Santa Paula Council: Mystery Lawsuit, Grants, Pot, Studies, Polls, Finances

 By Sheryl Hamlin

Mystery Lawsuit

The Agenda of the Santa Paula Council Meeting often includes Closed Session items. From the April 16, 2018 meeting, the following was indicated:

Source: Council Agenda April 16, 2018

The Government Code referenced as follows describes the potential lawsuit in this article. The referenced section says:

“(2) A point has been reached where, in the opinion of the legislative body of the local agency on the advice of its legal counsel, based on existing facts and circumstances, there is a significant exposure to litigation against the local agency.”.

This litigation was also in the Closed Session Minutes at March 5, 2018 and February 5, 2018. Each time, City Attorney Cotti has said “The Council took no reportable action.”.

Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge

Carlos Juarez announced that Santa Paula was up to the challenge and that he and his teammates (Jennifer Heighton, John Nichols and Meg Phillips) are working on the grant application with an innovative high-tech tourist smart phone app which would promote history featuring narratives about the St. Francis Dam Disaster, 9-11 Memorial, Korean War voyage with Santa Paula as first stop, as well as the restoration of the historic fire station located at 8th and Santa Barbara. Here is a previous article about the fire station restoration.

Council Reports

Council Members Crosswhite and Procter reported on the Youth Townhall where 110 students attended a meetihg facilitated by the consultant to create a ‘Youth Needs Assessment’. Council Member Procter said there was much energy in the younger people who could now register to vote at age 17. Mayor Gherardi attended the Korean War Memorial Ceremony. There was no Rock Report.

Consent Calendar Items Pulled for Discussion

Item 4 was the approval of a Professional Services Agreement with MKN Associates for $114,265 with changes not to exceed $15,000. Recall that MKN (Michael Nunley) participated in the RFP for the choice of the new operator of the Wastewater Treatment Facility and has a contract to act as liaison between the plant and the city. Nunley has been working with the city since 2016. Articles are here and here and here.

Sheryl Hamlin questioned why the project entitled “Water Master Recycling Plan” did not include monetization of the wastewater for benefit of the ratepayers and why there was no RFP?

Butch Britt, Acting Public Works Director, said that there was no RFP. They chose the best qualified, the most technically capable firm. He said the State was requiring a recycled water pipeline in three years with a design within two years. The MKN proposal says the report will take 36 weeks to prepare. Britt said that he had “no idea” if the water could be sold, but that the various parties who could participate in the project, United Water Conservation District, Farmers pipers and one unnamed, would spend up to $1 million on this project, at no cost to the city.

The council approved this with no discussion. It should be obvious to anyone listening that if the water companies are willing to spend up to $1 million to pipe Santa Paula wastewater, there is a monetary value upon which the city should capitalize for the benefit of the ratepayers.

Marijuiana Town Hall and Professional Polling of Citizens

Assistant City Manager Ikani Taumoepeau reported on the dot voting at the Marijuana Townhall where 100 plus attended. Medical pot, he said, was favored over recreational, although the latter was closely tied, per the dot voting. The question at this point is the possibility of a tax. But a tax on what?

According to the staff report, the AUMA (Adult Use of Marijuana Act or Prop 64) specified taxes on medical and non-medical sales, cultivation and general commercial activies. The city has the option of enacting more taxes. But first the city must decide what types of operations (retail sales, medical dispensary, cultivation, inspection) will be allowed. Ideally the city will recoup costs spent on licensing and inspection.

Five speakers spoke in public comments:

Joe Kyle, creator of the Thousand Oaks Medical Marijuana Outreach said that studies show 1 dispensary for 10,000 so Santa Paula should have three dispensaries.

Aaron Dunkle, local resident said a ballot measure was required and that polling money could be better spent.

Anita Pulido, realtor, said marijuana is still against federal law and can create an issue clearing title in real estate sales; she reminded council that the voters marginally approved Prop 64.

Connie Tushla, local resident, said that cultivation is the primary concern. The tax is not clear. Is this a ‘special excise tax’, she said? She presented an article from SFGATE about the threat of marijuana cultivation to ancient redwoods. Read article here. Is anyone looking at effect on local agriculture? She said that taxation by itself was too narrow a scope for a poll and gave the council and City Manager a list of other items the pollster should use as follows:

1. Do you support or do not support establishing Marijuana Dispensaries in SP?
2. Do you support establishing only medical Marijuana dispensaries in Santa Paula? Do you support opening recreational dispensaries too?
3. Do you support the cultivation of Marijuana in Santa Paula?
4. Are you clear on the difference between an excise tax and a sales tax?
5. If medical or recreational Marijuana dispensaries and or Cultivation are approved in Santa Paula would you support a special excise tax in addition to the Sales Tax?
6. Do you support a public vote on the approval or non approval of medical or recreational marijuana dispensaries and or commercial cultivation in Santa Paula?

Kay Wilson said the drug war should be fought at the local level and provided a list of “best practices” prepared by James F. Mosher, JD, Alcohol Policy Consultations. A snapshot of Ventura County Commercial Cannabis Pollcy was distributed. Download the report here. Information about teenagers and marijuana as it relates to the brain was distributed. Click here.

Marijuana Use be Teens, source:

The council discussed the merits of polling and balloting. Mayor Gherardi said that a poll was required to get the ballot measure correct; however it was noted that the only item on the ballot would be a tax. Council Member Procter said the poll would take the temperature of the voters and that banks are trying to solve the problem of an illegal cash business using a federal bank. Council Member Crosswhite questioned the size of the sample giving useful results within the margin of error of the last election.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the polling with Council Member Crosswhite voting no..

Establishment of Finance Advisory Standing Committee

This committee would be a new council sub-committee. The definition said that members should be “well versed in budget and finance”. There was no recommendation as to which staff members would populate the committee. After discussion, the council approved language appointing the mayor and vice-mayor, so that the sub-committee was always rotating. This passed unanimously.

As of Tuesday evening, the video was not available. Check here for availability of the video.

For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com

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