Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Read The Memo ICPD

The city election is safely over, and there's some improvement, with Kingsley Botchway set to replace Connie Champion. But there's not enough change to upset the long-term status quo, and the Iowa City Police Department seems intent on continuing its ways.

I don't know what the end game here is, but yesterday ICPD made its second arrest in a week of a pound-level pot dealer, so clearly they're pursuing something.

In Colorado and Washington, those dudes are called entrepreneurs. But the past couple weeks have made it clear that ICPD is continuing to emphasize marijuana arrests.

Iowa City's recent push comes just as legislators and county officials prep for their annual meeting, at 1:00 today. While the supervisors prepped, the subject of the drug war came up. This past weekend Rod Sullivan wrote that the Board rejected the language he'd hoped to present to the legislators on a 3-2 vote...
...with Supervisor Rettig and I in favor. I was REALLY disappointed by this vote.

Far too many people in Johnson County go through life dogged by marijuana convictions. And for what? Who is hurt by marijuana use?

This topic is particularly timely, because it would send a message to the voting public. The public needs to know we are serious about keeping our justice system focused on the things that are truly important.
It's hard to get to 60%. You start off with 20% or so of the electorate who will automatically vote no on anything that spends money. In Johnson County, add maybe 10 points to that for rural votes, because the farmers are still mad that they don't have four or all five of the Board seats like they did till roughly 20 years ago, even though the county's population is about 4/5 urban.
Then there's five percent or so that didn't like one facet or another of the plan: Has to be downtown, has to be not downtown. Has to be a combined building, has to be separate. Those groups are mutually exclusive.

My best bet, and I'm a pretty decent political number cruncher, is that the decisive factor that killed the justice center was 10 to 15 percent of the electorate who might otherwise look favorably on courthouse or even jail expansion voted no in November 2012 and May 2013 because they decided this was where they drew the line on the drug war.

The sheriff and county attorney tried to point out their good work on diversion and drug court - but this chunk of the electorate knows and doesn't care. They want those arrests to not happen in the first place and they want officials saying so in public. Which, to his credit, Sullivan does here.

Also note that the initial charges are filed by the police and amped up as high as possible. The guy arrested last week was "booked and later released (the same day) from the Johnson County Jail." People read the arrest blotter in the paper: PAULA, PAULA, possession, PAULA. But the jail roster isn't in the daily blotter. That looks more like assault, domestic assault, assault, attempted murder. Since print media is in its Terminal Great Depression and looking for free content, I recommend that jail roster.

Sullivan continues:
But frankly, the vote is not what makes me mad. I have been on the losing end of MANY 3-2 votes; I expect there will be more in my future. What makes me angry is the complete lack of political courage demonstrated by my colleagues.
One Supervisor said he “needed more time to study the issue.” I think that is a pretty lousy justification. Unfortunately, it was the best justification of the three.

Another Supervisor was opposed because, “hemp is an invasive species.” While it is true that around ten states list hemp as a “noxious weed”, this is strictly due to its illegal status. A quick review of the literature shows that countries where hemp is legal have no problems with it being invasive.

The final Supervisor refused to support it unless our County Attorney and Sheriff went on record supporting it first. Sorry, but that move is completely lacking in political courage.

Look, if you are against this, fine. Say so. Take a stand. Take your vote and explain your reasoning. But do not patronize me. I do not appreciate it, nor does the public.

Supervisors are elected to lead. This was a missed opportunity. Legal marijuana is an idea whose time has come. Johnson County is not on the leading edge of this issue, but some day we’ll get there.
Our legislative delegation is leading, with Joe Bolkcom the lead sponsor of the medical marijuana bill (the civil union compromise of full legalization). But some of the other locals are being relatively quiet because "it won't pass." That's true. It won't. It'll get sent to the same House committee as last year, where retired state trooper Clel Baudler, a Republican who calls medical marijuana, quoting here, a "joke," will kill it before it sees the House floor.
That's not the point. The rhetoric is the point. Minnette Doderer used to both enrage folks and endear herself be being on the short end of 99-1 or 98-2 votes (with the 2 usually being Ed Fallon). But eventually 98-2 becomes 90-9 becomes 80-20 becomes 69-31 becomes a live issue at campaign time.

The tide is turning on this issue, not as fast as it did on marriage but darn close. The Iowa City Police Department is on the wrong side of history here.

And without full-throated support for legalization from a majority of local elected officials, it's unlikely a jail cell or even a courtroom will be built in this county for many years.

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