It's still a long way off, but city politicians and political junkies are already thinking about the next mayoral campaign in 2007. From the San Francisco Sentinel:
The Sentinel asked whom Mirkarimi considers credible challengers to Newsom. "I haven't given it any thought (laughter). You know, I'm not even thinking about that. And I'm sure they're not either." (laughter)
Last Thursday night at the HANC (Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council) meeting, Supervisor Mirkarimi scored some early points in that hypothetical campaign. After years of what he called "complacency" by city government, Supervisor Mirkarimi is taking the lead in formulating city regulations to govern SF's many marijuana clubs. (Supervisor Daly, on the other hand, seems more interested in creating obstacles to regulation, while Mayor Newsom showed little interest in the issue until a marijuana club tried to locate in a building housing some Care Not Cash clients.)
Mirkarimi is putting in long hours as supervisor, evidently attending one meeting after another well into the night. During his introduction, it was noted that the HANC meeting---which started at 7:00 p.m.---was only the third of six events he was scheduled to attend that night. Speaking as part of a forum that included two patients, a worker from a club, and a member of a neighborhood group opposing a club in the Mission, Mirkarimi told the gathering that he's been interested in the marijuana issue for a long time, dating back to the Terry Hallinan's 1995 campaign for District Attorney, when one of the campaign planks called for outright legalization.
Responding to what he called "a groundswell of concern" in the city's neighborhoods, Mirkarimi has taken the lead on an issue that, as he pointed out, no one else on the board was willing to take on. And he has done so to defend the idea of medical marijuana and to create a "patient-centered" system that will be a "best practice" model for the whole state, while, at the same time, not giving the Feds an excuse to intervene. Mirkarimi also took the lead on imposing the present moratorium---there were 12 more clubs poised to open before the moratorium---on new clubs in the city while the regs are formulated. The idea, according to the D5 Supervisor, is to set a "high bar" for new clubs with regulations that the Planning Dept. and the Dept. of Public Health will enforce.
The proposed regulations include banning clubs near schools, playgrounds, and recreation centers; "empowering" neighborhoods by notifying residents and merchants before a new club opens; and requiring either a conditional use permit or mandatory discretionary review for new clubs, along with an appeals process. The Murk is looking for a balance between conservatives who want the clubs closed down and those on the fringe left who oppose any regulation. Once that balance is achieved, Mirkarimi figures the city will have regulations that won't completely please anyone, which probably means it will be a good law.
Responding to concerns about armed robberies at some of the clubs, Mirkarimi noted that his proposal includes mandatory background checks and security systems for the clubs. Presently the SFPD has been giving the clubs a wide berth, because they've been receiving mixed messages from the city. Sensible regulations will, as the Murk pointed out, bring the clubs---or "dispensaries," as he calls them---out of the legal shadows. He claimed that the worst thing the city has done to both the medical marijuana movement and the city's neighborhoods is to allow the clubs to operate thus far with no regulation.
Interestingly, Mirkarimi said that there have always been enough votes on the Board of Supervisors to pass controls on the clubs but that "nimbyism" among the supervisors---most districts have few, if any, clubs---made proposed zoning regulations a sensitive subject for supervisors who are, after all, elected from districts. Mirkarimi said his proposals may come back to the board soon for a vote, but the status of the CEQA suit initiated by Bill Barnes is unclear at this point.
All in all, it was a credible performance by Supervisor Mirkarimi, who has had a tendency in his first year in office to enlist in half-assed and misguided "progressive" projects, like the anti-widening of MLK Blvd. campaign, the emerging traffic/planning fiasco in the Market/Octavia neighborhood, and making the Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan with no environmental study and little debate. But Mayor Newsom is also running with the progressive lemmings on these issues. And both Mirkarimi and Newsom support the construction of 3000 luxury condos in the Rincon Hill area. By taking the lead on regulating the city's pot clubs, Mirkarimi can at least begin the process of defusing the left's main area of political vulnerability in San Francisco, which is on quality of life issues---homelessness and squalor on the streets, graffiti/tagging, Critical Mass, and, until now, the marijuana "dispensaries."
Labels: District 5, Pot Clubs, Ross Mirkarimi