MARIJUANA ORDINANCE CONCEPTS, COUNTY MEETINGS AND MEDIA SYSTEMS TO S. HUMBOLDT, "RIGHTS PROTECTION ORDINANCE"
Review of November 6, 2013 CIVIL LIBERTIES HOUR
by CLMP office monitor, Suzelle
Bonnie Blackberry introduced three guests for the November 6th Civil Liberties Hour on KMUD Redwood Community Radio: Phil Smith-Hanes, Humboldt County Administrative Officer; Sean McLaughlin, Executive Director of Access Humboldt; and Janell Eggers, rights activist on the Public Protest Ordinance.
Asked to explain his job, Smith-Hanes said he works directly for the Board of Supervisors, is the lead person on the staff helping the board implement its policy decisions, including its annual county budget and its legislative platform, and is responsible to communicate with elected representatives of State and Federal governments about County priorities and how they can help the County achieve them. Smith-Hanes is also the Department Head for Information Technology, Revenue Recovery, Economic Development, and Purchasing Sections.
A new addition to the office is a Public Information Specialist, Shawn Quincy, who responds to requests from the public for information and records, and about emergency services (tsunami, earthquake, wildfire, etc.)
Blackberry asked Smith-Hanes about the Outdoor Marijuana Cultivation Ordinance discussed at the October 22nd meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Smith-Hanes, a member of the sub-committee with Supervisors Ryan Sundberg and Mark Lovelace, explained that certain concepts were presented at that meeting that the board then decided to move forward with in the ongoing process of creating the ordinance. He provided context: In 2012 a draft based on a registration model being used in Tehama County was presented to the Board, and the Board directed staff to get public feedback on it. Meetings were held in Garberville, Petrolia, and Willow Creek, and they heard that "the public wasn't keen on the idea of registering for outdoor medical marijuana cultivation." But they also heard, particularly from the community in Willow Creek, about neighborhood "impacts that that community was experiencing particularly during the harvest season." So, the board voted to consider regulation by ("bifurcating it") dividing it into two different paths: the first would be neighborhood levels of impacts and the second, environmental impacts to the watersheds.
Smith-Hanes said that after much consideration the committee determined, and the board agreed, to divide neighborhood impacts according to parcel size. No outdoor growing would be allowed on the smaller size (they suggested a half acre or less) because it was determined to be too small to buffer neighbors from the impacts of outdoor growing during the season, and it was thought that those residents could have an opportunity to grow indoors. And on the next size (half-acre to 5 acres) they thought some level of outdoor cultivation would be appropriate with minimal neighborhood impact, and they suggested a maximum of five mature plants with a canopy of 50 sq. ft. total. He added that the actual numbers could be altered [presumable through public opinion being expressed] suggesting, for instance, 1/4 acre or less for no outdoor, and 1/4 - 3 acres as the parcel size where outdoor growing in neighborhoods would be allowed.
Smith-Hanes said that the process now is to develop an ordinance based around those concepts and, since it would be a land-use ordinance, present that to the County's Planning Commission first. Then it would come back to the Supervisors. There will be three opportunities for public comment during the process. There is interest in having something in place in time for the 2014 outdoor growing season for the neighborhood impacts part, Smith-Hanes said, and then they will move on to deal with the environmental-harm aspects of cultivation.
Blackberry commented that a "fair amount of people didn't know this was going to be before the board, and now there is going to be a document that people can see. I think now people will have something to comment on, have an opinion about."
Smith-Hanes agreed, "There's never a shortage of opinions in Humboldt County. That's why we love it here." He admitted that it could be a while before the environmental concerns might be addressed, and added, "There have been a number of efforts, not all of which have been led by the County. I know there are industry groups that have talked about responsible growing practices and water issues, and so I think people are really starting to pay attention to some of the environmental issues."
Blackberry's last topic for Smith-Hanes was that the board approved having a General Plan Update Mapping meeting in Southern Humboldt, "probably at South Fork in order to accommodate the necessary technology." She asked, "What is needed to come down here to do that?"
Smith-Hanes responded: ". . .It's quite a production . . . board meetings are broadcast live on cable television, also video-streamed live, also recorded for posterity by a clerk. They have attendance by department heads, and by County Counsel's Office. So there are a lot of logistical things that need to occur." They want "pretty robust public participation," so they will want it to be in a place that is central and large like the high school gymnasium. Smith-Hanes will suggest the time and place for the meeting and the board will decide, so the public can contact Smith-Hanes, or Southern Humboldt representatives Estelle Fennell or Rex Bohn with ideas.
Blackberry then talked with Executive Director Sean McLaughlin about Access Humboldt. McLaughlin explained that Humboldt County and cities had gotten together seven years ago and figured out how to negotiate with cable companies to secure channels and some fiber network connections and funding to build a community media center for Humboldt County. He said that initially the services are 4 channels on the Sudden-link cable system. Subscribers are now able to see a lot of live programming covering meetings of the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission of the county and of cities of Eureka, Arcata, and Fortuna, and educational media of the schools, university, and college, and are extending to city halls in Rio Dell, Ferndale, and Blue Lake, and to Hoopa.
Blackberry pointed-out that "Sudden-link doesn't come to S. Humboldt so we don't have this."
For the upcoming map meeting in S. Humboldt, Humboldt Access will bring their traveling set-up of three cameras so they can live-switch and add graphics, as they do in the Supervisor's Chambers. They will need a connection that supports live transmission, like connecting South Fork High School with the Office of Education, or using a dedicated link with help from 101 Netlink, where a transmission could be in carried from most of Garberville and parts of Redway. McLaughlin advised that an appropriate location for long term set-up be researched through working with 101 Netlink. (They were very pleased with the success, recently, of working with the County Office of Education where they were able to combine video conferencing and live television transmission for the Budget Briefing by interconnecting their feed systems in 5 locations simultaneously: Hoopa, Ferndale, Blue Lake, Miranda and Eureka, where each supervisor was present in their district for the interactive meeting, an innovative effort.) "I think the stars are aligning," McLaughlin said, and mentioned the potential of working with KMUD on election coverage, etc.
Blackberry spoke briefly at the end of the program with Janell Eggers about the Draft Policy that the Human Rights Commission is working on for Public Protest on County Properties. Blackberry noted that in this current draft the Commission is asking the Board to repeal their Ordinances 2477 & 2488 because there are already laws on the books to deal with the issues covered in them. Eggers agreed but said her concern was with the process: originally the occupy protestors had not been responded to by the elected board, no public hearing had been called to address people's concerns, there was no board action for the police to come, the staff took it on themselves to ask the police to come with the full knowledge of the board. Rather than an "insulting" set of laws saying what people will not be allowed to do, Eggers suggested that the focus be on creating a County-wide Protection Ordinance, a set of rules to protect free speech and people's rights to be able to protest on public properties.
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