March 18, 2018
District 3 Supervisor
District 5 Supervisor
March 18, 2018
District 3 Supervisor
District 5 Supervisor
(update: first weeks’ results are in — see bottom of story)
Computers beat humans in chess. Computers are composing music — still pretty bad, but you get the idea. Everywhere you turn, Artificial Intelligence is in the news.
Free Tri-Tip Dinner says enough already. Let’s try an experiment in Human Intelligence.
Because here comes another absolutely critical, at-the-cross-roads, nothing-will-ever-be-the same election in Calaveras County, and between now and the 2018 Primary ‘Election day’ (a misnomer, since well over half the votes will be cast by then) there are twelve long weeks. And unlike the big-time State and Federal elections, we Calaveras citizens have no horse-race data – no polls, no nothing, suggesting who is winning or losing, fading or falling back, snatching victory (or defeat) from the deadly, razor-sharp jaws of Calaveras politics.
Enter the Skull Survey.
We here at Free Tri-Tip Dinner can’t afford any fancy public opinion polls with highly sophisticated “weighted’ results that everybody hates anyway.
So, instead, we’ve decided to ‘test’ whether Human Intelligence can make up for large sample sizes. The Skull Survey is an average estimate of the current potential share of the vote of the candidates for Sheriff and Supervisor by a panel of individuals who wish to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons.
All are veteran observers in Calaveras politics. Some are current and former elected officials; some have worked on campaigns in the past, but none are working on campaigns this year. They have been asked to participate based on their experience in local politics, and a demonstrated willingness to try and see things as they are, and not as they may wish them to be. Of course, bias is unavoidable – but the experiment is to see whether the panel, collectively over time, will arrive at accurate estimates of the actual vote.
So, obviously, no claims of accuracy, or even ‘scientific rigor’ are claimed — at least not yet. Candidates are advised not to rely on what the Skull Survey may suggest – if it indicates you are winning you should probably not stop campaigning and go home, and vice-versa.
The Skull Survey will be published on Sunday mornings, first on the Free Tri-Tip Dinner’s Facebook page and soon thereafter on FreeTriTipDinner.com.
PS – we have learned that some candidates for local office are appearing on ads on our Facebook page. We have not authorized any ads on that page nor do we receive any revenue from any advertising on our page … we should be so lucky.
Skull Survey — March 11, 2018
District 3 Supervisor
District 5 Supervisor
By Ward La Valley
At its Feb. 12 meeting the Calaveras Board of Supervisors, citing concerns over litigation, declined to put measures on the June ballot that would have given voters a chance to weigh in, again, on the issue of Regulating, or Banning, commercial marijuana activities.
Instead, it allowed to let stand the Ban Ordinance it passed two weeks earlier. Upon taking effect March 9, the Ordinance effectively shuts down non-medical legal commercial marijuana growing in Calaveras County. It also shuts down the revenue stream generated previously under Measure C, the marijuana tax initiative passed by voters in 2016.
As a result, crucial variables in weighing the election prospects of the various candidates for public office have evolved significantly. Instead of Regulations being in place, or ballot measures on the ballot, the existing Ban must now be evaluated for its possible effects on the election.
The essence of the question lies in determining the effects of the Ban on the level of effort that can be expected from both sides of the Commercial Marijuana issue.
What is a Special Interest?
To some, a Special Interest is any group or organization whose goals they don’t agree with.
But a Special Interest is specifically any single group or collection of groups, businesses, or committees who have organized for a specific purpose. For some, to be a Special Interest, the goals of the Special Interest must be private, that is the goals are to influence public policy to benefit the groups involved. However, nearly all Special Interests, as part of their narrative, claim that their private interests also serve the public’s interests – that society also benefits when they benefit.
Calaveras County Politics and Special Interests
Like nearly everywhere, Calaveras County politics has been heavily influenced, if not dominated, by Special Interests. In living memory, the dominant Special Interest has been the Builder / Banker / Realtor alliance, which we’ll call the Real Estate Complex. The Real Estate Complex has been markedly successful in bending Calaveras land use policy to its will (see “In the Interests of Full Disclosure” Calaveras Enterprise, Feb 10, 2012)
After a run of nearly 30 years, only the truly wretched excesses of residential building in the early 21st Century, and the resulting Great Recession, finally stopped the heavy flow of resources from the Real Estate Complex to Calaveras candidates willing to take them.
Today, however, a new Special Interest has grown in Calaveras politics. It is the Commercial Marijuana Special Interest, and it is just like any other Special Interest, except it’s completely different.
Previous Special Interests in Calaveras politics, like the Real Estate Complex, were driven by a desire for increased business revenues. While many in the Complex were dedicated to pursuing the group’s goals, it cannot be said that the Real Estate Complex produces anything like the energy and passion that drives the Commercial Marijuana Special Interest.
This is because the Commercial Marijuana Special Interest (CMSI) is more than just an alliance of related businesses. For many, the issue of Commercial Marijuana becomes conflated with the very idea of Marijuana, and for some Marijuana is a cause, not a business. Indeed, as we have seen, for some Marijuana is a religion.
Intuition and experience suggest that the CMSI may not be as cohesive, organized, and disciplined as are some Special Interests, e.g. the National Rifle Association, so it is virtually impossible to really know how the Ban will ultimately influence their effort in the election, no matter what some may say. Some may now pack up and leave for Nevada. Some may choose to invest in a law suit. And some proportion, probably those that have longer, stronger roots in the County, may opt to stay and fight the issue out at the ballot box.
And, as passionate as the CMSI may sometimes become, Ban supporters, while having no direct monetary interest and thus possessing drastically reduced financial resources, can be equally passionate. What change will the Ban produce in their level of commitment at the ballot box this year?
The New Calaveras County Political Environment
We come now to the crux of the matter: the expected environment having migrated from Regulations, to a Ballot Box Battle, and now to a Ban, how has the political chessboard changed?
Under the “Regulations as Law” scenario, the total financial and ‘energy’ investment by the CMSI might have been expected to be, call it X, with all of the resources going to CMSI friendly candidates. Under the “Ballot Box Battle” scenario, the investment could be expected to have been 3X, 4X, or even higher, with huge resources going towards the ballot measures. But what might their political investment be under the Ban? More than X, certainly, but will it be less, or perhaps even more, than the sky-is-the-limit level of campaign resources we could have expected with ballot measures?
Conversely, the same questions may be asked about those supporting the Ban. Candidates counting on a “Regulation Backlash” in the election may now have to broaden their narratives.
There is one more variable. As evidence of the passions generated by Commercial Marijuana on both sides, there is currently an effort to recall every Supervisor not on the ballot this June.
One recall effort is directed at District Two Supervisor Jack Garamendi, son of the former Lt. Governor of California. Jack is a supporter of Regulations; hence the recall is being conducted by opponents of Regulations. His district is evenly divided on this issue, and on paper this recall effort has the steepest mountain to climb.
The other two recall efforts, against 1st District Supervisor Gary Tofenelli and 3rd District Supervisor Dennis Mills, both of whom voted for the Ban, have the advantage of appealing to an aroused and already-semi-organized CMSI. It doesn’t take a math whiz to see that if the CMSI can flip just one District – either Districts One or Four (by forcing a recall election), or District 5 (regularly scheduled election), another run at Regulations could have better success for the 2019 growing season.
The fact is, however, that organizing and conducting a successful recall campaign is not easy, and the chances of any of the three efforts succeeding are no better than 50-50.
Lane Changes: Winners and Losers
As discussed earlier, if the Commercial Marijuana issue had itself been on the ballot, candidates for Sheriff and Supervisor would have found themselves running in one of three lanes. Then, Lane One was the Opposition to Commercial Marijuana lane, Lane Two was the grudging, pragmatic acceptance of Regulations lane, and Lane Three was the Warm, Open Embrace of Regulations.
Lane 1: With no ballot measures and a Ban in effect, Lane One can now expect less enthusiasm and resources from supporters of the Ban. Nothing deflates political relevance, urgency, and energy like success. Lane One candidates must now confront a real budget issue, not just the theoretical one they would have faced under a Regulations scenario.
Lane 2: Lane Two shouldn’t see much change in available enthusiasm or resources, and now has more room to maneuver. If the County is heading for lawlessness and bankruptcy during the campaign, Lane Two may suggest another look at Regulations after thorough study, etc. Otherwise Lane Two can simply talk about other things. Lane Two is now wider and can accommodate a broader narrative.
Lane 3: For the same reasons that Lane One suffers politically from the Ban, Lane Three may benefit. With no Marijuana-related ballot measures on the ballot, whatever level of CMSI resources that will be forthcoming will now go to Lane 3 (or maybe Lane 2) candidates for Sheriff and Supervisor. If, however, CMSI resources are not forthcoming for a Lane 3 candidate, look for them to try and occupy Lane Two.
As can be seen, the Ban has the potential to reduce the degree to which the Marijuana issue is emphasized, at least in some races. The Sheriff’s race is a different beast than any Supervisor’s race, and the differences between campaigning in District Three versus District Five are significant.
Early indications are that the Ban has served to place more emphasis on the County Budget, and candidates are finding themselves needing to sound informed on fiscal issues. Even Lane 3 candidates might now need to be able to discuss One-Time-Funding sources, Teeter Funds, Department Carry-overs, un-filled staff positions, PERS contributions, and pension shortfalls.
So now, we wait. We wait to make sure we know who will be on the ballot, as until March 9 (and maybe longer regarding the Recalls) it is still possible for someone to march into the Office of the County Clerk, produce a handful of valid signatures and a hefty check, and throw their proverbial hat into a ring. These candidacies are usually not designed to actually win; their purpose is to reduce the vote of another candidate. This is not unprecedented.
And this year, I’m take nothing for granted!
UPDATE: Feb. 14, 2018 — The Union Democrat is reporting that the Calaveas Board of Supervisors, citing concerns about possible litigation, has declined to put any measures regarding Commercial Marijuana on the June ballot.
This changes the racetrack. As indicated in the article below, the Supervisor’s latest decision has again changed the prospects for all the candidates. We will be updating the Election Update, so check back soon.
Feb. 9, 2018
With the possible placement by the Board of Supervisors of ballot measures relating to Regulating or Banning commercial marijuana for the June election, a real wrench was thrown into previous analysis of the possible election match-ups….
In fact, the elections for Supervisor and Sheriff have essentially turned into a NASCAR auto race at Pocono Raceway. Pocono is a triangular track famous for being fast and tricky with three separate ‘lanes,’ or routes around the track, that depending on your car, can all get you across the finish line first.
So, if you want to be a Supervisor or the Sheriff, you must pick a lane to run in. But unlike NASCAR, in politics changing lanes in the middle of the race is usually fatal.
Lane 1 is the inside lane. It is the Ban Commercial Marijuana Lane. It’s the shortest distance to victory but has the sharpest curves and you have to guard against spinning out. Winning from Lane 1 requires maneuverability. It’s likely to come in at least second.
Lane 2 is the middle lane. It is the grudging, pragmatic Regulation of Commercial Marijuana Lane. It is the promise of a happy medium between Lane 1 and Lane 3. It requires a blend of horsepower and maneuverability. The danger is getting squeezed in by those running in Lanes 1 and 3. In Lane 2 you have to work hard to come in at least second, but if successful, you’re the favorite to win the Main Event – the General Election.
Lane 3 is the outside lane. It is the enthusiastic, friendly embrace of Commercial Marijuana Regulations Lane. It is the longest distance to victory, but you don’t have to turn the wheel as much and you can stay on the gas more than in Lanes 1 and 2. This means you need horsepower to win from Lane 3. The thing to watch out for in Lane 3 is running into the wall. Lane 3 has a 50-50 chance to finish at least second but would be an underdog in the Main Event General Election. Click for Complete Article
February 1, 2018 (edited Feb. 3, 2018 for clarity)
In just a few short months, voting will begin in the 2018 Primary Election, and this is the year pretty much every Calaveras County-wide office is up for election, along with (so far) two Supervisorial districts and a slew of seats on a slew of special district boards.
It was going to be an interesting and, for the candidates, difficult year in Calaveras politics anyway, but then a funny thing happened on the way to County regulation of the commercial marijuana industry.
In what cannot possibly have been a pre-meditated result by any of the Supervisors, after a raucous two-day meeting, the County of Calaveras has now banned commercial marijuana within its jurisdiction.
This is no small thing since, even if you are dead-set against large, polluting special interests and /or believe that marijuana is wholly evil, the Calaveras County Auditor on September 28, 2017 informed the public that the County’s 2017/18 budget was “built on the back” of the taxes and fees generated by commercial marijuana. Presumably we are left to believe that without those funds the budget has no back upon which it can rest.
So, if you are like most Calaveras citizens and taxpayers, you are probably either happy or sad about the surprising turn of events, but also filled with confusion and worry.
But wait, there’s more … worried that their unexpected decision to ban commercial marijuana might leave them a little too responsible for the results of that action, Supervisors have decided to try and put the whole thing on the ballot. What exactly will be offered to the voters to decide, if anything, is still up in the air. Prospects for either a Ban or Regulations to receive a positive vote rest very much in the details of either or both measures.
But How Did We Even Get Here?
It is an unfolding story in Calaveras County, one that has transformed the economy and politics of Calaveras County in a really short period of time.
Ostensibly, we hear, the Butte Fire of September 2015 resulted in so much of the County’s rural real estate going up for sale that many commercial marijuana growers got the idea to move in to take advantage of depressed land prices. The rapid growth of the industry created dislocations in local economies – producing some new winners, but also many losers, and it was the losers that usually had lived in the County long before the winners, and their plight moved many to urge the County Supervisors to “do something.”
County government’s quick response was the Urgency Ordinance, passed by the Board of Supervisors in May 2016, which, to address the on-going ‘emergency’ and in anticipation of the passage of State-wide legalization later that year, sought to control the problem through regulation.
Soon thereafter, both sides of the debate sought to put initiatives on the ballot for the coming General Election, but only the commercial marijuana industry was successful, putting measures C (commercial marijuana taxes and fees) & D (regulations) before the voters.
And so it was that at the same time as the voters of the State of California were passing legal marijuana in November 2016, Calaveras County voted down the regulations allowing legal commercial marijuana – but voted in the taxes.
In 2017, it seemed that the only thing anybody was talking about was marijuana. Newspapers seemed filled with alarming news of what felt like a surge of various illegal activities, including human trafficking, violent confrontations, and shocking environmental damage.
Meanwhile, the Urgency Ordinance, which has a limited legal shelf life, continued to be the regulatory framework regarding marijuana in the County. Another attempt to put a Ban on the ballot in 2017 was botched, and widespread dissatisfaction with the whole situation amped up the pressure on Supervisors to “do something.”
So the Supervisors addressed the problem. At first, with three Supervisors favoring a Ban and two favoring Regulation, the policy studies were directed toward a Ban.
Meanwhile, mostly in cash, the money from Measure C poured legally in, and the County started spending it.
Somewhere, sometime, First District Supervisor Gary Tofanelli, formerly favoring a Ban, changed his mind. At a wonderfully dramatic Board meeting, Tofanelli indicated that as the swing vote he was taking charge and signaled that he might be open to Regulation of Commercial Marijuana (this seemed to visibly shock 3rd District Supervisor Dennis Mills).
Accordingly, the County policy apparatus began swinging in the opposite direction and began studying and drafting Regulations as an alternative to a Ban.
Many surprised political observers softly whistled in respect for what appeared to be Tofanelli’s “Nixon goes to China” moment in Calaveras politics.
Not always celebrated as the most cerebral Supervisor, Tofanelli, not up for re-election until 2020, was given credit for effectively dousing the hopes of former First District Supervisor Cliff Edson, who some think lost his seat to Tofanelli in 2016 due to Edson’s early advocacy of regulating commercial marijuana. By cutting Edson off at the pass on pot, it would have been hard to identify any other potential high-profile opponents to Tofanelli and his re-election chances would have improved dramatically.
But this did not happen.
Passed over for Board Chair at the January 9, 2018 meeting by Tofanelli – again – First District Supervisor Jack Garamendi, a strong supporter of Regulations, apparently miscalculated the extent to which Tofanelli wanted and needed Respect.
Apparently to teach Tofanelli a lesson on politics, at the next day’s Special Meeting to decide on commercial marijuana, Garamendi failed to second Tofanelli’s motion to Regulate on the terms Tofanelli wanted. Third District Supervisor Michael Olivera, who had indicated he was open to Regulation, and is up for re-election this year, remained mute. Thus, for want of a second to the motion, three votes were not enough to Regulate Commercial Marijuana in Calaveras County. It is stunning to think about.
Tofanelli then decided to teach Garamendi a lesson: he called for a motion to Ban Commercial Marijuana, it was moved and seconded by Ban proponents Supervisors Mills and Fifth District Supervisor Clyde Clapp, and Tofanelli voted with them.
To be clear, Gary Tofanelli voted to Ban commercial marijuana after first making a motion to Regulate Commercial Marijuana. Gary Tofanelli was against Commercial Marijuana before he was for it, before he was against it again.
After the vote, Supervisor Garamendi all but admitted his mistake and begged for re-consideration of Regulations saying, “we’re so close.” But in addition to that being administratively impossible, Tofanelli then gave an impassioned statement saying in effect “I’m in charge here, and every time I turn around I’m getting dis-respected by Jack Garamendi, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Where Are We Now?
After the vote, Supervisor Olivera made an impassioned plea to “let the people decide,” and a timetable was worked out to perhaps bring language for ballot measure(s) regarding commercial marijuana to the Supervisors for approval in time for the June election. Significant questions remain:
First, is it redundant to ask the voters to Ban commercial marijuana, since that is now the law of Calaveras County?
Second, can a bitterly divided Board even be able to decide on specific language in time to meet the deadlines? All Ban proponents need do is throw enough sand in the gears to cause the process to slow down, as there is no extra time for Supervisors to act – any delay could mean missing the window for the June election.
Finally, can a ballot measure Regulating Commercial Marijuana realistically hope to win in 2018 after being defeated in 2016? Has enough changed to cause enough voters to change their minds to Regulate or has public opinion even gone more in favor of a Ban?
We’ll take a look at these last questions, after we get answers to the first two, with our next article on Potilics later this month. See you then!