AT THEIR LAST MEETING on January 8, 2019, newly seated Supervisor Ted Williams asked, “Are there any staff recommendations on how we can process the [pot permit] queue faster? I would like to hear; what can the supervisors do to make sure we are getting everyone into the system where the application is kicked out and not stuck in a holding pattern where month after month we see a large number still in review.”
MENDO'S freshly appointed pot permit program manager, Sean Connell, replied: “We are currently doing the work in order to provide that. We are going to — we think that we are going to address that much more on the 22nd [of January] when we can have enough time to comprehensively understand all the aspects of that and I do plan on bringing this to you and this board on 22nd of January.”
CONNELL didn’t specify what he meant by “that” or “this,” leaving it pretty much open to whatever he wanted "this" or “that” to be.
IT WAS CLEAR, however, that Supervisor Williams wanted specific “staff recommendations.”
THE JANUARY 22 Supe's agenda has now been posted, including what Mr. Connell describes as a “comprehensive cannabis program update.”
“COMPREHENSIVE” is in the eye of the updater, it seems.
MENDO'S NEW POT GUY, Sean Connell, lists the bureaucratic titles of the kinds of documents that the Water Board and Fish & Wildlife want to see. It’s a mess, of course. (For example, one of them is “EPIMS-Application Received Notification.” “EPIMS” is not explained, not that we’d know any more if it was. But it indicates how much of a bureaucrat’s game the pot permit process has become.)
UNDER Fish & Wildlife Mr. Connell notes: “total number of documents received by department 300.”
AND UNDER “Water Board Evidence” Mr. Connell notes: “total number of documents received by department 483.”
CONNELL then goes on to repeat most of the same information that lead to Supervisor Williams' original question, showing the numbers of permits in various categories of review — very close to the same as last time and still very much “in a holding pattern.”
THEN COMES a nod to Supervisor Carre Brown with a final chart entitled “Moving Forward” which says:
"Conduct 212 pre-permit site inspections prior to reopening for Phase I in April 2019
"Finalize department policies and procedures for submission, acceptance, processing, review, referral, inspection, determination and recommendations and issuance of permits
"Outreach and Education such as satellite office locations, streamlined applications, technological integration of web based forms
"Receive remaining outstanding documents from current applicants.”
Nothing new there.
* * *
NOWHERE in Connell’s (not so) “comprehensive” presentation is anything even in the general vicinity of a response to Supervisor Williams' original question.
Prediction: 1. Supervisor Williams will give up on the subject. (We can’t say we’d blame him, but we hope we’re wrong on this one.) and 2. If Supervisor Williams tries to follow-up on his original question he will get another non-responsive stream of pot-bureaucratese.
Why is it so darn hard to get simple answers to straightforward questions about the pot permit program? Is the subject of "marijuana" itself affected by the product under discussion?
If Mr. Connell doesn’t know what can be done to speed up the permit process, why doesn’t he just say that, and offer to prepare a list of possible steps that would help? Staffing changes? Letters to state agencies? Legislators? Deletion or waiver of some requirements?
ALL THIS CONFUSION was predictable. Official Mendo, with big buck pot revenues bedazzling the CEO's office, rushed headlong into the breech with a constantly amended set of rules, apparently not fully aware that a bunch of state agencies would hold trump cards over the sort-of redundant local rules. It's all still in a state of confusion, and totally skewed to well-capitalized, large-scale growers, meaning whatever rules Mendo finally adopts, the small-time pot farmer will continue his outlaw grows, albeit with the attendant additional law enforcement hazard overlay and lower margins for it. They are here to stay because it's already clear, as Colorado's experience proves, that street pot is and always will be cheaper than store pot.
* * *
FOR A WHILE THERE, CEO Carmel Angelo was issuing CEO reports with each Board meeting. A few months ago she found even those mostly info-free collections of press-releases and highly selective statements of the obvious too much work and started doing them something like once a month. (Coincidentally, about the time the Board gave her that big robo-raise spread out over four years. Hmmm?) We assume that was because even as uninformative and vague as they were, they occasionally mentioned things that Angelo expected to happen — someday. (There were very few specific dates and even those were routinely not met.) So one good way to avoid being held accountable for doing what she said she was going to do was for the CEO to simply cut back on her written reports.
THE OTHER RECENTLY IMPLEMENTED TRICK was about a year ago when the CEO stopped including her CEO report in the Board packet. This meant it wasn’t issued the minimum three days before the Board meeting like the Brown Act requires for Board packets when the Supes (and the public) might have a chance to review it in advance, but appeared instead on the day of the meeting. That way there was no practical way for the Board or the public to digest the CEO's whatevers and ask proper follow-up questions. (Not that they did much anyway, but still…)
TAKE, for example, these two items from CEO Angelo’s last report back in December: “Since the Board presentation on October 16, 2018, California’s Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) has provided additional feedback and requested new information in order to approve Mendocino County’s RFP for an Exclusive Operating Area (EOA) for ambulance services. The County is working with CVEMSA and EMSA to provide this additional information with the goal of releasing the EOA RFP as early as possible in the new year.”
NOTICE the use of “as early as possible in the new year” to avoid committing to doing anything about this long-delayed project. Of course, the five ciphers, er, Supervisors, (last year) did not pin her down and now two of those five ciphers are gone. Will the two new board members follow up “as early as possible in the new year”?
LAST MONTH’S CEO REPORT also said: “Departments continue to evolve in the completion of the Monthly Metric Dashboard reports. As this is a new request from the departments, it is requiring some additional education and development of the form to meet the desired goal of monthly reporting.”
ACTUALLY, it’s not “a new request” at all. Even the CEO herself mentioned it in her first announcement of her “leadership team’s” formation back in 2017. You don’t need a “form” to report on budgets and actuals by department with a few notes of explanation. Also, notice the sly use of “completion” and “evolve.” We don’t need completion, we only need the first department to do whatever lame-ass data assemblage Angelo may mean by “Monthly Metric Dashboard reports.” (If it’s like the grossly overhyped “opengov” software package, CEO Angelo might as well save us all the trouble and continue not reporting on anything at all.) Obviously, “the desired goal of monthly reporting” is not “desired” much, because it can wait for months and months as it “evolves” and inches ever so slowly to “completion” whenever that may be, if ever.
* * *
DURING HIS MAIDEN VOYAGE as Supervisor on January 8, Supervisor John Haschak rightly — almost boldly in the Mendo context — pulled several high-dollar items from the consent calendar, saying that high dollar items should not be on the consent calendar. And last year Supervisor John McCowen told the CEO that he “frowned on” retroactive items appearing on the consent calendar, especially when they appeared without explanation.
CEO Angelo and staff (particularly HHSA Directors Ann Molgaard and Tammy Moss Chandler) assured the Supervisors that retroactive items would not only be minimized, but explained. (Retroactive items that require board approval are items that proceed without board approval and pretty much obviate the whole point of getting Board approval, especially high dollar retroactive items, even if they’re non-controversial.)
Supes Agenda 1/21/2019, Consent Calendar item 4g: “Approval of Retroactive Agreement with North Coast Opportunities Inc. in the Amount of $143,734 to Provide Outreach and Education to Children and Seniors Through the Walk Bike Mendocino Program Under the Office of Traffic Safety Grant to Improve Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety from October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019.”
Previously: “Ongoing since 2009, last action on November 6, 2018, Item No. 4(j), approval of OTS grant.”
The item is another of those highly redundant grants duplicating instruction already conducted in most local school districts described in the agenda packet as: “North Coast Opportunities Inc. will work with school age children, their parents, and seniors throughout Mendocino County to provide services that improve pedestrian and bicycle safety.…” blah blah etc. etc. blah. … “Education [sic] will focus on the health benefits of walking and biking, and show that those benefits far exceed the risks when pedestrians and bicyclists employ safe traffic engagement strategies.”
AGAIN: $144,000 to “educate” kids on the how to walk and ride bikes safely! $144,000 for that! And the grant should go to MCOE and local school districts to supplement their existing programs, NOT to NCO which is the least efficient way to go about the “education” whatever good it may do.
BY WAY of (non-)explanation, the item concludes: “HHSA received the grant award from OTS on September 29, 2018 with a grant start date identified as October 1, 2018. The agreement between Mendocino County HHSA and North Coast Opportunities Inc. was drafted shortly after receipt of grant award, and immediately routed through the County approval process.”
IMMEDIATELY? Then why are they only getting to it now, in mid-January? (Oh wait, I forgot: to Official Mendo “immediately” means whenever we get around to it.)
SO OFF GOES NCO wasting a perfectly good $144,000 “educating” “school-age children” by providing “services” for months before the item appears before the Supes for “approval.” (Connected unemployables, friends of the public cash dispensers, get the money to teach kids what they already know.) What if the Supes wanted the money to go to MCOE where it should go instead of to NCO? Oops! Too late, staff already “routed” it to NCO, no need to run it by those pesky Supervisors (or the public).
YES, YES, it’s all just the usual bureaucracy and nothing to be upset about. Except that’s the point: The Supes specifically “frown on” retroactive items and have asked for these things to be excluded from the Consent Calendar, and staff agreed — and yet here they are, as if the Supervisors don’t matter. If the Supes allow staff to flout them on simple items like this, how much will staff get away with on the more questionable items?
ED NOTE: THE UKIAH-BASED non-profit axis, has for years benefitted from large hunks of public cash funneled to it through the Supervisors. On the face of it, $144,000 to teach children what they know is preposterous. And to route that handout to your pals in do-nothing groups like NCO, borders on the criminal. The Supervisors have been so weak for so many years, the incestuous non-profit sector, lots of them social pals, insultingly assume the hopefully re-invigorated board with Haschack and Williams will be the big fat patsies recent boards have been. We hope Williams, Haschak, McCowen, and Gjerde will slam dunk this outrageous palsy-walsyism.