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August 2011

All Aboard The Train: Americana Radio Online

Jean Bartlett wrote a nice piece in the August 21 Pacifica Tribune about The Train, a new Internet radio station put together by Jonathan Little and Dave (Duke) Sholin. Comments man about town Jim Wagner, "I've known Dave for a long, long time. He's famous in his own right. When we get the opportunity to get together, the discussion invariably revolves around music. This station is a slice of Americana, a look into our musical heritage. I encourage you to tune in and let Dave know that you're listening."


Janice Rowell Gallery Closes but Maintains Web Presence

After nearly 12 years, the Janice Rowell Gallery in Rockaway Beach has closed its doors. It has been our great joy to present fine contemporary American art and craft here for all these years. Thanks to those of you in our community who have given us much appreciation and support. We will continue to be involved in Pacifica's arts community and maintain our web presence at

Janice & Don Rowell
Janice Rowell Gallery

Pacifica's Petit Prince: Pilot Projects 8/29/11

New photos of my friend Eddie Andreini's P-51 Mustang Primo Branco:

My dad took all the photos. We went to the Wings Over Wine Country Air Show and here are my photos. The sun was in our eyes and I did the best I could;

And a very cool video my Dad did:

(He's very happy with this one.)

Finally, here's what my Dad did for me and two friends for my birthday:



Pacifica palindromist Alan Wald caught Avril Hughes' letter to the editor in the Pacifica Tribune (August 24) about a medical marijuana dispensary in Pacifica. Alan says, "I heard the operator will be appealing the cease-and-desist order from the police, and hopes to be up and running again in a few weeks. I look forward to posting the first palindromic signage that points the way TO PACIFICA POT."

Opinion: Medical Cannabis and the Fringe Majority

The mayor, police chief, and county supervisor walk into a cannabis dispensary... . You are probably expecting a punchline right about now, but this is no joke, it actually happened. No, they weren't there as customers (as far as I know). They were on a Mayor's Walk and happened upon a shop that one of the participants actually described as having "a wonderful smell."

Let's be honest: Marijuana is no stranger to Pacifica. It used to waft through the local speakeasies during Prohibition, and has been an integral part of Pacifica's surf culture since the early Sixties. But in all those years, no one ever tried to sell it here legally until August 1, 2011, when Ruben Salvatierra and the Wellness Center Collective quietly opened up shop and began providing cannabis to patients. They managed to fly under the radar for 19 days, until the Mayor's Walk suddenly put their little shop very much on the radar.

Six days later the police issued the dispensary a Cease and Desist notice. Apparently the collective got a business license as a "flower seller," which, although technically true, is the legal equivalent of a liquor store getting a license as a gas station. So after a historic 25 days, Pacifica's first medical cannabis dispensary was shut down, before Alan Wald's newest palindrome TO PACIFICA POT could be put to proper use. [Editor: Alan's palindrome and comments are posted on Riptide.]

The day after the dispensary was discovered, I started hearing about it from people around town, and word got around fast. This opening got more buzz than Fresh and Easy, and so far, everyone I have heard from is wildly in favor of the dispensary. Admittedly, the people I know are by no means a representative sample of Pacificans, but you know what group is? Voters. And as I already have pointed out, last November some 8,600 Pacificans voted to legalize marijuana. By comparison, the Peebles measure lost by 400 votes, but Proposition 19 passed here by 2,800 votes, with 59.13 percent in favor. And in almost every survey, medical cannabis polls about 25 points higher than legalization, which would put us well over 80 percent. So it would appear that medical cannabis supporters are an overwhelming majority in this town, and yet we are still on the fringe. Call us the fringe majority.

Well, now it's time for the fringe majority to come out of the shadows and let everyone know how we feel—that the war on drugs is a failure, that after 30 years of Just Say No, marijuana is the number one cash crop in America, and we want a cut. Tell them that when Californians voted to allow the sale and taxation of medical cannabis, we expected it to be available in our progressive county within, oh, 15 months, not 15 years and counting. And tell them that lots of Pacificans really do need safe access to cannabis; many are elderly and have mobility issues, and let's face it, they probably shouldn't be driving to San Francisco to get high!

Of course, not all medical cannabis supporters actually smoke it themselves, but many do. And if the fringe majority wants to come out of the closet, we need to go all the way, publicly. Because marijuana users are where gays were in the Seventies, when everyone knew one but didn't KNOW that they knew one. "I have this friend" won't cut it anymore.

So I'll go first. I, Ian Butler, smoke marijuana. I have a medical card and use it for medicinal purposes, but must admit that I do enjoy the side effects. The first time I purchased cannabis from a dispensary was like a dream, or an alternate reality. The friendly young woman behind the counter showed me more strains, concentrates, and edibles than I could possibly keep track of, using terms like "couch lock," "body buzz," and "head high." It was more like shopping for iPads at the Apple store than scoring drugs on the street. It was safe, reliable, and I even used my credit card. When I left, it dawned on me that this is the way it should really be, and should have been all along.

Six weeks ago I advocated for a cannabis dispensary in Pacifica [see op-ed in the post below this]. I thought it would take at least a year, but miraculously, one opened a mere three weeks later, showing that we do have a viable market and that a dispensary would very much like to be in business here. And we should welcome them with open arms. The City Council, the Police Department, the Planning Commission, and the Chamber of Commerce all need to know that Pacificans demand a dispensary; we need the access, we need the tax dollars, and we need to figure out how to help this dispensary reopen, fast.

Wellness Medical Solutions made history when it opened up its shop. And in so doing, it just may have awakened a sleeping giant. Well, not exactly sleeping, but sedated. Now it's up to the fringe majority to rise up from their couch lock and make themselves heard.

Anyone interested in working on this issue can email me at


Opinion: Let's Get Serious About Medical Cannabis

In 1996, some 56 percent of California voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized medical cannabis (marijuana) throughout the state. Fifteen years later, medical cannabis is an established part of California life. Dispensaries across the state safely provide the drug to patients, getting it off the streets and bringing in millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Yet San Mateo County has no dispensaries. This severely limits access to patients with a legitimate medical need, while robbing our communities of precious revenue in a time of draconian budget cuts. In 2009, San Mateo County passed regulations discouraging medical cannabis in unincorporated areas, but those regulations don’t apply to cities, which under Prop. 215 can craft their own policies.

Currently, Colma, Half Moon Bay, South San Francisco, Millbrae, Brisbane, Daly City, and San Bruno have outright bans in place, and other cities have either no official policy or restrictive regulations, which add up to a complete lack of access throughout the county. Meanwhile, in San Jose, 78 percent of the voters approved Measure U last November, taxing medical cannabis and generating $290,000 for the city in the first month, and an estimated $3.5 million in the first year.

Obviously, there is a tremendous demand in the region for medical cannabis, and the city that can meet that demand will reap a tremendous windfall. I believe Pacifica should be that city. Last November, Californians weighed in on Proposition 19, which would have legalized cannabis for adult use. The measure failed, with 46.2 percent voting yes, but here in Pacifica, a whopping 59.13 percent of us voted in favor of legalizing cannabis for all adults. The number of us who support medical cannabis is far higher. Recently, the Pacifica Tribune polled its online readers for their views on this subject, and only 17 percent opposed both medical cannabis and outright legalization, making it one of the most universally popular issues in the city.

But you’d never know it. Unfortunately, after 60 years of Reefer Madness-type hysteria, most cannabis users still are in the closet, afraid of losing their jobs or being branded as drug addicts. Even the protein smoothie I have every morning is made from hemp seeds that have to be imported from Canada, a telling remnant of our insane drug policy.

Yes, serious problems are associated with cannabis; it can influence the mental development of minors and affect long-term memory, among other things. But our laws against cannabis have been far more damaging than the drug itself, and most of us figured that out long ago. We now know that medical cannabis is a valuable treatment for many debilitating conditions, such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, ALS, MS, depression, and arthritis. Often, due to limited mobility and other problems, patients who need it most have the most difficulty obtaining medical cannabis.

The most common argument against medical cannabis is that some people use it who don’t really need to, and that is no doubt true. But with nearly 60 percent of us in favor of outright legalization, that argument is irrelevant here. The pertinent question is whether it is better for Pacificans to get their legal medical cannabis from San Francisco or for that money to stay here in town. To anyone who has been paying attention to our city’s financial woes, the answer is obvious: We absolutely need that money, which could easily add up to millions of dollars.

Up until now, it made sense for smaller cities to wait before jumping on the cannabis bandwagon. The courts had to sort out the conflicts between federal and state law, and only larger cities had the resources to do so. Also, Prop. 19 loomed on the horizon, threatening to throw a monkey wrench into whatever local regulations were enacted. But now, with Prop. 19 in the rearview mirror, drastic cuts in important city services, and even more severe cuts on the way, the time to act is now.

It’s time for Pacifica to craft a reasonable policy that would allow and attract a well-run, compassionate dispensary, while safeguarding our community with reasonable limits, such as regulating proximity to schools. (Eureka Square might be a good location, next to the yoga studio, gun store, and hydroponics shop.) Eventually, a ballot measure like San Jose’s could be considered, which collect an extra 5 percent to 10 percent tax for the city’s general fund. Such measures are extremely popular, and usually exceed the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass a tax increase.

Yes, it’s controversial. A vocal minority will speak out against it. Even medical cannabis supporters may not want a dispensary in their own neighborhood, but a strong majority of Pacificans favor medical cannabis. It could quickly bring significant revenue into our city, while providing safe access for those who need it most. It’s the practical thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do.


Pacifica's Fine Feathered Friends

Paul Donahue spends hours on Pacifica's rocky coastline watching shorebirds (Wandering Tattlers, Black Turnstones, Surfbirds, Black Oystercatchers [see above]). "All of these birds spend their lives foraging close to the breaking waves, where the foraging is most productive," Paul says. See more of his pictures in the Pacifica Shorebirds photo album on the lower-right sidebar.

Opinion: Dangerous Thoughts Threaten Pacifica Democrats

I usually don’t go to Pacifica Democrats meetings, finding the club too much of a listener, rather than an activist club whose members walk precincts.

When Pete McCloskey challenged the group to help elect Congressional candidates in close races in Northern California, he quickly realized he might as well have been asking them to take a walk in space.

But Supervisor Don Horsley was going to speak at Saturday’s meeting, and finding him a smart, reasonable guy, I decided to go and ask him whether the San Mateo County Transportation Authority would listen to Pacificans if we said we didn’t want Highway 1 widened to six lanes.

I left about a dozen flyers questioning the need for the widening around the tables where the Pacifica Democrats were about to gather for coffee and lard.

“Do you think these are appropriate?” Kathy Meeh asked club president Barbara Arietta prior to the meeting, picking up some of my flyers. “They’re NOT appropriate,” replied Madame Prez, as Meeh quickly gathered up the rest of the flyers.

“What’s the problem, you don’t like what I have to say? Are you trying to stifle my right to political speech?” I asked.

“You haven’t lived here as long as I have,” Meeh replied, thus explaining the need to protect Democrats from the perils of a contrary opinion.

Arietta, by the way, is a member of SMCTA'S citizens advisory committee, where she can be counted on to tell SMCTA board members what they want to hear. Don’t rock the boat, and the county establishment might reward you with another appointment.

I didn’t stay for the meeting after all. I was afraid of spoiling someone’s sausage by questioning whether expanding a portion of Highway 1 was the way to go.


Bag It: The Film; Get Plastic Propaganda Out of Our Schoolbooks

Thanks to Ian Butler and Lynn Adams for the following messages:

Bag It has been garnering awards at film festivals across the nation. What started as a documentary about plastic bags evolved into a wholesale investigation into plastics and their effect on our waterways, oceans, and even our bodies. If you missed the recent screening at Owen Hall or the PCT broadcast, you can probably get the film on Netflix or elsewhere online. Also, please take action on the message below about the plastic industry's outrageous propaganda inserted into schoolbooks.



We know plastic bags are terrible for the environment. They pollute our oceans and beaches, harm wildlife, and contribute to the Pacific Garbage Patch — that toxic soup of trash swirling off our coast that's grown to be twice the size of Texas. So why does California's new environmental curriculum include a section on "The Advantages of Plastic Shopping Bags"? Because lobbyists for the American Chemistry Council — the same front group that spent millions to defeat the statewide bag ban last year — convinced school officials to include it. [1]

What’s next? A lesson on the benefits of mercury in our diet? Please tell Governor Jerry Brown to keep polluters’ propaganda out of our kids’ textbooks. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle [1], parts of the textbook "were inserted almost verbatim from letters written by the chemistry council. The additions included: ‘Plastic shopping bags are very convenient to use. They take less energy to manufacture than paper bags, cost less to transport, and can be reused.’ ”

It’s no surprise that plastic-bag makers want to convince the next generation of Californians that their product is “eco-friendly.” But it’s the resposibility of school officials to make sure they get the facts:

The Pacific Garbage Patch — a toxic soup of swirling trash off our coast — has grown to be twice the size of Texas. In this zone, plastic outnumbers plankton by as much as 6:1.

Scientists are increasingly concerned about the toll plastic pollution takes on wildlife, who can choke, suffocate or starve to death if their stomachs become filled with plastic

While plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, scientists believe it may never biodegrade.

Please tell Governor Brown to make sure plastic-industry propaganda is removed from kids’ textbooks immediately. Thanks for standing up for our ocean and environment.

Dan Jacobson
Environment California Legislative Director

P.S. Help spread the word by posting this to Facebook and Twitter.

[1] “Plastic bag lobbying group influences curriculum,” Susanne Rust, California Watch, San Francisco Chronicle, August 19, 2011, page A-1.

Opinion: Crunching the Numbers of PSD Parcel Tax (Revised)

Whether or not you decide to increase your property taxes by $118 a year to support Pacifica School District (PSD) employees and their pensions by voting for the parcel tax renewal November 8, you may want to ponder a few numbers readily available on pages 6 and 13 of PSD's most recent audit, which you can verify by visiting PSD offices on Reina Del Mar. The company preparing the audit admittedly did not fact-check the financial information, relying on staff assurances that it was correct.

PSD has a combined enrollment of 3,226 students and an operating budget last year of $29,584,810, or $9,170.74 per student. By comparison, a popular local private grammar school on the north end of town charges $6,421 a year tuition per student—$2,749.74 less than what we collectively provide per PSD student. PSD has outstanding liabilities of $44,589,611, including a $36 million bond obligation and $8,057,645 in accounts payable, or in lay terms, unpaid bills. It is surprising since PSD has sold so much public property to private developers. PSD reported a $13 million surplus after the last 10-acre school property was sold a few years ago. PSD now is going through the motions of selling off two more public properties, but that has nothing to do with renewing the upcoming parcel tax.

I've requested PSD salary information three times in the past few weeks. The info I ask for is identical to that found on State Controller John Chiang's website showing what employees from the City of Pacifica and North Coast County Water District earned last year—so helpful last spring with the fire tax. Compensation sheets list positions only (no names) and amounts shown in Box 5 on annual W-2 forms that PSD must give each employee. PSD has no such info, I am told, which is stonewalling, in my opinion, as W-2s are required by IRS. I'm sure PSD easily could pull this info together from its accounting software. If PSD would make public the compensation paid to its administrators, facilities department, groundskeepers, and the like, we would have a better idea of why it spends $9,170.74 per student. Since PSD so often boasts of how little it pays its teaching staff, the money must go somewhere. 

Clearly, PSD, which is its own government body, needs to be more transparent to show it deserves more of our tax dollars, especially in understanding its obligation of openness to the public at large, not just to motivated parents, who want us to further fund their children’s education. At $9,170.74 per student, PSD needs to own up and publish a full compensation sheet that includes non-classroom staff like administrators, facilities, and groundskeepers, among others, in a timely fashion well before Election Day.  

You may or may not support the parcel tax renewal, but please vote on this item either by mail ballot or at the polls November 8. It is an off-year election, and voter participation is expected to be low. Millions of dollars of our property taxes will be voted on, and whether or not you want to tax yourself and your neighbors to further fund PSD salaries, pensions, and other expenses, it is important that this parcel tax measure get a large turnout so, win or lose, it gets a fair shake. 


(See PSD response to this op-ed in the following post.)

PSD Answers Questions About Parcel Tax and School Budget

School district's response to Todd's Bray's op-ed on adjoining post:

Page 6 of the audit report reflects all of the district’s funds using accrual basis accounting. The Other category of $2,535,453 is detailed on page 12, it is comprised of the following:

Other outgo = $609,659 (this is mainly the cost of special education students attending county classes).

Interest on long term debt = $1,925,794 (interest accretion value of capital appreciation bonds) – this is managed by the county office of education

Other Designations: page 13 – these are not expenditures or monies spent, they represent the components of the districts ending fund balance. The unaudited actual can be found on our web site ( has been necessary for the district to maintain these reserves in order to meet monthly payroll as the state is not paying school districts, they are deferring funds throughout the year and between school years. In addition, the district has to be prepared for midyear budget cuts from the state.

With regards to the salary information that you are requesting, unfortunately we don’t have a similar report to the one you found on Controller John Chiang’s web site. I do have what is called the J-90 scatter gram for certificated teachers that is prepared each year...I have also contacted the San Mateo County Office of Education to see if they know of a report that may be of interest to you. I hope this answers your questions.

Josie Peterson
Chief Business Official
Pacifica School District
375 Reina del Mar Avenue
Pacifica, CA  94044
650.738-6613  Phone
650.557-9672  Fax