The Fresno City Council spent nearly 80 minutes Thursday debating the finer points of cannabis regulations. The main question: Whether to regulate medicinal cannabis, recreational use, both, or neither.
Tempers flared. Councilmembers exchanged sharp words. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer worried that he had been “used” by cannabis supporters.
No vote was required, as the bill was for introduction only. The actual vote for adoption will take place next week (Dec. 13).
Cannabis Divides the Council
Supporter Clint Oliver battled Garry Bredefeld and Steve Brandau over adult use.
Brandau didn’t like that adult use was coming up, after some consensus on allowing medicinal. His exchange with Olivier became testy.
“Screw the committee. I don’t care a thing about the committee,” Brandau frustratingly said.
Olivier called him out for being vulgar. The verbal battle saw Olivier say sarcastically “you are a tough guy, Councilmember Brandau.”
Bredefeld had similar feelings, calling out Mayor Lee Brand to live up to his word and veto adult use regulations — should they pass.
“I expect him to take a lead on this and I expect him to follow through on his pledge that recreational dispensaries is something he is opposed to, doesn’t support and shouldn’t be happening,” Bredefeld said.
Council President Esmeralda Soria insisted that the buffer zone for marijuana around major highways be reduced from one mile to a half-mile.
And Dyer expressed frustration over the recreational plan. He said he put his reputation on the line when he supported Measure A, which voters approved last month allowing taxation of cannabis business licenses.
“I’ve got deep concerns over this. I signed the ballot initiative on Measure A under the belief we were talking about medicinal marijuana,” Dyer said. “I put my reputation on the line with the law enforcement community. I put my reputation on the line in the faith community. …. I would hope we are not going backwards and that I was used.”
Review of the Rules
A brief review of the rules decided upon during debate:
— Up to 14 retail locations, with a maximum of two in each council district. They must be at least 800 feet from another retail store, school, daycare or youth center. Another seven would be allowed with council permission.
— Allow a total of 16 cultivators, distributors and manufacturers. At least half must be in a “Cannabis Innovation Zone” bounded by Highway 41, Golden State Boulevard, and Church, East, and Parallel avenues. The rest can be in a half-mile zone around Highway 99 and Highway 180 west of Highway 99. They must be 1,000 feet from a school, daycare center, youth center, or residential zone.
— Create a subcommittee to discuss an equity (fairness) component in distributing cannabis business licenses.
Council voted 5-1 to enact a business tax plan. The governing body settled at $6 per square foot for cultivation, 4% for manufacturing and retail, 1% for distribution and none for testing. The recently passed Measure A gave the council the right to set the rates.
Council Passes 23% Raises
The approved, 5-2, raises for the governing board, but only after removing a provision of tying future raises to salaries for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
Starting when a council member begins a new term (either by election or re-election), the salary increases from $65,000 to $80,000 per year, a 23% increase. The council president, which is decided in a pre-determined order, will go from $70,169.50 to $85,000.
Bredefeld said he would support the raise, but only if the resolution cut the tie to the supervisors’ salaries. The motion’s author, Oliver Baines, agreed.
That means any future raise would have to be decided by the council.
The first beneficiaries will be Chavez and Soria, both of whom won re-election in November, as well as Miguel Arias and Nelson Esparza, who will begin their first terms next month.
This is the first council raise since 2006.
Oliver Baines, Bredefeld, Soria, Chavez and Paul Caprioglio voted yes. Brandau and Olivier voted no.
Measure P Future
The city council was scheduled to declare the results of the Nov. 6 election at the meeting, but pushed back the decision a week. No reasons were given.
That means the fate of Measure P is still in flux. The sales tax for parks plan received 52% of the votes. While it attained a majority, it did not receive the two-thirds needed to pass.
Meanwhile, the Yes on Measure P campaign sent a letter to its supporters. It is not ruling out future litigation as to whether the sales tax measure for parks should be interpreted as passed.
“Many have been asking what is next for this diverse and passionate group of citizens who brought about Fresno for Parks,” the letter stated. “In our minds, the future of Measure P is still a bit unknown. There are two pending court cases in California that may change the threshold for passage of a citizen-led ballot measure to a simple majority, as opposed to a 2/3 vote. The timeline and outcome of these neighboring cases are yet to be determined. Whether we pursue a similar legal challenge, another ballot measure, or both, one thing is certain: this coalition is committed, passionate, and not deterred by the challenges ahead.”
When the council placed the initiative on the ballot, it stated: “Passage of this measure requires approval by two-thirds (2/3) vote, unless otherwise required by law.” That is because the proposed taxes would go for a specific purpose. Proposition 218 mandates that a two-thirds vote is needed to pass under those circumstances.
One of the cases Measure P referred to is the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association suing the city and county of San Francisco. In June, citizens voted on a tax measure that went toward a specific purpose, receiving 51% of the vote. Despite Prop. 218, the city interpreted the measure as passed.
The San Francisco city attorney was using a state Supreme Court interpretation from 2017 in the Upland case. The court ruled that measures placed in front voters by the signature gathering process may not be subject to Prop. 218 rules.
Upland did not answer the specific question of the threshold needed to pass, a simple majority versus two-thirds. The HJTA case might, assuming it goes to the state Supreme Court.
Would Measure P supporters need to file legal action to, at the very least, enforce the city to collect taxes for parks? That answer may become clear after Dec. 13.
The city council approved sending an application to the state to receive $3.1 in homeless funding by officially declaring a shelter crisis. That money previously was approved by the state.
The Fresno Board of Supervisors passed a similar resolution by a 4-0 vote on Tuesday (Dec. 4), so the Fresno-Madera Continuum of Care can receive $9.5 million from the state.
The spending plan calls for various housing plans such as bridge housing and repaid rehousing. A portion goes for engagement with landlords and a fund to cover damage done to units by tenants.
Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom returns to Fresno on Friday (Dec. 7). He meets with elected Valley leaders at a Fresno event at noon; a lunch with agricultural leaders, and a town hall later in the afternoon.
The town hall meeting takes place at 4 p.m. at the Fresno Teamsters Hall Local 431 (1140 W. Olive Ave., Fresno). The campaign requests RSVP, which can be done here.
Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) conceded his 21st congressional district race to Democrat TJ Cox.
According to Valadao’s campaign, the defeated incumbent called Cox to offer congratulations.
“There is no doubt we are disappointed in the results but, we can take pride in knowing that we brought about real, tangible change,” Valadao said in a statement. “We have reduced middle-class families, made huge strides in our battle for water, reformed the dairy industry for thousands of California farmers, improved access to healthcare for families throughout the Valley, and given our troops the support they deserve.”
Cox responded in kind.
“I thanked Congressman Valadao and his family for their service to our country and our communities during the past six years. As the Congressman knows well, it is a great honor to be chosen to represent the people of the 21st District in the House of Representatives. We will work together to ensure a smooth transition for our constituents. I’m looking forward to getting to work on making a positive difference in the lives of our hard-working families.”
The latest numbers from the Secretary of State show Cox with an 862- vote lead. Counties have until Friday to certify, with the state needing to certify by Dec. 14.