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ETHICS ADVISOR - SEPTEMBER 2017

From the Editor

Sanctuary – An Issue That’s Not Going Away

By Victor Abalos

As if there isn’t enough a local policymaker has to manage – now add federal immigration policy.

While city councils or school districts and college trustees do not have jurisdiction to create immigration policy, nevertheless they have been thrust into the front lines of an increasingly rancorous debate.

And while Congress, which does have this responsibility, seems to be avoiding immigration reform, a bill that would extend “sanctuary city” protections for immigrants is moving through the CA Legislature.

This month we’re focusing exclusively on this issue – hopefully providing local policymakers with some policy and legal insight. It appears that many local jurisdictions believe they don’t have a choice but to take action. And this month, we are asking for your opinion through Survey Monkey. The questionnaire only take a couple of minutes and your anonymous responses could be very helpful to your colleagues.

The anxiety level in many communities and school districts is high. Students are afraid their parents might get deported so school boards are scrambling to respond. In the Southeast Cities, a group of activists armed with anti-immigrant rhetoric, have been disrupting city council meetings. Some of them are just armed.

Writer/Reporter Abelardo de la Peña has been working on a story for several months. And our Ethics Advisor, Ruben Duran, approaches the issue from a legal perspective. We are also featuring an Opinion Video Blog from Cudahy Council Member Cristian Markovich, who, along with his colleagues, has been dealing with the fallout of their sanctuary status for more than a year.

The state’s sanctuary bill may not make it through the legislature but the number of cities and education boards passing their own versions of it is increasing setting up what is sure to be a showdown between the locals and federal government.

 

Victor Abalos is Executive Director of the Southern California Latino Policy Center and Editor of the Latino Policy Connection.
victor@socalatinos.org
@SOCALatinos

Cities and Schools as Sanctuaries

By Abelardo de la Peña, Jr.

Since the presidential election, immigration policy has once again become the focus of volatile debate. One side of that policy equation continues to raise the stakes with increasingly inflammatory rhetoric, while the other side desperately tries to hold only hard-won gains, only dimming the chance of comprehensive immigration reform any time soon.

News of ICE raids and the harsh language from the White House defending this tactic has also heightened the anxiety in immigrant communities across the country, particularly in this region.

Increasingly cities and other local jurisdictions have responded by embracing “sanctuary,” a once dubious policy strategy that has not only gained traction but may also offer some respite to immigrant communities. This strategy is also setting up the inevitable showdown between locals and the federal government that could very well end up in the Supreme Court.

By common definition, a sanctuary city (ciudad santuario) is a municipality that limits cooperation with to enforce certain immigration laws. The aim is to reduce the fear of deportation and family break-up and encourage people to be more willing to report crime, use healthcare and social services, and enroll their children in school.

During the campaign, President Trump railed against sanctuary cities, promising to end them by blocking their federal funding. In his first month as president, he signed an executive order directing the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General to defund sanctuary jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration law.

Recently, Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan slammed sanctuary cities, telling Fox News, “I’ve been doing this job almost 34 years and sanctuary cities, in my opinion, are un-American.”

Municipal policies adopted by sanctuary cities include prohibiting police or city employees from questioning people about their immigration status and refusing requests by federal immigration authorities to detain people jailed for breaking local laws beyond their release date.

In California, according to the National Immigration Law Center, about a dozen cities have some formal sanctuary policy, and none of the 58 California Counties complies with detainer requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A month before the President was inaugurated, the City Council of Santa Ana unanimously established itself as a “sanctuary city.” The city council also recently directed staff to set aside $65,000 of taxpayer money to create a fund to hire lawyers for undocumented immigrants who face deportation.

The city’s Mayor Pro-Tem Michele Martinez declared the city’s commitment not only protect but to create a sustainable, long-term resource for immigrant communities. “We must not simply support a sanctuary resolution for symbolic purposes and have no impact, stated Martinez. “We must be bold and take it a step forward and push for sound polices that will support our communities during these uncertain times.”

In 2015 Cudahy declared itself a sanctuary city to encourage immigrants without legal status to cooperate with police. LA County’s second smallest city, Cudahy is one of the most densely populated, where some 24,000 people – 96% Latinos – live in tiny apartments, trailer parks and small single-family homes in a 1.2-square-mile area. Since then, the city has not only been targeted by the federal government, but by people who live outside the city who regularly disrupt city council meetings.

Cristian Markovich, who has served in Cudahy’s city council since 2013 and voted in favor of the ordinance, continues not only to stand by the city’s decision but is adamant about standing up to sanctuary city opponents, including the federal government.

“As far as federal government is concerned, for Republicans, whose stance has been historically to allow for state and individual rights, telling them how to govern, is ironic,” said Markovich. “I’ve said in past, those tax dollars are rightfully ours, Cudahy pays taxes, residents pay taxes, we are using them in tangible projects. Why would they want to strip them from us?”

Of comfort to Markovich and other city leaders is the support given to them by other elected officials who represent Cuday. “We’ve had great leadership, from people like State Senator Ricardo Lara, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, and Congressmember Lucille Roybal-Allard. They are not willing to let us fight this alone.”

In May 2017, the Pasadena City Council unanimously passed an official resolution which declared that the city “will not enforce federal immigration laws and the city manager will ensure that all city policies are consistent with this declaration.”

Though the resolution did not use the term “sanctuary city,” the city council assured the packed chamber that the resolution was a gesture of good faith. “It’s important for the council to make its voice known,” stated Councilmember Victor Gordo to the Pasadena Star News. “The Council has taken a clear position on this issue.”

Phillip C. Castruita and his organization, Foundation for Economic and Social Justice, participated in Pasadena’s efforts to become a sanctuary city. Called in initially to provide guidance for setting up defense committees to protect the rights of immigrants, the group’s efforts and experiences has led to the development of informal guidelines to help other cities to understand sanctuary cities and how to make it work in their communities.

“It’s crucial for local politicians to understand what the community wants. We started by meeting with day laborers, who were most impacted by the crackdown by ICE and others,” says the organization’s director / secretary. “The next step is to work with organizations that are already at the forefront of working with effected communities, like the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), the Central American Resource Center (CARACEN) and Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA).

Constituents identified by the organizations packed meetings in February 2017, when ICE began workplace raids in the area. Castruita and his group planned marches and they identified other elected officials who were friendly to the cause. When the question was called in Pasadena, more than 300 proponents filled city hall, which served to give voice to their support for the sanctuary city measure, but also to dampen opposition.

The Foundation has since been assisting officials in the city of Los Angeles and South Pasadena move forward on sanctuary city policies and is set to move beyond, to South and Southeast Los Angeles.

Castruita’s advise to elected officials committed to protecting the immigrant constituents? “Don’t underestimate the power of the community. Outreach is important, from the start. You can’t leave the people affected by immigration policies out of the plan. The hard part is to get beyond fear.”

And while support from Congressional representatives can give the effort legitimacy, it’s not as important as having a community base of support. “In an issue as complex and controversial as sanctuary cities, nobody knows the needs of your constituents better than you.”

Abelardo de la Peña, Jr. documents, analyzes and provides insights on U.S. Latino issues and culture.

@abelardodlp
abelardodlp@gmail.com

Ethics Advisor

By Ruben Duran

¿Qué fue primero, la gallina o el huevo? Which came first? The chicken or the egg – politics or the law?

Religion and comedy aside, I think we can all attest to how the axiom sometimes doesn’t even matter given the reality on the ground.

And the reality on the ground today is that national politics and law have thrust into the national spotlight the undeniable role local governments play in the lives of our people. Whether and how cities choose to react to the immigration debate and the policy pronouncements coming out of Washington, DC is a decision unique to, and uniquely suited for, the men and women elected at the local level to ensure that government serves the needs of the people.

This edition of the Ethics Advisor will give you a brief lowdown on what the law provides with respect to so-called “sanctuary cities,” so that you can make policy decisions more fully informed of the legal landscape, confident that a policy choice can be an ethical choice when it is made in full awareness of what the law requires and allows.

The Basics
The federal government has the exclusive authority to enforce the civil provisions of federal immigration law relating to issues such as admission, exclusion, and deportation. Current law generally allows the federal government to permit, but not require, the assistance of local officials in such efforts.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) includes both civil and criminal provisions. Most people arrested by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) go through civil administrative proceedings to determine whether they should be deported. Violations of the INA that result in deportation are civil in nature and are only enforceable by the federal government.

Sometimes ICE will issue “detainers” to local police requesting that they hold individuals for no more than 48 hours beyond the time when the detainee would otherwise be eligible for release to allow ICE to assume custody. There is no legal requirement that agencies comply with these requests.

Recent Developments
On January 25, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” This order focuses on immigration and is directed at eliminating access to federal funding to “sanctuary jurisdictions.”

Although Federal immigration law provides a framework for Federal–State partnerships in enforcing our immigrations laws to ensure the removal of aliens who have no right to be in the United States, the Federal Government has failed to discharge this basic sovereign responsibility.

In furtherance of this policy the Attorney General and the Secretary [of Homeland Security], in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary. The Secretary has the authority to designate, in his discretion and to the extent consistent with law, a jurisdiction as a sanctuary jurisdiction.

In addition to the requirements under Section 1373, it is unclear how the Secretary of Homeland Security will determine what constitutes a “sanctuary jurisdiction.” Although the order specifically includes jurisdictions that violate Section 1373, it also appears to include jurisdictions that do not comply with detainer requests.

The inclusion of jurisdictions that do not comply with detainer requests creates uncertainty for many local agencies because, under federal case law, local agencies are not required to comply with detainers. Further, holding individuals beyond the time they are eligible for release creates potential civil rights liability.

The term “sanctuary jurisdiction” is not defined in the Executive Order. Although the term “sanctuary city” is not defined by federal or state law, it is often used to refer to jurisdictions that have policies that restrict local enforcement of federal immigration laws and limit the expenditure of local resources in cooperating with ICE’s enforcement efforts.

Some cities, including the City and County of San Francisco and the County of Santa Clara, are challenging the Executive Order as it pertains to local government on Tenth Amendment grounds.  The Tenth Amendment states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

These challenges, and others, remain in progress, and so, the issue remains unresolved. Given the uncertain state of the law, then, cities and other local jurisdictions must weigh their own policy objectives and community values against the risk that the federal government will either seek to cut off funding outright or prevail in the various legal challenges currently pending.

 

Ruben Duran serves as general and special counsel to public agencies throughout Southern California, including cities, special districts, school districts and special-purpose entities in health care, job training and development and air quality management. He is a member of the Cannabis Working Group at Best Best & Krieger, which advises the firm’s clients on all aspects of marijuana laws and regulations.
ruben.duran@bbklaw.com
@BBKRubenDuran
(213) 787-2569

From the Editor

A Summit of (True) Possibilities

PBI Executive Director Dr. Raphael Sonenshein facilitates panel at the Summit.

By Victor Abalos

Last October, in a crowded conference room in Downey, a group of community leaders, policymakers and other interested folks, gathered for free coffee and pastries and a peek at the future – or at least a look into a world of possibilities.

Aptly called the “Summit of Possibilities” – the gathering was organized by the California Community Foundation, CCF, and the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, PBI. The goal was to share the results of an ambitious, and long overdue, survey of a part of Southern California known as the “710 Corridor.”

Parts of it are also known as the Southeast Cities or the Alameda Corridor. It’s gotten considerable attention over the years by various state and regional governing organizations because of its huge transportation significance. What often gets overlooked is the fact the region is home to hundreds of thousands of people – most of them working-class and Latino although there are considerable communities of African-American, Asian and Pacific Islanders.

That’s why CCF and PBI are focusing their attention on this region and why we’re committing the first in a series of articles in this newsletter to this effort. CCF and PBI commissioned Beacon Economics to study the eleven cities and four unincorporated communities in the area and provide an asset-based analysis – a tool they hope community leaders and especially policymakers would use to develop policies to benefit those communities.

Some highlights:

  • The region is 88% Latino
  • And compared to the rest of LA County very, very young – 43% are under the age of 25
  • It contains one of the highest concentrations of immigrants – many undocumented – in the country
  • The median income is about $40K a year compared with almost $60K for the rest of LA County

They make less, drive too far to work every day, live in highly dense areas with higher than average exposure to many environmental hazards and higher than average crime rates.  Sound familiar?

But it wasn’t all bad news. The Survey also identified many opportunities. The region contains a committed workforce eager to embrace cleaner industry. Residents are also eager consumers of many products and services with growing tax sales in the region.

It is a region with many challenges and many opportunities and a place that, quite honestly, cries for leadership.

That’s where you come in as policymakers. This is just a start – the survey doesn’t drill far enough into many areas – but it does provide an important starting point for local policymakers to work in concert to address those many challenges and take advantage of those opportunities.

Writer Nadine Ono provides our first installment.

 


Victor Abalos is Executive Director of the Southern California Latino Policy Center and Editor of the Latino Policy Connection.

victor@socalatinos.org
@SOCALatinos

Searching for Possibilities in the Southeast

By Nadine Ono

Summit of Possibilities – October 27, 2016, Downey.

The 710 Corridor, otherwise known as South East Los Angeles (SELA), is an area of Los Angeles County that represents an opportunity for regional cooperation that could positively impact the lives of its three-quarters of a million residents according to the findings the study, “The Central 710 Corridor: An Asset Based Analysis.”

It was presented at the October 2016 “Summit of Possibilities,” which brought together state and local elected officials from the SELA as well as community leaders to discuss how to use the data to better the lives of its residents.

Eight months have passed since the summit and the release of the report. The landscape remains the same and civic leaders are hopeful that the data will encourage local elected officials to work together to create policies that affect many issues facing the region including access to public transportation, economic development, housing density, environmental concerns among others.

CCF Public Policy VP Efrain Escobedo (left), with Dr. Juan Benitez on his left, posing with other Summit panelists including Speaker Anthony Redon (center).

“We believe that the region has a lot of assets and opportunities and so much of the focus and so much of whatever the data has been available has been from a deficit perspective and our intent with this study is to change the conversation and pivot the perspective,” said Efrain Escobedo, California Community Foundation’s vice president of Civic Engagement and Public Policy.

The report and summit were produced through a partnership between the California Community Foundation and the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs.

South Gate City Council Member Alphonso Rios agreed, “There are efforts to mitigate some of the history and change the narrative for those communities in the region.”

Dr. Juan Benitez, executive director of the Center for Community Engagement at California State University-Long Beach said it will take work and cooperation from local leaders.

“The expectation can’t be that elected officials inherently will be working together. There needs to be some effort placed in that as well, because you have different coverage geographically and politically for the area being represented.”

The study area covers 11 different cities and four unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. It is also represented by five different state assembly members.

According to Benitez, there are three pillars to the research that will lead to effective change.

  • First there must be community engagement with key stakeholders.
  • Second, local leaders must participate in capacity building to understand how the data can influence policy and the implications of those policies as well as engage constituents and stakeholders.
  • The third pillar is the data itself.
South Gate City Mgr. Mike Flad – a Policy Center panelist in 2015.

 

“Good governance requires data driven decisions, reports like this provide the data that municipal government needs to make quality decisions,” said South Gate City Manager Mike Flad.

“Data’s great, but the data has to be implemented, so what this provides is a tool and a data set that councils and local administrators can use to make policies.”

The data is already helping some of the smaller cities, according to Lynwood City Manager Alma Martinez, “The benefits of assessments like this are innumerable. Cities like Lynwood do not have the financial capacity to undertake such an exhaustive regional study due to limited financing and staff.”

“Some of the data included is utilized by the City,” said Bell Mayor Fidencio Gallardo. “It is utilized as part of our General Plan update.” He added that the data from this report is included in a market study for economic development purposes and added that Bell conducts its own studies.

Martinez pointed out the most important message in the report, “Lynwood can utilize the data presented at the Summit of Possibilities to build coalitions amongst the cities in the region to address issues like education, employment and transportation. At the regional level we can work to develop overarching goals and delineate objectives that can then be fostered into implementation.” She added that Lynwood can’t address these issues alone, but must work with the other municipalities to create regional objectives and strategies that improve the community.

Raquel Beltran addresses a SoCa Latino Policy Center forum.

“There is a SELA civic engagement collaborative that will be doing a lot of work around the summit,” said Raquel Beltran, associate director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs. “With emphasis on creating a platform for non-profits and residents to understand more about the research, it’s an effort to allow that research to be used to help shape data driven policy positions that they may want to pursue in their local community.”

Added Benitez, “Where there is a will, I think that is a huge opportunity and we do have electeds that take those things into consideration. I just think that we just don’t have a regional policy agenda and/or systematic ways to uphold those three pillars.”

Beltran is more optimistic, “There’s energy for it, there’s positive energy. If there’s anything that could be helpful, it is to demonstrate that there is positive energy and that’s significant.”

 

Nadine Ono is a freelance writer from Los Angeles who has written for outlets including CA Fwd, Pasadena Magazine and local television news programs.

@thesuperette

Ethics Advisor

Cuidado with Decisions that Hit Too Close to Home (Literally)

By Ruben Duran

Mi casa es su casa is a good rule of thumb in a close, tight-knit community, and welcoming friends and neighbors into the fold for celebrations and gatherings is ingrained in many peoples’ DNA. Nevertheless, when it comes to complying with ethics requirements for potential conflicts of interest involving your house or other property you own or lease, there are some things you must always keep in mind.

For public officials, statewide regulations set strict requirements when decisions may impact the use, enjoyment or services to your property, with a different set of rules (the FPPC calls them “materiality standards”) applying depending on whether you own or lease the property. In fact, when the decision’s impact is likely to affect property values within a certain distance of your property, whether a personal residence, income property or commercial property, recusal from that decision is generally the rule, not the exception.

There are lots of obvious, “reasonably foreseeable” financial effects that disqualify you from making decisions likely to impact your property. These include decisions that could impact your property taxes or change whether you can sell your house. But the property-related ethics rule that gives public officials the biggest headache, and that I field the most questions about, is the“500 foot rule.”

When a decision has any possibility of affecting property values within 500 feet of your property line – you cannot participate in that decision.

This can be especially frustrating for public officials in a small town or city, where a high percentage of decisions affects constituents in the vecindad.

Some examples of where the law presumes the financial effect of a decision is material to your real property interests:

  • If the decision involves adopting or amending a general plan or a specific plan that covers your property;
  • If the decision relates to the zoning or rezoning of your property;
  • If the decision imposes, repeals or modifies any tax, fee or assessment on your property;
  • If the decision is to sell, buy or lease property in which you have a financial interest (that’s an easy one, right?);
  • If the decision involves a license, permit or other land use entitlement (such as a conditional use permit or a variance) on your property;
  • If the decision relates to improvements to streets, water, sewer, storm drain or other public facilities that affect your property, unless that effect is the same as for the public generally.

There is one exception if you believe the decision affects property values within 500 feet of yours, but also believe it would not have a reasonably foreseeable impact on your property specifically. You can request (or ask your public agency’s attorney to request) a written opinion from the FPPC allowing participation based on the specific facts of the decision in question. A couple important qualifiers: there are different ethical standards than the “500 foot rule” when the decision may impact commercial property where you have a business, and real property that you lease to others. Be sure to check with your agency counsel on specifics, because the rules can be tricky.

In any situation where you will be asked to make a decision regarding property located close to property in which you have either an ownership or a leasehold interest – be sure to check with your public agency’s attorney. Property-related ethics rules help all of us ensure the public has full confidence that a decision maker is looking out for the community at large, and not his or her own property values or real estate investments.

 

Ruben Duran serves as general and special counsel to public agencies throughout Southern California, including cities, special districts, school districts and special-purpose entities in health care, job training and development and air quality management. He is a member of the Cannabis Working Group at Best Best & Krieger, which advises the firm’s clients on all aspects of marijuana laws and regulations.
ruben.duran@bbklaw.com
@BBKRubenDuran
(213) 787-2569

Policymaker Profile: Mary Jane Sanchez-Fulton – College of the Desert

Mary Jane Sanchez-Fulton has received numerous state and national award for her advocacy in higher education. Recently honored by NlWB women of Excellence -2017. Served as the first Latina Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Desert Community College District. She is the CA representatives for the American Association of Community College Trustees, Board member of Riverside County RDA Oversight committee for the city of Indio and Desert Hot springs. She has served for over 15 years as professor/educator for local universities and community colleges. Strong corporate background, principled thinking; a person who continues bring new vision to the future of College of the Desert.

Who was your political mentor – someone who guided and supported you – someone who prepared you for public service. What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you?

Interesting question. At the time I began to run, there no other Latinas in office. I had no political mentor, because in the back of mind I didn’t want to owe anybody anything. However who truly inspired really was my mom who motivated me because she said I couldn’t win because I was too honest and nice and because I cared. So I ran to prove her that integrity still exists.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

The one thing nobody told me – How expensive it is to get elected and re-elected.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

As the youngest trustee member, and first Latina elected as chair, there are many projects I have spearheaded in my 1st term as elected. My top 4 that I am most proud are about access.

  1. Creating Community College Tuition free to Coachella valley residents.
  2. Creating a new and free bus line to the college, so students can go to work and school. 
  3. Creating A food pantry for my students.
  4. Building a new Campus for the underserved community and the city.

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations?

You can’t really balance anything as an elected official. As an elected you automatically make personal and financial sacrifices. The secret is hard work. Secret to success is having family members that support your dreams, not sabotage them. And that you truly have a passion to serve.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

Most memorable day of my life: Getting married to a man that believed and supported me and not belittled my political aspirations and attending Women’s Conference in Beijing, China –  ” A woman’s right is a human right.”

Policymaker Profile: Denise Menchaca – San Gabriel City Council

Denise Menchaca was elected to the San Gabriel City Council in March, 2017. She was raised in Alhambra, California where she attended local public schools. She attended the University of Southern California, having earned a Bachelor degree in Accounting. She has over 30 years of working in both the public and private industries.

She was named the Congressional Woman of Distinction for San Gabriel by Congresswoman Judy Chu, the Golden Apple by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and Volunteer Rookie of the Year by the American Cancer Society. Menchaca has been married to John Menchaca for 30 years, raising their four children, Vanessa, Michelle, Roxanne and Michael Menchaca.

Who was your political mentor – someone who guided and supported you – someone who prepared you for public service.  What kind of advice did they give you that was the most important/useful to you?

My political mentor was Lee Freeman, 14 year School Boardmember and past President of the San Gabriel Unified School District. During his tenure, Lee was the quarterback in a Bond drive that took us from a dream to a reality….the reality of becoming a Unified School District with upgraded School facilities including the building of our very own 4 year High School. Lee provided me with sound advice: To be a person of action and not just words. He reminded me that there’s no substitute for the power of door knocking and hard work. Lastly, there was no amount of old guard endorsements or money that will help get you elected unless you personally got out there to meet the voters. These are lessons I still remember after years of being politically engaged.

From left: George Carney, Menchaca, Florencio Briones,and Erik Sanchez.

What was the one thing no one told you about being an elected official that you wish you’d known before you were elected?

Being able to serve one’s community in a very meaningful way is a fulfilling experience like no other.  If you think your elected officials should go in a different direction, this is your chance to discontinue sitting on the sidelines and make an impact. Too many times individuals get discouraged by those small groups who are disagreeable about contentious issues. Overall, I have learned that most people are open and willing to listen and work toward a mutually agreeable solution. Let’s not forget that this is our Community. We must all do our part to influence the course of action that will benefit, in some cases, generations of families.

Describe a project you spearheaded or supported that you’re proud of. Why was it successful and what did you learn from it that helped you be a better policymaker?

The San Gabriel City Council is responsible for hiring two individuals: the City Manager and the City Attorney. As the newly elected City Council member, I learned at my second meeting that this Council will be hiring both a City Manager and City Attorney in less than 6 months. My priority now is to move ahead swiftly and effectively in the search process to fill these two key city positions. We will be retaining an executive-recruitment firm to help fill the vacancies. There will be additional meetings and much preparation including advertising, recruitment brochure and both community and staff surveys. This is just the beginning of the challenges and successes that lie ahead during my four year tenure.

As an elected official you must balance your job, your duties as an elected official and family obligations, not to mention trying to find personal time for yourself. How do you balance all these duties and obligations? 

I engage people I trust in achieving work-family life balance. I have regular discussions with my husband and children about their observations, opinions and complaints regarding my career commitments and civic involvement. I reach out to friends who give me sound advice and are encouraging. Most importantly, I realized that the perfect balance between work and family may not take place at all times—and that’s normal.

What was the most memorable day of your life?

Aside from the birth of my 4 children, one of the most memorable days of my life was getting elected to the San Gabriel Unified School Board in 2005. There were 3 incumbents seeking re-election and I was the lone challenger. On Election Day, I was the top vote-getter with the second being my political mentor Lee Freeman, who was so genuinely elated with the results. To-date, I have yet to witness a political leader demonstrate such a sincere and selfless reaction when their names have also been on the ballot.

From The Editor

The LA Riots – 25 Years Later

by Gary Leonard

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks talking a lot about the LA Riots as we commemorate the 25th anniversary. I remember them clearly and I can’t help seeing a connection between what happened then and what we’re experiencing now.

As a TV journalist working in Los Angeles back in 1992, I saw plenty of signs that trouble was ahead. But I don’t think anybody can honestly say that they predicted what would happen on the afternoon of April 29.

At first, I was a TV witness like everybody else. I watched as Reginald Denny was pulled from his car and beaten. I couldn’t move. I was angry, confused and scared. I kept asking out loud, “what’s happening? Isn’t anybody going to stop this?” – questions that still hang in the air for me.

Two hours later I was in an unmarked news van with a freelance news crew headed down La Brea Blvd. to cover the biggest story of my life for CBS News.

I had spent several months in El Salvador in 1986 covering the civil war as a freelance journalist so I thought I was prepared. But this wasn’t war. What I witnessed during the first 36 hours of what has been called The L.A. Riots, The Uprising or The Civil Unrest depending on who’s telling the story, has gnawed at me for 25 years.

I tried to cover it, teach it and during the next couple of years afterwards, I worked on two documentaries trying to explain it. But 25 years later, so many of the so-called lessons of those events that are filling the “news space” now continue to elude me.

I remember the face of the boy – he couldn’t have been older than 12 – who pointed a shotgun at my video crew and me, instructing us very calmly to put our camera down as we tried to videotape the looting of an electronics store on Western Ave.

I remember interviewing a Salvadoran woman who hid several terrified L.A. firefighters in her tiny apartment that crazy first night. A group of heavily armed men forced them to abandon their trucks and equipment at a shopping center fire. The gunmen made it clear that they wanted the entire center to burn to the ground. The next day, the woman’s apartment building was torched, leaving her and her nine-year-old daughter homeless.

I remember the choir of singers from a Central Ave. storefront church. I wish I could remember what song they were singing as we all stood on the sidewalk watching a group of buildings across the street burn out of control.

Our city was caught in the grip of a temporary insanity, although no one I talked to in the midst of the worse violence seemed confused by what fueled it. The “insanity” lasted about a day and a half until the National Guard and Marines from Camp Pendleton arrived and restored order with a show of force, but the curfew didn’t do much to calm anyone’s nerves.

I know L.A. is different now because of those three days. How could that kind of violence and destruction not affect us? We formed committees and organizations. We committed to change. As a city, we never wanted this to happen again.

It changed our police department – for the better I’m sure. I used to cover the LAPD under Chief Daryl Gates and that police department is not the LAPD you know now.

And it forced us to talk to each other – at least for a few months in the immediate aftermath. There were gatherings, some organized and some organic, that sprang up to bring us together –to grieve for those who died as well as to help us process the fear, apprehension and mistrust the violence triggered.

But someone once remarked that L.A. is a universe of orbiting galaxies that never intersect: The Westside, the Valley, Hollywood, the South Bay. We are little clusters that when taken in aggregate, make up a city. We spend hours every day on freeways that intersect all of these worlds, but how well do we know the communities that flash past our car windows?

The riots pitted African-Americans against Koreans and while much has been done to heal those wounds, our leaders seem oblivious of the current tensions, particularly in South L.A. between African-Americans and Latinos.

I remember asking the mayor of L.A. in 1991, before the riots, about the tensions between cultures in our city and he denied they existed. Do our leaders today even acknowledge these conflicts?

I wonder where that 12 year-old boy is now and what he’s doing. I tried to find the Salvadoran woman and her daughter but learned they had returned to El Salvador. I want to ask them how they think our city changed and how what happened those three days 25 years ago changed them. I know it changed us.


Victor Abalos is Executive Director of the Southern California Latino Policy Center and Editor of the Latino Policy Connection.

victor@socalatinos.org
@SOCALatinos

Ethics Advisor

Can Marijuana be Ethical?

By Ruben Duran

Cheech and Chong jokes aside, the reality in California today is that marijuana, also referred to as cannabis, is legal under state law for both medical and recreational uses. While federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 illegal substance, the landscape of laws and regulations at the state and local levels is evolving almost daily, and if the issue hasn’t hit your jurisdiction yet, odds are it will, and soon.

So what should a local elected official know about cannabis law in California, and what the heck does this have to do with ethics? From a broad public policy perspective, local leaders must be prepared to deal with the issues that their constituents know and care about, and the fact that marijuana is in the news regularly likely means that residents and stakeholders are interested to know what, if anything, their local leaders may do about it.

To that end, here is a brief summary of the California laws applicable to the use and regulation of marijuana.

First, understand the distinction between medicinal and recreational use of cannabis under the law. Medical marijuana has been legal in California since the adoption of Prop 215 (the Compassionate Use Act) in 1996. Under that law and the rules and regulations adopted pursuant to it, qualified patients can obtain marijuana for medicinal use with a prescription, often through purchases at dispensaries, which some jurisdictions allowed and others banned outright. Mobile medical marijuana delivery systems have also been established in various areas of the state.

In 2015, the State Legislature enacted the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), consisting of three bills (AB 243, AB 266, and SB 643). The MMRSA created more robust regulations of medical marijuana while also allowing for strong local control. It also created the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation within Department of Consumer Affairs, which is expected to begin issuing licenses by 2018. The MMRSA also allows local taxation and regulatory licensing fees.

In summary, the MMRSA allows local governments to regulate or to ban outright:

  • Medical marijuana dispensaries
  • Medical marijuana delivery services originating or terminating in jurisdiction
  • Medical marijuana cultivation
  • Medical marijuana manufacturing
  • Medical marijuana testing
  • Other medical marijuana uses

 

Prop 64 – Adult Recreational Use
California voters approved Prop 64 in November 2016 with 57% of the vote. Known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), Prop 64 legalized recreational use of marijuana by adults in California.

AUMA allows:

  • Personal use by those 21 years of age or older
  • Possession of up to 28.5 grams of cannabis plant material or 8 grams of concentrate
  • Indoor cultivation of up to 6 plants for personal use inside a private residence or accessory structure, and possession of any marijuana produced by those plants.

AUMA also established a state tax for both medical and recreational cannabis, including a state excise tax of 15% on medical and recreational marijuana and a state cultivation tax of $9.25 on flower/$2.75 on non-flower plant leaf for medical and recreational use. It also created a new Division 10 of the Business & Professions Code to license marijuana businesses.

Notwithstanding these taxation provisions, AUMA allows local governments to ban:

  • Recreational retailers
  • Medical dispensaries
  • Any delivery service originating from or terminating in jurisdiction
  • Outside cultivation
  • Any other state-licensed marijuana business licensed under Division 10

Finally, under AUMA, commercial licenses may be issued by the State beginning January 1, 2018, and as of April 2017, the Bureau of Marijuana Control has issued a notice of rulemaking with hearing dates starting June 1 and draft regulations for retailers, distributors, and labs. The California Department of Food and Agriculture has proposed regulations for cultivation, nurseries, and processing, and the Department of Public Health has proposed rules for manufacturing, including extraction, processing and infusion. Now is the time for local government leaders to act if they want to comment on any of these forthcoming rules.

 

Options for Local Government
Given the legal and regulatory framework discussed above, cities (primarily, as the local land use authorities) have the following options to consider:

  • A city MAY NOT ban personal use in a private residence
  • A city can ban use of marijuana in all other contexts, including use in public spaces, on-site use at dispensaries or retailers, or use in any public space within 1,000 feet of a school, park, or other public gathering space.

With respect to outdoor cultivation for personal use, a city may:

  • Ban outdoor cultivation outright
  • Allow outdoor cultivation if plants are in enclosed spaces or screened from view
  • Require property owner approval of cultivation on property
  • Limit the number of plants that can be cultivated outdoors.

For indoor cultivation, a city must allow cultivation of up to six plants, and can “reasonably regulate” indoor cultivation by:

  • Requiring a cultivation permit
  • Allowing cultivation for personal use only
  • Allowing cultivation for commercial use with a business license
  • Imposing an alternative set of public welfare regulations, but requiring no permit.

With respect to the regulation of commercial uses, a city may:

  • Ban all commercial marijuana activity, including commercial delivery, commercial cultivation, commercial manufacturing, commercial testing, and commercial dispensaries or recreational retailers
  • Allow commercial cultivation with a local tax imposed on growth
  • Allow retailers with zoning limitations on location or number, or a local tax on retail sales
  • Allowing delivery services to originate or terminate in the City.

Finally, some important points to remember about taxing authority, should your local agency decide to explore options that allow marijuana but seek to also raise revenue:

  • Any tax imposed must be passed by the voters, per Prop 218.
  • A special tax (which is set aside for specific uses, such as law enforcement) must be passed by a 66% vote
  • A general tax (which goes into the general fund for unrestricted use) must be passed by a 50% +1 vote
  • The earliest opportunity to place a measure on the ballot to tax marijuana is November 2018.

Whether these issues come to your jurisdiction at the behest of advocates on behalf of the cannabis industry (and, a large and diverse industry is indeed developing, organizing and acting at the state, local and national levels) or through individual constituents who feel strongly about these issues one way or another, you would be well-suited to prepare by learning about the law and the issues. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out if I may assist in any way.

Ruben Duran serves as general and special counsel to public agencies throughout Southern California, including cities, special districts, school districts and special-purpose entities in health care, job training and development and air quality management. He is a member of the Cannabis Working Group at Best Best & Krieger, which advises the firm’s clients on all aspects of marijuana laws and regulations.
ruben.duran@bbklaw.com
@BBKRubenDuran
(213) 787-2569