Sperry Mills site - south Vallejo waterfront

Current Issues

As mentioned in the Intro, this section was written in advance of the 2016 election.  Both issues remain relevant this cycle.  The proposed marine terminal with a cement plant is still very much an unsettled issue.   See the Recuse article for a more detailed account of this debacle.  
 
The City's attempt to regulate the cannabis industry is also still a mess.  While councilmembers pat themselves on the back for allowing recreational as well as medical use, they failed to lower the local tax rate in response to the State's imposition of a fifteen percent, and still have not assigned our dispensaries zoning districts like every normal jurisdiction.  A major economic development opportunity provided through the foresight of voters who overwhelmingly approved Measure C in 2011 has been squandered over the years by legislators who thought they knew better.  They didn't know much of anything and showed little interest in learning. 
The following sections were written prior to November 2016 and give some historical context to two issues still current.  Links to articles written since on both topics can be found on the Home page of this site.  Note that we have a new Mayor since 2016.  Mr. Sampayan served on the Council at the time but was elected Mayor in the last cycle.
A couple flash point issues highlight the pivotal nature of this election for the future of our City.  Like every election season, we’re going to hear a lot of talk from candidates about the importance of economic development and attracting new business.  This year, those obligatory generic pronouncements only serve to obscure the fork we’ve arrived at in the road ahead.  Economic development is not something uniform in quality and desirability, or in the nature of its economic and environmental impacts.  The nature of the economic development that we decide to allow and encourage will shape the character of Vallejo for decades to come.  We need to talk about what kind of economic development we want, how it will affect our quality of life, and how the costs and benefits are distributed.


Vallejo Marine Terminal/Orcem Project and the Shadow Government

Introduction

The controversy surrounding this pending project application exposed major fault lines in the community with regard to land use planning issues.  In the context of our previous discussion of the currently active political players in Vallejo, we can better appreciate the interplay and motivations of the various actors in this drama.  In light of the response to the VMT/Orcem proposal, we can see that various stakeholders in the community have started off down diverging development paths that lead to very different futures for the City and its residents.

Background 

The industrial use of the historic Sperry Mills site on the south Vallejo waterfront dates back to the mid-nineteenth century.  In those days the much smaller town was well off at a distance, and the rail line laid out in 1869 to serve the mill by-passed the residential area.  The plant was operated by General Mills for many years and served critical roles in the military effort during both World Wars.  In 2004 General Mills walked away from its lease with the City and abandoned the facility.

Instead of terminating the ground lease slated to run through 2014, the City Council continued to amend and transfer the lease to a series of new owners.  (See Zombie Lease here)   A development firm bought the 38 acre site in 2006 with the intention to build a mixed use project including hundreds of housing units, a restaurant, and a waterfront park.  That project never got off the ground, and they lost the property to foreclosure.  

A former City Manager from neighboring Pinole with two Bay Area partners purchased the site dirt cheap in 2012, with the intention to establish a private international port terminal.   The Vallejo Marine Terminal LLC (VMT) somehow managed to get City staff to assign a newly resurrected version of the General Mills lease to them.  VMT subsequently recruited Orcem, an Irish cement company, to serve as an anchor tenant and submitted a project application for both operations to the City in 2014.  Following the required environmental review process currently underway, the project will go before the Planning Commission.  Ultimately the Vallejo City Council will decide whether to approve the project in spite of the identified significant unavoidable environmental impacts, or deny the application.

The draft Environmental Impact Report released for public review and comment last fall revealed that the project would bring a multitude of significant unavoidable environmental impacts.  Vallejo has grown dramatically since heavy industry first established in that location and now the site is surrounded by residential neighborhoods and schools.  The rail line that would be reactivated runs right across the middle of town.  While the environmental reports required under state law are often highly technical and difficult to wade through, the Executive Summary section at the beginning of the draft EIR posted on the city web site contains a rundown of potential environmental impacts that is readable and worth a look through.
Takes some time to load so be prepared to wait.


Orcem has taken the lead in selling the combined project to the public.  They hired Zell and Associates, a public relations firm that represents corporate interests like the Chevron refinery in Richmond.  After a round of polling, Zell has been pushing a jobs and the economy argument while engaging in what critics call an obvious 'green-washing’ campaign based on the anticipated capacity to import slag waste from the iron and steel industry.  The slag would come from Asia in huge cargo ships for storage on site in forty foot open piles, then ground to a fine powder which can be substituted for the limestone clinker normally milled for portland cement.  

Orcem’s green sales pitch starts with the unchallenged fact that mining and baking limestone for ordinary portland cement clinker in high temperature kilns releases a whole lot of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.  Substituting a waste product that is ready to grind sounds like a pretty green idea at first glance.  Critics point out that since the slag would be transported across the Pacific in huge cargo ships burning dirty bunker grade fuel, that green recycled sheen will have faded by the time it’s offloaded and piled on our waterfront.  The actual operation of the plant and its impacts on neighborhoods across Vallejo would be anything but green, as the EIR reveals.

Orcem also hired consultants to prepare a “Fiscal Economic Impact Study” to put the best possible face on what is clearly an unbalanced distribution of costs and benefits to ordinary residents of Vallejo.  The report inflates the jobs numbers well beyond the original application forecast, using speculative categories like “indirect” and “induced” jobs.  We keep hearing about all these fictional jobs in the Orcem campaign talking points.  The 'study’ ignores the terms of the lease with the City that would allow applicants to write off project construction costs against lease payments in an amount equal to more than the projected rent over the entire 65 year lease agreement.  Nearly all the property taxes go to the County, and the City is left with some utility tax and a handful of skilled jobs unlikely to go to residents of south Vallejo.

Meanwhile the air quality and traffic impacts would fall heavily on south Vallejo residents already suffering the health effects from local refinery and other heavy industry emissions.  Environmental justice analysis is a technique used by regulatory agencies nationwide to combat the longstanding pattern of locating heavy polluting industry near minority and low income neighborhoods.  Under public pressure, the City produced an EJ analysis, but one that falls well short of the mark.  

Instead of comparing the residents of south Vallejo who would live with the negative impacts to the residents of Solano county who would get the lion’s share of property taxes and other economic benefits, the analysis inexplicably compares Vallejo with Vallejo.  Since most of Vallejo can be considered low income and predominantly minority the report finds no unequal treatment.  Meanwhile statistics included in the Economic Study show significant differences relative to Solano county residents.  Both the Fiscal Economic Impact Study and the EJ analysis can be accessed from the City web site here.
The Public Planning Process: A River and Bay City

A city’s General Plan serves as a guiding document for its future development.  Vallejo’s plan is decades old, and showing its age.  Back in early 2014 the city made a show of engaging residents under the banner “Propel Vallejo" to develop an updated vision for the future of our city.  The city characterized the General Plan update process as ”an opportunity for us to create a vision for the kind of city we want and to take concrete steps toward making it a reality.”

That sense of community empowerment and partnership was encouraged throughout the lengthy and intensive process that followed by city staff and professional planning consultants.  According to the city web site: “A General Plan Working Group, composed of appointees from different segments of the community, represents the people of Vallejo by guiding the planning process and advising the Planning Commission and City Council when there are key decisions that need to be made. This ensures that the General Plan will remain rooted in the vision and values of the community.”

The waterfront planning effort culminated on November 23 of last year when the General Plan Working Group, the Economic Vitality Commission, and the Planning Commission voted together to approve their agreed upon Preferred Scenario.  The overwhelming favorite among participants was the final River and Bay City scenario, which envisions a connected and accessible  waterfront extending from Brinkman’s boat launch to Sandy Beach Road and allows foot and bike traffic between the Maritime Academy campus and downtown.  There is no place in that vision for a heavy industry project like VMT/Orcem at the Sperry site that shuts out the public and breaks that desired connectivity.

In this public vision our waterfront serves as a unique environmental asset to focus development.  The vision reinforces the Guiding Principles agreed on by the community in 2014 to guide the General Plan update process.  Among those principles:

Iconic Waterfront:
“Vallejo treasures its waterfront as a centerpiece of the community, with a promenade, multi-use trails, natural open space, and access to water activities. It is a place for community gathering, exercising, socializing, shopping, dining out and having fun.”

Environmental Stewardship:
“Vallejo pursues and promotes environmental education; protects and manages its watersheds, wetlands, and wildlife habitats; and embraces businesses and industries that are sensitive to the environment. It is a community where environmental stewardship is an asset that attracts people and businesses.”

That has been the public face of land use planning in Vallejo over the past couple years.  At the same time there were players at various levels of local government pushing a very different development agenda behind the scenes.  In this alternate universe the Mare Island Strait serves as a marine superhighway and our waterfront becomes suitable for locating marine-based heavy industry.  If that picture becomes reality our iconic waterfront will look more like Stockton or west Oakland than those pleasant images evoked in the guiding principles or the Bay and River City preferred scenario.
The Shadow Government

While the public process played out, another group began meeting behind closed doors to share their own values and vision for the future of our city, out of the public eye and without the knowledge of some of our elected officials.  This shadowy group included the JumpStart Councilmembers, members of City staff, county level political operatives, and private big money interests.  Their vision for the future of Vallejo looks very different from the vision developed with public input through the general plan process.
The entire City Council voted to authorize a Mare Island Economic Development Committee in the spring of 2014, which would have included Vice Mayor Sampayan as a member.  As with other Council initiatives, there was no follow through and the authorized committee never met.  Many months later a passing reference to a similar sounding committee name came to the attention of a Voices of Vallejo citizen watchdog.  Mr. Sampayan confirmed that he knew nothing about such an organization.  A startling picture began to emerge with the release of documents by the City to comply with public records requests.

The Mare Island Straits Economic Development Committee (MISEDC) was formed in April of 2014, and organized by Councilmember Jesus Malgapo who served as its chair.  MISEDC explicitly stated it was not a formal City Commission but rather defined itself as “an ad hoc Citizens Committee of the City of Vallejo.”  It was nothing of the sort.  Mr. Malgapo cautions members in meeting announcements that participation was by invitation only.  A look at the committee roster confirms that these are not the kind of ordinary city residents and business owners that participated in the public planning process:

Mare Island Straits Economic Development Committee Members -

Jess Malgapo, Vallejo City Councilmember
Pippin Dew-Costa, Vallejo City Councilmember
Rozzana Verder-Aliga; Vallejo City Councilmember
Mel Orpilla, District Representative for Mike Thompson
Tom Bartee, District Director for Assembymember Bill Dodd
Alex Pader, District Representative for Senator Wolk
Belinda Smith, District Representative for Supervisor Seifert
Michael Wilson, District Representative for Supervisor Hannigan
Steve Bryan, President, ORCEM America
Matt Fettig, Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT)
Blaise Fettig, Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT)
Steve Dileo, President, Mare Island Dry Dock LLC
Christina Snyder, Vice President, Mare Island Dry Dock LLC
Anthony Intintoli – San Francisco Bay Water Emergency Transportation Authority
Tom Sheaff, Vice President Lennar Mare Island
Phil DuPuis, Senior Business Development Manager, Kiewit
Danny Bernardini - Napa Solano Building Trades
City Staff: Mark Sawicki, Kathleen Diohep, Fiona Stryker, Roland Rojas
David Kleinschmidt - City of Vallejo Public Works Director
Erin Hanford; Project Manager, Mare Island, City of Vallejo
Mark O’Brien; City of Vallejo Consultant

A major thrust of the committee’s effort was an extensive lobbying effort to entice the Army Corps of Engineers to resume deep dredging of the length of the Mare Island Strait and allow access to large international cargo vessels.  Just like building a freeway, once that infrastructure is in place a predictable pattern of development will follow, and that development would not look much like the Propel Vallejo vision.  The MISEDC worked in secret for months, often using City employees, as the Economic Development Director  repeatedly alerted the City Manager to the improper use of scarce public resources and need for approval by the entire Council.   Instead, the consent calendar portion of a packed Council meeting agenda was used to hide the result of the extensive communication and lobbying with the Army Corps from the full Council and the public.
The Great Divide

The revelation that the three JumpStart Councilmembers with the knowledge of Mayor Davis were participating on a secret committee with the VMT/Orcem applicants well before the draft EIR was even released to the public did not sit well with residents.  The involvement of all the county level political operatives was disturbing, given that the region stands to benefit economically at the expense of local citizens. 
Equally revealing is who was not involved.  Councilmembers Sampayan and McConnell, who will both be on the ballot in November, were intentionally kept in the dark, as was Councilmember Meissner.
The participation of marine industries that stand to save some money on their maintenance costs if the Army resumed deep dredging in the channel makes perfect sense.  The interest of all those political operatives at the county and regional level is understandable as well, given that it’s all economic upside so long as the heavy industry isn’t in your own backyard.  Same for the county level labor interests who want those construction phase jobs for union members and don’t care much about the people who would have to live with the results of their handiwork.

What moves some of the other political actors to play supporting roles in the push to re-establish heavy industry on our waterfront would be more difficult to understand if you just walked in.  The members of both the United Democrats of Southern Solano County and the Stonewall Democratic club have voted to go on record opposing VMT/Orcem.  In sharp contrast, the new Community Democratic Club members are being told by their leadership that they support the project.  Given the Democratic Party advocacy for environmental and social justice issues, that makes little sense unless you understand the Jon Riley connection with the CDC.  

The VMT/Orcem applicants aren’t among the local dominionist “marketplace ministers" trying to gain economic influence, or members of any of the African-American community networks.  Why then are local leaders who talk the talk of black lives matter publicly supporting a project that would damage the health and quality of life of the people in their own community for the benefit of outsiders?   For one thing, Riley and the Labor Council want it, and these leaders hope that an alliance will be their ticket to increased political influence.  During the recent unsuccessful campaign to ship coal through the port of Oakland, corporate interests bought off some of the local church pastors with contributions to their youth programs and the like.  There is concern that these tactics may be used in Vallejo to blunt local opposition.

The role of the City Manager and some of our City staff in the MISEDC activity also makes little sense on the face of it.  Before he resigned, the Economic Development Director repeatedly complained to superiors that Councilmember Malgapo was grabbing City staff and assigning them tasks for his private committee as though they work directly for him.  Mr. Keen was well aware of the improper and illegal nature of Mr. Malgapo’s actions under the City Charter, but did nothing to attempt to correct the situation or inform the rest of the Council.  Apparently it was easier to just humor Mr. Malgapo and play along, and any concern about the waste of scarce City resources or subversion of representative democracy took a back seat to convenience.  

What would motivate these few City Councilmembers to put a process in motion that could shape the future character of Vallejo with no public input?  Mr. Malgapo apparently dreams about going back to a faded version of the glory days of his Navy career, when it was all Federal dollars, big ships, and heavy industry.  Ms. Dew-Costa and Verder-Aliga were likely thrilled just to be included in a conspiracy with all those important people.  The JumpStart Councilmembers Malgapo, Dew-Costa, and Verder-Aliga owe their seats to Jon Riley’s organization, and Verder-Aliga and Sunga will be counting on that money and manpower again for the November races.  Orcem’s consultants also tipped their hand with a political contribution to JumpStart.  

On the other side of the divide, opposition to the proposed port/cement plant mobilized quickly among local environmental and progressive activists in response to the draft Environmental Impact Report.  A true ad hoc citizen’s committee came together under the name Fresh Air Vallejo to flood the City with public comments to the draft EIR, and join with environmental groups like Baykeepers and the Sierra Club to prepare for a legal challenge in the event the project is approved.  They have been joined by local groups like Friends of the Sperry Mill and Voices of Vallejo, as well as regional activist groups from Napa, Richmond, and Benicia to voice their opposition.

Where the good old boy network will ultimately come down on the Orcem/VMT project is not so clear cut.  The major property owners are accustomed to contributing and identifying with the JumpStart faction, but the MISEDC push to bring heavy industry back to the waterfront is really not in their interest.  The Propel Vallejo planning vision would revive the downtown and bring in tourist dollars that would lift property values.  Bringing in a new round of  heavy polluting industry with trains and trucks tying up traffic across town would have the opposite effect.  Whether the good old boys will realize where their true interest lies or act out of habit is an open question.
Measure C and Regulation of the Cannabis Industry

Introduction:

The second flashpoint economic development issue soon to come to a head in Vallejo involves local regulation of the cannabis industry.  California led the way in providing legal patient access to medical marijuana with Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, way back in 1998. 
Since that time public opinion has shifted markedly as regulatory regimes continue to replace prohibition in a number of states, and the dire predictions of opponents fail to materialize.  Now that peer-reviewed scientific research is finally possible, it’s becoming apparent that cannabis in various forms has a great many medical applications.  Here in Vallejo, the opposition of a vocal minority with outsized political influence has blocked the development of a rational approach to regulation for the past five years.
After eighty years of relentless propaganda in support of prohibition it’s likely there will be readers who still have serious reservations, although this plant has been valued for thousands of years.  The often expressed concerns about neighborhood crime or sending a wrong message that might encourage young people to use cannabis have proved groundless with actual real life experience.  For example, an exhaustive study published last year in a major psychiatric journal used 24 years of data from more than a million teenagers in 48 states and found no evidence that teenagers used cannabis more when medical cannabis dispensaries are present.  

Prohibition was enacted so long ago few even remember the original justification.  Readers may notice that I prefer to use the scientific name ‘cannabis’ instead of ‘marijuana.’  The Spanish term itself was used and popularized during the prohibition campaign.   Before about 1910 cannabis was a common ingredient in medicines, and the term marijuana was not known in American culture.  Over the next decade an influx of legal refugees from the Mexican civil war brought the practice of smoking the plant material with them. 
 
The economic upheaval of the Great Depression in the 1930s had many people looking for someone to blame for their troubles.  Attention focused on ethnic minorities like blacks and Mexican immigrants, the main users of cannabis at that time.  Stories about the corrupting influence of ’loco weed’ and ‘marijuana’ were popularized by politicians and public officials who made their careers with this issue.  

The one individual most responsible for creating the stigma that we are still struggling to shake off today was Harry Anslinger, the first director of the newly created Federal Bureau of Narcotics.   Anslinger waged a relentless and overtly racist campaign against marijuana for the three decades he held the office.  In testimony before Congress he declared:  "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind… Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.”  I take it Harry wasn’t much of a music lover.

For fact-based study results documenting the lack of connection between the presence of medical cannabis dispensaries and increased crime - Read Here.  There most certainly are legitimate public safety concerns, but these can only be addressed through a sensible regulatory framework.  Prohibition has not only failed to limit cannabis availability or encourage responsible production and use, it created a whole host of additional problems with an extensive underground black market economy.  It’s time to turn the page.
A Legal Twilight Zone
By 2011 medical cannabis dispensaries were popping up in Vallejo, but there were no local rules in place for locating, licensing, or taxing these businesses.  Progressives on the City Council put Measure C on the ballot that November, which would impose an additional tax on gross dispensary sales of up to ten percent in addition to regular sales tax.  The initiative passed overwhelmingly with more than 76% of the vote.  It was left to the Council to do their job under the City Charter
to develop an ordinance to collect the taxes mandated by voters.  That didn’t happen.
The Mayor and his supporters opposed any move to regulate the industry.  Meanwhile, entrepreneurs who had noticed the level of public support expressed by local voters continued to open new dispensaries.  The City conducted a series of raids that were later declared illegal by the court, which ordered the return of the confiscated money and inventory.  The continued absence of an ordinance to locate and guide development of the industry caused friction in the community, while responsible managers who paid Measure C taxes were forced to compete with those who ignored their obligation.  When the new JumpStart majority was elected in 2013, Mayor Davis declared in news interviews that he now had the votes on the Council to run the industry out of town entirely.

Taxpayers who voted for Measure C in order to help a bankrupt City finance basic services joined the medical cannabis patient community to erupt in anger.  As residents packed Council meetings and lined up to denounce the move to ban dispensaries, the Council majority backtracked to allow two dispensaries, and finally passed an ordinance that would have restricted the number to four.  The cannabis patient community responded by mobilizing the first successful referendum petition drive in Vallejo history, gathering valid signatures of more than ten percent of the voters in less than a month.  That petition nullified the ordinance, leaving the Council with the option to put it before voters, or pass a different ordinance in its place.

The replacement ordinance the Council passed in 2015 still falls far short of a permanent solution.  It created a special nonsense category of “limited immunity from civil prosecution," while the City continues to insist that dispensaries are illegal in all zones of the City.  The ordinance restricted applicants to those dispensaries that opened before a toothless 2013 moratorium and paid taxes every month since, and required ridiculously expensive abatements for imaginary nuisances.  The ten  clubs that managed to jump through all the hoops now occupy a legal twilight zone that will only last until the state begins its new licensing regime.

Starting in January of 2018 the state of California will finally have a standardized licensing framework in place for the cannabis industry.  The deal-making in Sacramento has been a classic exercise in legislative sausage-making, which is to be expected with so much new money in need of management and distribution.  While some details are still being hammered out, it’s been clear for some time that this will be a two-tier system under which local governments will still have the option to ban the industry entirely.  

Local government authorization will be required for Vallejo dispensaries to even apply for a state license.  Limited immunity from prosecution just won’t cut it.  That means Vallejo needs a real ordinance with approved zoning districts for the various cannabis industry businesses and operating standards, in other words what should have happened five years ago after the voters approved Measure C by more than three to one.  The stage is set for another round of political confrontation, while the political landscape continues to shift with public opinion.
The Vallejo Breakdown

The opportunity cost resulting from the willful failure to implement Measure C has been nothing short of tragic in a City where the financial needs are so great.  Voters gave Vallejo a big head start on neighboring communities like Sacramento and Oakland, who are now scrambling to set up regulatory frameworks designed to encourage the cannabis industry to
locate in their communities.  They’ve seen a few years of tax receipts with no real downside, and now they understand the potential.
Vallejo has collected more than $1.16 million in sales tax from the 10 twilight zone dispensaries between late September through the end of July.  We’re not talking only about dispensaries.  There’s going to be tremendous growth in production, manufacturing, packaging, and other ancillary businesses in this industry over the next decades.  Mayor Davis and JumpStart foolishly squandered the head start that voters had the foresight to provide.  They substituted their own biases and bad judgment for the will of the voters, and cost Vallejo dearly in the process.

During the campaign in 2013, the JumpStart slate sounded eager to respect the will of the voters and finally implement Measure C.  Ms. Verder-Aliga talked about instituting the routine collection of Measure C taxes “like water bills.”  Once voters trusted Verder-Aliga, Dew-Costa, and Malgapo with the responsibility of public office, they reneged on those promises and lined up behind Mayor Davis and his crusade to ban the industry entirely.  Now that she needs to run for office again in November, Verder-Aliga wants us to believe that she’s always been a supporter of medical cannabis and Measure C, a statement worthy of Donald Trump.

The Mayor and his socially conservative backers resist all attempts to develop a rational regulatory system for the local cannabis industry.  Some of that religiously inspired opposition includes resistance to legal pharmaceuticals as well.  Other people remember the years-long effort to reign in the tobacco smoke shops in town, and tend to lump dispensaries into the same nuisance category.  A number of residents simply don’t want these businesses in their neighborhood, and blamed the dispensaries instead of the Council that created the problem by refusing to establish legal zoning districts.

Business-minded types in the good old boy network appear more ambivalent.  While accustomed to supporting the JumpStart alliance in political campaigns, many property owners can see that establishing a new industry in town with such explosive growth potential would coincide with their own interests.  Some witnessed the neighborhoods surrounding their property become cleaner and safer with the added security presence of a well run dispensary, and did not like it when the City forced relocation.  The Chamber of Commerce now appears ready to welcome dispensary managers that have been granted limited immunity.

Why the City staff continues to provide uniformly bad advice regarding the cannabis industry, coupled with uneven interpretation and implementation of the current ordinance, remains something of a mystery.  Our City Attorney’s office has consistently looked to southern California for their models while ignoring very different experiences in local communities like Berkeley and Oakland.  First they relied on legal arguments used in support of a local ban in Riverside, contrary to the expressed will of Vallejo voters.  Then they borrowed the absurd ‘limited immunity’ concept from Los Angeles, the other city that failed to act in time to avoid creating a big mess for themselves which they still can’t clean up.  Whether the results stem from ignorance and incompetence, political games, personal bias, or other reasons; our City staff has served the voters and taxpayers poorly with their mishandling of this issue.

The role of local labor interests also gets pretty murky when it comes to the local cannabis industry.  Although the hard core anti-cannabis minority allies itself with the Central Labor union-backed JumpStart brand, as you might expect unions see opportunities to organize in an industry that looks like the next big thing.  The experience in Oakland and our own history argues for caution as we proceed.  Last year the FBI indicted a United Food and Commercial Worker's Union organizer and charged him with violating state labor laws and fraud.  The key Oakland cannabis union organizer for dispensaries was found to have taken in over $600,000 in bribes, kickbacks, and other forms of gifts from numerous individuals in the industry over a five year period.  We need to maintain awareness of the corruptive power of money in politics as we transition out of the black market economy.

For the thousands of Vallejo patients who just want to preserve the convenient access to medical cannabis they currently enjoy it will be important to get underway with the legislative process to put our house in order as soon as possible.   That’s also true for taxpayers looking for economic development that creates living wage jobs without the pollution and traffic of heavy industrial development like the VMT/Orcem project in the reactionary vision of the MISEDC.  Public opinion has shifted well beyond the stigma of prohibition, and this industry will make significant contributions to local economies in those communities with the foresight to implement a regulatory framework to direct and encourage its growth.