Eric Gray’s Campaign Is A Pathetic Disgrace

The Second District Council race here in Long Beach is in the final stretch. The two remaining candidates, Progressive activist Jeannine Pearce and her wealthy centrist opponent Eric Gray, are locked in a tight contest for Long Beach’s dynamic and diverse downtown area. Before the primary in May, few expected that Pearce, a long time community organizer and working mother, would be able to hold off the massive amount of money and establishment support behind Gray. However thanks to Pearce’s superior campaigning skills (which have been honed over the better part of decade of organizing service workers in this city), she finished well ahead of Gray and is now favored to beat him in June’s general election.

Which is probably why Gray is resorting to this sort of horrendous, Karl Rove-style direct mail attack:

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What Gray is attempting to imply here is that Jeannine Pearce, a candidate who protested with her (then) infant daughter on Christmas Eve in defense of latina housekeepers, is a supporter of racist demagogue George Wallace. In Gray’s world Pearce, the leader of Long Beach’s incredibly successful campaign to pass Proposition 47, is a secret member of a long forgotten political party established around white resentment and “law and order” in 1968.

In truth Gray is entirely aware that Pearce, like millions of other Californians, intended to register as an “independent”  voter when she moved here from Texas. However Gray, instead of focusing on drawing distinctions between him and (the far more qualified) Pearce based on substantive policy issues, is instead lazily trying to confuse voters with irrelevant signifiers like this typo from 2011. Ironically if any candidate is truly following the legacy of Wallace, it is Gray, who actively courted the insanely reactionary Long Beach POA by turning back the significant developments that our state has made in terms of Criminal Justice Reform (more on this issue next week).

Since the “Wallace” mailer premiered a few weeks ago to almost universal condemnation, Gray has shifted his tactics and outsourced his attacks to his preferred independent expenditure group. Like many wealthy politicians who have taken advantage of campaign finance loopholes created by the Citizens United decision, Gray has figured out that it’s better to not get his own hands dirty with scurrilous attack ads like the one below.

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What’s interesting about this piece (which must have cost a fortune to produce at the last minute) is how it truly represents the substance-free, post-ideological nature of Gray’s entire campaign. Gray has been insisting for months that his legitimacy as a candidate in the Second District is grounded in his status as the “only lifelong Democrat” in the race. However here are his biggest supporters, giant corporate interests and the Long Beach Police Officers Association, trying to paint Pearce as the next Che Guevara because she worked to raise the minimum wage for hotel workers. Scare quotes around “social justice work” and “fighting for equity” are downright McCarthyist in their intent and purpose here.

And if there was any doubt as to Gray’s own commitment to the party he’s supposedly supported since he was in diapers, his own campaign put out this trash heap of a statement to the handful of registered Republicans who still live downtown.

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This sort of reckless disregard for the truth is part of a pattern of seriously disconcerting behavior for a person seeking public office. Since beginning this contested election in 2015, Gray has repeatedly taken diametrically opposing sides on critical issues, showing a deference to any ideology that might appease the audience in which he was addressing at the time. He has also engaged in an intimidation campaign against supporters of Pearce, even threatening a notable LGBT non-profit when one of their directors publically endorsed Jeannine. Meanwhile Pearce has stayed entirely free of any conceivable negative campaigning, which only highlights the inanity of Gray’s obsession over her registration status.

On a personal note I grew up in the state where George Wallace was governor. I swam every summer in a lake named after his wife. Jeannine Pearce is quite literally the polar opposite of the racist fascism that Wallace stood in front of the schoolhouse door to defend. Pearce is a pillar of the second district, she is the heart of our city’s activist community, and she is a true believer in the cause of social and economic justice. The fact that Eric Gray would compare her to the hateful ideology of white supremacy is reprehensible, and only underlies why he is undeserving of support from any self-respecting liberal, progressive, or anyone else with a shred of decency.


The Price Is Wrong

Given the overall national trend towards reforming marijuana policies, and the host of local problems caused by our city’s dependence on the unreliable oil market and our out-of-control public safety spending, many are wondering why Long Beach has not ended our inexcusable ban on commercial cannabis activities. And while it would be wrong to simply assign all the blame for this multi-faceted public policy quandary onto one person, it is obvious by now that Councilwoman Suzie Price’s illogical crusade against this medicine is endangering both the fiscal viability and public health of this city.

Mrs. Price is an Orange County District Attorney and a novice politician who easily won a barely contested seat onto the council last year by running as a nominal Democrat who is “tough on crime” [full disclosure I was asked by mutual friends to help with her campaign but refused to do so because of her support for the death penalty]. Since assuming office she has more or less continued the laissez-faire economic policies of her predecessor, Republican Gary Delong, especially with regards to her efforts to expand the alcohol-fueled nightlife of 2nd Street. In fact despite her oft-cited support for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and her own residents growing concern with the binge-drinking at 2nd street bars, Price has stated on numerous occasions (including on the public record during council meetings) that she believes that alcohol sales aren’t responsible for crime. She went onto recognize the “personal choice” behind someone’s decision to imbibe alcohol and even defended her choice to expand the already overly-saturated bar scene on 2nd street out of fears of reprisals from that specific business community.

But hypocrisy regarding intoxicants isn’t a crime, nor is it even particularly novel for a politician who came from a world where objectivity and nuanced analysis are professional liabilities. However Price’s argument against legally regulated cannabis went a step further into the land of absurdity when she began citing the legal issues of Belmont Natural Care, a now defunct dispensary that operated in her district before she assumed office. Both in public and in private conversations with stakeholders (including in a lobbying meeting with me), Price and her office have shaped a narrative that describes that business at the symbol of everything that was wrong about the quasi-legal world of medical cannabis dispensaries.

Belmont Natural Care (BNC) was a disgrace, and by all accounts it’s owner John Walker and his lawyer, Richard Brizendine, were justifiably prosecuted for failing to abide by either any of the existing state regulations regarding cannabis or federal guidelines for proper banking. However what makes Price’s continued use of BNC in her argument against establishing clear local policies for medical cannabis, is the fact that her own office has a direct connection to BNC’s most notable (yet un-prosecuted) crime: bribery.

In 2012, Suzie Price’s predecessor in the third district, Gary Delong ran unsuccessfully for Congress. As part of the opposition research against Mr. Delong (which I have attached here), the Democratic Party found evidence of what they called a “possible play to play” scheme involving Delong and Brizendine. It seems that BNC’s lawyer donated close to $2000 to Mr. Delong in exchange for the Councilman’s support of favorable regulations regarding buffer zones for BNC. In fact, as the report details, this alleged exchange took place only “two days after Brizendine was accused of money laundering associated with a marijuana dispensary”.

Banking regulations like the ones that Mr. Walker went to prison for are extremely complicated and relatively easy to break even for a responsible operator. However corruption is a far clearer and perhaps even more damaging crime against the social contract. This is why it is extremely disconcerting that Mrs. Price not only failed to properly provide context for the sort of crimes she is wishing to prevent by maintaining the ban, but that she also hired the field deputy from Mr. Delong’s ethically-challenged office and promoted her to the extremely powerful position of Chief of Staff. If the allegations of bribery and improper lobbying in Delong’s office are true, it is quite possible that Price has elevated someone who had direct knowledge of these activities to a position of real influence over public policy in this city.

But the issue of Mrs. Price’s credibility does not end there. On September 30th the New York Times editorial board published an op-ed specifically calling out the unit in which Mrs. Price established her career for engaging in over 30 years of “unconstitutional abuses” regarding a secret system of using paid criminal informants that were used to help secure death penalty convictions in Orange County. The details of these illegal jailhouse convictions were never disclosed to defense attorneys, and the discovery of this system by the OC Public Defender’s Office lead to Price’s unit being kicked off the Seal Beach shooter case via an unprecedented judicial decree. Given Price’s extensive work in this unit, including one high-profile death penalty case in 2013, it is not unreasonable to think that Price either used this database or at least had knowledge of it’s existence.

Mrs. Price has established that she doesn’t like providing legal access for cannabis to because of her sincere concern that patients would somehow endanger, rather than patron, ice cream stores on 2nd Street (seriously she said this). In her defense of prohibition, a system that has cost the city millions and ruined the lives of scores of people for no good reason, she has made ambiguous claims without proper statistical data and employed racist dog-whistling terms to describe patients who use cannabis. But while Price is within her right to be hilariously wrong on a public policy issue, she does not get to assume anything resembling the moral and ethical high ground, especially when there are serious questions about her own capacity to exert these values in her own chosen professions.

[Delong]


The “Pro-Life” Movement Is A Sad Dumb Joke (Legally Speaking)

I’ve stayed out on the latest attacks on Planned Parenthood, mainly because I am more or less confident that any financial attacks to that specific institution will fail by way of the President’s veto. However I do think that conservatives salivating over ending abortion judicially are also way too confident in what is looking more and more like a possibility after 2016. Frankly the anti-abortion cause, one that was a load of horseshit from the beginning, has overplayed it’s recent successes, and is throughly doomed with a new generation of sexually liberated and class cognizant millennials quickly approaching adulthood.  However the damage done to this fundamental right has been severe, and it’s worth discussing the idiotic excuse for legal reasoning that has allowed things to get this bad.

Whats interesting about the conservative movement after Hobby Lobby, is that they have put the idea of what exactly is a “sincere religious belief” clearly within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. They see this as a victory (and right now it clearly was), but there is a problem with this analysis.

Historical evidence clearly shows that American Protestants (including evangelicals), definitively disagreed with the Catholic view of life starting at Conception….until their rise as part of the new conservative coalition. Therefore it is worth asking whether subsequent regulations placed on abortion could even pass a rational basis review, given that the issue of “preserving potential life” was certainly more of a cynical  political calculation for maintaining solid Republican power in Red States, and therefore is not a belief supported by the rights provided by the 1st Amendment.

And while some might find it distasteful to challenge the seriousness of someone’s beliefs on this matter, its worth remembering that this insanely abstract view of “what is life” isn’t even consistently applied across the bio-medical world. I mean if life is so precious and pregnancy such a sanctified state that we don’t trust a woman to make her own decisions regarding the fate of the fetus, why do we then allow someone to essentially sell their baby to her wealthy client in surrogacy? Likewise you see very few graphic protests outside of IVF clinics, and no one is threatening nurses at sperm banks with pipe bombs.

So perhaps it is time to start haranguing the Tony Perkins of the wold why their “sincere” concern for the lives of fetus-americans doesn’t extend to properly funding W.I.C. once the kid is born.


Terrible Ideas From The Democratic Party Part Infinity

 

Al Gore

Got to love the Democratic Party. They have a candidate with cross-generational, bipartisan, and populist appeal.  This candidate is surging in the polls, and who also happens to be campaigning in strict appearance of the Democratic platform (much to the chagrin of his fellow Socialists). But because that candidate is Bernie Sanders (and not Hillary Clinton), the party leadership is panicking publicly:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Al Gore: Each has been discussed among party officials in recent weeks as an alternative to Mrs. Clinton if she does not regain her once-dominant standing in the 2016 presidential field and instead remains mired in the long-running email controversy, with its attendant investigations…..

…“If party leaders see a scenario next winter where Bernie Sanders has a real chance at the Democratic nomination, I think there’s no question that leaders will reach out to Vice President Biden or Secretary of State Kerry or even Gore about entering the primaries,” said Garnet F. Coleman, a Texas state lawmaker and Democratic national committeeman.

Ah a member of the vaunted Texas Democratic Party has an opinion on someone’s electability. That’s fucking rich.

Where is this antagonism for Sanders coming from? Sanders is gaining popularity mainly because he is addressing economic issues in a way that is next to perfect for the decades-long suffering American working class. He is even managing to recast the “family values” slogan into a Democratic ideal- something I’ve been screaming about for a while now. Isn’t this a good thing?

The real issue here is the old truism of Democrats despising the types of people who put them into office. Intelligent political operatives would see the Sanders rise as a fantastic scenario for Democrats, not just because it puts them in a position to retain influence in the White House, but because this sort of campaign could very well produce dramatic results down the ballot throughout the country. HOWEVER, because Democrats have maintained a nomination process that is specifically designed to suppress the liberal vote, they are placing themselves in a position to lose an election where their opponents have basically pulled the goalie.

But by all means continue hippy punching when your brilliant fucking idea of nominating Al Gore (20 years after he was relevant) doesn’t work.


Why Publicly Funded Athletics Matters

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This is your daily reminder that the two best tennis players in the world came from publicly funded and maintained courts in one of the most economically depressed cities in Southern California. Access to fitness equipment and the tools that someone needs to maintain their health is a basic human right, and one that is in danger in our “new normal” of nonexistent funding for infrastructure and maintenance for public property.

Along that line of thinking it’s worth noting that Suja Lowenthal, whom I’ve been extremely critical of during her time as my city counselor here in Long Beach, single handedly made sure that the new “Camp Bixby” improvements to our park became a reality. This is a huge asset to the city/residents and she deserves credit.


Nuance and Foresight: Why I Love Working In The Legal Pot Industry

Where else will you find activists associated with an unabashedly capitalistic cause urging supporters to be patient in order to ensure that a policy is as precise and politically perfect as possible?

The California Secretary of State’s Office suggested July 7 as the last day to submit a measure to the state attorney general and request an official title and summary for a November 2016 ballot measure. But the leading coalition will not file an initiative until some time in early September, said Dale Sky Jones, chancellor of Oaksterdam University in Oakland and chair of what’s referred to as ReformCA — the post-Proposition 19 coalition that includes the most effective, major reform groups: Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom confirmed that he will lead the ReformCA effort on August 7 on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Newsom is the head of a steering committee for a blue ribbon commission on cannabis legalization that released its findings in July. Incorporating those findings delayed ReformCA’s initiative, Jones said. “We wanted to ensure our language was well within the parameters [of the commission’s report], so that slowed us down a bit,” she said.

Collaboration has also slowed down the effort, she added. “We care more about getting the policy exactly right. We realize if we’re a little late, it’s going to be a little harder. It’s going to be worth the extra effort to get it right.”

To understand why we’re having this delay you must understand the history of California’s medical pot movement and how its subsequent legacy is putting adult-use weed in danger. We’ve had 19 years of quasi-legal cannabis in this state where a broadly written law has allowed a uniquely lawyer-driven (almost feudal) market to develop here in SoCal. This “mess” might have been created by prohibitionists who never acted in good faith towards this law, but it has been maintained by lawyers who have never wanted to cede control over the dispensary clients that they attracted. Furthermore the state legislature has been very recalcitrant in adopting necessary “clean up” legislation on this issue, so therefore it is incumbent on the industry to develop the good public policies and best practices for legal cannabis.

Plus a good law (unlike one currently under consideration in Ohio for example) has a tendency to sell itself to voters:

Marijuana Policy Project communications director Mason Tvert, who helped legalize cannabis in Colorado, agreed. “I would take a good initiative and three hundred days of campaigning over a sub-par initiative and five hundred days of campaigning — any day,” he said.

Seeing as I plan on walking precincts for this proposal until the soles of my Chuck Taylor’s wear out, I have to agree.


Disarm The Police


Your daily reminder that “more training” isn’t a solution to the problem of militarized policing.