Pubdate: Wed, 24 Sep 2014
Source: Register, The (MA)
Copyright: 2014, Community Newspaper Co.
Author: Stephen Downing


On Sept. 17 members of the Long Beach community gathered to see a
concept shaped by a 13-member Stakeholder Advisory Committee that
envisioned a plan for a $99 million pool facility. The community
meeting presented what the deputy city manager called the latest
design suggestion for the pool. He also announced "This is not a done
deal, it is an interactive process."

The next day, on Sept. 18, members of the Long Beach community
gathered to listen to a discussion by members of the Planning
Commission related to a medical marijuana ordinance proposed by City
Hall staffers from the Planning Department and the City Attorney's

There was no 13-member Stakeholder Advisory Committee present for this
project, because one was never appointed.

Following discussion of the wished-for ordinance submitted by City
Hall staffers, the Commission allowed public comment. Unlike the
swimming pool discussions and breakout group dialogues, no one was
allowed more than three minutes to express their views.

Most community members used their three minutes to oppose the
ordinance as being uninformed, oppressive, unreasonably restrictive, a
minefield for litigation with regressive employment restrictions, poor
patient access, and, most importantly, lacking in industry expertise,
patient sensitivity and meaningful community input.

The City Hall staffers objected to the representations that there was
no outside input. They alleged that they spent many hours listening to
the various community interests.

They very well may have listened to a select few as others suffered
numerous phone calls never returned - but, all of the "listening" that
did take place inside the city hall bubble was arbitrated by the
staffers who decided what was and what was not going to be recommended
to the Planning Commission.

The product they produced is clear evidence that recommendations from
a Stakeholders committee - an essential ingredient in the ordinance
crafting track - was absent.

Clearly, the staffers listened more to the cynical public safety fear
mongering offered by the police department, most of which was debunked
by written testimony, than they did from those in the community who
could have offered expertise, patient compassion and a public
viewpoint outside the City Hall bubble.

Had the City Council required the Planning Commission to form a
well-rounded 13-member Stakeholder Advisory Committee to come up with
a plan - like they evidently did with the Belmont Pool project - a
better product would have been presented to the Planning Commission.

Fortunately, the Planning Commissioners came to recognize that the
expertise and information they received from inside City Hall was
either lacking or untrustworthy and chose to apply their expertise and
recommendations only to the zoning facets of the ordinance and return
the administrative and regulatory meat contained in the proposed
ordinance to the City Council without recommendation.

When the proposed ordinance reaches Council, they should first
recognize that Long Beach is not "pioneering" a medical marijuana
ordinance, as city staff continues to assert.

Since Proposition 215 was passed in 1996, local jurisdictions in
California such as Berkeley and Oakland, developed regulations very
early in the game. Other cities, such as San Francisco, were tasked
with developing regulations amidst an already burgeoning market.
Today, all of these cities have successful frameworks for the density,
location, size and structure of medical marijuana distribution, as
well as methods to administer, regulate and ensure program oversight.

These cities have no significant complaints from their communities and
their ordinances are not unjustly harsh and restricting.

Our newly elected City Council should look upon the "administrative
meat" of the proposed ordinance as tainted, throw it out and appoint a
13-member Stakeholder Advisory Committee to design a new product,
based upon proven real world solutions and community need.

Then, and only then, should a proposed ordinance come before the
Council for debate, decision and consignment to the city attorney for
a draft ordinance that accommodates the decisions of the community and
the Council.

This approach will insure that both our pool and pot programs are
products of the community and those it elects rather than that of
wannabee puppet masters inhabiting the City Hall bubble.

Stephen Downing is a Long Beach resident and a retired LAPD deputy
chief of police.
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MAP posted-by: Matt