Letters (July 22, 2020)

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DON’T TOSS THE CANNABIS ORDINANCE. JUST ENFORCE IT!

Editor, 

At a time when we are seeing record high temperatures, record low rainfall, worsening dead zones off our coastline and killer toxic algae in our rivers, a proposal is afoot to expand cannabis cultivation into our rangelands. This will demand a lot of water that we can’t spare, and it will deposit a lot more fertilizer into our rivers and streams that we don’t need. This is exactly the wrong proposal at this time of worsening droughts. It will likely sabotage decades of restoration efforts which we’ve already invested in to save our struggling salmon fisheries from being pushed into extinction. We must not let our rich heritage of salmon fisheries be jeopardized by the lure of short term profits.

Some Supervisors are proposing abandoning our cannabis ordinance, which has strict requirements and limitations, replacing it with the Use Permits process which will give the Planning and Building staff a lot more “flexibility.” Replacing our ordinance with Use Permits, which are at the “discretion” of the planning staff, will also provide few, if any, remedies for complaints from the public. This is a bad deal.

You may have noticed recently the proliferation of large clusters of 14 or more white plastic hoop houses. This has occurred because the 10,000 sq. ft. of cannabis canopy allowed in the ordinance was then changed to 10,000 sq. ft. of white plastic eyesore at the “discretion” of the Planning and Building Dept. Surprises like this that destroy our views and devalue our properties are exactly what we don’t want. We should, instead, abide by the promises made in the ordinance and work to make it even better.

Instead of the proposal to expand cannabis into our last remaining open space, our rangelands, we could, instead, expand into our industrial and commercial zones where infrastructure and water resources are already developed. Cannabis growers truck in much of their soil and even at times their water, so having these activities in an industrial setting would be a much better fit than in our neighborhoods, or in our open spaces, and it would help reduce their carbon footprint. Electricity instead of generators would also greatly reduce the risk of fire.

Lured by the promise of big money, Ted Williams and John McCowen are working hand in hand with the cannabis industry to promote this expansion plan into our rangeland, largely for the benefit of the corporate grower.

The small grower is not likely to afford these bigger parcels and all the permits and infrastructure that will be needed, so this will likely benefit the better capitalized crew that is flooding in from out of the area.

We’ve already seen so much plundering and pillaging and now this proposal for bigger grows on steep, highly erodible land, will deliver just more of the same — a lot more fish choking sediment in our rivers, water diversions, garbage, code enforcement complaints, crime and threat of fire.

Code Enforcement complaints are up by 31%, with only 2 officers on the cannibis beat. Policing is stretched thin, too, and the Covelo cartel problem is spreading. Why expand cannabis to our rangelands where enforcement is much more difficult?

Measure AF [a cannabis industry proposal] went down to defeat by a large margin in every district in 2016 because it proposed cannabis for every zone. We’ve already voted this idea down, but they are determined to ignore the wishes of the public.

If we hope to have a future on this fragile earth, protecting our fisheries, our wildlife and wild lands, enforcing the laws already on the books should matter to all of us.

If you don’t wish to see our cannabis ordinance abandoned, or are sick of non-enforcement, then let your Supervisors know by mail or by phone.

Their upcoming meeting is the 4th of August. Urge them to take a cautionary approach by staying with our existing cannabis ordinance and our existing cannabis zones. I urge you to write or call to make sure that your voice is heard.

Sheila Jenkins

Willits


SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS REPLIES:

"Lured by the promise of big money, Ted Williams and John McCowen are working hand in hand with the cannabis industry to promote this expansion plan into our rangeland, largely for the benefit of the corporate grower.”

Where can I learn more about the promise of big money? Does the big money have a name? All outdoor cultivators in Mendocino County are operating on “provisional” licenses from the state. The provisionals sunset in 2022. By this time, cultivators must hold “annual” licenses in order to continue cultivating. The existing ordinance has not been successful in enabling cultivators to transition to annual state licenses. The existing ordinance, authored primarily by Supervisor McCowen, is based on a ministerial model. Our ministerial permits cannot be conditioned. Further, our ministerial permits do not meet site specific requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). California Department of Food and Agriculture has worked with county staff on a concept known as “Appendix G” for over a year. This appendix would provide checkbox style site specifics. 

For example, one of the checkbox represents approval of a Sensitive Species Review by California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Because the ministerial permit cannot be conditioned, CDFW would have the option to either approve or deny. It’s foreseeable that many of the 700 legacy cultivation provisional licenses would not be approved for continuation under the annual license. 

That is, if state agencies even complete the process. Ministerial permits do not have a finite timeline. 

Contrast this with use permits. Under discretionary use permits, agencies have 30 days to provide comment. No comment is treated as approval by default. Further, use permits meet the site specific requirement of CEQA.

Many other counties have implemented cannabis under the use permit model. That said, it’s not a panacea. Humbolt has far more staffing in their cannabis program and still only approves approximately 70 cannabis cultivation use permits per year. If we were to staff up to Humboldt's level, we’d be looking at a decade to transition. My goal is not to swap our ordinance for a use permit model, but rather, ensure we transition our legacy cultivators to annual licenses, whatever it takes. 

Some cultivators have argued to keep the current process in place. When I ask what they’ll do in 2022 when all regulated outdoor cultivation in Mendocino County ceases, I often get deer-in-headlights. Selling out to big corporations is a fiction. Corporate cannabis is focusing on places like Santa Barbara, where licensing is a breeze, farmland is plentiful and production is in close proximity to the enormous southern California consumer market. 

If Mendocino County cultivators survive the botched framework, their market will be in "county of origin" high quality flower, not biomass for extraction. Biomass requires flat farmland, cheap labor and scale, none of which fit the characteristics or culture of Mendocino County. 

Sheila Jenkins raises important points about protecting our environment. I share the concern about agricultural impact on water and I’d prefer see plants in ground without plastics. These concerns exist whether we continue with the potentially dead-end ministerial ordinance or we rebase on discretionary use permits. 

The issue at hand is structural and technical in nature. Change "largely for the benefit of the corporate grower” is a rural legend. Keeping seven hundred farms from becoming outlaws overnight is the primary motivation for considering a shift of approach. Addressing the shortcomings of the model is our path to maintaining regulation. Regulation is what protects the environment and reduces crime. 

Although Supervisor McCowen often refers to himself as my secretary in reference to finishing my half baked ideas, we have not been working on this together. I see Supervisor McCowen capitulating in recognition of staff’s continued frankness about the ordinance being fundamentally flawed. If I deserve any credit, it’s in provoking staff to admit the pipeline is clogged, perhaps indefinitely. 

Whether the ordinance can be adequately patched to meet state requirements remains to be seen, but I do have respect for McCowen’s willingness to look objectively at his creation and consider the best next steps. Brave cultivators who entered our embarrassing program have been the brunt of laughter from illicit market counterparts who recognized what an endless pit of hoops the program would be. Fixing the model is about upholding our county’s end of the deal.

Ted Williams


MARK SCARAMELLA ADDS: Where did Ms. Jenkins get the impression that the reform proposal would somehow eliminate “our existing cannabis zones”? I have not heard or seen anything about the reform proposal that would fundamentally change any existing zoning, which is exactly where the County should have focused in the first place.

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HURRY UP ON POT, SUPES

Honorable Supervisors, 

As indicated in previous memos and during prior Board meetings in June, MCA requests that the Board prioritize certain urgent cannabis related issues. 

Specifically, we strongly urge the Board to direct Staff to report back (at a BoS meeting or via publicly available written report) not later than July 21, 2020 on three outstanding matters: 

1. The status of the SSRs issue with respect to CDFW, the status of their processing more SSRs, the status of them approving of the County Program to do the SSRs in-house, and whether changing the ordinance to conduct SSRs in-house even if CDFW does not approve of the County program that has been submitted, 

2. The status of the meeting with CDFA and the ability to finalize and use Appendix G, what happened with the test cases that were submitted to CDFA, whether Appendix G will continue to be used to process current applications, and how many Appendix G applications are able to be submitted in what timeframe. 

3. Report on issues relevant for the BoS to have prior to discussing the possibility and feasibility of switching to a land-use based system. The relevant issues include specifically what a "streamlined" process is comprised of and how long it would take to implement; what the costs to existing applicants and permit holders would be (not just county fees but all associated fees); what additional paperwork or requirements would be required of people who have already submitted all information required under the current system; how long it would take to process the entire existing cohort of Phase 1 applicants into a new system and whether it could all be accomplished prior to the expiration of State Provisional licensing (1/1/22); whether potential "conditions" that could be placed on a discretionary review permit would create additional requirements for the existing cohort under Phase 1. 

We also request that the the Board allows prompt calendaring and clear prioritization of discussion and possible action regarding: 

(a) The troubleshooting and resolving the Phase 1 applicant pool's provisional License deadline; (b keeping the current ordinance with amendments to it vs switching to a land use based system; (c) the issues of reopening legacy cultivation in light of the Equity Program Grant; and (d) that except for discussion and approval of the Equity Grant (specific program proposal) when Staff is ready to present it, other cannabis related issues take a backseat with respect to calendaring. This means that items such as Hemp, Satellite Imagery, and Innovations Zones would have to wait until the other issues are agonized and followed up on. 

Thank you for your consideration. 

Mendocino Cannabis Alliance 

Ukiah

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STREETSWEEPING

Editor,

How long will it be before Mendocino County cuts back the Sheriff's office and loses half our sheriff's department? I know they are capable of it because they are very liberal and probably want to follow what the rest of the liberal cities are doing. It wouldn't put it past me but I don't think Matt Kendall will let that happen but you never know who carries the punch over there. The county probably has the top say. Don't be surprised if it doesn't happen.

That mongolian piece of dog manure George Soros is putting $220 million into trying to stop the police force..

I guess a lot of you people out there like protesters tearing down the statues and looting and breaking windows and raping and killing and stuff. Liberals seem to like it. But President Trump is starting to bring the military in. I hope and pray that they grab these people and stomp them right into the asphalt so they will look like the monogram that says black lives matter only it will say blue lives matter! Get rid of them! All of them! I'm starting to feel better about the president. Thank you.

God bless Donald Trump.

Jerry Philbrick

Comptche

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THINK AGAIN

Letter to the Editor,

It was reported the week of July 5 that two or three East Bay ladies were cited for painting over black lives matter on public streets, i.e., refurbishing the streets back to original condition/removal of illegal tagging. Just doing good civic duty cleaning up! Oh no! Those bad bad ladies were slapped with charges of discriminatory vandalism. What? The judicial brain trust must have had several meetings formulating this charge. You may give high marks for creativity. I don't! Ridiculous! Why were no tickets issued for tagging public streets? Defacing public property? Making racist signs on public property? Be assured, black lives matter is in fact racist! Don't kid yourself or BS others. Turn the page, there is an undercurrent far beyond BLM. It is anarchy, total disruption of our system as it exists today. A large portion of these far left wing flamers are using these peaceful -- yeah right! -- protests as a cover for a special group agenda. They and those who burn, loot and destroy stores, police cars and public property could care less for the true black agenda.

You think racist comments are one-sided? Look again! Watch TV or read the newspaper. A very large number of white/black Americans are being pushed, pulled and drugged into a new mindset of racist discriminatory feelings. I have been force-fed and overflowing with white injustice reform. We need reform, no doubt. But don't, repeat don’t, attempt to give me a political enema with a firehose. I'm just apt to crap all over you and a few of those left-wing beauties you hang out with, or are about to.

Stronger letter to follow!

God bless America, the Donald, Jerry Philbrick

Still Very Old And Very Angry

Boonville

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A DUBIOUS HONOR

Good morning, Mother Earth,

Today you have the dubious honor of welcoming 226,000 new people who want to live and make a living on your surface. In fact, that 226,000 is after everyone who died last night have been replaced. It's about 150 people per minute, every minute of the year. Is there anyone out there who still believes this is sustainable?

Overpopulation along with avarice and greed are the main causes of almost all of our environmental problems. Why are we chopping down the Amazonian rain forest? Because an increasing population is creating a demand and market for timber, cattle and soybeans. I think today there are many countries that have exceeded their carrying capacity for humans. At this point the people often have no choice but to flee, stressing some other country’s carrying capacity. Do you think that a town like Santa Rosa would be twice as nice with twice as many people and cars? Is there too little traffic and too many parking spaces?

Mother Nature likes a nice balance which we've gone far beyond. She's very tolerant, but eventually will quit being beautiful and crash the entire population, leaving just enough of it behind to start again. Perhaps this coronavirus thing is just a "preview of coming attractions."

It seems ironic that the world's most apex predator could be brought down by something that doesn't even have a cell wall. But unless it kills 226,000 people a day, the population will continue to grow, the environment will continue to degrade and we will be responsible for our own demise.

Don Phillips

Manchester

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THE BISON ALTERNATIVE

Editor,

It’s true that cows fed on corn belch up large amounts of methane, but cows raised entirely on grass don’t produce nearly as much. 

The American bison is an even better alternative; it produces no methane and doesn’t destroy the grasslands it grazes on, but improves them.

Its wool can be spun, its hide makes better leather than cattle. Veganism is not a fact-based movement but an ideology, and as such it conveniently ignores the fact that without manure from farm animals, an all plant-based diet is actually worse for the environment.

Such a world would require even greater fossil fuel-based fertilizer and pesticide use, and more plantation-style monoculture, thus more pressure on both the bees we need to fertilize them as well as the wild-animal populations displaced to grow crops. More food would be flown huge distances to the consumer, releasing more carbon dioxide.

No wool or leather means more unbiodegradeable clothing in landfills. The real solution is a smaller population, abandoning industrial agriculture, and eating less meat, more fruits and vegetables, all grown the symbiotic, Polyface Farm’s way.

Wiley Jackson

San Francisco

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