By Kevin Harris
The Simi Valley City Council voted to take no action in response to the County Board’s request for written support for its halting of local gun shows at public facilities, and also voted to try to retain some local support amidst aggressive, federal “cell tower” legislation, during Monday night’s city council meeting. Both issues triggered significant citizen response, packing the Council Chamber at City Hall with residents ready to speak on either issue.
Mayor Keith Mashburn structured the meeting to allow the vast numbers of public speakers to opine on their respective issue early in the meeting, lumped together, during Issue 2A – “Public Statements.” Council members would later discuss the two major topics during the “Public Hearing” and the “New Business” periods of the meeting — perhaps to put some time between their discussions and the high emotions of the attendees. For the sake of our readers, Citizens Journal will group all of the public “gun show” comments together, followed by the public “cell tower” comments.
Public Comments; Simi Support for Ceasing Gun Show Contracts at Fairgrounds
What was at first being described as, and treated as a City Council decision as to whether to allow gun shows to continue taking place at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, was much later revealed to be little more than the Ventura County Board of Supervisors requesting the opined, written support for their decision to try to make that local limitation official.
City Council Member Ruth Luevanos, a hardline anti-gun advocate, brought the topic up for the Council to take up to begin with, and apparently chose not to make the previously stated revelation until logically pushed to by council discussion late in the meeting. Meanwhile, residents faced off with each other and the Council on the hot bed topic of gun control. Following is a sampling of some of the “gun show” related public comments. Virtually every speaker drew crowd applause when they finished:
Daniel Mcreabe: Mr. Mcreabe and a young, unnamed lady read their comments together (see photo). Both are “March for our Lives, Ventura County” representatives. After discussing the tragic Borderline shooting in Thousand Oaks, McReabe presented a series of controversial statistics relating to the numbers of national mass shootings and gun-related deaths. “There is nowhere in this country that we can feel safe… Instead of gliding through a carefree youth, we’re out planning vigils at our school, attending funerals of our loved ones who were murdered, organizing gun violence forums, and fighting for common sense gun regulations throughout the country,” the pair explained. They urged the city council to ban all gun shows at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.
Alan Kenworthy: A Simi Valley resident who enjoys attending gun shows, he likens them to car shows, street fairs and high school football games. He said he enjoys the atmosphere, the “good people,” and being able to see and hold historic firearms. He also likes limited government. “I stand here at the altar to government, saying please don’t take away something that I enjoy doing. And I find that alarming. I shouldn’t have to be here.”
Robert Gregory: Supports having local gun shows, and suggested that shutting them down is a First Amendment violation along with a Second Amendment violation.
Marryanne Wallux: A gun show supporter and vendor. Ms. Wallux said that small businesses supported by gun shows include more than just gun and ammo sellers, and include those that sell backpacks, kettle corn, and children toys, among others. She also pointed out that gun shows are self-sustaining, and do not require tax subsidizing, like some other city events.
Phil Luce: Mr. Luce insisted that “more guns equals more gun deaths.” He quoted numerous government and university studies backing his statement, and asked the council to stop contracting gun shows at the fairgrounds.
Bruce Boyer: Said he’s a Candidate for Ventura County Sheriff, and a passionate, eloquent advocate for individual rights. “Every one of us owns this fairgrounds. We have the right to hold shows for whatever we want. If you don’t want to see a Johnny Cash tribute, don’t come. I will. If you want to go to a tattoo show, I’m not going. This is our First Amendment, and if you won’t defend our First Amendment, you don’t have anything else… Are we going to let the government dictate what we can talk about at our fairgrounds? I don’t think so,” Boyer said.
At one point during the lengthy Public Statements period, Mayor Mashburn and a citizen engaged in a heated argument after the citizen, who had already used her time to speak, had another resident try to speak on her behalf as well, specifically to read a poem she wrote about the Borderline shooting. The Mayor pointed out that she was violating the Council rules for the meeting, but the citizen felt her poem warranted an exception. The woman who wrote the poem left the meeting, but later, after tempers cooled, the Mayor allowed the resident who was going to read the poem, do so during the “Council Comments” period following “Public Comments.”
ITEM 8A – NEW BUSINESS: CITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES GUN SHOW REQUEST
In December, 2018, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors requested that all Ventura County cities discuss and opine on their decision to ask the Ventura County Fairgrounds Board cease any new contracts for gun shows at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Council Member Luevanos asked the Simi City Council to respond to the request, and openly discuss the issue during Monday night’s meeting. It was only during the council’s comment period, however, that the true nature of the issue, and of the council’s actual level of involvement, became known.
Council Member Elaine Litster: “I believe (the fairgrounds) is something that should be used by everyone for free discourse, and that also applies to gun ownership,” she said. She also believes that stopping the gun shows is a Second Amendment infringement, and pointed out that gun show sales are subjected to the same regulations as other gun sales, including “extensive background checks, and a ten day waiting period.”
Council Member Ruth Luevanos: Strongly supports the gun show ban, and said that the Columbine shooters bought their guns from a gun show, where, according to her, 25% – 50% of gun dealers (at gun shows in general) are not licensed. She then offered some quotes seemingly out of the “Collectivism Handbook.”
“There is the right to life, that supersedes the right to Liberty. There are no absolute rights. Everybody’s rights are limited by everybody else’s rights.” She also said that school shooting drills make students feel unsafe and prevent learning. She continued her emotional testimony by offering the usual, questionable, one-sided gun violence statistics that gun control advocates favor. “We have to stop the gun culture,” she concluded.
Council Member Mike Judge: (His comments immediately followed Luevanos’ statements) “I don’t know about the rest of you gun owners in this room, but I feel like I’ve just been accused of every crime committed by every murderer that’s happened in the last 20 years. I don’t understand that at all,” he said. Judge gave a concise, facts-packed response suggesting a ban of gun shows is an infringement and a violation of the Second Amendment. He also pointed out that the numbers of suicides nationally has gone up due to years of American wars, and to not treating war veterans properly — not because of guns. He supports gun shows at the fairgrounds.
Mayor Pro Tem Dee Dee Cavenaugh: It was the Mayor Pro Tem who now first revealed that the Ventura County Board of Supervisors had already decided on this issue, and had already officially requested that the Ventura County Fairgrounds Board stop contracting with gun shows at all public county venues. In regard to allowing gun shows at the fairgrounds, Cavenaugh said, “That’s not our decision here in Simi Valley.” She also pointed out that Simi Valley has no public facilities pertaining to hosting, or not hosting gun shows.
“I was a little offended that the county asked us to agree with a decision that they made… whether we make a decision here or not, it’s not going to change (the county decision). I feel that we should remain neutral and take no action,” she said.
Mayor Keith Mashburn: “What if (the Ventura Board) came here and decided they wanted to go against us having Ford automobile dealers. I don’t think that would be right. Let’s keep in our own community, and let this body keep jurisdiction over what we can control,” the Mayor said.
Following the council members’ comments, there was a brief “back and forth” between Luevanos and Mashburn, after Luevanos tried to explain why the County Board asked cities to opine on the matter. She said that the Ventura County Fairgrounds Board is appointed by the Governor, so the County Board wanted to involve those beholden to their constituents.
The Mayor responded by saying that CARB is also appointed and actively affecting businesses in the state, “yet they never ask our opinion on anything.” Mashburn said he won’t respond to the request one way or another.
Council Member Luevanos then motioned for the council to send a letter to the Mayor in support of denying further gun shows at the fairgrounds. That motion failed. Council Member Mike Judge then motioned for the council to send a letter to the Mayor in support of approving gun shows at the fairgrounds. That motion also failed.
Mayor Pro Tem Dee Dee Cavenaugh then moved that the council take no action, and the Mayor seconded her motion. The motion passed, with a vote of 3-2. Luevanos and Judge voted against.
Postscript: The Ventura County Fairgrounds Board has received the written request from the County Board, but has yet to make a final decision on whether to allow gun shows at the fairgrounds.
5G Cell Towers in Simi; The Feds Verses The Cities
Another issue of high local concern during Monday’s meeting was the coming storm of 5G wireless cell towers by the major telecom providers — thousands, as it turns out, to be placed in residential areas across the city. Residents have reasonable concerns over potential health effects from the devices, as well as possible losses in their property values. The Feds maintain that the speedy new 5G technology requires a tight network of the towers to function, and to make nationwide wireless services truly work.
Simi’s recent Ordinance 1297, which added amendments to Simi Valley Municipal Code 5, Title 35, are an attempt to add local control to what many are calling “federal bullying.” Ordinance 1297 adds certain aesthetic and placement requirements for the cell towers, which could delay implementation of them while the issue is fought in the courts.
A major legal issue is that of temporary moratoriums. Specifically, are they allowed while numerous cities fight against the FCC in the courts (The California League of Cities is suing the FCC over the towers). Simi’s City Attorney said that, according to an FCC report, “all local moratoriums are prohibited.” That report, however, is being challenged in court. Still, according to the city attorney, “as it is now, moratoriums are prohibited by federal law.”
As with the gun show issue, residents made their statements prior to the council’s presentation. Following is a snapshot of some of the public comments made:
Malon Newton: Opposes the cell towers. “You are not making a decision that affects the people in this room tonight. You’re making a decision that affects our children and our grand children,” he told a supportive crowd. His concerns centered largely on the health effects of the wireless towers.
Susan Weineger: Ms. Weineger told the council that she believes legally, they can place a temporary moratorium on certain businesses related to local land use, in order to give the city more time to study the issue. She asked the council to immediately put such a moratorium into effect.
Al Abolla: Opposes the 5G towers. Shared his idea to have every Simi resident who opposes the towers contribute $50 to pay a team of high-powered lawyers to fight the phone companies on the towers. He imagines Simi being a “5G free city” amongst cities crowded with 5G towers, where people would pay top dollar to move to in order to escape the health dangers present in the surrounding cities. “Do the right thing for the people of Simi. Fight for us,” he said.
Charlane Hagan: Opposes the 5G placement near residential areas because her husband and brother-in-law both have sensitive medical device implants that would be affected by the towers. “I feel that artificial intelligence does not have what human intelligence has, and that is common sense (the crowd burst with applause, to Ms. Hagan’s obvious surprise). And for me, common sense says, don’t put these towers in our residential area.”
Wayne Smith: A Vietnam Vet with numerous cancers, caused by agent orange, he said. He gave a passionate speech comparing the handling of agent orange to today’s handling of 5G technology.
Warren Wolf: Compared the 5G cell towers to the gardening chemical “Roundup,” and pointed out that numerous juries have found Monsanto guilty of manipulating and bullying plaintiffs, and lying and the dangers of Roundup. He suggested that federal agencies are sometimes influenced by corporate interests, and warned that many peer-reviewed studies show the 5G towers to be dangerous to humans. Mr. Wolf also did some quick math calculations, and showed that the major carriers combined would require a total of 9,840 cell towers to cover Simi Valley.
CITY COUNCIL COMMENTS/QUESTIONS
Mayor Mashburn asked the city attorney if “in the future, the council wants to look at a moratorium, is that a possibility?” The answer was basically, if the court allows it.
Mayor Pro Tem Cavenaugh explained Ordinance 1297 by telling residents, “This ordinance has nothing to do with saying we want (the 5G towers) or we don’t want them. This ordinance says if we have to have them, we want to have some local control.”
The council vote passed unanimously, conducting the reading of, and approving the previously-passed Ordinance 1297.
The next Simi Valley Council meeting will be held on Monday, April 22, 2019, at 6:30 p.m.
Both the meetings on video, and the meeting agendas, can be directly accessed by going to the following URL: http://www.simivalley.org/i-want-to-/view-watch-/city-council-meetings.
Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also a Realtor and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks.