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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CA: Editorial: Pot Plan Should Have Been Shot Down Instantly
Title:US CA: Editorial: Pot Plan Should Have Been Shot Down Instantly
Published On:2011-12-09
Source:Desert Sun, The (Palm Springs, CA)
Fetched On:2011-12-10 06:01:19

The notion that Coachella should become an industrial marijuana
producer was a bad idea from the start. Coachella Mayor Eduardo
Garcia and Councilman Steve Hernandez should have walked away.
Instead, we have witnessed an unpleasant episode.

Rancho Mirage City Councilman and private political consultant Scott
Hines, working for Burke, Rix, Hines Communications of Palm Springs
in the summer of 2010, said he considered medical marijuana
compassionate service for people in pain. The Desert Sun also
supports medical marijuana.

With polls indicating voter support for legalizing marijuana for
recreational use, Hines, thought it could become a lucrative
opportunity. However, Proposition 19 was rejected by 53.5 percent of
California voters.

In June 2010, Hines pitched the idea and coined the term "Team
Coachella" at a lunch at the Agua Caliente casino with his husband
Jon Hines, Garcia and Hernandez. Jon Hines, a graphic artist, created
a logo for the company, which would have been called Coyote Native
Herbal Remedies.

In September 2010, Hines joined then-Mayor Richard Kite on a
subcommittee to draft an ordinance on medical marijuana dispensaries.
He never mentioned his Coachella proposal. This is one of several
instances where Hines' job as a political consultant has blurred the
lines with his role as a councilman. Hines says he is no longer with
the firm and is focused on other ventures.

Although they claimed little interest, Garcia and Hernandez agreed
that a survey should be taken on how Coachella residents feel about
medical marijuana. And in the second meeting, where the obvious was
revealed - that most Coachella residents don't like the idea -
Coachella's public relations man Bob Marra was present. While Marra's
presence implies the city had some interest, Coachella officials
insist that's not the case.

Greg Klibanov, who then managed American Cab, paid $10,000 for the
survey. Hines says Klibanov was a former client and a friend who was
interested in investing in a potential business. But it does seem
like more than a coincidence he would pay for the poll.

The poll also included questions about how voters felt about Garcia
and Hernandez, who faced re-election. Two California campaign finance
experts recently told The Desert Sun the poll constituted a political
contribution that should have been reported to the Fair Political
Practices Commission. We concur. Hines contends that unrelated
questions are common in surveys, but any political assessment is
certainly useful to a candidate.

Klibanov no longer works for American Cab, but the transfer of
ownership is an issue before the SunLine Services Group, which
oversees taxicabs in the valley. Garcia is chairman of the board and
Hernandez is Coachella's alternate representative.

The Team Coachella incident prompted American Cab attorney Scott
Russo to write a letter saying Garcia should recuse himself from the
issue. This prompted Garcia to tell The Desert Sun editorial board he
thought he was a victim of extortion. Accusing Hines of extortion was
self-serving. Garcia has since said that was the wrong word to use.
However, we agree that the American Cab lawyer entering the fray at
the 11th hour is suspicious.

To their credit, all three explained their sides of the story to our
editorial board, but all three could have been more forthcoming with
full details. This is an example of behind-the-scenes brainstorming
that should have been brought to the public.

No matter what the lawyers say, Garcia should take the cautious road
and recuse himself on American cab. He and Hernandez should report
the poll expenses as a contribution. And Hines needs to be more
discerning and open about issues he pursues in private and how they
affect his role of serving the public.
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