Friday, May 16, 2014

Key Lyness Backers Undercut Zimmerman Case

A couple local leaders are undercutting the argument by county attorney challenger John Zimmerman that the ONLY way to fight the drug war is the prosecutorial equivalent of jury nullification: just don't enforce laws you don't like.

Sure, they're both elected officials, which in Zimmerman World makes them part of the "wealthy local establishment." But as someone who's actually campaigned outside the progressive protective bubble of Iowa City, I'll tell you it's easy to forget just how liberal some of our elected officials are.

Supervisor Rod Sullivan endorsed incumbent Janet Lyness some time ago. This week in his newsletter he questions the "logic" of Zimmerman supporters that Lyness and her office should be the point of attack:
If the group that supports Mr. Zimmerman really got focused, they could easily tip the balance in local races. In a typical year, 3,000 votes will get a person a seat on the Iowa City Council. 2,000 votes used to get you a seat on the ICCSD Board; it might require 3,000 now. 800 votes will usually get it done in Coralville. Only 500 votes are necessary in North Liberty.
Let’s say you are concerned about racial disparity in the criminal justice system. Let’s say you want to change the way police deal with small amounts of pot. Does it make more sense to take on the most liberal County Attorney in Iowa, in a Democratic Party primary, or to try to win a couple Council seats?
Last year's city election was a positive step forward with Kingsley Botchway replacing Connie Champion. And 2015 is a big opportunity. Rick Dobyns lost once before he won, Michelle Payne barely won, and Matt Hayek is leaving. It's not too soon to think ahead...
Further undercutting the drug war focus of the Zimemrman campaign, the state's leading legalization advocate came out for Lyness yesterday. Senator Joe Bolkcom spent the end of the session dragging a kicking and screaming legislature over the line to pass a very limited cannabis oil bill that had been declared dead on arrival early in the session. Bolkcom writes:
The county attorney is the county’s top lawyer. This person advises the Board of Supervisors on every contract the county enters into. This includes 28E agreements with other local governments, right of way acquisition for road improvements, capital projects and labor agreements to name a few. The county attorney also advises the supervisors about open government issues, land-use decisions and any dispute a citizen has with Johnson County.

The debate surrounding the campaign thus far has focused on whether marijuana laws should be enforced. The obvious failure of the war on drugs is a central issue in this discussion.

I share people’s frustration with draconian federal and state marijuana laws that have ruined too many families and are costly for taxpayers. These policies have been unfairly applied in the appalling tradition of Jim Crow. Ending this immoral, expensive war and creating sensible marijuana policies will take us all working together. The responsibility for action rests with our congressman, governor, state legislators, mayors, city council members, city managers, police chiefs, county supervisors, sheriff, county attorney and the public.
Unfortunately, crimes are committed by people with real substance abuse and mental health issues. They need our help.

Janet Lyness has been instrumental in establishing a successful drug treatment court and family court that works with families and individuals to help them get back on their feet and succeed. She deserves to be re-elected.
And in another bad omen for Team Zimmerman, weed-themed sub shop Cheba Hut closed this week.

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