The Dec. 19 Hollister City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. promises to be of interest to at least two groups of residents—those for and those against marijuana dispensaries and the motorcycle rally. Both items are returning to the agenda after heated discussions at city council chambers and on Facebook.
While both issues are buried relatively deep within the regular agenda, if past meetings are any indication, they may work their way up to the beginning of the meeting. This has been the case whenever a capacity crowd has showed up to hear the latest and speak their opinions on medical marijuana. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez has, more than once, bumped an agenda item up in order to hear as many opinions as possible before the evening grew too late.
As for the rally being one of the two topics on which residents have repeatedly and loudly expressed opinions, it’s a wonder why it is the last regular agenda item, particularly if Roadshows LLC President Randy Burke is present, as he told BenitoLink he would be, to give a presentation to the council.
The resolution to approve the 2017 rally was presented at the Dec. 5 council meeting only to be delayed to Dec. 19 because Burke had countered the original contract, coming in $16,000 under the asked-for amount of $180,000. Additionally, he recommended extending the rally from three to four days, and wanted a guarantee that the 400 Block (at the corner of Fourth and San Benito streets) would be available for the following three years. None of the options were acceptable to the council.
City Manager Bill Avera wrote a letter to Burke explaining that the city must have a minimum payment of $180,000 from the promoter, as indicated in the original contract, to cover costs and noted that the status of the 400 Block was uncertain. When BenitoLink contacted Burke, he said that he had not received word from Avera yet, but he said that he intended to make a presentation at the Dec. 19 meeting.
On Dec. 15, Avera told BenitoLink by text message that Burke had proposed a payment of $164,000, and that the other terms being discussed were minor. He responded to BenitoLink on the possibility that the city council would not accept the counter offer.
“I tend to agree that it appeared after the last meeting that there isn’t a lot of support for it in general,” he wrote. “Plus, our workers' comp liability is always going to be an issue.”
Burke did not respond to BenitoLink about whether he still intended to show up at the Dec. 19 meeting.
Consent items address city spending
Before the second reading and possible adoption of the ordinance concerning medical marijuana facilities, the audience and council will wade through a number of consent items. It’s typical for most of the consent items, in this instance, ranging from approving the minutes of the previous meeting to a pilot program to utilize the service of a deputy fire marshal to hiring an arborist company to a tax-sharing agreement with the county.
People are often surprised at just how much money the city spends through items listed on the agenda as “warrant registers.” On the Dec. 19 agenda, warrants total $1,542,042.10. As to where the money is going, all anyone has to do is go online and read the agenda packet. But they might be forgiven for not drudging through the entire packet that tops out at 445 pages. Supposedly, though, each of the five council members has already read every page before the meeting.
Unless one of the council members or someone from the audience requests that a consent item be pulled for discussion, the entire list will be voted on as a block to be approved. In this instance, there are only nine, which is small compared to many previous meetings.
For those in the audience not paying attention as the consent items are approved, a considerable amount of city business and monies spent goes by all but unnoticed. During this meeting, in particular, the council will vote on whether to approve $60,000 to fund the installation of way-finding signs within and near the city limits. Another item would authorize the fire chief to staff a temporary deputy fire marshal. Still another $30,000 will be up for considering for city-wide tree trimming and related services. Then there is the agenda item about the city and county being embroiled in litigation over the tax-sharing agreement. Councilman Raymond Friend told BenitoLink that the county has no incentive to change the agreement, which affords it 75 percent of mitigation fees, whereas the city receives 25 percent. Friend said the only leverage the city has to possibly force the county to change its position is to deny annexation of building projects located in the county.
There will be a number of reports from the city manager and other city officials. Often, buried in the mundane details of governmental machinations, surface revelations that can evolve into full-blown deliberations, often to the surprise of those in the room who have not heretofore been exposed to the topic at hand.
Finally, the one topic that most often fills the room, will be medical marijuana, for which discussions have been ongoing since June. Those opposing marijuana in any form in the city or county have been the most vocal at council meetings. Those supporting marijuana took to Facebook in droves. The two groups were diametrically opposites in the beginning, but came closer to an understanding by the last council meeting.
By all appearances, it looked like the resolution might pass, but then council members Mickie Luna and Karson Klauer questioned the wording in the document, including the number of potential dispensaries. Even Velazquez seemed to switch his position. After a lengthy discussion that included comments from the usual participants in the debate, it was decided to make more changes and bring the resolution back to the Dec. 19 meeting.
If adopted this time, the ordinance would provide direction for cultivation, dispensing, manufacturing processes, and other ancillary services provided to medicinal cannabis businesses. Again, for those who have strong opinions on medical marijuana, they will have at least one more chance to stand up and state their case.
There will also be a second reading and possible adoption of ordinances to amend the city’s General Plan regarding 81.01 acres on the north side of North Street between the terminus of Buena Vista Road and the west terminus of North Street. After the first reading of this ordinance on Dec. 5, the public reacted after BenitoLink’s accounting of it the day after. Once again, social media went wild as Velazquez took to Facebook to air his displeasure with the rest of the council. Residents took the opportunity to blast all sides of the debate and Friend accused the mayor of calling out his fellow council members because he was unhappy that they also opposed him on the marijuana issue.
Another resolution, if passed, would authorize the administrative services director to amend the 2016-2017 fiscal budget in order to hire another temporary full-time firefighter, at a cost of $84,166, who will be used to minimize overtime created by the Panoche Valley Solar Project, for which the fire department has agreed to provide coverage.
Other agenda items
The council will be asked to approve the annual accountability report on voter-approved special taxes issued subsequent to January 2001; approve the subdivision improvement agreement for Orchard Park; approve the subdivision improvement agreement for The Cottages; consider various street closings for annual events in 2017; and lastly—if not already moved up the agenda—the approval of the agreement with Roadshows LC regarding the 2017 motorcycle rally.
Toward the end of the meeting, each council member will report on any meetings or activities in which they have taken part since the previous meeting.
In other news, the Jan. 3, 2017 council meeting has been canceled.
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