I wasn’t planning on writing about the Great Referendum Movement that has risen organically, and most certainly stimulated by the County’s new Cannabis Ordinance. I had another topic in mind but that’s been pushed aside, at least temporarily.
I’ve said numerous times the Supervisors have created a Populist Movement surrounding the single issue of the 10 percent Expansion Rule and its inextricably intertwined relationship to water. Very conservatively speaking, 70 percent of County residents support repealing the 10 percent Rule because they understand that is the Ordinance’s main flaw.
They figured this out all by themselves without any prompting or preaching by those of who are supporting the Small Is Beautiful Mendocino Referendum to repeal, only and solely, the 10 percent Rule which would allow parcels that have a minimum size of 10 acres or larger to cultivate up to 10 percent of the total parcel area with the issuance of a Major Use Permit. It’s both the People’s voice and their choice.
These are not elitists or special interests, they are growers, non-growers, workers, small business owners, ranchers, farmers, and folks from every sector of our local economy, including the current Sheriff and a former Sheriff.
They all understand that if you eliminate expansion, you eliminate the water use that goes with it. Enforce the Ordinance by eliminating the thousands of un-permitted and the outright illegal grows that have proliferated after 4-plus years of a failed, unworkable Cannabis Ordinance, and you eliminate all the water use that goes with them.
This Populist Movement is not demanding that the entire Ordinance be deep-sixed. These folks are not demanding that at all. What they’re demanding is a return to some semblance of stability and normalcy where at least their wells have water and the landscape isn’t littered with hoops and sprawling fields of pot. The last outcome they want is the additional chaos that would result from burning down the entire Ordinance that another referendum group is advocating.
As I’ve disclosed previously, I’m the co-chair of the Small Is Beautiful Referendum campaign, and I want you to know that our plan has always had three parts or phases from the beginning.
The first part is to repeal the 10 percent Expansion Rule through the referendum process because that is the single issue this Populist Movement has rallied around in such large numbers. Politically speaking, once you start talking about repealing the entire Ordinance, those numbers begin to dissipate. We agree with most folks that about 90% of the new Ordinance is perfectly fine because it includes numerous protections and safeguards.
The second part of the plan is to use the initiative process to fix the remainder of the Ordinance (probably 5 or 6) items or issues, including preparing an EIR, establishing realistic cultivation caps, imposing tighter restrictions on hoops, eliminating permit “stacking,” etc.). This phase would include widespread input from County residents.
The final phase would be transforming the Small Is Beautiful Mendocino Coalition into a permanent County “Good Government Watchdog” entity because there are other issues besides Cannabis, for example mental health services, Dept. of Transportation roads and bridges, accountability in County government, etc., that require citizen oversight in getting resolved.
Speaking of our local Progressive Movement, there’s historical precedent for it.
Back in the early 1900s, it was a time local and state government reached a nadir in American history. Greed, corruption, and outright bribery were common among many politicians.
Writers like Frank Norris (a must read is his The Octopus, a novel from that time that accurately sets out the history of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s corrupt stranglehold on the state of California) tell us that most people back then “wanted changes to take place in American society, but not radical or revolutionary changes. They wanted government to take a more active role in regulating big business. They also realized that before meaningful changes could take place, the stranglehold over local and state government by corrupt politicians and the huge corporations had to be broken. The reformers of this time called themselves ‘Progressives.’”
In California in the early 1900s, the Progressive movement’s battle against total economic and political domination of the state by Southern Pacific RR was led by Republican Governor Hiram Johnson, who successfully stumped the state campaigning for a state constitutional amendment providing for the referendum, initiative, and recall.
That’s why we have the right today to challenge this Cannabis Ordinance and its widely unpopular and destructive 10 percent Rule. We should never forget those folks who came before us and joined together under the original banner of the Populist Movement, something that we’ve been fortunate to inherit and re-establish in our time.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, email@example.com, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)