Ah, it feels so good to have called out Salem City Councilors Brad Nanke and Jim Lewis about their erroneous assertion at a recent council meeting that I got things wrong about early sales of recreational marijuana in this town.
I was confident that I was right, and told them so in my testimony at the August 31 meeting.
You can see me speaking truth to power in a video Salem Community Vision made of my remarks at the contentious meeting, where citizens were disrespected, big time.
But I didn't want to leave it there.
It deeply irked me that Nanke and Lewis were so dismissive of the Constitution-given right of citizens in our representative democracy to tell elected officials how they feel about a proposal -- in this case, whether the early sale of recreational marijuana through medical marijuana dispensaries that can begin on October 1 under state law should be prohibited by the City of Salem.
I came home from the August 31 City Council meeting all fired up to cast another Truth Bomb. Truth is too important to be trashed by a couple of city councilors.
I'd told them why they wrong to speak the way they did at the meeting. But I wanted this confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt. Hey, I always leave open the possibility that I could be wrong. So I wanted to be sure that I wasn't.
That made me dash off a blog post, "The Salem City Council accuses me of misinformation -- I call them out on this." Excerpt:
It irritates me when City of Salem staff accuse me of firing people up with misinformation. Whenever this happens, I ask them "So, show me what I got wrong." So far they haven't been able to do this. I'm pretty damn confident they won't be able to do it this time.
Tonight, Councilor Brad Nanke went on a mini-rant about how I'd gotten things all wrong, because it was so obvious in the marijuana staff report that the City Council was planning to approve early sales. This isn't true.
I confirmed that I was right through three emails that I sent to the Mayor, city councilors, and top City staff.
Last night, at another council meeting where the early sales issue was on the agenda, I enjoyed spending my three minutes of testifying time telling city officials that, yes indeed, I was right and Councilors Nanke and Lewis were wrong.
You can read what I said below.
When it came time to vote on an ordinance allowing early sales of recreational marijuana, there were six in favor and three opposed. Mayor Anna Peterson plus Councilors Daniel Benjamin and Brad Nanke were opposed.
The same Brad Nanke who, just two weeks before, had castigated me for publicizing through social media the fact that the City Council was considering a ban on early marijuana sales. He and Lewis strongly implied, if not outright said, that my blog posts and Strange Up Salem postings were much ado about nothing, since there was no doubt that early sales would be approved.
Well, the first vote on this issue two weeks ago was 8-1. Last night the vote in favor was 6-3, with Nanke and Benjamin changing to the "no" side. There will be a second reading of the ordinance to allow early sales on September 28.
Hopefully support for this won't further slip.
Regardless, I was pleased to tell the Mayor and City Council that I and others were entirely justified in alerting the citizenry to the upcoming vote on whether early sales should be prohibited, especially since the City of Salem didn't do anything to let people know about it except through a brief obscure mention on the meeting agenda that takes work to find on the City's web site.
Geez, City officials didn't even let the Salem Cannabis Industry Association, which represents the medical marijuana dispensaries where early sales would take place, know about the agenda item. (I confirmed this by asking the association president.)
Here's the Truth Bomb that I exploded last night at the council meeting.
Hello, my name is Brian Hines, 10371 Lake Drive, Salem.
I was disturbed when I left the first council meeting two weeks ago dealing with the subject of early marijuana sales.
After testifying about this, outside the council chambers I talked with some young people who also were concerned about the agenda item — which included this question from City staff:
Should City Council prohibit “early sales” of recreational marijuana from Salem area medical marijuana facilities that may begin October 1, 2015?
It bothered me to hear these young people say things such as “I can’t believe how disrespectfully you and others were treated by the council” and “This is the first council meeting I’ve been to, but I’m not ever coming to another one.”
I told them they shouldn’t judge all of City government by how a few councilors acted at the meeting. I also said it was great that they came out to exercise their democratic right to express their views on a subject they felt strongly about.
To confirm that I and others were indeed entirely justified in urging people to weigh in on the question of whether early sales should be prohibited, I sent three detailed email messages to the Mayor, city councilors, and top city staff.
I asked city officials four questions, sharing evidence and arguments supporting what I said in my previous testimony. I asked these officials to let me know if anyone disagreed with my interpretations and conclusions. Nobody did.
This is like saying to a group, “Does anybody disagree with what I’ve said?” Here silence is wordless speech that says “No, you’re correct.”
Which I’m pleased to know. Not just because I enjoy being proven right — also because the facts I’m about to share will reassure anyone who came away from the last council meeting wondering if they were justified in speaking their mind about an agenda item.
Contrary to what Councilors Nanke and Lewis strongly implied, if not outright claimed, these are the undisputed facts.
The council was indeed asked to decide whether early sales of recreational marijuana should be prohibited. This is what the staff report said, as did my blog and stories in the Statesman Journal and KGW TV.
Citizens were indeed entirely justified in contacting councilors and coming to testify about whether they felt early sales should be prohibited.
Importantly, no one knew ahead of time whether the council would vote to prohibit early sales. I explicitly asked City Manager Duncan this question:
Do you or any other city officials (elected or appointed) know the outcome of council votes with certainty prior to the vote occurring in public at a council meeting?
“I do know that every effort is made to comply with Oregon’s public meeting laws and no final decisions are made prior to the public meeting.”
So while some city councilors gave the impression at the previous meeting that citizen participation in the question of prohibiting early sales was much ado about nothing, this is completely wrong.
Like I said then, This is the way things should be. Citizens speaking their minds to city officials about undecided issues they care about. Keep it up, people of Salem.
Proposed changes to the city tree ordinance will prevent more beautiful healthy street trees from being cut down for no good reason like the US Bank trees were. Follow my blog, hinesblog.com, and Strange Up Salem Facebook page to learn how to weigh in on this before the next council meeting.
Here's the great video Salem Community Vision made of clips from the August 31 meeting. Watching it will help you understand why I and many others were so upset by the way citizens were treated at the meeting.