Last Wednesday afternoon, Supervisor John McCowen wanted to know when his as yet undefined proposal to streamline the marijuana cultivation permit program would be up for discussion.
Supervisor Ted Williams agreed that the item should be prioritized:
“I agree with supervisor McCowen’s concerns. I realize we are in a pandemic and have limited resources. At the same time cannabis is one of the few revenue sources [we have] during the pandemic aside from the visitor economy which is at risk of closing. We have concerns about the environment which can be mitigated by bringing cultivators into the legal regulated market. And yet in Mendocino County we are up against a cliff. In 2022, there will be no outdoor legal cannabis in this county unless we make progress. Whether that’s by addressing ministerial concerns with CDFW (State Department of Fish and Wildlife] and CDFA [Department of Food & Agriculture] or moving to use permits, this should have started six months or a year ago. We are not going to get our people to an annual state license when the provisionals start expiring. We are at a crisis level in terms of the cannabis ordinance. It puts additional strain on law enforcement. We can’t ask law enforcement to drive people into the legal cultivation process if there isn’t one. And that’s where we are today. There isn’t an application process in this county. There isn’t one in the works. There isn’t one planned. We don’t know where it’s going. I share Supervisor McCowen’s concern about kicking it down the road. We do need to address it. Maybe it doesn’t need to be an all-day meeting, but we can make some progress. Board Chair Haschak, still fairly new to his duties but already a master of delay and detour: “I will check with staff and maybe we can have a special meeting just to deal with these issues that are piling up on us. It’s going to take staff and the cannabis department and everyone being able to have everything in order for us to make the decisions.”
Williams: “Supervisor Haschak, perhaps can you tell us where that stands today? I think you may have more visibility on it and it would help to have the Board as a whole know which resources are limited and where is the holdup? Is it planning and building? Is it the clerk’s office? What are we looking at in terms of moving this forward?”
Haschak: “I have heard that there is a holdup in County Counsel’s office (where action goes to die) being able to come back with those recommendations. There is a holdup in the Cannabis department being able to bring the issues back to us that were brought up in June and there is also a holdup in the staff from the Clerk of the Board’s office that there is just so much capacity in this time of a pandemic to deal with more board meetings. So we have a lot of critical issues to deal with according to the pandemic and so we are trying to balance it out and make it work for people. Like you heard from the CEO earlier that people are maxed out and so we are trying to make it work but we need those pieces of the puzzle to come together.”
Williams: “Could we consider outsourcing this rather than using County Counsel? Could we hire outside counsel and pay for it with the cannabis tax dollars? That way it takes 100% of the burden off staff and yet we move forward. Unlike some of our other endeavors, this one has a hard deadline because there is a planting season and if that’s missed for a year I worry that we will see more people move into the illicit market because we don’t have a legal process.”
Haschak: “My commitment will be to work with the Clerk of the Board and the Cannabis Department and County Counsel to expedite these issues as quickly as possible.”
McCowen: “Would that include a goal of bringing these items before the Board on July 21?”
Haschak: “I said I would work to do it as quickly as possible. Okay?”
McCowen: “I would like to request an update for July 14 to hear what progress we are making on being able to get these issues back in front of the board. They are time sensitive.”
Haschak: “Very good.”
Supervisor Haschak is on record saying he essentially agrees with Ellen Drell of the Willits Environmental Center that streamlining the existing cannabis permit program represents some kind of existential threat to the environment. He appears to be willing to use his position as Board chair and agenda setter to obstruct and delay consideration of permit streamlining based on his vague and unsubstantiated concern that streamlining would somehow lead to a green rush spurred by large well-funded outside pot growing operations, thus overwhelming the proverbial and mostly mythical, mom and pop garden.
However, as we have pointed out before, the county can easily restrict cultivation sizes and locations with zoning rules while eliminating the county’s [McCowen’s actually] own redundant, costly, and unnecessary permit processing program in favor of the already severe restrictions imposed and enforced by several state agencies. (Note that in the above exchange, no one asked the departments that Haschak says he’s worried about exactly how and how much they are overworked by the pandemic.)
PS. The July 14 Board meeting agenda shows that Supervisor Haschak’s “very good” response to Supervisor McCowen for an update on the cannabis cultivation permit program has not happened. Instead, Haschak has put an item on the agenda to “terminate various cannabis Ad Hoc Committees and Create One Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee.” Thus making sure that every effort will continue to be made to postpone and delay any discussion of pot permit streamlining and further jeopardizing next year’s legal cannabis cultivation.
Supervisor John Haschak attached a list of current Board ad hoc committees to his proposal to consolidate pot-related ad hoc committees for Tuesday’s Supervisor’s meeting.
Haschak apparently doesn’t realize that the list demonstrates how little the Supervisors do or have done on a number of important issues that were fobbed off to committee never to be seen again. No surprise that the list provides zero info about the committees, showing only that they are “active,” presumably meaning that the committee is still slaving away on whatever issue was assigned to them.
Here are just a few of the ad hoc committees on Haschak’s list that we still await recommendations from.
- Emergency medical services sustainability
- Road Naming Issues and Proposal
- Identify and reduce fire fuel management
- Road Maintenance Efficiency
- Reduce street-level homelessness
- Hack and squirt ‘Measure V’ (“Motion to direct code enforcement to investigate a documented first complaint regarding Hack and Squirt and return to the Board within 30 days; and formation of an Ad Hoc Committee.”)
- Work with County Staff to discuss policies and procedures for placing items on BOS Agendas
- Work with Sheriff-Coroner, other Law Enforcement Agencies, and citizens to develop the Mendocino Model for Law Enforcement Oversight
Haschak’s list, of course, does not include the large range of assignments given to the CEO in the past. Such a list does exist but, conspicuously, it’s seriously incomplete, there are no deadlines, and there’s no follow-up besides the list itself, which is never commented on or discussed by the Supervisors, although it is occasionally included in the Board’s agenda packet deep into an occasional CEO report.
We are not surprised by the lack of progress on these various subjects. The Board seldom even asks about them unless they happen to be a pet project of one of the Board members. And even then the responses from staff are typically “we’re really backed up right now,” or “we’ve held some meetings, but…” or “We’re working really hard on that and meetings are planned,” or “We don’t have the answer right now but we’ll get back to you…”
An ad hoc committee being assigned to prepare “Policies and procedures for placing items on BOS Agenda” shows that 1. They don’t like the annoying way Supervisor Williams puts issues on the agenda as if he was a Supervisor or something (never mind that Williams doesn’t follow-up either, obviously). And 2. CEO Angelo wants to make sure that she retains maximum control of the agenda by forcing board members to go through some silly rigmarole of her devising before they can even bring something up. (There should be no restrictions on Board members’ agenda items. If a Board member puts an item on an agenda that for one reason or another can’t be discussed that day, they can simply continue it to a later date, as they do now. If a Board member puts an item on an agenda that is a problem (legally, perhaps) then County Counsel can simply point that out at the time.)
Last year when the Grand Jury recommended in their report entitled “Who Runs Mendocino County?” that, “Directive status should include goal, proposed action, funding status and primary agency,” CEO Angelo replied: “Recommendation requires further analysis and Board direction. The Board directive process and tracking is developed in coordination with the Board of Supervisors. Incorporating the proposed recommendations needs to be considered by the Board of Supervisors prior to implementation.”
So even a simple thing like keeping proper track of directives was pushed down the memory hole. (Of course, the CEO never put the subject on an agenda.) So there has been no “further analysis or Board action.”
In their separate response, the Board replied that “the status of directives will be updated to better describe actions to date as well as those that have been completed.”
So they acknowledged the problem, but of course, nothing of the sort happened.
The Board also claimed in their Grand Jury response that “the list of directives will be updated and the results reported in the CEO report.”
They were not.
Does Mendo even need a Board of Supervisors if all they seem capable of is talking about a few things CEO Angelo puts before them now and then, and rubber stamping them? PS. They’re also good at giving lip service to, then completely ignoring public input, even when it comes from the Grand Jury.