure appears to be pretty well thought out.   I’m sure there will be problems.  But the less vulnerable we leave those on fixed incomes, the better our society.

Now let’s consider a more general rent control measure.  I say this as a landlord.

Measure Q would effectively merge the offices of the Auditor-Controller and the Treasurer-Tax Collector into the singular office of the Director of Finance.  The argument is that it would increase efficiency, allow for more cross-training of employees, and save money.

Measure R would make the new position an elected position – obviously moot if Q doesn’t pass.

The opposition argues that similar consolidations of office have worked better in larger more wealthy counties, and not so well in smaller.

It’s obviously not a partisan issue as it was placed on the ballot with a unanimous Board of Supervisor vote, although it should be noted that voting to place a measure on the ballot isn’t necessarily a personal endorsement.  On the state level legislators routinely vote to place propositions on the ballot in the interest of public process.

I really don’t know whether it will improve or worsen the efficiency and function of the current offices.  So I would rely on people who have run the office and/or worked for them. The opposition statement in the sample ballot was signed by current and former office holders.  In the absence of personal knowledge, and I have no way of obtaining direct personal knowledge, I have to defer to those who have run the offices as to whether such a proposal would work best for the specific conditions of Humboldt County.  Therefore, No on Q.

I also join with those same people in urging a yes vote on R.  If we are going to create the new position of Director of Finance, it ought to be an elected position.  Nobody submitted an opposition for the sample ballot.  Seems like a no-brainer.

Hillary Clinton speaks in Washington

We select people to take positions of power which we greatly exaggerate, and turn on them when they don’t deliver precisely the “change” we want because that power is limited in the face of social inertia which is hundreds if not thousands of years old.  Anybody who becomes President will be a “warmonger” within weeks to those who feel that politics are run by some group of elites duping everyone else.  It’s an easy out – you can be removed from the process of hard work for change which comes slowly if at all – and you can justify what is a glorified apathy as virtuous or even heroic.

Anybody in power has to play the power game, and anybody who veers too far out of the inertia – who does not “hit back” when Americans are killed – doesn’t last long in power.  They risk their purity undoing all of the work the movements behind them put into getting them there, and people with shallow understanding assume that they have actually bought in to that inertia (even worse than “selling out”).

One of the more profound political writers of the 20th century was kind of a hack in some ways.  Communist and sometimes a bit dogmatic, but also with a profound understanding of how power works – Howard Fast, helped break the back of the blacklist when he wrote the script for Spartacus.  Charles Lawton played what some would consider a “corrupt” liberal Senator who publicly supports dedicating Roman troops to put down a “ruffian” slave rebellion with which he privately sympathizes.  Later as he’s buying some birds to sacrifice in the temple, a colleague says, “Do you really believe in that?”  He responds, “Privately I believe in none of the gods.  Publicly I believe in them all.”

He compromises and plays “within the system” until he recognizes an evil which threatens everything he’s fought and compromised for and he veers outside of the balance to take a stand.  And it kills him (literally – hopefully you’ve all seen the classic movie by now).

President Carter also veered too far, and was done in by the institutional inertia, because Americans who work hard and worry over their children want to feel safe.  And in order to feel safe, many people expect certain overtures, and, they expect blood for blood.  It’s changing – slowly – but it’s the reality that anyone who is seriously seeking power must contend with if he or she is going to be effective.  It’s just the reality.  Society and its body politic are like an ocean liner which does not make sharp turns.  It starts slowly and the turn is very gradual – but once the turn begins it’s also very hard to reverse.

As Bernie is screaming to tell you, electoral politics is about positioning.  You get what you can.  And then, after the election, you push hard and long.  That’s how change is made.

Jill Stein can afford to be pure (and boring). She will never be in a position of power and will never have to worry about staying in office and being effective while you are there.  It’s a luxury.  It’s also very limiting.


I was considering a vote for Stein, and even at the insistence of several friends whose views a greatly respect, I took a good look at Johnson.  After all since so many libertarians supported an earnest socialist in the primary season, I thought maybe I could reciprocate.  And I actually liked what I saw.  I don’t agree with the economic views – the notion that the economy is some sort of organism operating on Newtonian principles with balances upset by excessive regulation – I think sometimes libertarians can be as utopian as the most dogmatic of socialists – works great on paper, not so much in the messy realm of human affairs.  And no, I don’t hold the “Aleppo moment” against him.  It’s really hard running for office and being expected to keep up on all events and be ready to generate coherent policy positions at a moment’s notice.  All pols have their “deplorables” moments, or their, geeze I don’t even know how to pick a representative moment for Trump.  And I like Johnson’s anti-war positions.  His civil libertarian positions.  And I relate to him as a dork.


But my decision to vote for Clinton came in the first debate.  I saw an alpha male representing everything I detest in a bully and bigot, and I saw a woman who’s faced down so many people like him over years of relentless misogyny against her responding with professionalism, grace, and character.  All of my political disagreements with her, my complaints about her cynicism which has hardened her over the years in some dark ways, and the compromises she has made which affect the integrity of the body-politic – I was able to set all of that aside because during that debate and in light of the subsequent revelations and a campaign which is triggering anxiety in many women who have been victims of sexual assault, all I could hear was the Pete Seeger of my childhood singing “Which side are you on boy, which side are you on?”  This election represents distinct visions of society, politics, and culture.  A stark contrast between the two major party candidates.

I expect that I’m going to be extremely disappointed at times over the next four to eight years (just as I have been at times over the last eight).  There will be moments in which people are killed, because in the course of human events the exercise of power is often lethal.  There will be moments in which I regret this vote, especially as my third-party voting friends remind me they told me so.  But in this existential moment of American politics I will say that “I stand with her.”  I won’t be holding my nose.  It will be a conscious vote based upon my values, acquired through my upbringing as well as adult experience.

For Eureka residents.  I’ve always supported district elections wherever I’ve lived.  It was a major fight in San Francisco for years as the Feinstein/Willie Brown machine tried to maintain a lock on what we progressives referred to as “downtown interest control.”  San Francisco had passed district elections in the 1970s resulting in the election of progressives like Harvey Milk, Carol Ruth Silver, and not-so-progressive Dan White (the last Republican to be elected to office in San Francisco).  When the latter killed the former and Mayor Moscone, so many people fell for the argument which read basically, “See what happens when you have district elections?”  So SF did without district elections throughout the 80s.  Then the ill-advised term limits were passed statewide and Willie Brown found himself out of the Assembly and running for Mayor.  He thought he had a lock with a majority.

And then something remarkable happened.  Supervisor Mabel Teng, who had been a Maoist a couple of decades before, had been selling out and schilling for “downtown interests” for years, all of the sudden had a bout of conscience.  She flipped her vote (As cameras flashed, Brown acolyte Carol Migden walked across the chambers after the vote and lit into Teng who held her ground nicely) and SF now has district elections and a fairly progressive Board of Supervisors despite the Google takeover.

District elections were originally proposed by the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century as part of a list of reforms to break up municipal power monopolies like Tamany Hall.  There has been enormous resistance from conservative forces to the point where Catholic figures speaking along the lines of McCarthyite Bishop Fulton Sheen argued that the push for district elections was communist inspired and nuns were deployed to encourage public prayer against them in the 1950s.

What district, or in this case ward, elections do is to bring the power of politics to the neighborhood.  Eureka has a hybrid system right now.  You represent one ward, but the rest of the city gets to select your neighborhood representative for you.  Among other issues, this means that the west side is misrepresented by a council member who lives there (that is the sole requirement), but does not represent the ward’s aggregate interests or values.  Ironically, the same may be true if Austin Allison wins in the 4th ward this fall as it is probably the most conservative of the wards.

It means a candidate doesn’t have to spend a lot of money on media.  It means s/he must walk the neighborhoods, hold ward meetings, and actually be in touch with the wants and needs of the neighborhood.  It means large donors have less influence.  And it all but guarantees ideological diversity on the City Council.

Yes on P.


Julia Minton, Bob Froehlich, and I will discuss the application of critical thinking to ballot decisions.  We will discuss available resources and methods to learn about and decide on some very complicated and numerous propositions on the ballot this November.  All Things Reconsidered, Thursday evening at 7:00.


Eureka’s 4th ward candidates disagree on Measure P which would establish true ward-based elections.  Austin Allison supports it.  John Fullerton opposes.

I support Measure P just because I believe that some of the neighborhoods, particularly the west side, need accountable representation and because it would significantly reduce the impact of money on the City Council elections and offer opportunity for the neighborhoods to become very familiar with their candidates.  Let’s get that out of the way.

The reality here is that if John Fullerton wins and Measure P passes he would have a much easier time winning reelection in the 4th ward the next time around as the 4th is one of the more conservative.  Austin Allison would have a much harder time.

So basically both candidates are taking positions on the measure which is against his interests.  That says well for both.

So much to be cynical about in elections.  Just one point of light worth mentioning.


October 2016
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