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County Notes (June 9, 2022)

One of the Supervisors’ major failures (of almost two dozen major failures and betrayals we’re tracking) is their failure to deal with the combined Treasurer-Auditor office that they created last year without a plan and over the objections of the incumbents, and every member of the public who commented on the subject. The Treasurer-Tax Collector at the time, the widely admired and respected Shari Schapmire, retired prematurely in the wake of the consolidation decision saying. “I don’t feel like I can work with the current Board of Supervisors.” Schapmire’s assistant, Assistant Treasurer Julie Forrester, has also now announced her intention to retire or quit (we’re not sure which) leaving the combined office in even more limbo and less experience. It’s been months since the Board rashly decided to consolidate the two offices which have very few common functions and the Board has yet to ask for a status report, a combined budget, or staffing status. Humboldt County got in some hot water with the state recently when they failed to submit a financial report on time costing several hundreds of thousands of dollars out of HumCo’s General Fund to backfill the fund that the state didn’t pay because of the late report. Fingers were pointed at the applicable department and the auditor herself when this problem came to light. This only highlights the importance of following up on the Board’s novel and risky consolidation and the Board’s urgent need to support their newly elected (she’s running unopposed) Treasurer-Auditor Chamise Cubbison, especially in light of Ms. Forrester’s pending departure. Also, as Ms. Schapmire noted at the time, the County’s stated intent to make sure they get as much legitimate tax revenue from county property owner’s depends heavily on a properly trained, supervised, qualified and fully staffed tax-collector’s office. 

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TWO CALLERS who follow Supervisors activities reasonably closely said Thursday that it seems like the Supervisors don’t understand the implications of their sales tax proposal plans. The Library people are circulating a petition to put a sales tax increment on the November ballot and now the Supervisors are putting what many people will perceive as a competing sales tax increment proposal which may have the effect of reducing the support for the Library measure or reducing support for all the measures since, as Supervisors Gjerde and Haschak have pointed out, the public doesn’t have much trust or respect for the Board these days and they may vote down a seemingly supportable measure (sales tax measures require two-thirds votes, a pretty high bar) even if it’s for “water” or “emergency services.” Count us among the skeptics who doubt the Supervisors will spend any new money wisely, especially if all they propose is broad categories like “emergency services” and “water” raking off a nice chunk for themselves/the County before handing out the remains to whatever they decide is a deserving activity. (Never mind that they still have not made any attempt to honor the advisory measure from 2016 which “advised” the board to spend half the pot tax revenues on emergency services, roads, mental health and enforcement.)

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SPEAKING OF WATER, Consent item 3bc on next Tuesday’s board agenda is for a huge no-discussion needed $875k water hauling contract:

“Adoption of Resolution Authorizing Department of Transportation Water Agency Division to Award Contract Number 210065for the Mendocino County Community Water Supply Replacement Project to Butch Cameron Trucking, for an Amount Not-to-Exceed $875,000, Using Funds by California Department of Water Resources Funding Agreement Number 4600014496to be Reimbursed to Disaster Recovery Budget Unit 2910 (Countywide)”

We knew the County had been planning to haul water to the Coast again this year, but we have no idea how they arrived at a project of that size, even with the large increases in fuel costs this year. Apparently Mr. Cameron was the low bidder to whatever water hauling bid package they sent out.

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ANOTHER CONSENT CALENDAR ITEM is to have the Board rubberstamp the hiring of a legal consultant for $90k to advise the Board on how to borrow money. 

Item 3i: “Approval of Agreement with Hawkins Delafield & Wood, LLP in the Amount of Up To $90,000, to Provide Legal Services to Mendocino County Staff, County Board, County Counsel, Financial Advisor, Underwriter(s), and Other Consultants, As Requested, Effective Upon Full Execution Through December 31, 2022”

The attached proposed consent calendar contract says the “LLP” will “assist the county in structuring a legal bond issuance.” But nowhere do they mention how much they want to borrow nor what the proceeds would be used for nor why they can’t fund whatever the borrowed amount is out of existing reserves. County Counsel Christian Curtis apparently assumes (probably rightly) that the Supervisors will just give him $90k without discussion to begin a process that once begun will commit the County to whatever large bond scheme he (or whoever?) may or may not have in mind. “Transparency”? Right. Surely they’ll be very transparent after everything’s arranged when nothing can be done to change it or stop it.

SUPERVISOR MULHEREN EXPLAINS the bond consultant and sales tax / cannabis advisory measure agenda items:

The BOS previously discussed refinancing current bonds, and trying to a quote $3mill for the new wing of the jail and $3mill for other deferred building maintenance, that’s what the bond counsel is for.

The Sales Tax item is on the agenda for Wednesday the 8th. Accountability of the funds moving forward is key. I wasn’t on the Board when the cannabis tax went through but as a member of the City Council when Measure Y was passed I still look for that update and review on the City website every year. When asked in the past about the cannabis tax there was no movement to provide accountability. There’s a different Board, a different fiscal team, a new Auditor and interim CEO; I don’t know that the effort to back track would be worth it but certainly moving forward the budget could identify any increases due to cannabis tax and how they are distributed to the items in the initiative.

Hopefully the community and Board members are paying attention to the RFPs that go out for various County functions, they are all public record, but as for water hauling we certainly know it will be necessary in year 3 of the drought.

Any questions that you have feel free to drop me a line.

Oh one more thing;

I wanted to make sure that you knew that County HMIS data is collected on the COC website. Here’s a link:

Also their meetings are on YouTube. They are currently updating the homeless Strategic Plan which was adopted by the City Councils and County Board of Supes a couple of years ago. Happy to answer any questions you have about homelessness anytime.

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Budget Notes

Cannabis Department Budget Fantasies

(Narrative from Budget Book for 2022-2023 (July 2022-June 2023)

“The budget projections made by the Department for the 2022‐2023 Fiscal Year estimate $1.2 million in revenue. This is based upon continued growth of the department in staffing positions that generate revenue by serving the community of cultivators locally. Additionally, the Department believes that it could realize more funding through service as we are also transitioning the licensure of Cannabis Facility Business Licenses (CFBL’s) into the Department’s purview. Beginning in 2022, and continuing into Fiscal Year 2022‐2023 the department is also collecting the fees associated with the processing of the County’s Section 15168 Environmental Checklist, commonly known as Appendix G. 

“Cannabis Program staff has been working diligently to develop a fee schedule for the new Department, and plans to present to the Board of Supervisors. Staff are confident that once the fees are finalized and implemented a fee schedule for the new department will be able to more accurately reflect both revenues and expenses associated with the Cannabis Department operations.”

(Over the last three years cannabis department costs have gone from about $400k to almost $2.8 million. Yet applications haven’t gone up significantly for more than two years.)

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Water Hauling Budget for fiscal year: $2 million.

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Mendo Fights Climate Change (with almost $2 mil): “Provide free public EV charging at Mendocino County's Admin Center” for $1.6 million, plus $320k local match.

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Another Big County Failure: The Cannabis Code Enforcement Failure

The following meaningless gibberish was included in the County’s budget narrative for 2022-2023:

“Code Enforcement 

“On September 22, 2020 the Board of Supervisors (BOS) directed the Planning & Building Department (PBS) to make a study of staffing and associated resources within the Code Enforcement division, in order to develop a reorganization plan for presentation to the BOS. 

“This plan will develop a strategy to adequately respond to increasing complaints from the community regarding such things as illegal cannabis operations, building code violations, abandoned vehicles and health order violations, and would include the use of satellite imagery as an enforcement tool. The BOS would amend existing Ordinances to allow for increased administrative fines for egregious violations such as environmental damage, or non‐compliance with the Cannabis Ordinance. This would ensure that penalty fees would act as a meaningful deterrent to violations of County Ordinances, and that cost recovery would be more commensurate with staff time expended on investigations. 

“On April 12, 2021 the Code Enforcement Division, along with the Cannabis Department, the Office of County Counsel and the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), was directed by the BOS to develop an enforcement plan based on that utilized by Humboldt County (including the acquisition of satellite imagery products by the Cannabis Department) and bring the plan back for inclusion on the Consent Calendar. PBS began work on preparing staffing needs (based on the direction given in September 2020) and has also worked to incorporate increased Code Enforcement Division staffing during the budget development process. 

“On May 11, 2021 the Code Enforcement Division, the Cannabis Department, the Office of County Counsel and MCSO presented their plan to the BOS, (based on the April 2021 direction) known as the Enhanced Cannabis Enforcement Plan (ECEP). This plan was approved by the BOS, with further direction being given to present the BOS with anticipated funding requirements during the forthcoming Budget hearings. 

Additionally, Code Enforcement has been working with MCSO on developing unified enforcement strategies regarding illegal cannabis, and in early 2021 presented an updated table of regulatory penalties for all Code violations to the BOS. This was adopted by the Board and is now in place.”

[Our emphasis.]

This sounded familiar, so we went back to last year’s budget narrative and found almost the same gibberish with the same meaningless dates and plans. It’s almost as if they had done so little that all they had to do was simply regurgitate most of last year’s “update” for this year. 

In the Feb. 2022 CEO Report we were told that “The Code Enforcement Division continues to work on the Enhanced Cannabis Enforcement plan per the direction given by the Board of Supervisors.” 

Also in Feb. of 2022 we found a mention of the “Enhanced” enforcement activity in the Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Board’s meeting minutes:

Sheriff Kendall: “Last year (2021) we did 68 cases, we seized 60,000 pounds of unauthorized plants and 45 firearms. We would be asking a forensic officer to help. We want to support a legal market because eventually, it will undercut the black market. Prices have tanked and the market is terrible because of the illegal market. We need pretty extreme enforcement because the only thing that makes it a felony is environmental damage. Just growing illegally is only a misdemeanor so there is no real incentive to not do it. … 

Supervisor Glenn McGourty said that some money went to Code Enforcement (in 2020) and “we are hopeful.”

County Code Enforcement Honcho John Burkes said, “Hiring staff, training staff, is happening in stages. One, for creating a structure for departments, and two, for hiring and training, which is where we're at now. We don't have a lot of coverage given how large the county is. We are now bringing in the field officers and were really hoping to get into the stage three element before the end of summer. We are unsure what the market will look like at the end of summer. … Code enforcement is a complaint hub! If you have any complaints send them here and we will get them in the right hands.”

The County’s on line “complaint hub” requires the complainer to do quite a bit of advance/investigative work to even submit a complaint. In addition, as we discovered from the one standing-dead-trees nuisance complaint filed a few years ago by Terry d’Sielke about Mendocino Redwoods’ massive hack&squirt fire hazard nuisance, and the noise complaints around the grape growers sleep-depriving wind fans, there are many excuses the “enforcement” people can dream up for not taking any action at all.

McGourty: “We are also working on an aerial contract.”

Burkes added: “Yes, we are working on aerial surveillance, it is a supplement to set the stage when verifying what the complaint actually is. We are excited to see how this will be used moving forward. … We have been sending out letters to properties in violation, but not to anything that we don't have the resources to engage with. We will incorporate some concentrated areas but at a later date. If you get a letter you are already under investigation.”

Frequent Pot Commenter Ron Edwards concluded: “We have a glut in many places and not many buyers. It's a mess and it will take a while to sort itself out.” 

Why was the code enforcement “update” even included in the budget package? There’s no financial information involved, and almost everything is in the future tense. Nothing has been done besides “working with” some other people , and “PBS [Planning & Building] began work on preparing staffing needs,” and “worked to incorporate increased Code Enforcement Division staffing during the budget development process.” (Unsuccessfully, apparently.)

Then we are told that “further direction was given to present the BOS with anticipated funding requirements during the forthcoming Budget hearings.” 

They conclude with a note that, after all that “work,” an updated table of regulatory penalties was adopted. 

This now gets added to our growing list of Major Failures by the County and the Board. They acknowledge direction to “respond to increasing complaints” more than two years ago, yet all they’ve actually done is update the penalties table. They presented a do-nothing “Enhanced Cannabis Enforcement Plan” last year, but there’s no budget presentation, no staffing proposal — much less any actual “enhanced” enforcement.

The County’s attitude seems to be, essentially: We can’t hire anybody, we can’t enforce much, and nobody really cares anyway because the pot market has collapsed and the problem will go away while we keep working on it.

Which may be true. 

But that hasn’t stopped the Cannabis Department and Code Enforcement budgets from rising to almost $3 million so that the County can continue to “work” on the problem. 

One Comment

  1. Sick of lies. June 16, 2022

    Hello, hello, anybody home, hello, hello? By the time they get their aerial surveillance up and running most of the illegal industry will be collapsed. Anybody watching or noticing this stuff all the hoopies with the plastic blowing in the wind? Sparetime one of the larger employers once running the streets with oodles of trucks and packed parking lots has downsized and laid people off. Go there on a Saturday anymore and the parking lots absolutely empty. Used to be you had to park out on the road could only get into the lot if you were lucky. All the beautiful green lawns everywhere. People are worried about water and they’re still watering lawns water running down the street. Hello, hello ANYBODY HOME?

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