Supes Notes (November 6, 2019)

DURING TUESDAY’S (October 22) CROP REPORT to the Board of Supervisors District One Supervisor Candidate John Sakowicz introduced himself as “John Sakowicz, candidate for First District Supervisors and proud member of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance” before agreeing with the Board’s general opinion that future crop reports should contain an estimate of the annual pot crop, but adding that the pot crop numbers should include an estimate of all (estimated) 9,000 pot grows, not just the 200-300 that have or have applied for permits. Not surprisingly the Board didn’t entertain that suggestion. But they did ask the Ag Department to include some kind of pot crop report in next year’s crop report. 

THE ONLY OTHER COMMENT on the crop report came from another candidate for First District Supervisor, James Green who did not identify himself as a candidate: “James Green, concerned member of the public. The report mentioned that there was a significant drop in apple prices and my rough math showed it as 11% and the reason why I’m asking is because I like apples. Is there an explanation for the drop in prices?” The Ag inspector doing the presentation, after raising his eyebrows at the weirdness of the question, replied, “It is my belief that it all comes down to supply and demand. So it was nothing significant with the crop that was produced. There was actually a lot of the crop left on the trees becase there was no demand for fresh-pak or they couldn’t keep up with their own…” Green interrupted: “Great. Thank you. I’ll buy more.” 

THE BOARD also approved nice raises for the County’s management association, law enforcement, and Probation units. Oddly, the Board didn’t express any interest in the budget impact of these latest increases, although Supervisor Williams expressed caution, commenting that in future years the County would need additional revenue sources or a reduction in staff. It fell to Willits Weekly reporter Mike A’Dair to ask, “How much will this cost?” 

SEVERAL BOARD MEMBERS, and the CEO, then spoke up to say that the County had recently discovered that due to some unspecified error they had larger than expected carry over of about $5 million when they reconciled the final budget for last fiscal year (as of June 30, 2019). This not only provided a nice cushion for salary increases and perhaps other projects, but lead Supervisor John McCowen to declare that the County was “not teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.” Supervisor Gjerde added that the Board “had a plan” to cover not only this year’s raises (for which they had previously budgeted a presumably different $5 million), but they also had a plan for the raises in the following two years. NO ONE explained what the “error” which was magically corrected in the final budget close-out for last year and nobody explained what the amount had been expected to be. We suspect that at least some of the $5 million carry-over from last year stemmed from larger than expected staff vacancies as opposed to new revenues — but who knows? 

UNFORTUNATELY, with the seemingly large dependence on vacancies to cook the books, nobody asks what the impact of the vacancies is on workload, backlog, etc. 

LATER in Tuesday’s meeting the subject of monthly budget reporting came up again. And again, the CEO and her staff put it off again, saying they were still trying to figure out a way to connect the computer with actual expenses to the computer with the budgeted numbers. The Board will discuss the subject again in November at which point they may or may not have at least one department up and ready for the long delayed and oh-so-hard task of monthly reporting of budgets versus actuals like every other government organization in the County. 

SUPERVISORS MCCOWEN & WILLIAMS propose price-gouging ordinance:

November 5 Meeting Agenda, relevant excerpt: “The purpose of this Ordinance is to impose a more severe penalty than that provided in Penal Code section 396 to ensure that victims of the October 23, 2019 wind events are not further victimized by unscrupulous landlords and others wishing to take financial advantage of this disaster. … it shall be unlawful for any person to offer for rent or lease a dwelling unit in the unincorporated areas of the County of Mendocino for more than 10% above the dwelling units’ housing price prior to the October 23, 2019 wind events, unless such person can prove that the excess is directly attributable to additional costs resulting from the labor or materials used to rent or lease the dwelling unit. In such instances, only the actual cost increase may be added to the prior housing price. For purposes of this ordinance, “prior housing price” shall be the rental price for the dwelling unit during the thirty-day period immediately preceding the State of Emergency.”

AND HERE’S the dynamic duo again: “Improve the economic forecast for our county by generating 50% more revenue from cannabis over the next 5 years.” by ensuring that “Mendocino cultivation thrives and remains at a high value point over the next decade.” The plan would “create a Cannabis Business Zone in 2020 to support innovations within the cannabis industry,” and “develop Mendocino brand identity that captures tourist dollars and contributes to the general fund,” and working “to expand the advocacy collaboration between Mendocino County Leadership, Emerald Triangle counties and cannabis industry groups.” To do this they intend to “Develop a metrics framework to track accomplishments and revenues over the next 12 months,” and “Incorporate the Cannabis Economic Development strategy into a 10 year Economic Development plan for the county.”

THIS NEW PLAN — complete with a mythical “metrics framework” — comes on the heels of Mendo’s successful pot permit program which was advertised to bring in millions in new revenue for roads, emergency services, mental health and administration.

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