Although fists didn’t actually fly at the June 26 Vista City Council meeting, after a seven week summer break, Councilman Joe Green apologized to council colleague John Franklin at the very next meeting August 14.
“I want to publicly apologize to councilman Franklin,” Green said on mic. “I said some things that were inappropriate at our last council meeting. I did say I was so mad 'I wanted to hit you in the face' and I sincerely apologize. It was unprofessional and I let myself go. Although I was very upset, I should not have said that.”
But make no mistake. Green was pissed. So mad, in fact that he subsequently decided to exit the Republican party. He will continue to run to unseat Mayor Judy Ritter but now as an “undeclared.” He says he was furious that his other four council colleagues, all Republicans, have chosen to pander to their party rather than focus on what is best for Vista.
Green says he could simply not abide the grandstanding of the other council members who voted yes on a resolution that says the City of Vista is officially in opposition to SB-54, the so-called “sanctuary state” or “California values” act that would forbid state law enforcement to cooperate with federal ICE officials detaining aliens.
“Partisan politics has no place in local politics,” says Green. He said Franklin was making condescending comments that infuriated him at the June 26 meeting. “I don’t want to be involved in endorsing political party agendas while I’m here.”
Franklin’s Vista-based company Pacific Political, Inc., worked on seven campaigns to re-elect Congressman Darryl Issa and is now working to raise money for Issa’s would-be GOP successor Diane Harkey.
The rift between Green and the rest of the council grew even greater due to the other big issue currently roiling Vista politics: marijuana.
Although the Oceanside city council voted to approve two delivery-only pot outlets, Vista would become North County’s premier cannabis mecca if Measure Z passes in November.
Due to a full-press effort from out-of-town money and campaign operatives, Measure Z qualified for the November ballot. If it passes it would allow up to 11 storefront cannabis dispensaries in Vista. The Measure needed 4217 valid signatures (10 per cent of Vista’s registered voters). According to the Vista city clerk, 5596 signatures were judged to be valid.
Green supports Measure Z, while the rest of the city council supports Measure BB which would only allow up to three non-storefront (delivery only) cannabis outlets.
“I support the citizen’s initiative,” says Green of his open support of Measure Z. He says it would allow the opening of only one Vista dispensary at a time. “We will be opening 11 over many years,” says Green. “Vista has 18 car washes, nine Starbucks, 14 storage facilities.”
Green’s fans say his moves in support of SB-54 and pot and against the GOP is a profile-in-courage move. His detractors say it’s all cynical politics to line up Latino votes for his run for mayor and to get pro-pot money in his campaign coffers.
But Green says he has received nothing from the marijuana industry. “People can say what they want but I would say look at my donation records. Most of my donations are $10, $20 $40.” He says he should get no special kudos for not wanting to trash SB-54. “I think my city is behind me.”
While Green suspects there will be plenty of community support for Measure Z, he admits he is not sure exactly who paid to get the proposition on Vista ballots. The city clerk says there were two groups involved. “Vistans for Safe Community Access” had a 916 (Sacramento) phone number, while the contact for “Safe Vista – Safe Access – Safe Community” was answered by a Palm Springs-based treasurer. Requests to both groups for more information on how they got Measure Z on the ballot or how they plan to get Vista to pass it, were not answered.
Council member Amanda Rigby says she has no idea why the outside forces who descended on her hometown chose Vista instead of the much larger Oceanside to get Measure Z on the ballot. She is not happy with “…all the outsiders who came here to stir up all this angst. It is my understanding they have come and done this to other cities throughout California.”
Rigby says signature gatherers were outside grocery stores promoting values that had nothing to do with opening pot shops. “They were saying things like ‘Save Our Schools’ and ‘Keep our kids safe.’ Soccer moms going to soccer practice would sign right up. I received eight calls from people who said they wanted to get their names off the petition after they realized they had been lied to.”
A month ago all five Vista council members were Republican. If Green is elected mayor, and if Franklin and John Aguilera are out-polled by their Democratic opponents in their district elections, Vista City Hall could turn blue in December. Insiders well-versed in Vista politics say the Ritter-versus-Green mayoral race has been close up to this point.