LOCAL VOICES: Compton mayor mutes residents’ concerns at marijuana workshop
In 2013, Aja Brown promised to shutter marijuana dispensaries, but in 2016 she has become an aggressive advocate of the weed business in Compton By CYNTHIA MACON and SUSAN ADAMS With all due respect to the dignity
In 2013, Aja Brown promised to shutter marijuana dispensaries, but in 2016 she has become an aggressive advocate of the weed business in Compton
By CYNTHIA MACON and SUSAN ADAMS
With all due respect to the dignity of the office, you have to understand Mayor Aja Brown and her methodologies or deceptions. They were all on full display at the Compton City Council meeting held Sept. 13, where Proposition 64 and her about-face in support of the marijuana industry finally came front and center.
While the city’s Marijuana Initiative Workshop began in educational mode, it ended exactly where expected — as a ringing endorsement and full-out public service announcement by Mayor Brown to bring the commercial marijuana industry to Compton. And this from a mayor that ran on a campaign in 2013 of closing marijuana dispensaries and being against marijuana approval in Compton.
Citizens’ comments muted at “public” workshop
Mayor Brown is on record in a 2013 Huffington Post video voicing her disapproval of marijuana dispensaries and declaring to shut them down in Compton. Now, amazingly, the mayor says the Huffington-Post is less than a credible news agency — fails to write “real articles [and is] not a good source.”
Someone tell the Huffington-Post, Aja Brown has flip-flopped on the people of Compton and this is a certifiable fact since she likes to claim she is the only one who deals in fact. So, Brown deployed her usual tactic — discredit the source and disavow all knowledge.
After City Attorney Craig Cornwell repeatedly announced there would be a time for public comment during the workshop, Brown, reading the audience’s disapproval, abruptly announced no public comment would be allowed citing the excuse, the meeting was “workshop.” The Mayor then proceeded to line up speakers who were proponents of marijuana — largely Compton outsiders — to take the microphone and campaign to bring their cannabis business to Compton. Evidently, it was a move to control the message.
The most shocking announcement was by a Research & Development firm called Advance Nutrients, a multi-national cannabis fertilizer testing firm with offices in British Columbia, Canada, and Europe. The firm has intentions to relocate their main headquarters to Compton.
Other speakers represented a cultivator called LA Bloom, a representative of the California Minority Cannabis Task Force, a cannabis education consultant, a former Compton medical marijuana dispensary owner, and an information database cannabis specialist from Colorado who devoted her allotted time to chastising Compton Sheriff station Capt. Michael Thatcher for his report on the criminal downside of marijuana, what she called “propaganda.”
Sheriff Dept. outlines spike in marijuana-related crime
The public was not allowed to speak, nor was a single specialist allowed to voice an opposing view rejecting marijuana business in Compton. Apparently, none were invited. The disrespect shown the public was inexcusable. Past workshops were actually “workshops,” purposed to elicit input from the community. This workshop was one-sided with the voice of the people silenced. Workshops that were interactive have changed under Mayor Brown, who evidently seeks to control the message and outcome.
But shout out to the Capt. Thatcher for letting the genie out of the bottle, standing firmly and telling it like it is. He shared statistics on a 40 percent overall rise in crime in Colorado relative to the legalization of marijuana in the state, including an upsurge in marijuana-related murders, juvenile abuse, car accidents and DUIs, hospitalizations, black market sales, extortion by gangs and organized crime, unrealized and uncollectable tax revenues in a cash-driven business, poisoning of children, the sale of illicit drugs out of dispensaries, and a 60 percent rise in burglaries, fire and EMS calls.
By simply relating crime statistics, Capt. Thatcher destroyed Mayor Brown’s pretty picture of marijuana bliss she was painting for public viewers. Incredibly, City Attorney Craig Cornwell admonished Thatcher to be “balanced,” in the midst of an unapologetic, completely one-sided biased and bold in-your-face propaganda workshop. Drink the “Kool-Aid,” Annie May.
Look for the mayor to attempt to replace Capt. Thatcher. Compton is not like other cities, so when the Sheriff Department tells you directly they do not have the resources or capacity to police the marijuana industry and that the existing drug issues in Compton are far beyond others — the mayor and council should listen.
But, Mayor Brown countered in her usual manner, suggesting taxes and revenue would lead to more revenue and therefore law enforcement on the street. After all, when all else fails, she reverts to offering up city influence or monetary incentives using citizen’s money, which some characterize as a form of corruption. Brown’s motto, figuratively speaking: “If you can’t beat them, then write a check.”
Brown, Galvan opt for marijuana; third possible vote a mystery
Common sense, real experiences, and knowledge of Compton’s bleak and violent history due to drugs should inherently say that orchestrating a Compton drug-industry will someday prove explosive and volatile. As one woman, wept, who lost a son to local violence, who can believe a council that feigns concern, while introducing marijuana into Compton’s violence equation? Anyone with roots in Compton should know this; Mayor Brown may be in Compton, but is not of Compton. Don’t get it twisted, mayor!
And as the two newcomers to Compton on the dais, Brown, and Councilman Isaac Galvan raged passionately at the workshop, hell bent on having the marijuana industry in Compton. The other three council persons — Janna Zurita, Emma Sharif, and Tana McCoy, sat quietly.
And lest you do not understand Brown’s future game plan and why she brought up January 2018, the last date for cities to enact their own local ordinances on marijuana businesses to supersede state control, it’s called stalling. Stalling until she can get the citizens to drink the “Kool-Aid,” until she can get a third vote on the dais while aiding in another council person’s recall, until the April 2017 election when she can steal, oops we mean win, the next election and enough council votes.
And expect any future public hearings to “hear the people” to be sandbagged with pro-marijuana supporters, including some of Compton’s finest citizens the mayor has sold on benefiting from the illusion of increase taxes. Any future concerns about delays to gather public input is just a part of the mayor’s stalling tactic. Call for transparency while working feverishly to dim the lights.
Compton could become a giant marijuana grower, supplier
To contrast, other surrounding cities like Cerritos, Torrance, Lakewood, and 200 additional California cities have passed complete bans, many moving into emergency mode. Other cities are not taking any chances on any misunderstanding arising between the state and asserting local control over all aspects of the marijuana business within their cities. They are not hesitating to vote now to bow out and ban marijuana businesses altogether and preserve their quality of life, neighborhoods, and children.
But Brown’s strategy is to keep Compton citizens in the dark — like Measure P and bridges — until the deed can be done.
During general audience participation, which did not come until after 9 p.m., as intended, with name after name called who had come to speak against marijuana businesses, but left due to the lateness of the hour, the few remaining exponents spoke overwhelmingly against marijuana businesses in Compton.
One individual pointed out cultivation has led to wild land speculation in Colorado resulting in residents fleeing the state due to the rising cost of rents and property. With Browns and Black people in the Los Angeles experiencing displacement and gentrification, and a declining ability to find reasonably-priced housing, this is the last thing the council should present to Compton if they want constituents and residential living to continue in Compton.
In an attempt to counter negative press, Mayor Brown assailed long- time resident Susan Adams, alluding to persons who need to “check their facts” publishing “puff pieces” which amount to “personal attacks.” No, instead it is the mayor’s worst nightmare, as people are responding after four years of articles about her in various publications and newscasts around the country amounting to nothing but self-serving PR, and miscasting of the real truth and reality here in Compton.
Residents might remember Mayor Brown’s recent account on CNN that crime was down in Compton under her administration, when, in reality, murders were skyrocketing? While the mayor may fool a national audience, she cannot fool the people of Compton who are living the reality. When knowledgeable persons wielding the facts do publish probing articles reflecting truth and not the mayor’s myths, it turns out to be an unqualified First Amendment American right.
And since Brown uses her power on the dais wrongly, as she clearly demonstrated with marijuana, to silence the voice of the people within the chambers, she cannot silence Freedom of the Press.
In time, the Compton public will know what is truth and what is fiction. In the meantime, since smoke and mirrors and propaganda is part of the narrative, “puff-puff.”
Cynthia Macon and Susan Adams are Daughters of Compton.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are not necessarily the views and opinions of the Compton Herald.