I'm a Libertarian living in Humboldt County, CA. I've lived here in Eureka since 1973 and joined the Libertarian Party in 1992. This blog will mostly focus on local political issues, but I may stray into state and national issues as well, when I can't help myself. Please post your comments by clicking on the "comments" link at the bottom of each post. Although I do moderate comments, you need not be a registered user to post them.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Local Opinions On Pot
With the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law's annual conference taking place in San Francisco this week, the Times Standard has decided to do some coverage of local political and law enforcement folk's opinions on the issue of marijuana legalization. Good to see the subject brought out in the open as I think all the discussion of "medical marijuana" really misses the point.
County D.A. Paul Gallegos is quoted as saying there should be some way to regulate marijuana without making it illegal. Wayne Hanson, of the Sheriff's Department, said he enforces the laws and, if it's made legal, they'll stop raiding the pot gardens. Good for both of them. It will be interesting to see if any real blue noses come out of the wood work with this news coverage. There's sure to be somebody around here that will call for increased penalties for smoking or growing pot.
I'd actually rather not see pot made legal in the conventional sense, that being something taxed and regulated. If I had my druthers, I'd just have most, if not all, of the laws against pot use, cultivation and possession, stricken from the books. If someone wants to grow it and smoke it, have at it. But we don't want to see pot go the way of alcohol and tobbaco and have pot smokers be the latest whipping boy whenever someone wants to come up with a new tax. Just leave the pot folks alone.
Gallegos said something along the line that pot cases don't account for too much of the work load of the D.A.'s office. I was surprised to hear that as the police reports in the local papers seem to list a fair ammount of pot arrests. Maybe they just don't take that much time to deal with in court. I still wonder, and will have to find out one of these days, just how much the booking fees are in the County Jail? Every time someone gets booked in jail, the agency that brought him in has to pay a booking fee. Is it worth it to book a pot smoker or dealer? I don't think so.
if you're planning on driving on the safety corridor on Highway 101 between Eureka and Arcata. Looks like the Highway Patrol will start citing people who don't have their headlights on starting April 1. Funny, when that stretch of road officially became a safety corridor back in January, I thought they said they were giving warnings for a month and after that, tickets would be written. I guess I'm either remebering wrong or they changed their minds.
Law enforcement has a daunting task enforcing that law. I head over to Jacob's Avenue a couple times a month and try to keep track of how many cars coming from Arcata don't have their lights on. Quite a few don't, although it's too hard to count and try and get a percentage when one's driving. I can't understand why so many people don't have their lights on with all the notices, signs and flashing lights. Are these folks deaf, dumb and blind?
That said, while I appreciate the effort to make the corridor safer, I kinda wonder if requiring headlights would have unintended consequences? If most people drive the corridor with their lights on, what about the few (at least the eventual few assuming more and more people turn their lights on) that don't turn on their lights? I would think people would condition themselves to looking for headlights and it might make a car without lights much less noticeable. So, someone tries to cross 101 at Indianola Road and sees a bunch of headlights in the distance but doesn't notice the car without headlights that's closest to him or her and we have another accident. Could be a problem but I guess anything might be better than the way it was. Who knows?
I wonder if I'll get a ticket for not turning my lights on for the short distance from the Ryan Slough bridge to Jacobs Avenue? Don't see any need to since there's no cross traffic there anymore unless you go farther up the road to the Murray Field turnoff.
One thing that's irked me for some time is these drunk driving checkpoints that have become so popular among the police and accepted by the public lately. No, I'm not in favor of people driving while intoxicated. I just don't like the idea of myself, or anyone else, being pulled over without probable cause. What bugs me even more is that so many of the public seem to think it's a great idea.
I was glad to finally see someone is as bothered, if not more bothered, as I am about these stops. Some guy from Conneticutt started the Checkpoint Nullification Project. I don't seem to be quite as emotionally upset as this guy is about checkpoints but it's good to see I'm not the only one who's bothered. But I think my concerns go a little bit deeper than this fellow's.
I remember back in the sixties and seventies, the Highway Patrol used to set up vehicle inspections. They'd be unnanounced and always placed so you'd have no warning and thus couldn't avoid them. Even as a kid it irked me that they could just pull you over like that. Still felt like that years later when I was going through the College of the Redwoods Police Academy in 1984. I remember telling the Traffic instructor I didn't think it was right to pull people over without probable cause.
They ended up doing away with those checkpoints for some reason and I forget how long ago they started up the DUI checkpoints. Seems to me though, those were set up strictly to catch drunk drivers and, while I've never been stopped in one, I got the impression they were pretty much limited to that. Now, mission creep has taken hold: You need to show your driver's license, proof of insurance and I get them impression they're running warrant checks on at least some unfortunates that end up in the checkpoints since the news reports often mention people being arrested for things not related to driving, including warrants. As the courts, and the "people" give the police more and more power and thus more leeway in how and why the police perform checkpoints, it's quite scary, indeed, the state that this country is in and is heading.
As a wise man once said, "Those who forsake Liberty for security, deserve neither...". How can so many people accept these DUI checkpoints?
I see the Assistant Chief of the Arcata Fire Dept., Ralph Altizer, is retiring and the City is going to leave his position vacant for lack of funds. Maybe more agencies should do this? After all, when fire and police personnel retire, we might still be paying for up to ninety percent of their salaries, assuming they're on that high speed pension plan that more and more public employees are signing on to, the subject of which is the "pension reform" we hear the Governor and others talking about nowadays. And that doesn't even take in any health or other insurance benefits they take with them when they leave.
I don't have any grudge against fire and/ or police, per se. I just question how many management positions we really need in these, and other, government agencies? Will the Arcata Fire Dept. really feel a pinch if Altizer's position is left vacant? I'm sure they will, if you hear it from them. But, I suspect that vast majority of us won't notice in the short or long run and the Arcata Fire Dept., although certainly facing its share of problems, will continue to run pretty much as it always has.
I don't know I'd go so far as the Times Standard does and say, "Welcome, Multiple Assistance Center...", but let's hope for the best. I'm quite leery of such projects since it seems the more money we spend on homeless problems, the more poor and homeless we end up having, at least from what you hear from some quarters. The idea sounds ok, at first glance. I could see how it would be seemingly impossible for some to re- establish oneself in the community after losing everything, assuming one had anything to begin with. I can't help but wonder how many more homeless types will come to the area because we have a new MAC, which might alleviate any gains made. I also wonder how they'll decide who gets to stay at the MAC and who doesn't? Will we be told in a year or two that we need a bigger and better MAC since the one we have isn't adequate? That's the usual way things go with such social projects.
Looks like the Board of Supervisors will be reviewing the county budget at their meeting today and it sounds like the county will be pretty much breaking even on expenditures versus revenues. Sounds good to me. I suppose it's too early to say for sure but, as I suspected, it doesn't look like the county will be imploding from budget shortfalls as so many claimed earlier on. Aren't you glad you voted against Measure L, the 1% county wide sales tax increase proposal? I am.
This really gets my goat: Seems to me there wasn't a problem with illegal cigarette sales in this state, at least as far as a black market was concerned, until the government wanted to make more money off tobacco sales. Then, taxes are increased to the point where it makes smuggling quite profitable and yet some state legislators, our own Wes Chesbro included, want to increase the taxes even more. Some federal officials warn this will just increase black market traffic, the proceeds of which are increasingly funding terrorist groups, or so they say. But Senator Chesbro and our State Attorney General will have none of that. They decide to launch yet another front in the drug war and try even harder to go after tobacco smuggling operations rather than admit that it's the taxes they (and many of you) imposed that created the black market in the first place.
It would be interesting to see if the State is already receiving less in cigarette taxes than before the tax increases as often happens when people try to save their hard earned money and look for untaxed or less taxed sources for highly taxed items. I can't help but wonder at what point the state will be spending more money on suppressing the black market in tobacco than they're receiving in tobacco taxes? It's bound to happen.
Just by coincidence, Richard Rider, past Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate and leader of the San Diego Tax Fighters, sent out an e-mail yesterday giving advice on which ballot initiative petitions to sign and which not to sign. Since he's a little more up to speed than I am on all the details, I thought I'd put his e-mail online for all to read. Click here to read his recommendations.
So, the local teacher and nurse's unions, among others, hold a press conference urging people not to sign some petitions circulating locally. The petitions are for initiatives the Governor wants put on the ballot. We might even have a special election to vote on the proposals. Unlike the unions, I say SIGN THOSE PETITIONS, even though I'm not so sure a couple of them will make any real improvement in things.
One proposed intitiative deals with changing the way government employess pensions are designed. While I'm not too clear on the details, this is certainly necessary as the way it's done now is leading the state into even worse financial problems than it already faces.
Another one deals with merit pay for teachers, I believe. While it sounds like a worthy idea, I'm not sure that it will accomplish that much in the short or long run. I think the government run schools are pretty much lost causes and, as long as they're run by politicians, bureaucrats and the teacher's unions, they always will be. Nonetheless, this is an idea that should be explored and, if nothing else, see what has or hasn't worked along those lines in other places.
Last, there's the one that will take redistricting out of the hands of the legislature and instead have it be determined by a panel of retired judges. Local Democrat, Pat Riggs, says this means the districts will be decided by "Republican judges". Hmm...most judges I know of are registered Democrats, seems to me. I also find it interesting that many of our Republican congresscritters in the state are opposed to the idea as they believe they'll likely lose Republican seats in congress if this passes.
I don't think things will change all that much as far as Humboldt goes. Might not change much except in a few districts around the state. That said, it will be nice to take some power from the hands of our reps in the state legislature. Not that some appointed panel will really be much improvement
I see the county is going to have to decide on what new voting system we'll be using in response to some federal law. Touch Screen voting is one system under consideration. Seems a shame we have to change anything as I think our current system in humboldt works fine. If it works, don't try and fix it. Apparently the county has no choice though.
Since I commented on Arcata’s Iraq War Sanctuary resolution, I suppose I should comment on the No Confidence Resolution (NCR) being promoted by Dan Berman to the Eureka and Arcata City Councils, among others. Certainly most of us would like to have clean elections and there are some legitimate concerns about vote tabulations in some elections around the country. There’s always going to be some discrepancy in election results, though, no matter what we do. There’s also always going to be money behind elections, in one way or another. The largesse of government is so large- there’s so much to give away- people and businesses are always going to be fighting for influence. And who can blame them.
But, let’s look at least a few of the recommendations the NCR contains, to paraphrase some of their recommendations:
Item 2- "Clean money laws…end to corporate financing of campaigns…".
This campaign reform stuff really irks me, no matter who I hear it from. While it’s true "the big money always wins", that seems to be the choice that most people make. People vote for the candidates who have the most money for a number of reasons. I’ve suggested before that if you don’t like money in politics, vote for the candidate(s) that don’t have all the money. There’s usually some candidates that fall in that category. But most people vote for the big money candidates, anyway.
All these proposed campaign reform laws just make it harder for people to run for office. The big money types will always find ways to get around the laws and it amazes me that some people think if they just regulate the way their, or some other candidate, accepts money, all of the sudden the candidate will be squeaky clean.
Item 4- "All votes cast on the same day, designated as a national holiday…except for absentee ballots…absentee ballots will be limited by criteria determined by the federal government…" Wow, just what we need, another federal holiday. Seems to me people would be less likely to vote if election day was a holiday, not that I really care how many people turn out to vote. But I’d go along with that if you use an already existing holiday or trade election day with another holiday. Some people who worry about voter turnout, suggest the opposite: Either mail only voting or having an election span a number of days or weeks. Didn’t Oregon switch to snail mail voting a little while ago? Whatever turns you on.
The suggestion that voting absentee be limited and the criteria for being able to vote absentee be determined by the feds, I find kinda scary. I suppose there is potential for fraud with absentee ballots but fraud already happens at the polling precincts. I don’t know that much would be accomplished by this recommendation.
Item 5- "All votes be publicly counted…". I though they already were, at least around here. I know I’ve been invited to witness the vote returns and tabulations at Elections Division before. Seems to me the votes in the 2000 presidential election were counted publicly a number of times. I saw them doing it on TV. Oh well. If some places aren’t doing it, maybe they should. Was it Stalin, or Lenin, who said, "It’s not who votes that counts. It’s who counts the votes.."?
I forget where in the resolution they suggest implementation of Instant Runoff Voting, aka Ranked Choice Voting. I’ll go along with that with, or without the NCR. It is preferable to the current system but in and of itself does nothing to move us in the direction of smaller government.
So, am I for or against the NCR? I’d have to abstain on that although leaning towards NO, if only because of the campaign finance reform suggestions.
Since both the Times- Standard ( go to the Local News page for the poll) and humguide.com have online polls asking whether Arcata should pass that resolution proposing it become a sanctuary for soldiers who refuse to participate in the Iraq War, perhaps I should throw in my two cents: I actually voted Yes in both polls the other day, albeit with mixed feelings. I think I should have voted No now, although I suppose it’s not too big a deal. I felt at the time a No vote would suggest support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which I’m a strong opponent of. I realize that isn’t what a No vote really means but some might suggest it does. There are a number of opponents of the Iraq invasion who oppose the proposed resolution, if only because they don’t feel it should be the City’s business to be dealing with national issues. They have a point, and I think that is a good reason to oppose the resolution although I’ve publicly supported at least one other resolution brought before the Arcata City Council before.
One thing that bugs me about these type of resolutions, though, is that it seems unfair to those on the other side of the issue, should the resolution be passed. Let’s say fifty one percent of the people were in support of the resolution? How would you feel to have your city publicly identified with the resolution if you were strongly opposed to the resolution, especially since it’s not an issue many people think the City should be addressing at all in the first place? One might feel quite insulted if they were in the minority on this, or any other, issue.
If a resolution does involve an issue generally agreed on as within the purview of proper city business, then it may well have no other way of being resolved and the losers would have to just suck it up and live with it. Even then, I still think there’s too much acceptance in this country of "democracy"- that if fifty one percent of the people approve something in an election, then to hell with the rights and feelings of the forty nine percent who lost. Democracy: Two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for lunch. That may seem a bit strong for the purposes of this resolution, but I think my concerns are justified.
One last thing that bugs me about this resolution is the references to the Iraq invasion being an "illegal war". Illegal because it wasn’t approved of by either the United Nations or the U.S. Congress. What if it had been a "legal war"? It could have just as easily been approved by both bodies under just slightly different circumstances. Not sure what those circumstances would have been but it could just as easily gone the other way. Would U.N. support or a Congressional Declaration of War made things any more right? I don’t think so but apparently many of my friends from both the Right and the Left do.
"Fifty one percent of a nation can establish a totalitarian regime, suppress minorities and still remain democratic". - Eric von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
So, Nancy Flemming, former Mayor of Eureka, is considering a run for the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. What'ya know? I'll have to say I'm no fan of the one she'll be running against- long time incumbent Bonne Neely. Ms. Neely, as best I can recall, has supported every tax increase proposal and every bond issue that's ever come up.
Both Flemming and Neely are registered Republicans although many locals refer to Neely as a Republican In Name Only (RINO). Would Flemming be an improvement? Hard to say and, quite honestly, I can't recall much of what Flemming did during her tenure as Mayor of Eureka. It might be good to mix up the content of the Board of Supervisors a bit, though. As it is, we have two Republicans, Neely and Rodoni on the Board and three Democrats (I think). Supervisors Geist, Wooley and Smith tend to be the "Moderate" to Left of Center types with Neely appearing, at least to me, to fall more in line with those three and Rodoni being the maverick on the board with somewhat libertarian leanings (although he did support Measure L, the recent proposal for a county wide sales tax increase, as did all the other board members).
So, without knowing wherein Flemming's personal political philosophy lies, exactly, it would be hard to say just how she would add or detract from the Board of Supervisors. One thing that does concern me about Fleming, though, is her past service as Mayor of Eureka. As I mentioned, I don't recall much, if anything, that she "did" as Mayor. But, I've noticed that most people who end up in local office end up, whether they started out that way or not, to be big government type people. Not saying there's anything wrong with that in and of itself, but that's the way it is. But, her incumbent opponent is pretty much a big government proponent already. It will be interesting to see how things develop in this campaign, should Flemming decide to actually run against Neely.
It's still way too early to know what will happen. We don't even know if someone else might throw their hat in the ring, as well, although Neely ran unopposed last time (and the time before as well, unless I'm mistaken).
I've been wondering about this idea being proposed by some of making an effort by the City of Eureka to accelerate the planting of street trees in town? It's been going on for some time but has just recently been making news again. The Eureka Reporter just ran this editorial on the subject.
I realize trees can be nice things to have around and provide a number of benefits to the community but I wonder if the city is really wise to encourage us to become a "tree lined city"? Trees can cause problems as well as benefits:
Trees, whether decidous or evergreen, shed leaves or needles, either throughout the year, or all at once. This can create a real mess and, during the rainy season, jams up the gutters causing flooding. Do we want to encourage that? We already have street crews going around unplugging the street drains when it's raining. How much is this going to cost us in road maintenance cost in the future with a whole lot more trees to deal with?
Many trees damage streets and sidewalks, eventually. How much will this end up costing landowners and taxpayers in the long run as sidewalks need to be replaced from the roots heaving up or splitting the cement? That's already a problem in some areas.
Eventually larger trees interfere with power and phone lines and regular maintenance is needed to keep the lines unobstructed. Is everyone aware they'll either have to do the pruning themselves or pay someone else to do it? Is the City gonna have to hire extra personnel for tree maintenance for trees on City property, or pay increasing mega bucks to the tree companies to do the work in the future? I don't know that we need to encourage massive plantings of trees along Eureka's streets.
All that said, I'm a Libertarian and would be the last to suggest someone not be able to plant a tree on their own property. Proponents properly point out that it makes it difficult for someone to plant a tree on the sidewalk in front of their house when they must pay the City a $50.00 encroachment fee, among other things, for each tree planted. I sympathize with that if only because property owners are generally responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalks surrounding their property, anyway, as I was made aware of when the City directed me to fix a bad slab on my sidewalk or they'd do the job and charge me accordingly. Seems odd that you're responsible for your sidewalk but have to get permission and pay a fee for altering it.
I suggest the City remove the encroachment fee. Other than that the City shouldn't encourage or discourage the growing of more trees. If someone wants to plant a tree, they can plant a tree, as long as it doesn't impair traffic or create some public nuisance. As far as City owned property, I think we need to make sure we don't go overboard on this. I've seen some tree additions that are an improvement to existing properties, at least for now. We need to make sure we don't set ourselves for high maintenance costs for the future, though.
This is my first entry in this blog. I've had blogs of various sorts before, but they were mostly temporary pages set up to comment on issues and candidates during primary and general elections. I had a lot of fun putting those pages together but I never knew how to provide a forum to allow others to give feedback to my comments,which is one of the things that attracted me to this site. I'll give my internet buddy, Tom Knapp, the credit for the actual inspiration for using this site, since I visit his blog at least every other day and it looked, from visiting his site, like this site would fit my purposes well.
So, what will I be commenting on here? Probably a little bit of everything but I'll try to concentrate on local political issues and personalities with perhaps a light dose of state issues and even some national. I think my first local issue will be this effort in the City of Eureka to increase the number of trees lining the streets. I'm not against trees, but do have some concerns. I'll post them here soon.