Saturday, June 3, 2023

Limiting Public Comment, Masking Recommendations Return, Cannabis Compliance Confusion—The Scoop on Mendo’s Supes

[From Left to Right]4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, County Counsel Christian Curtis, 2nd District Supervisor Mo Mulheren, 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak, 1st District Supervisor Glenn McGourty, 5th District Supervisor Ted Williams

Supervisor Ted Williams asked County Counsel for advice on limiting public comment related to agendized cannabis issues, leading to a swift warning from a leading cannabis attorney. The query follows close on the heels of the Board approving a controversial ordinance approving a fee schedule for public records requests.

In health-related topics that arose at the regular December 6 Board of Supervisors meeting:

Representatives from SEIU 2015, the caregivers union, advocated for higher pay, claiming that fast-food workers make more than those who take care of disabled, poverty-stricken people. Caregiver Priscilla Tarver was among the speakers arguing that low pay makes it difficult to hire enough caregivers. “We just want to be recognized as a serious profession,” she told the Board. “That’s what it is. You know that we came in in diapers, we’re going out in diapers. Somebody’s going to be taking care of you at some point. You’re going to want that person to like to do their job. And if they get paid well enough, they’re going to like to come to work, and take care of you.”

Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren urged people to get up to date on their flu and covid vaccines, and to take other precautions against infection. “Since our community risk level worsened last week, I strongly recommend masking now in all indoor public spaces,” he said. “Yes, they are uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as a hospital bed or a ventilator, or even caring for yourself for weeks at home.”

Coren said the local medical system is so strained by the spate of respiratory illnesses that recently a sick child had to be transported out of state. Children are hit especially hard by the flu and RSV. This week, Adventist Health Ukiah Valley announced that it is offering an after-hours pediatric clinic on Mondays and Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., primarily for established pediatric patients exhibiting respiratory symptoms. Same-day appointments for sick children can be made by calling the Pediatric clinic at 707-463-7459.

Much of Tuesday morning’s discussion revolved around cannabis items that were on the consent calendar. One was a retroactive contract for $185,000 with Elevate Impact, the contractor administering the cannabis equity grant program. Department Director Kristin Nevedal said that was due to a missing invoice.

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But the item that got the most attention was a recommendation to approve the manual for the Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grant Program. The county received an $18 million allotment from the state to help cultivators satisfy environmental requirements as they struggle to comply with state regulations. That item came before Supervisors Maureen Mulheren and Dan Gjerde at the General Government Committee meeting in October. The Mendocino Cannabis Alliance urged the Board not to approve the manual, arguing that too much money will be used for administration and that they believe the guidelines are more restrictive than those allowed by the state.

Williams asked County Counsel Christian Curtis if the Board is obliged to hear the public.  “I think it was our understanding that public comment would be heard at the General Government Committee, not there and then again at a Board of Supervisors session,” he said. “What is proper?”

Curtis told him that, “The Brown Act doesn’t require public comment at the full Board meeting if the item was previously heard at a standing committee. That’s specifically a committee exclusively of members of this Board, meeting in a Brown Act-compliant manner. So as long as there’s opportunity for the public to comment there, you don’t essentially have to repeat the public comment at the Board level itself, unless the legislative body, which would be the Board, determines there’s been a substantial change in the item between when it was at the committee and when it came to the full Board.”

Long-time cannabis attorney Hannah Nelson called in with a rebuttal, saying, “Just because the Brown Act potentially allows for that process to be utilized, to restrict public comment on agenda items heard specifically in standing committees in the past, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good or responsible thing to do.” 

Nelson argued that the full Board could benefit from public comment on items that are agendized just 72 hours before public meetings, and that often more nuance is available when people have more time to absorb the material. And cannabis is not the only topic that is subject to multiple rounds of discussion. Nelson added that she believes, “It’s going to be very important to apply any rule of this sort across every single standing committee. And I’m sure that the citizens and press will be interested to see if the Board would be applying any such rule equally across all issues and all committees. I hope this Board considers the limited time spent on public expression is valuable, from their constituents, and will not suppress the voice of the people.”

Private environmental consultant Chantal Simonpietri said she was “concerned about the conversation that’s happened today, where it’s as if the cannabis community is being silenced again…what I see happening is this impatience, or boredom, with cannabis being advocated for, and an assumption that it’s being heard and addressed in other departments or in other meetings. That simply is not happening in a robust way.”

Simonpietri also delivered a stinging critique of the manual under discussion, saying it’s not ready to be implemented without clearly established procedures and protocols. “It goes into archaeological and cultural surveys, traffic studies, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions studies, and Appendix G preparation,” she said, brandishing a printout. “Phase one cultivators don’t need the top three of these. They don’t need to do arch(aeological) and cultural, traffic studies, and they don’t need to do air quality and greenhouse gas emissions studies. The only thing they need to have developed, one of the things that everybody needs, is a biological study. And that’s one thing that is explicitly not included in this manual…this manual and this program are not ready to go out and to be launched. The sensitive species impact portion of the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) document relies on the biological study. And that is one that is explicitly not included here…there are other gaps in the thinking that created this manual to demonstrate that it’s not ready for release.” She requested that the manual go back to the General Government Committee for further consideration.

But Nevedal told the Board that writing out a document specifying how the department will review each grant application would be “a pretty hard piece to put into writing, as we will be analyzing each application on a project specific basis, because this is a grant related to CEQA.” She added that bringing more materials before the General Government Committee and then the full Board could have serious consequences for applicants, who are on a tight timeline. “Bringing an item to GGC (General Government Committee) in January means that the earliest it could come forward to the Board, if that is the will of the Board, is going to be February,” she explained. “Which means we would not then be able to put a grant application out, if everything went well, until March. So we would miss a full grant cycle. The goal, again, is to try to get two grant award cycles in, so that folks can take advantage of this work season, which is going to be critically important for folks who are needing to conduct their projects to complete their lake and streambed alteration agreements.”

The Board agreed to approve the manual without a separate document establishing procedures and protocols, but to continue fine-tuning it.

Watch the Mendocino County Board of Supervisor’s Meeting here
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  1. So many times, even before covid, I’ve had to take my child to the ER for a non serious emergency. Their ear infection could not wait for the next available appoint or whatnot. This extended hours child clinic is so important

  2. Mask on, mask off, mask on… Practically nobody is listening to the propaganda coming from Dr. Cohen, and the longer he encourages experimental mRNA injections, the less credibility he has

    Now the County is censoring cannabis comments and charging for document access. What do they have to hide? Supes should be prepared, as the lawsuits are incoming.

  3. Weird how all these people started getting sick after they started getting injected and people weren’t really getting sick beforehand except for they really elderly 🤷🤔

  4. Mendocino county is going to get sued for silencing the cannabis community.
    They will listen to Christian Curtis but he constantly gives bad advice and gets them into legal trouble.

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Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith is a radio and print reporter working in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, focusing on local politics and environmental news.

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