Benicia City Council to consider re-writing cannabis rules on May 7

By Steve Young, Benicia City Council member
Steve Young, Benicia CA

On May 7, the City Council will consider a proposal by Councilman Largaespada to expand the buffer zones around cannabis dispensaries. The proposed changes would, if adopted, add buffer zones around any day care center (or places where kids congregate), park, or any residential zone.  If adopted by the Council, the practical effect would be to eliminate virtually all retail locations in the City.

Cannabis issues have been on the ballot twice recently. In 2016, Benicians voted 63% in favor of Prop. 64 which legalized personal use of cannabis by adults. In 2018, Benicians voted 68% in favor of letting the Council impose excise taxes on cannabis businesses (which we did last December). The current rules, adopted by the previous Council after more than 18 hearings and dozens of hours of testimony, limited cannabis dispensaries to just a few commercial areas in the City. The Council eliminated First Street and all of downtown, as well as all of the Southhampton shopping center. We also limited the number of dispensaries to just two.

When we finally opened up the application process last fall, we had 9 applicants for these two possible permits. Applicants were required to pay the City $20,000 each for processing their application, including for a Public Safety License to be issued by the Police Department after significant vetting of the applicants. In addition, the applicants were required to show some form of site control. This required them to rent or lease, or obtain an option to lease,  commercial space at significant costs while waiting for the City to finally recommend which applicants were recommended to move forward to the Planning Commission to apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). (Some applicants have reported absorbing over $100,000 in costs each.)

In my opinion, regardless of how you feel about cannabis, it is fundamentally unfair to treat these businesses in this manner.  They have followed all the rules set forth by the City in August,  paid substantial fees to the City and even more to rent vacant space, and have waited over 9 months for the City to act on their applications.  It is simply not fair or equitable, at this late date,  to have the City change the rules in the middle of the game.

If you are interested in this topic, please attend the Council meeting on May 7 or let the Council know about your opinions.

Huge spike in young voters in 2018 could be bad news for Trump in 2020

From The San Francisco Chronicle, submitted by Jack Kolk

By John Wildermuth, April 30, 2019
Elizabeth Conley / Houston Chronicle

Young voters turned out in huge numbers for the 2018 midterm elections, which could be bad news for President Trump and GOP hopefuls next year.

According to a new report from the Census Bureau, 36% of 18- to 29-year-olds turned in ballots in November, a 79 percent jump from the 2014 midterms.

A similar spike appeared in California among the youngest eligible voters, where turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds soared from 8% in 2014 to 27% last year, according to a study by the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of Southern California.

That trend is likely to continue into the 2020 election, and young people are the most reliably progressive voting bloc, said Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc., which provides voter information to campaigns and other groups.

The 65% overall turnout in 2018 is likely to jump to 80% in November 2020, “and that new 15 percent isn’t going to be older, whiter and more conservative voters,” Mitchell said. “About 80% of the new voters are going to be younger and more progressive.”

Those are also the voters who dislike Trump the most. A March poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that 75% of adults ages 18 to 34 disapproved of the job Trump was doing, compared with 67% of all the state’s adults.

The new voting numbers are a glimpse into a bleak political future for Republicans, at least in the short term.

“There was a blue wave in 2018, and the numbers suggest it might not have reached its peak,” Mitchell said.

Democratic turnout across the country was way up in 2018, which is one of the main reasons the party flipped 40 Republican-held seats in the House, including seven in California. New state voting and registration rules have become even more friendly to young California voters, Mitchell said.

A youth dance group performs during a Democratic Party election-night watch party in Beaumont, Texas, in November. Photo: Kim Brent / Beaumont Enterprise

Not only are more people being automatically registered via the “motor voter” program at Department of Motor Vehicle offices, but their registrations also are automatically updated when they file change-of-address notices.

“This has been most beneficial to the people who move a lot,” and in California, those are most likely to be young people, Mitchell said. Now, instead of falling off the voter rolls whenever they change addresses, those young voters stay registered.

The USC study found that 62% of citizens ages 18 to 24 were registered to vote in 2018, compared with 52% in 2014.

Voter turnout in 2018 also rose in ethnic communities, both nationwide and in California. In the state, four times as many Latinos ages 18 to 34 cast ballots in 2018 as they had four years earlier. And the growing number of young Asian American voters tend to be far more liberal than their GOP-leaning parents and grandparents, Mitchell said.

Combine those 2018 turnout numbers with the boost Democrats typically get in a presidential election that attracts plenty of occasional voters, and 2020 looks like a hard climb for the GOP in California, especially with Trump on the top of the ballot, Mitchell added.

But better times could be ahead for the state’s Republicans.

“You can assume that the increased turnout will carry forward to 2020,” Mitchell said. “But if there’s a Democrat in the White House, turnout numbers might fall off the cliff in 2022.”

The 2022 midterm election also will be the first with California’s congressional and legislative seats redrawn after the 2020 census, and no one knows what effect that might have on the state’s political landscape.

“With reapportionment and a possible Democratic president, 2022 could present an opportunity for Republicans,” Mitchell said.

Meeting of April 18 – Celebrating 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

March 25, 2019

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day!
Thursday, April 18, 7pm, Benicia Library

Click image to download poster

Earth Day’s 50th anniversary was this year.  At our April meeting we celebrated!!!

The first Earth Day in 1970 enlisted 20 million Americans and is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Sen. Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment”; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land, and April 22 was selected as the date.

On April 18th our program highlighted 350 Bay Area and its Electrify Everything in 2019 program, explaining all the new options for electric alternatives – for cars, air heating and cooling, water heating, and cooking.

What can I do to help avoid climate chaos? – this discussion offered some answers, providing everyday people – just like us – what we can do in our daily lives to move off fossil fuels. Living in California means there is already legislation that makes it easier to accomplish these goals. 350 Bay Area led a discussion of the areas where our choices really can make a difference, including support for AB40.

In addition to the Electrify Everything discussion, Kathy Kerridge, (a PDBer), and David Lindsay of Benicia’s Community Sustainability Commission discussed the commission and it’s current programs.

We began by honoring the hard work and the tremendous accomplishments of the Good Neighbor Steering Committee which recently secured an additional settlement with Valero that brought more money for air monitoring, water conservation and Sustainable Solano.

PDB members are working with 350 Bay Area’s legislative action committee tracking bills to support or oppose those that impact CA’s present renewable energy goals and climate change trends.

Download the AGENDA here.