January 30, 2015
Body Cameras and the Riverside County Sheriff
The Riverside Sheriff's Association (RSA) has announced it is going to court seeking to stop the Riverside County Sheriff's Department from issuing deputies body cameras to use on duty. RSA alleges that wearing cameras has not been properly negotiated between the union and the County of Riverside. The Sheriff's Department disagrees with the position of RSA, as published, at this stage in the voluntary testing for department-wide use of body cameras, in addition to the numerous body cameras which have in fact long been in use.
The proposed expansion of the use of body cameras, to be conducted at the Jurupa Valley Station, has not yet begun as all issues have not been resolved. However, the Department does not believe that "testing" expanded use of body cameras requires negotiation described in the RSA court filing. The announced litigation prevents more specific comment on RSA's claims.
Deputies have used body cameras in many of the Sheriff Department's contract city police operations for years. Those stations using these cameras already have standard operating procedures in place for those who voluntarily choose to use them. So use of body cameras in fact is not new. Since camera use is evolving regionally and nationwide, and has become more reliable and affordable, the Sheriff's Department is looking at an expanded testing phase as the Department explores the viability for use Department-wide. At the appropriate time, the Department will then establish a formal official policy, and RSA will have an opportunity to provide input.
In any case, the Sheriff's Department has not dictated the use of body cameras. Department body cameras have remained entirely voluntary in use. In addition, a number of employees have used personally-owned cameras on their own initiative. It is worthy to note that a multitude of videos camera systems are in near constant use today for security surveillance, traffic monitoring, at ATMs, and elsewhere. Chances are that each of us are already on camera in some way or fashion as we go about our daily business.
Cameras are tools that clearly benefit officers, the public and the county by all current accounts. Body cameras are an effective, reliable and affordable method of gathering evidence to support criminal prosecutions. Additionally, if people know officers are wearing body cameras, they expect their actions will be captured on video. As a result they will be less likely to falsely accuse or attack officers. That keeps everyone safer. Cameras may reduce the number of false complaints about officers' behavior because we can document encounters between officers and the public.
The Sheriff has a long-standing posture of expecting transparency and accountability by the Department and all of its employees. And in today's climate, residents expect law enforcement officers to be professional and responsible in the way they conduct themselves. We believe our employees are among the best trained and most dedicated anywhere, and we are committed to providing them the best tools possible to perform the difficult work they face.
DHS Spa Tour, 2015
I hit only three spas on this year's Spa Tour: Vista Ventana (new), Lido Palms (is this their first time on the tour?), and Two Bunch Palms.
The Other Way 'Round
January 29, 2015
GoPro 240 fps Samples
January 27, 2015
Well, it's getting to be that time of year again, meaning the time before the season after which is the holiday prior to Burning Man. IOW, ticket season. Don't worry. Whatever ticket you thought you were going to get is sold out, so give up. Better luck next year.
You'll be missing stuff like this.
Possibly Visible Vandenberg Launch Thursday Morning
DELTA LAUNCH VISIBILITY by Brian Webb
A Delta II rocket carrying a NASA scientific satellite and three small secondary payloads is scheduled for launch from Vandenberg AFB on Thursday morning, January 29. The Delta is set to lift-off from Space Launch Complex-2 West at 06:20:42 PST, the start of a three-minute launch window.
Following lift-off, the Delta will climb vertically for several seconds, gradually nose over, and head south over the ocean.
The Delta II uses liquid propellant first and second stages. For this launch, three solid rocket motors are strapped to the first stage for added thrust.
The first stage main engine and strap-on motors will ignite on the launch pad. The solid rocket motors will burn out at +1:05* and be jettisoned at +1:39. The first stage liquid propellant main engine will continue to burn until main engine cutoff (MECO) at +4:22.
Stage 1/2 separation occurs at +4:28 followed by second stage ignition at +04:36. Several minutes later, the second stage containing NASA's SMAP satellite and three small payloads will reach orbit.
Weather permitting, the first few minutes of the launch should be visible to the unaided from King City, Fresno, western Ventura County, and coastal Los Angeles County. Under good conditions, the event could be visible over a much wider area.
For the first minute of flight, the rocket will have a bright orange flame due to the solid rocket motors. When the solid motors burn out, the delta will decrease in brightness and resemble a moving white star.
Liftoff occurs 42 minutes before sunrise as seen from Vandenberg AFB. According to independent space analyst Rick Baldridge, the rocket will climb into sunlight during the first stage burn at +2:50 for a 06:20 PST liftoff and +2:40 for a 06:23 PST liftoff. Observers along the coast from King City to Long Beach should see the sunlit first stage exhaust plume suspended against the dawn sky during the last minute of the first stage burn.
Under good conditions, the launch could be visible to the unaided eye until first stage main engine cutoff. Second stage ignition and the second stage burn will probably not be visible without optical assistance.
*All flight events are expressed in minutes and seconds after liftoff.
LAUNCH AND COUNTDOWN STATUS
For launch and countdown status for Thursday's Delta II launch, consult the following sources:
January 23, 2015
A federal judge has declared Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional for all the same reasons found by all those other judges in all those other decisions in all those other states. But hey, some people need to hear ti 52 or 53 times before it begins to sink in.
There is no stay, so maybe there will be happy times tomorrow in Alabama.
Kevin Kelly, CEO, Two Bunch Palms Resort
Downtown Palm Springs
January 22, 2015
The Other Shoe Drops
The Desert Sun reports that Dean Gray resigned from the Planning Commission yesterday. The article gives no reason for the resignation.
January 21, 2015
Council Member McKee's Statement
There is a significant number of people in the Desert Hot Springs area who rely upon arguing that black is white, up is down, bad is good. They've tried to lie about last week's Planning Commission meeting. I expect they will try to lie about the reasons Councilmember Joe McKee sought to remove Chuck Parker from the Planning Commission, citing imaginary conspiracies and corruption. So here's a transcript of the statement made by Mr. McKee during the council meeting before the unanimous vote to remove Mr. Parker:
I apologize in advance for how long this is going to take, but we'll go through it. The meeting that took place of the Planning Commission last week was only the trigger for this action. It wasn't the only reason that it happened. During the period of time that Chuck has been on the Planning Commission especially them getting...he continuously came in and said things like "I wasn't able to read the packet" and complain about how much time he had to do that. Unfortunately, that's something that I've said a lot too. The problem is, we get anywhere between 250 and 1,000 pages of documents to go over every meeting - twice a month. That doesn't count special meetings of which during a period of time we were having every week, and we're going to start that up again. It is my responsibility to go over that documentation. I usually go over it two or three times and submit questions in advance to the city [staff] on Sundays so that they have a couple of days to work on it. That's the reason I don't ask a lot of questions in a lot of instances. Because they've already sent me a memo like they did today detailing the answers to a lot of my questions that I think the public doesn't really need to hear because a lot of them are pretty esoteric, to say the least.
The problem I have is a lot of what Mike Picardi just said. I relish conflict. I relish people discussing things and being in a position that they come to some sort of conclusion with everyone's input being in place. What we have fought as a city council in the last year is the perception of everyone else in the city and in the Coachella Valley - in the state - about Desert Hot Springs being a city that cannot get along, that gets into a position that arguments become more than personal, and that we're in a position that we lose total control of meetings. Now, I listened to the meeting after people came to me and said things like that was the worst meeting they'd seen in their lives. And these were people that had decades of experience. What I looked at was the totality of the situation; not only the fact that he several times had said that he couldn't be involved in the process because he couldn't read everything. But the fact that over and over again he would yell at people in the city offices, also, about things. Not discuss things.
[City Manager] Martín [Magaña] and I have some pretty hard discussions about things going on in the city. But I don't run around the city hall yelling at people. I don't yell at the City Attorney that something he's doing should cost him his license. Let me just say something about that. We have a City Attorney that reduced his fee from $35,000 to $25,000 and has spent most of the last two weeks trying to put out thousands of pages of documents that people have wanted to see. Even though the points that were awarded have had no people come in and ask for them to be reviewed by the reviewing committee at this point. The problem is that technically the point system had to be discussed and a document put in requesting that a person needed to appeal them 15 days after the 10th of December. Not the situation with the Planning Commission that was dealing with the CUP. By the time this Planning Commission got this situation as something that they were looking at - they were supposed to be looking at the CUP, the point system had already gone through the period of time of appeal.
Now, let's talk about transparency a little bit. The City Attorney is getting members of the Bar and other people in the cities of California and other states approaching him, asking to emulate how transparent this process has been. Is that not true? [City Attorney Quintanilla acknowledged that it was true.] You can say anything you want. Tell me a process someplace that's more transparent than this. I understand that people think in the past things haven't been transparent, but the City Council was very, I think, forthcoming in dividing the process in such a way that exactly the sort of thing that was complained about, the Mafia being involved and everything else, that that would not occur. The City Council only set up the point system. The staff - multiple staff members graded everything. The CUP was supposed to be handled by the Planning Commission. The regulatory stuff was supposed to be handled by the City Manager, making sure that all the LifeScans and everything else took place, as far as that is concerned. The reason we did this, was to avoid even the inkling of any corruption, as far as people being bought off. Now, if someone has a process that would work better than that, provide it. Don't just say it's corruption, what we've done.
Now, attack on the staff. It's real easy to do, folks. They can't fight back. They can't fight back. And one of the things I've learned in my life is if you treat people with respect and ask them questions reasonably, they'll react to you. They'll work with you. Now, one of the things that people don't realize is how small the staff is and how much stuff they're having to do now. Last year, the City Clerk had to provide 60 public information requests in a 50-week period. That doesn't sound like much. The problem is, some of those were huge. You're also in a position that 60 are only the big requests he got. And then we have people complaining about the fact that he doesn't have time to do minutes. You pile work on the person and then you yell at him because he can't do something you think is important, even though the recordings of all these Commissions and everything else are on the computers right now, are on the internet. You can listen to them in total.
Now, as far as being a rubber stamp. What rubber stamp? What rubber stamp? Multiple people, not just the three [dispensary applicants] that are in a position that were chosen, chose to lease property, buy property, start construction. Multiple people, not just one or two that we're talking about here. They took the risk as businesspeople.
Now, the problem I have with this whole process is this: I want people on that commission that are going to question things. I don't want them to be maniacs. Questioning things is okay, as far as I'm concerned. And the person I will put back into this position I will expect that. I will expect them not to get along with me on everything, but we have to be in a position that we don't have Commissions and the City Council of Desert Hot Springs looked upon as being a bunch of crazy people. And that literally is what we've been fighting for years now. Again, I don't care about dissent. If you dissent, you can say what you want. You can vote. You can try and convince other people to do what you want to. I get frustrated at times up here. Sometimes I'm successful at getting people to vote with me. A lot of times I'm not. But I don't run around with my hair on fire, when it comes down to it.
This is the way the process works, as far as I'm concerned. Now, I don't feel good about this either. I wish I didn't have to do it, but if you look at the totality of the situation, I can see no choice, as far as I'm concerned.
Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Here is the audio recording:
January 19, 2015
That Planning Commission Meeting - January 13, 2015
The January 13, 2015, Planning Commission meeting started with the swearing in of Dirk Voss who comes from the Community and Cultural Affairs Commission. He is replacing John Gerardi as Scott Matas's appointee.
Selection of Chair and Vice Chair
Commissioner Chuck Parker nominated Chair Steve Sobotta to serve as Chair again. Then he nominated Commissioner Dean Gray as Vice Chair. Commissioner Cathy Romero nominated Dirk Voss for Chair. Chair Sobotta was re-elected unanimously. Commissioner Voss nominated Commissioner Romero to be Vice Chair. Commissioner Gray was not selected in a 2-3 vote with Commissioners Parker and Gray voting in favor. Commissioner Romero was selected as Vice Chair with a unanimous vote.
At this meeting the minutes from four different meetings were submitted for approval. Last month the minutes from nine meetings were presented. At the November 2014 meeting the Commission was presented with minutes from eight meetings.
Commissioner Gray explained that the Commission had gone approximately six months without minutes. He explained that minutes record the decision-making process. Further he told us that the reason we have these minutes to approve at this meeting because they were not approved at previous meeting. He read off an item from the December 9, 2014, minutes. Under an item entitled "Overview of Conditional Use Permit process for Dispensaries" this was noted:
Commissioner Gray moved to approve that Planning Commissioners be notified as soon as the review process was complete, in order to call a Special Meeting, seconded by Commissioner Parker, motion carried 3/1 by the following vote:
The No vote on the item came from Commissioner Romero.
Since then Mr. Gray has learned that the review process was completed on December 10. He said this thing has dragged on for months because the Commission does not have minutes and is operating blind and staff does not provide them the information that is requested. "And it's not just that." At this point Commissioner Voss interrupted to say that there was a motion on the floor and that Mr. Gray's comments were unnecessary. He said he was bantering about issues not relevant to the motion at hand. Please stop. Stop."
Mr. Gray answered No and then took up the March 11 minutes. In those minutes it is reported that Mr. Gray said in the Chair and Planning Commission Reports that he had asked for the water to be turned back on in the lot on the northwest corner of Pierson and Ocotillo. "And that water hasn't been turned on. So what good are we doing up here approving minutes that we haven't even followed through on the things we've done? If we're going to approve minutes we need to make these things done."
Yes, that's right, Mr. Gray thinks that a single Commissioner's request is the equivalent of direction given by the City Manager and that somehow approving minutes is dependent on whether all of each Commissioner's requests are acted upon. For example, at that same meeting Commissioner Romero "recommended that Planning Commissioners work as a team, look forward and be respectful." But she voted to approve the minutes anyway.
Chair Sobotta noted the distinction between what happens in a meeting as recorded in the minutes and what may be actually executed after that meeting.
Mr. Parker noted that at the previous meeting the minutes submitted for approval included some meetings in 2013. Based on this he concluded that staff and the commission have been derelict in their duty for two years in "not producing something as simple as minutes to a meeting." Here Ms. Romero interrupted to say "Can I call this off? It's a point of order."
"No. No." replied Mr. Parker.
"Here's what's going on," Ms. Romero continued, "is that for four months in a row, at least, we've interrupted the agenda items, we've interrupted the work at hand and, in this case, a motion that has been made and seconded. And in order to belabor this issue which is being handled by staff now; it's being handled in as expeditious a manner as is capable of a staff that is working a skeleton crew. This group right here is one team. So it's not appropriate for us to sit here at every single meeting and have the city staff dressed down for something that is now being addressed. I would like for us to move forward with the business at hand, and let this issue go. Handle this April 8 minutes and move on."
Mr. Parker asked the Chair to prevent Ms. Romero and Mr. Voss from interrupting other people when they are speaking. He said this is the first time in his experience there have been people on the Commission who try to bully people and silence them.
Ms. Romero explained that a point of order allows her to stop the bullying that was going on at that moment.
Mr. Parker again called for the Chair who began to speak, but Mr. Parker interrupted saying "I have the floor!" Chair Sobotta said these comments should really be made in the Commissioner comments at the end of the meeting.
Mr. Parker stated his opinion that Robert's Rules of Order says the person who has the floor is not supposed to be interrupted. Apparently he is unaware that the city uses Rosenberg's Rules Of Order. On page 7 of that PDF is says this:
Order. The proper interruption would be, "point of order." Again, the chair would ask the interrupter to "state your point." Appropriate points of order relate to anything that would not be considered appropriate conduct of the meeting. For example, if the chair moved on to a vote on a motion that permits debate without allowing that discussion or debate.
Rosenberg also says
At the same time, it is up to the chair and the members of the body to maintain common courtesy and decorum. Unless the setting is very informal, it is always best for only one person at a time to have the floor, and it is always best for every speaker to be first recognized by the chair before proceeding to speak.
The chair should always ensure that debate and discussion of an agenda item focuses on the item and the policy in question, not the personalities of the members of the body. Debate on policy is healthy, debate on personalities is not. The chair has the right to cut off discussion that is too personal, is too loud, or is too crude. Debate and discussion should be focused, but free and open. In the interest of time, the chair may, however, limit the time allotted to speakers, including members of the body.
The exceptions listed are point of order, point of privilege, appeal, call for orders of the day, and to withdraw a motion.
Ms. Romero did explain that when someone is speaking off the agenda it is appropriate for a fellow commissioner to try to get things back on point. Mr. Parker disagreed citing an imaginary total right to speak.
At this time Chair Sobotta called for the vote. The minutes were approved by a vote of 3-1-1, with Mr. Parker voting against and Mr. Gray abstaining.
CUP For Calvary Chapel
Calvary Chapel is at 65909 Pierson Boulevard, the former American Legion building. The congregation used to meet in the building just west of Mission Springs Water District offices.
Donn Sholty rose to make a public comment. He and his wife attend the church. He described some of the activities of the church and expressed his wish that the commission would approve the CUP.
Commissioner Gray said it was good to see Mr. Sholty at church recently.
The CUP was approved 5-0.
CUP For Sun Grow Collective Medical Marijuana Dispensary
The proposed dispensary will be at 17001 Palm Drive, on the southwest corner of Palm and Dillon. It will be located in the building on the south side of the property of the Valero station.
City Attorney Quintanilla explained the history that brought us to this point. City staff have used a score sheet approved by the City Council to rank the applicants for dispensaries in Desert Hot Springs. The top three get first crack at the process. Attorney Quintanilla said there is no science behind the score sheet. One of the questions was about applications pending with the California Secretary of State as a coop or collective. This information is easy to check, but some applicants gave a false answer to this question. There was a question about having federal tax exempt status approved. Some answered that yes, even though, obviously, the federal government does not give tax exempt status to marijuana businesses.
Mr. Quintanilla said he intends to post the worksheets and scores for each applicant online. But first all the confidential information must be redacted.
Commissioner Gray asked what the greatest number of points that could be acquired on the score sheet. Mr. Quintanilla answered "Let me do the math and I will..." but Mr. Gray spoke over him saying he is no genius, but he can add two and two. The highest number Mr. Gray could come up with was 415, but this dispensary got a score of 418. He wanted to know how that number was arrived at. He asked the attorney "What kind of math are you doing?" The attorney suggested to Mr. Gray that after the scoring sheets are made public, he can go through them and see how the points were awarded. He said those sheets would be available the next day, Wednesday the 14th, but the last time I checked they had not yet been posted on the city's website.
Mr. Gray said he had been requesting this information from the city and had gotten nothing. Chair Sobotta said that the attorney represents the City Council and is following the instructions of the City Council. Mr. Gray asked again how the attorney got a number of 418. Chair Sobotta began to explain that the scoring process has already been worked through, but Mr. Gray interrupted him saying he was not asking the question of the chair. He asked again how the number was arrived at.
Attorney Quintanilla responded that he didn't know if Mr. Gray was doing the math right.
Mr. Gray said this appears to be a broken process. "If you can't add this up and justify it, how can we talk about anything tonight?" He said the situation was sad and pathetic.
Commissioner Parker asked if the scoring sheet for this particular dispensary applicant could be brought up. Mr. Quintanilla said he could not. Mr. Gray asked if the other two top applicants' scoring sheets could be provided. He said he wanted to see the scoring sheets from everyone. He said "This is not a secret country where we keep secrets."
"But that's not your decision to make," Mr. Quintanilla responded. He said it was the City Council's decision and he is following the Council's instructions. "I represent this City Council."
"This City Council is keeping secret these numbers so that we can't evaluate this ourselves," Mr. Gray said. "How can a Planning Commission be able to evaluate this if we don't know that the process has been done fairly."
My answer would be that making a decision on the CUP does not require the Planning Commission to know a score or how the score was arrived at. The City Council, city staff and city attorney have chosen the top three, and the ONLY job of the Planning Commission is to make a decision on the CUP. It is not the city's watchdog. It does not oversee the attorney or the City Council.
Chair Sobotta said the Commission did not need to evaluate the scores because they have already been evaluated. He reminded the Commission that they had been charged with the task of evaluating the CUP. He said that comments that did not pertain to the CUP should be held to some other time, such as Commissioner comments at the end of the meeting.
Mr. Parker said that the information the Commission needed to make a decision on the CUP was not yet available, referring to the scoring sheets. Attorney Quintanilla responded "Oh, no, no, no." He went on to say that the scores were issued on December 10. He said the process the City Council approved was:
- Score sheet
- Score it
- Post the scores
- Select the top three
- Send it to Planning
Chair Sobotta said he was sure the proper process had been followed. "The numbers don't add up," Mr. Gray interrupted. Mr. Quintanilla asked how he would know they didn't add up if he hadn't seen a scoring sheet. Mr. Gray explained that he could add 2 and 2.
Mr. Parker asked about the zoning. The staff report says "The current Site zoning designation is RR, Rural Residential District which allows various retail uses with a Conditional Use Permit. The City's Preferred Land Use Plan which has not been adopted lists this property as General Commercial." Rich Malacoff explained that was in the area that was annexed just a few years ago. "Rural Residential" is a county designation that the city does not have. When the city eventually gets to its General Plan amendment, the city will designate this area to be General Commercial.
Mr. Parker asked about the boundaries of that General Commercial zone. Mr. Malacoff said he didn't have that information available at the moment. Mr. Parker asked if approving this CUP would "endorse that plan to change the zoning to General Commercial?" Chair Sobotta said it would not and explained the general process of revising county zoning designations to city zoning designations after an annexation. Mr. Sobotta and Mr. Meyerhoff said that all four corners at Dillon and Palm were designated to be commercial. "So it's just the four corners adjacent to Dillon and Palm that we're talking about?" Mr. Meyerhoff answered that this item on the agenda concerned only the single parcel on the southwest corner. Mr. Parker asked again if approving this CUP would change the zoning to commercial. Both Mr. Malacoff and Mr. Meyerhoff answered no.
Mr. Parker explained that he was concerned about the trailer park that is adjacent to this parcel. Mr. Sobotta explained the concept of legal non-conforming properties, which means that the mobile home park can remain as it is, but it won't be able to expand or make major changes.
Finally, it was time for the staff report. Mr. Malacoff said a letter of opposition had been received from Camden Holdings, copies of which had been distributed to the Commissioners. This project went to ALRC the prior Thursday, the day the Planning Commission agenda was finalized, only 5 days before this Tuesday meeting, so their changes were not reflected in the Planning Commission agenda packet. Mr. Malacoff said that the intent of the City Council was to get these processed as quickly as possible.
Mr. Malacoff said that about 60% of the floor area of the building will be dedicated to sales and administration, with the remainder being used for growing. Water will be provided by the Coachella Valley Water District. There was an error the agenda packet that said MSWD would be the water provider.
Mr. Parker noted that Mr. Malacoff had said "We will be changing the zoning to General Commercial" and asked "Who is 'we'?" Mr. Malacoff explained that the city (the "we") adopts the General Plan amendment, that's when the zoning will be changed.
Mr. Parker said he still did not understand and asked if it was city staff who was planning on changing the zoning. Mr. Malacoff said it was based on direction given by the City Council when the area was annexed. He also explained that the zoning was not an issue before the Commission this night. Mr. Parker asked for a copy of the intended zoning for the annexed area. You can get a look at the map here. Mr. Malacoff said that it was available on the city's website. Mr. Parker said "Well, can you get it off of that website and print it and provide it to me, please?" Mr. Malacoff said he would send him a link. "You won't print it for me?" Mr. Parker asked. [What a helpless babe, Mr. Parker is.] Mr. Malacoff offered to print an 11 x 17 copy. Mr. Parker thanked him for that.
Mr. Gray explained that the General Plan update would eventually come before the Planning Commission. "Oh, so it's going to come before the Planning Commission. I thought Rich [Malacoff] was telling me it's up to the City Council," Mr. Parker said. Mr. Sobotta said that it is, indeed, up to the City Council after it goes to the Planning Commission. "Oh, so we're going to have something to say about this?" Mr. Parker asked. "It's not a done deal. When someone says 'we're gong to do this' it sounds like a done deal," he continued.
Chair Sobotta asked the applicant to come to the podium. Attorney Nicki Allen spoke for the applicant. Gabriel King was there beside her. The attorney introduced Anthony Lee, the applicant himself. Attorney Allen said she had a letter that had been previously distributed and she wanted to give copies to the Planning Commission. She handed them over to the clerk. Mr. Sobotta invited her to read her letter into the record.
I represent Anthony Hae Long Lee and the owner of Sun Grow, LLC, who are constructing the business at the property that's in question. Here, Planning Commissioner Dean Gray has established that he is prejudiced against our client, the business and the location of the business. On November 17, 2014, he trespassed onto the property and took unauthorized photographs. On December 23, 2014, he returned to the property, harassed my client, wrongfully accused my client of several things. On this date Mr. Gray specifically told my client that he did not want this business to be in this location at this property. Please be advised that there was a police notice that was issued banning Mr. Gray from the property from the dates of December 24, 2014, through June 24, 2014. [Yes, those were the dates she said] Based on his biased prejudice previous actions requiring police intervention my client intends to request that he recuse himself from this vote and abstain from the vote. Thank you in advance for your help and assistance in this matter.
It is my understanding that the decision to recuse or not is solely up to the official in question. I don't believe anyone could force Mr. Gray to recuse himself. However, a decision not to recuse oneself can lead to litigation. According to the Desert Sun Attorney Quintanilla "had advised Gray that if the accusations from Sun Grow are true, he should not participate in the vote and that the city would not be liable or represent Gray if the dispensary filed a lawsuit over the vote."
Mr. Gray did not recuse himself.
Attorney Allen said that in regards to the proximity of the mobile home park, there is already a liquor store, other shops and commercial properties adjacent to it.
Gabriel King said they are completely happy with the conditions. He thinks it will be a wonderful project. He said they were also completely happy with the changes made by ALRC as well as suggestions made by "your wonderful staff."
Attorney Allen said that a review of what had been presented by Mr. Malacoff would show that this shopping center is going to be upgraded, updated, and the landscaping will provide a nicer look and feel for the community.
Mr. Parker spoke about the blueprints for the project, saying they were big and beautiful and, he supposed, expensive. He asked how much the applicant paid to prepare the blueprint and plans that were submitted to the city. [I can only ask "WTF?"] Someone said "We don't ask people how much it cost," but their microphone was not turned on so I couldn't identify the voice.
Mr. Parker responded, "Well maybe you don't, but I do."
Mr. Voss said "No you don't, not at this forum. You do not."
Mr. Gray (who had not been recognized by the Chair) said "Can one person talk at a time, please?"
"Ask the right question," Mr. Voss said. "Not ones that are irrelevant to the hearing."
"I think it should be public knowledge. How much did you invest in this project?" Mr. Parker asked.
Attorney Allen began to respond, but Mr. Parker talked over her saying "The date on this document is November 17, 2014. I want to ask Gabriel King, you prepared this, right?"
Mr. King answered that he had.
Chair Sobotta said "Chuck [Parker] let's pre-empt the question. Let's run it through our City Attorney."
Mr. Parker said "Let me ask the City Attorney a question. "How many of the nineteen applicants submitted finished blueprints and plans like this?"
We've seen this before, where government officials ask questions that are of doubtful relevancy and then do not wait for any answer as it becomes a higher priority to simply retain the right to keep asking questions. We've seen major assholes on Congressional committees doing it, and we've seen it locally as well. It's an effective way to make false implications while not allowing the other party to contradict. The implicator, therefore, never needs to defend his implications.
"That's not what I was looking at when I was looking at it," Mr. Quintanilla responded.
Mr. Parker said he wanted just a rough idea. Mr. Meyerhoff said most of the applications included site plans and elevations, but not construction documents. Mr. Parker asked how many had construction documents "Which I'm sure are costly. I don't need to know the amount if you're ashamed to say."
Mr. Meyerhoff unashamedly answered that one applicant had submitted a building permit for their project. It was this project. "What about this one over here?" Mr. Parker asked, referring to the next item on the agenda, another proposed dispensary at another location. We were not surprised to hear Mr. Meyerhoff say that they had not submitted an application for a building permit yet. Mr. Parker asked if they had submitted "a big blueprint." Mr. Meyerhoff said they had.
"So how many submitted big blueprint packages like this?" Mr. Parker asked.
"Probably less than ten," Mr. Meyerhoff answered.
Mr. Parker asked Mr. King if the date of November 17, 2014, on the documents indicated the date those documents were finished.
Mr. King said "It wasn't finished. It's a process." He went on to describe himself as "one heck of a draftsman." Mr. Parker tried to speak over him, but Mr. King asked to be allowed to finish. Mr. Parker granted him this boon. Mr. King said the CUP required a full set of drawings, down to the landscaping plans and the water hydraulics. He worked long hours to get it completed on time. "I don't know how much the amount is. I think that's something personal between me and my client. But I don't have that information with me right now. I wasn't prepared to answer that as a condition of approval."
Mr. Parker said "I don't have anything against these plans. They're beautiful plans. But what I'm wondering, where I'm going with this line of questioning is how did your client have enough confidence that they were going to get awarded the contract or whatever you call it to have a dispensary to invest this time and money into these kind of plans. And if it said that everybody had to submit these kind of plans according to the Planning Director only about ten of them did it."
I would have liked to answer Mr. Parker's question by explaining to him that this is America and despite many economic changes, I think the entrepreneur who takes the biggest risk, does the best job, succeeds and gets rich is still stands as one of the symbols of American free enterprise. (At least for a little while longer.)
Mr. Parker said he was finished with his questioning, leaving several unanswered questions littered all over the floor of the Carl May.
Chair Sobotta said one cannot infer anything about the nature or quality of a proposed project solely from a date on one of the documents. He said that building had been sitting empty for quite some time and the owner may have begun plans for tenant improvements some time ago. The start date is immaterial, he said. In a slow economy there are plans that have been sitting on shelves for years.
Mr. Meyerhoff reminded Mr. Sobotta that the Commission still needed to hear public testimony.
Chair Sobotta said there were a couple more questions from Commissioners first and recognized Mr. Gray.
Mr. Gray asked Mr. Lee, the applicant, if he had ever met him before this night. "Ever seen me? At your place of business?"
Mr. Lee answered that Mr. Gray had said they had met, but he didn't recall when it was.
Mr. Gray asked Mr. Lee to tell him when he had said they had met. Mr. Lee said he did not know. "I don't remember."
"Have we ever met?" Mr. Gray asked. "Have you ever seen me before, other than tonight.
Mr. Lee began to answer "I don't think it's necessary..." but Mr. Gray interrupted him, because the important part of this technique is to never allow a clear answer from an honest person. Mr. Gray said I'm asking this pretty basic question."
"No," Mr. Lee said.
"Okay, you've never met me," Mr. Gray said. "You've never seen me on your property?"
Mr. Voss sought to be recognized by the Chair. Someone in the room said "Perry Mason." Mr. Voss said "Mr. Chair, let's get control of this meeting and focus on the application."
Mr. Gray spoke over Mr. Voss saying "I'm asking this become some serious..." But Mr. Voss spoke over Mr. Gray saying "It's irrelevant Dean. Get with the program."
"Please, let me finish instead of bullying me!" Mr. Gray demanded.
"NO! Get with the program," was the very clear response from Mr. Voss.
An individual with the applicant said "Mr. Gray you came to this property in a threatening manner, harassing my father and you harassed my employees and everybody else. Yes you did, come on this property." Attorney Allen tried to get in a word, too. Amid many voices Chair Sobotta gaveled and asked everyone to sit down and declared a five minute recess.
After the recess Chair Sobotta re-read the sentence that appears on every agenda: "Members of the public are expected to maintain a professional, courteous decorum during public comments." He said it applies to the Commissioners as well as members of the public. He also said that someone had said the Planning Commission has no right to review plans unless they've been stamped by a registered architect. "This is the Planning Commission. This is not the building department." Planning Commissioners are not the professionals that are on staff. The Commissioners do not act in the capacity of a building inspector reviewing plans. "Plans that are prepared for commercial properties under state law...require they be done by a licensed architect. However, it does not say anywhere - and I've worked this from all angles, from both sides - they do not need to be prepared by a licensed architect or stamped by a licensed architect, because they are conceptual. And why the Sam hill would somebody want to go through the trouble of developing very complex plans unless they were to be approved by the bodies that they may ask to approve them."
Mr. Sobotta said that someone had said the applicant had started the work illegally. "Well, this is probably the case with how many applications in Desert Hot Springs?" Anyone who says the applicant must have plans stamped by a licensed architect is absolutely 100% incorrect, he added. But when the plans are submitted to the city they will look for that architect's stamp. He said he hadn't noticed any abnormalities in the application process by this applicant.
Chair Sobotta recognized Mr. Parker, but Mr. Gray insisted he had the floor and wished to continue. Mr. Sobotta advised him to be careful what he said. Mr. Gray told Mr. Sobotta to stop telling him what to say.
"When were the plans submitted to the city," Mr. Gray asked.
Mr. Sobotta asked if they were submitted in a timely manner. Mr. Gray said he was asking for "what date."
Mr. Meyerhoff said there were two separate questions. One, he said, is the application for a medical marijuana dispensary permit.
Mr. Gray interrupted "The question was about the plans. When were the plans..."
Mr. Meyerhoff said "I don't have that information."
Mr. Gray asked when the project got red-tagged to stop construction.
Mr. Meyerhoff said that construction is beyond the purview of the Planning Commission "So we don't have those construction and building records present..."
"Okay, so we'll keep that secret," Mr. Gray responded. Then he asked "When did construction begin on this project?"
No one answered, so Mr. Gray said "Again, another question that cannot be answered. Okay, I'll try one more. Why did this project not have a building permit? Well, I guess we can't ask that, either. Okay, I'll try another one. Did licensed contractors do the work on the project - no, we can't ask that one. Okay, let me try another one. Did contractors that worked on this project have city business licenses as required? Nope, can't ask that question. Okay."
Attorney Allen attempted to provide an answer at this point, but Mr. Gray would not let her speak saying he had not directed his questions to her. She continued trying to talk, so Mr. Gray continued to talk to prevent her from providing any information to the other Commissioners. When Chair Sobotta also began to say that this was the part of the public hearing when questions were to be directed to the applicant, not city staff, Mr. spoke over him to insist that he had the floor.
"Mr. Lee, how long have you been in the medical marijuana business?" Mr. Gray asked.
Before Mr. Lee could answer, Mike Picardi called out from the audience that this was irrelevant; it's not on the applications.
"It's relevant to me," Mr. Gray responded.
"This is way out of hand, Dean" Mr. Picardi continued.
Mr. Gray said he did not know who Mike Picardi is while simultaneously Attorney Allen said that her applicant "can refuse..." but then Mr. Gray spoke over her.
Mr. Sobotta made an attempt to interrupt, but Mr. Gray said he was not done asking questions.
Commissioner Romero said she would like to make a statement when the floor is cleared. Mr. Meyerhoff said "Chairman. I would ask you to use the gavel." Mr. Sobotta aske him to repeat that, and he did, but Mr. Gray continued to insist on having the floor. "Wait a minute, we're not moving on," Mr. Gray said. "Hold on a minute. It takes a super-majority of four people to stop discussion."
"Point of order," Mr. Parker called out. He pointed out that the Chair did nothing when Mr. Picardi shouted from the audience. "It's out of order for you to yell at him and tell him he's out of order. You're not the Chairman. You're not on the Commission. And this is not - this is not going to degenerate into a mob. This is not going to degenerate into a mob, no matter what you want or other people up here might want. So my point of order, Mr. Chairman, is Commissioner Gray has the floor. He should be allowed to finish with his questions. He's simply asking questions. He's not doing anything out of order. They may not like the questions. They obviously don't want to answer the questions. But according to what I understand as the rules of civilized debate, he has a right to ask questions. It's his obligation. It's his duty. And to allow him to be shouted down either by a member of the audience or by other members of the Commission, you're failing in your job as the Chairman."
Mr. Sobotta said he wanted all questions that were intended for the applicants to first be routed through the City Attorney. Mr. Quintanilla will then field them, if he determines them to be appropriate.
"That is not the process of how this Commission operates," Mr. Gray said.
Mr. Sobotta said that is is the process now.
Mr. Gray said "You can't arbitrarily decide.... This is America. We don't operate that way."
Ms. Romero asked:
Can I have my own point of order that the questions that are being asked are inappropriate and not in the purview of this Commission. And if there's any bullying and badgering occurring it's coming from the west end of this dais [indicating Mr. Parker and Mr. Gray]. And the reason that we've got this degenerative condition is because applicants are being bullied and badgered from the dais. Staff is being bullied and badgered from the dais. And when people have spoken up about it, they're being told that they're bullying. Now, I think that it's pretty typical of bullies when thwarted to accuse the thwarters of being the bully when in fact that's not the case. [At this point Mr. Parker tried to shout her down, but Ms. Romero continued]. I have sat here for twelve months and listened to this type of behavior and I've sat passively by and that was a mistake. Because what has happened is that there's now a sense of entitlement to this type of behavior. [Mr. Parker tried to interrupt again]. We delay the business at hand at every meeting in order for grandstanding to occur. Disrespectful,rude and confrontational questioning to occur. It's inappropriate. It's unprofessional. And it's an embarrassment to the city, in my opinion.
"I move that we adjourn the meeting," Mr. Parker said - almost as if to confirm everything that Ms. Romero had just said. He repeated his motion.
"It's not grandstanding to ask questions," Mr. Gray said.
Mr. Parker repeated his motion. The Chair noted that and asked if there was a second. Mr. Parker said "Second it, Dean." And Mr. Gray dutifully responded that he would second that.
Chair Sobotta said there was no discussion on a motion to adjourn, but Mr. Gray said that there was a motion on the floor and he wanted to discuss it. He said "I don't think we're ready. I think that this is premature and immature to be this mudslinging simply because Chuck [Parker] and myself are interested in asking some very important questions. And if it's - if the new Chairman and Vice Chairman, who have extreme amount of experience on this Commission, bear no responsibility for the fact that we've not had minutes and are going to dictate to us what we can say or not say is inappropriate for an American institution. And you cannot tell me what to think. And please don't tell me what to say."
The motion was defeated 2-3 with Mr. Parker and Mr. Gray voting Yes.
Chair Sobotta said four requests to comment had come from the audience. Mr. Parker said he had another comment for the applicant. Attorney Allen said thought the hearing was in the asking process, not the commenting process. So Mr. Parker said "Okay, I have a question for the attorney. In your letter, I've heard of a temporary restraining order before, but I've never heard of a 'police notice.' How did you obtain this police notice which restricts Mr. Gray's movements and actions?"
Attorney Allen said she received it from the property owners. She further explained that it was from the Police Department.
Mr. Parker asked to see the notice "because I believe this is an infringement on his rights and an attempt to interfere with his freedom and his obligation to vote and decide on this matter according to his conscience. And I think it's outrageous that if the applicant has confidence in their ability to..."
Attorney Allen interrupted to ask if there was a question. Mr. Parker said he had already asked the question and was waiting for the answer. The Attorney indicated she had already handed the letter to the Clerk.
Here is that notice:
Click it and it gets bigger.
Chair Sobotta asked Police Chief Maynard if he had any comments on this process.
Mr. Meyerhoff tried to get the public hearing back on track, saying that the next step would be to open public testimony.
Mike Picardi came to the podium. He said he had opened businesses and changed locations a number of times where he started work without a permits. He said that investing money before obtaining permits was a gamble and the businessmen take gambles. He said he was under the impression that the city was attempting to fast track this process. He said he uses medical marijuana and he was very happy that this was finally here. He said this CUP should be approved. He said the issues that Mr. Gray had brought up were not subject to the Planning Commission, but were the responsibility of city staff to deal with. He pointed out that no one is breaking down any doors in an attempt to occupy the empty buildings in DHS. Hiccups, he said, could be addressed at a later date.
The next speaker was Dino Sogoyan. He said he was also an applicant. He said he didn't think it was fair that Mr. Parker and Mr. Gray were being bullied for asking fair questions "Like we're in a Mafia movie." He said his application was only three points shy of a perfect score. "We had all the 25 ridiculous requirements of printing 24 x 36 twenty-five copies, color copies, all the copies, and I don't think it's correct not to have the point system correctly set up and make a decision today on who should get the shops." He said he resides in Desert Hot Springs and had planned to give a 10% donation to the Police Department. He said it had "somehow" disappeared from his application. He asked for a better explanation of the scoring process.
Mr. Sobotta responded that the city staff did not establish the scoring system, the City Council did. He said the Planning Commission didn't know the details on the scoring process. "So how you can make a decision," Mr. Sogoyan asked.
[Because the Planning Commission's task was to approve or disapprove the CUP and the scoring system had nothing to do with the CUP]
Mr. Sobotta said the Commission relies on recommendations from the professional staff. Mr. Sogoyan said he thought staff had made a lot of mistakes in the point system. Mr. Sobotta advised him to direct those comments to the City Council. "You are the City Council," Mr. Sogoyan said. Mr. Sobotta reminded him that they are the Planning Commission. Mr. Sogoyan responded "This just seems like a Mafia that's been blowing everybody from this side of the table on." Mr. Sobotta said that those who are suggesting the Planning Commission should evaluate the points are suggesting that the Commission preempt the City Council.
The next speaker was Avero Sandoval. Here Mr. Meyerhoff reminded Chair Sobotta that it was advisable not to respond to the speakers, so that the speakers could be assured of getting their full three minutes.
Mr. Sandoval said that someone had told him that this applicant's CUP had already been approved before any plans had been submitted. He said DHS needs to earn respect. "The main thing is to be fair." He asked the Commissioners to do their best for the city.
Margaret Webb spoke next. She said she began living here three years ago. A year and a half ago she moved away, but moved back. She said the city cannot afford to lose good people. "We need money, you guys!" She says it with pride when she tells people she lives in Desert Hot Springs. She calls herself "Teen Mom." She wants to know if the dispensaries will bring jobs to Desert Hot Springs. She told the Commissioners to play fair in the sandbox.
Bob Terry came up next. He said it was not unreasonable for the Commission to wait until they see the points. He pointed out the error in the attorney's statement as to the dates on the police notice.
Mr. Sobotta asked staff if they had answers for any of the questions raised by the public. Mr. Malacoff said he hadn't heard any questions relevant to the CUP, but some were about the administrative approval, which the Commission was not dealing with.
Mr. Parker said he wanted to ask Attorney Allen more questions, now that he had seen the police notice. He said it looked like the applicants had filled out the notice themselves and it was intended to allow the police to arrest Mr. Gray if he came on the dispensary's property. Attorney Allen said the document speaks for itself.
Mr. Parker said that during the recess he had asked Interim Police Chief Maynard what authority had approved the notice. He said the Chief told him that the court approved it, and that the court had to issue a temporary restraining order against Mr. Gray "and that it wasn't just something that got cooked up between yourselves and someone at the Police Department." Attorney Allen said she objected to the term "cooked up." She went on to say that there was no civil restraining order that she was aware of.
Mr. Parker said he then had to ask the Police Chief the process by which this had been approved. Chief Maynard came to the podium. "Mr. Gray knows what that is," he said. "That is a document that is filled out by a police officer. Noticing the person who is being suggested that they are trespassing on a piece of property, giving them notice that if they come back again they will, in fact, be arrested. What I had been talking about was that if, in fact, a restraining order is issued, which in this case there wasn't one, I believe that has to be done so by the court. And we're called to document that. But what I understand at this point is that Mr. Gray was given that, advising him that if, in fact, he came back on the property again he would be arrested."
Mr. Parker said he didn't the name of any police officer on the document. The Chief answered "Mr. Parker, I wasn't there that day, but that's a form we use for that process."
Mr. Parker asked if the Chief would provide that information the next day and Chief Maynard assured him he would. Mr. Parker said "This to me smacks of a police state when any business person or anybody out there can go down and fill out a form and you'll send out a policeman with a notice that says 'I can't go over there anymore'."
Yes, you read that right. A Planning Commissioner - a Planning Commissioner - has confused the centuries old right to prevent trespassers from coming on your private property with a police state! Really. Mr. Parker must be quite a fan of Through The Looking Glass. Now let's all pick up our jaws and move on.
Chief Maynard responded, "Mr. Parker, if somebody came on your business, it doesn't matter what the business might be, and you have the right to refuse to allow them on that property, which you can do, you have to advise them ahead of time that they are not allowed to trespass. That's all that is."
Mr. Gray said this was the first time he had seen this notice. "When have I been notified of this?"
The Chief answered "Again, I have to tell you that if, in fact, I was out there, I could tell you that, but since I was not..." Here Mr. Gray interrupted Chief Maynard to say "I'm going to tell you that I've never been served with this. This is the first time I've seen this. This is the first time I've heard of it. And I guess I won't be buying gas at the Valero station anymore.
"Well, that's your call," Chief Maynard said. "What I'm saying is that's the form we use for that process. And I wasn't there that day."
Mr. Gray pointed out the typo in the dates. Chief Maynard said that it appeared to be a typo. "No, it's written, it's not a typo," Mr. Gray helpfully corrected. The Chief said Mr. Gray knew what he was talking about. Mr. Gray said he did not know, because there was no police officer's signature on the form. "This just looks like somebody made it up." He said there was no documentation that the police had received this or that the police had authorized it.
"Let me ask you, Mr. Gray, did you go on the property?"
"I did," Mr. Gray answered.
"Were you asked not to be there by anyone there?"
"No, no," Mr. Gray answered
"Okay," the Chief said, "then that form was probably filled out by Mr. Lee post your being on the property to be served to you later on."
Mr. Parker asked the Chief if he didn't think the form was defective because it had no space for a police officer's name.
Mr. Parker's reading comprehension is remarkably low. If you read the form you see that it is a letter from a property owner to the Police Department. The form was designed and printed by the Police Department, but it constitutes a statement by the property owner. It would make no sense to have a police officer's name on there anywhere, unless a property owner was accusing a police officer of trespassing.
The Chief explained that these were misdemeanors and since a misdemeanor has to be committed in a police officer's presence for the police to take action, that this form likely was prepared by the property owner in order to notify Mr. Gray that he would be arrested if he came on the property.
Mr. Gray asked if the property is open to the public. The Chief began to answer "Even businesses that are open..." Mr. Gray interrupted to say that was not his question. The Chief assured him "I'm going to answer your question. This isn't a court of law. I can answer an entire question, can't I, Mr. Gray?"
Mr. Gray said "Yeah, but is it a public place?"
The Chief continued "Right at this point it's not open to the public. But a convenience store that's open to the public [Mr. Gray tried to talk over the Chief here] could ask somebody not to come back in." Mr. Gray continued speaking while the Chief was speaking, but he didn't do it as loudly as he had when he tried to speak over others earlier in the meeting.
Chair Sobotta thanked the Chief.
Mr Gray asked the Chair "Is it inappropriate for Commissioners to look at, physically, the applicant's property that we are being asked to review? Or are we limited to just simply looking at the papers that are submitted to us without looking at the physical properties that it's referring to? Are we restricted in any way, shape or form from looking at the physical properties that are coming before us? Is there any prohibition or policy or procedure that prevents us from opening our eyes and walking in places that have no signs that say 'No Trespassing?' Are we prohibited from doing that? I thought we were in America. And thought that we had a responsibility to look at these things and not just rubberstamp the staff recommendation. I take this very seriously. I read every single word that comes in front of me. And I look at these properties and this is the first time that I've been told 'no, do not walk on that property; do not look there; don't look at that; don't say that.' Tell me, sir, as Chairman, do we have the right, the permission and the ability to look at these physical properties? Please answer me that."
Chair Sobotta said "It's a standard and customary responsibility we have, if we care to go ahead and take a look at any property..." Whereupon Mr. Gray interrupted him with "Thank you."
Nevertheless, Mr. Sobotta continued. "Whatever may have occurred out there over and above that aspect is something we're not familiar with, so that's something you..." Mr. Gray interrupted again saying "You answered my question, thank you."
Mr. Parker asked why the areas where dispensaries were to be allowed [all commercial zones] was not the same as what the Planning Commission had recommended. [Thereby confirming my suspicion that he pays no attention whatsoever to the processes of our city government.]
Mr. Sobotta told him that the City Council made that decision. Then Mr. Parker tried to split hairs concerning whether an area that is "pre-zoned" commercial is an area that is zoned commercial. And he went on to repeat the reasoning behind the Planning Commission's recommendations. Mr. Sobotta advised him to take this matter up with the City Council.
Mr. Parker moved to continue the public hearing to the next meeting so that the Commission could get information on the point system and unanswered questions. It was seconded by Mr. Gray.
A voice in the audience could be heard to say off-mic "You've been in charge of this whole meeting, so I guess that's going to be the way it goes."
Mr. Gray interrupted her to say "Please stop with your disrespectful comments." [Hmm. Can anyone recall how Mr. Gray would respond when Mayor Parks would ask him the equivalent of "Please stop with your disrespectful comments?" Yeah, I think we all do.]
Then Mr. Gray put the icing on the cake: "I want to make it perfectly clear, that I want this thing to move forward [Mr. Picardi could be heard laughing loudly from the audience, with several others joining in] and I want it to be done correctly. And I am a medical marijuana patient - for many, many years. And an advocate. And sat in this room when they prohibited it. Spoke against it. Where were you all then? You weren't here. [I was] I was here."
Ms. Romero managed to slide this in while Mr. Gray was inhaling: "Call the question. Are we adjourning or not?"
"I'm speaking please," Mr. Gray said.
"No you're not."
Chair Sobotta said call the question takes priority.
Mr. Gray said "You can't stop discussion unless you have a super-majority, am I correct? It is four people have to vote to stop to shut me up."
Somehow Mr. Gray failed to understand that the motion he had seconded would shut him up.
Attorney Quintanilla said "The Chair can call the question and cut off the debate."
"We're not following the rules of order," Mr. Gray asked.
"We are," Mr. Voss said.
"And so the discussion cannot continue?" Mr. Gray asked.
"Call the question. Call the question and cut off debate," Mr. Quintanilla instructed.
Chair Sobotta said the question had been called and instructed the Commissioners to vote. Mr. Parker asked if the vote was on calling the question or on the motion. Mr. Sobotta said it was the motion and began to explain the motion when Mr. Gray interrupted to say "The motion is to shut me up."
The motion was approved 3-2 with Mr. Sobotta and Mr. Voss voting against. [But please continue reading into the next item to see the final final vote.] Mr. Gray had voted to shut himself up.
Mr. Parker moved that the next item, another dispensary, be postponed saying that the Commission didn't have enough information on that. [A strange idea, that one should postpone the hearing which is intended to bring all relevant information to light because someone already knows there is not enough information without even conducting the hearing! Such omniscience!]
"Why waste a bunch of more time," Mr. Parker said. [Yes, why?]
CUP For Brown Dog Health & Wellness Medical Marijuana Dispensary (not really)
Mr. Parker moved to continue. Seconded by Mr. Gray.
Mr. Sobotta asked staff if it would be proper to first open the public hearing so that it could potentially be continued. Mr. Meyerhoff said several public comment cards had been received on this item, so he suggested that the Chair open it, get a brief staff report and then consider the motion.
Mr. Meyerhoff requested a five minute recess because a Commissioner had left the dais.
During the recess several microphones were left turned on. One can hear speculation on whether Ms. Romero had understood the motion. Someone suggested that if the Commission simply rejected the CUP, then the applicant could appeal it to the City Council who would then effectively do the Commission's work. There was speculation that some Commissioners were attempting to pressure Attorney Quintanilla in order that he might say something so inappropriate that he would lose his job. Mr. Gray asked Mr. Sobotta why he lets people talk from the audience. Mr. Sobotta said that they just do it. Mr. Gray asked why he didn't stop them. Mr. Sobotta said he tried. Mr. Gray had the opposite opinion. "You did nothing."
I heard nothing that might violate the Brown Act.
After the recess Ms. Romero asked to be allowed to make a motion. Her motion was to reconsider the vote. A motion to reconsider a vote must come from someone who voted in the majority and it should be made at the same meeting when the vote took place. Her motion was seconded by Mr. Voss.
Mr. Gray asked "Why is she moving?"
Attorney Quintanilla said a motion to reconsider needed only three votes for approval. The motion was approved 3-2 with Mr. Gray and Mr. Parker voting against.
Ms. Romero moved to approve the staff recommendation to approve the CUP as submitted. Seconded by Mr. Voss.
Mr. Parker asked if there would be any discussion. "We haven't gone that far yet," Mr. Sobotta answered. "What?" was Mr. Parker's response.
"They're not going to let you talk about it Chuck," Mr. Gray said.
"What are we voting on?" Mr. Parker wondered.
Ms. Romero said she had made a motion and Mr. Sobotta said they would be voting on that motion.
"To do what?" Mr. Parker asked.
Ms. Romero and Mr. Sobotta answered simultaneously with nearly the same voice that the motion was to approve the CUP.
When Mr. Sobotta opened it up for discussion Mr. Parker asked Ms. Romero why she changed her mind.
Ms. Romero explained that sometimes one feels that one has voted wrong and that she had acted in haste when she voted for the motion to continue. So she reconsidered her vote while getting some fresh air during the recess.
Mr. Parker asked her for a reason to approve the CUP. Ms. Romero said that upon reviewing the material that things are in order.
Mr. Parker said it was unwise and premature to make a decision this night. He asked Attorney Quintanilla how it happened that the scoring sheets would not be available until after the Planning Commission vote. Mr. Quintanilla said that there was a motion on the floor, so the debate and deliberation should take place on the dais. He went on to say "It's obvious that at least two of you are fine with the process."
Mr. Parker asked if Mr. Quintanilla was not going to answer the question. Mr. Quintanilla said he didn't think that an answer to his question at this point was relevant.
"Let me ask you another question," Mr. Parker said. "Any meeting I've attended in the last year, it's always been appropriate for a member of the Commission to ask the City Attorney a question for legal guidance. And now you're not going to answer my question. Let me ask you this question, Mr. Quintanilla: did you deliberately delay making this information available to us and to the public until after a vote was going to be taken tonight?"
"No," was Mr. Quintanilla's brief response.
Mr. Gray said he also had a question for the attorney. "When was the date that the point system was complete, when you had reviewed it. In here it says that that was 'the dispensary scoring and ranking was completed December 10.' Is that correct, what I'm reading?"
"That's correct," was Mr. Quintanilla's slightly less brief answer.
"Is it true that I have repeatedly requested the information of seeing these public documents and I've requested it by email, by phone, and in person, that I've requested to see this information which is available to the general public and has been available since December tenth, have I repeatedly asked to see those documents?"
"You know, I can't keep up with your requests, Mr. Dean, but I know that you asked for these documents since they were posted online..." Mr. Gray attempted to interrupt [are you surprised?] saying "No. The scores... the point system is not there, sir." But Mr. Quintanilla would not be stopped. "There's no possible answer I can give you that's going to satisfy you."
"No, no, simply saying that you will" Mr. Gray may have said while attempting to talk over the attorney.
"There is not. There is not," Mr. Quintanilla continued. "I've answered your question several times. Today I spent an hour with you and you were still not satisfied with the answers."
Mr. Meyerhoff reminded Mr. Sobotta that there was a motion on the floor.
Mr. Sobotta advised everyone that questions and disagreements with the point system should be taken up with the City Council. "You're asking the wrong people."
Mr. Parker attempted to make a motion, not realizing that he could not while there was already a motion on the floor. Mr. Sobotta explained that to him. So Mr. Parker said "I'm going to make another motion." He moved to adjourn the meeting. "And I'm doing this to protect those people who don't understand it up here that by voting to approve this thing tonight with all these questions unanswered, you're going to be looked at and charged with being corrupt. Everybody's going to think that you are supporting these people for a reason that you won't admit. Illegal reasons, like did you get paid to support this. Why won't you wait until the next meeting. Why are so damned...why are you so damned determined to push this thing through despite the fact that all these facts have been kept out of the light of day. This is not transparency in government. It's not democratic. You can ram it down his throats if you want to, but I move to adjourn the meeting to protect you from yourself."
Mr. Gray seconded the motion and Mr. Sobotta looked to Mr. Quintanilla for guidance. The attorney said there was already a motion on the floor, so unless the motion maker withdraws it, that's what's on the table.
"Point of order. Point of order" Mr. Parker called out. He said that he didn't have his copy of Robert's Rules of Order here. [Which would have been of little use anyway, since the city does not use it.] He said he thought a motion to adjourn had precedence over all other motions. "Do you have the rules of order with you, Mr. Quintanilla? Can I see the book?"
Mr. Quintanilla ignored Mr. Parker and suggested to Mr. Sobotta that he call the vote.
Mr. Parker wasn't done yet, though. "Okay, ram it ram it through all of you. Come on. Ram it down. I'm ready. I'm going to try not to choke on it."
Mr. Sobotta began to call the question when, of course, Mr. Gray interrupted to say the discussion was not done. "This is unfair. This is unfair to everybody in this room. This is unfair to the people of our city. It's unfair to us as Commissioners to be debating the fine points of freedom; to be able to talk and think freely and come up with decisions that make sense. And I'm talking common sense." "But our pushing this through in a very unusual way."
A motion to approve staff recommendation is the most common way of dealing with an agenda item. IOW, this is usual.
Mr. Parker said he wanted to remind Attorneys Quintanilla and Allen "who seem to be running a show here tonight, that if you think you can rig this thing without any risk of losing your license to practice law, then you're wrong. You can be held accountable before the Bar Association for actions that are unethical and undemocratic and wrong. So I would say, Mr. Quintanilla, in the interest of your career that you should recommend that because you messed up and you didn't make the information available and you're the one that drew up the questions and all the focus of this, if something goes wrong, is going to be on you, I would say I would recommend if I was sitting in your seat that we postpone this. It's not a big deal!"
Mr. Voss said the process was approved by the City Council. He said the Planning Commission has no purview on this process. The Commission has no say so; any decision make related to that. The points are irrelevant to the task of the Commission.
Mr. Gray said he believed it is the role of the Commissioners to question. Chair Sobotta repeated that these issues should be taken to the City Council. Mr. Sobotta began to speak, but Mr. Gray insisted that he was still speaking. "I was speaking," he said.
Mr. Sobotta responded "I'm talking right now. All right? You've already talked a lot." Again he explained that the regulatory aspect was the jurisdiction of the City Council, not the Planning Commission.
Mr. Gray read off item 15 from the list of findings necessary for the CUP: "That the proposed location, size, design, and operating characteristics of the proposed Marijuana Dispensary would not be detrimental to the public interests, health, safety, convenience, or welfare of the City of Desert Hot Springs."
This is a particularly significant point in this meeting. The Commission had been dealing with this agenda item for two hours and twenty minutes and this was the first time - the first time! - any Commissioner had actually brought the CUP into discussion. All discussion prior to this had been on subjects not on the agenda and outside the scope of the Planning Commission.
Mr. Gray continued, saying that for him "operating characters" "speaks to character." Therefore, he reasoned, everything he had asked had been relevant.
I suppose he would be right if there had been any reason at all to question the "character" of Mr. Lee and if character evaluation was part of the responsibility of the Planning Commission.
Mr. Sobotta said that all of his questions had been addressed in the staff report. Mr. Gray objected to being interrupted. "I do not interrupt you," Mr. Gray said with a straight face. "I think it's rude to interrupt people." He repeated that he didn't interrupt Mr. Sobotta. Mr. Sobotta granted Mr. Gray 30 more seconds. Mr. Gray said he objected to this process while Mr. Parker called out "point of order" several times.
Mr. Parker asked where the rule was that said the chair could limit the amount of time a Commissioner could speak.
I suggest that a copy of Rosenberg be made available at each of the five seats at the dais. To answer Mr. Parker's question, the rule is on page 7. But the chair has even more powers.
The chair should always ensure that debate and discussion of an agenda item focuses on the item and the policy in question, not the personalities of the members of the body. Debate on policy is healthy, debate on personalities is not. The chair has the right to cut off discussion that is too personal, is too loud, or is too crude. Debate and discussion should be focused, but free and open. In the interest of time, the chair may, however, limit the time allotted to speakers, including members of the body
Mr. Voss called for the question and Mr. Meyerhoff suggested that every Commissioner had had an opportunity to express their views and that it might be good to move on to the vote.
Once again, Mr. Parker brought up his misunderstanding of the actual zoning of the parcel.
Mr. Sobotta finally called the question. The motion displayed on the screen was "Approve staff recommendation." Mr. Parker asked what that meant. Really. He really asked that. I wonder how he was able to vote all the many previous instances when the motion was to "Approve staff recommendation."
Mr. Sobotta explained that it meant they were to vote on whether to approve the staff recommendation on item 2, the CUP for Sun Grow Collective.
The motion was approved 3-2 with Mr. Gray and Mr. Parker voting against.
And there you have it. The Planning Commission approved a CUP with virtually no discussion at all of the CUP. I hope it was a great CUP. Commissioners Gray and Parker had managed to divert the Commission entirely from its responsibility. They may have lost the final vote, but they did control the Commission throughout this item. Maybe that was their real goal, to show how they could divert and delay city government.
CUP For Brown Dog Health & Wellness Medical Marijuana Dispensary (really!)
This proposed dispensary would be located at 66595 Pierson, which is almost on the southwest corner of Pierson and Ocotillo. Google Streetview of the building. This building is in the Vortex Specific Plan area, but there's no problem there.
After Mr. Meyerhoff's report no Commissioner had any questions for staff, so Chair Sobotta opened the public hearing.
Andrew Milks came to the podium. But first let me take you through a brief diversion into history. In terms of this whole process that has brought Desert Hot Springs to the cusp of medical marijuana, Mr. Milks is The Man, in my opinion. If you follow the City Council meetings you will know him as that tall, quiet guy who started showing up about a year and a half ago. He started by getting up during public comments and making a thoughtful, non-hysterical, well-spoken comment about medical marijuana. And then he would do it again two weeks later, but his comment would be on some other aspect of medical marijuana. He was always polite and never boring. He continued this way for several meetings until one or two of the City Councilmembers directed staff to begin to take a look at this matter and bring something back to the Council. If we could have a few clones of Andrew Milks making comments on various subjects at City Council meetings, I think it would begin to change the tone of things for the better.
Mr. Milks is the president of Brown Dog Health & Wellness. He promised to have not only the best medical marijuana in the valley, but promised to be a thoughtful and responsible business. He said he wants to see downtown DHS grow and prosper. "We strive to not only be one of the good, but one of the great."
They will also offer to all DHS residents (not just their patients) yoga classes, Pilates classes, and multiple social groups. Those groups will not be about medical marijuana, but will have a more community-oriented focus. They will assist in animal rescue, "homeless drives," and community cleanups.
Mr. Gray had questions. He said the driveway is only one line and asked how cars were supposed to go in and out. Mr. Milks said he would expect them to be courteous. The parking lot improvements will include a turnaround. The parking area is walled. Mr. Gray described it as "hidden." Mr. Gray said no one could see it, not even the police. Mr. Milks said the police would be able to see it via the cameras. He said he thought the parking lot would provide additional security for the patients. There would be a security guard there. Large amounts of money will come and go, so safety is a concern. He said that the walled parking lot was a reason he chose this property over another.
Mr. Gray asked "How close are you to St. Elizabeth's church and school?" Mr. Milks answered that there is no school there. Mr. Gray asked if they didn't have religious instruction there. Mr. Milks said he didn't believe the church had anything that qualified as a school. Mr. Gray asked how close the proposed dispensary is to St. Elizabeth's. Mr. Milks asked if that is relevant. Mr. Gray said it is if there is a school there.
Mr. Sobotta said that he thought the staff would know the California legal definition of "school," and they would have not let this application proceed this far if there was a school at St. Elizabeth's.
Mr. Meyerhoff said he had contacted the church and was told there is no school there. Mr. Gray said he asked at the church and they said they had religious education on a daily basis.
The relevant California law can be read here or here:
11362.768. (a) This section shall apply to individuals specified in subdivision (b) of Section 11362.765.
(b) No medical marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider who possesses, cultivates, or distributes medical marijuana pursuant to this article shall be located within a 600-foot radius of a school.
(c) The distance specified in this section shall be the horizontal distance measured in a straight line from the property line of the school to the closest property line of the lot on which the medical marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider is to be located without regard to intervening structures.
(d) This section shall not apply to a medical marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider that is also a licensed residential medical or elder care facility.
(e) This section shall apply only to a medical marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider that is authorized by law to possess, cultivate, or distribute medical marijuana and that has a storefront or mobile retail outlet which ordinarily requires a local business license.
(f) Nothing in this section shall prohibit a city, county, or city and county from adopting ordinances or policies that further restrict the location or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider.
(g) Nothing in this section shall preempt local ordinances, adopted prior to January 1, 2011, that regulate the location or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider.
(h) For the purposes of this section, "school" means any public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, but does not include any private school in which education is primarily conducted in private homes.
I can't determine if there is additional case law on that definition. But that's why we have a city attorney. Or, we could go the more difficult route which would be denying Brown Dog their CUP, thereby encouraging them to drag the city into court where there will be the opportunity to create some case law.
Mr. Gray said he thought the law should be interpreted broadly to include religious schooling. Mr. Milks pointed out the key word "interpret." Mr. Gray said he is allowed to interpret things and his interpretation is that a school "is a place where people go to learn things."
IMO, there is almost no place on earth where people do not go learn things, but I'm fairly sure the California legislature did not intend to define "school" that way. The Carl May Center, the Senior Center and the public library would all be schools. A driver's education business would be a school. A movie theater would be a school if it showed a film that educates.
Chair Sobotta directed a question to Mr. Quintanilla on this subject. Mr. Quintanilla answered "I'll just read you the law. There's nothing I can say that can convince certain people what the law is." He then began to read from subsection (b) above. He concluded saying "There's nothing in here that talks about Sunday School."
Mr. Gray argued for a bit, but Mr. Sobotta recognized Mr. Voss who said "Dean, this is a great example of 'if you want to vote no, then you vote no.' However, again, going back to the role of a Planning Commissioner; going back to the process of how this occurred and where we're at today, there was a process everybody had to apply for, had to submit to. They had to submit all the distances and everything that was within the proposed requirements that were approved by City Council. Staff was instructed to move forward and say 'These are the processes that we are requiring.' So the Community Development Director, his staff member, the City Attorney all had to review these. In doing such, they reviewed the distance from schools." He went on to say that as a Planning Commissioner he could vote No if he disagreed.
Mr. Gray attempted to interrupt him, but Mr. Voss said he was not finished. He said he also wanted to compliment the applicant. Mr. Voss agreed that the private parking lot is a good idea. The animal hospital handles narcotic drugs, so they have to be extremely careful how those are transported and stored. There are also security measures for staff, so their work environment and the parking lot can be safe.
Mr. Voss said he was also happy to see that both of these applicants were going to take dilapidated, substandard buildings and rebuild, rehabilitate, restore life to them. There will also be landscaping and improved parking and general beautification.
Mr. Sobotta said he couldn't imagine how the consensus of the City Manager, the City Council, the City Attorney, and the city staff all might be in question.
The Chair called for public testimony. First up was Marcel Bessarian. He said he had been told that if you want to know the state of your mind, "open your wallet." He said he has been an investor in DHS because no one can see what he sees is going t happen in the future. He requested the Commission to show flexibility for business. He has served as director of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce years ago. He fought to have The River shopping center come to Palm Springs, but a few inflexible people in Palm Springs were the reason the shopping center is located in Rancho Mirage today. He suggested the Commissioner should love their city, not love their chair. Then he mentioned that he is the landlord of the building where Brown Dog is proposing to locate. He said Mr. Milks will do not only what he does for health, but "he does mental health which is the main source. 'Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.' That's going to happen in that building."
Jose Morales spoke next. He attends St. Elizabeth. He said that during the week the church has children between ages 6 and 14 and those children will see "that building" and they will think consuming marijuana is good. He understands the people need it. He asked them to move it out of town or to put it along the freeway by the solar panels [which is Palm Springs]. He thinks the proximity of the dispensary will make the drug and alcohol addiction programs at the church less effective.
Mr. Voss suggested that Mr. Morales and Mr. Milks meet to talk and find common ground.
Mike Picardi came next. He said the CUP should be approved. He said the purchase process at a dispensary is very discreet. People walk out with their medicine in sealed paper bags. He compared the sight of a dispensary with the very common sight of bars and liquor stores that advertise alcohol openly. He said he finds it hard to believe that businesses want to come to Desert Hot Springs, especially after this meeting. He said he was "absolutely blown away by the lack of study, the lack of knowledge, the lack of exposure to what is going on in this city and I'm also amazed by the self-centeredness that some people seem to express." He said it's all about money "and this city is starving." "A school is a school is a school is a school," he said. There is no school at St. Elizabeth's he said.
Next up was Wendy Gill. She said her late husband was a client of Mr. Milks. He died 13 weeks ago due to cancer. She said she works at medical center where part of her job is to find current research to provide doctors with evidence-based medicine. She found out that the CBD component of marijuana, not the THC, is what kills cancer cells. Israel is the leading nation for CBD research, but she was citing an Italian study. When she searched for CBD in California she found Mr. Milks who lowered his price for CBD and brought to their home. The marijuana he grows is 100% organic. He buys the best of the best for growing. He also runs an animal rescue.
Debbie Dale spoke next. She said she has known Brown Dog for a little over two years. She uses marijuana for relief from seizures. The Brown Dog group is extremely knowledgable, professional and compassionate. She admires their work ethic and solid values.
Terri Sanchez was the last speaker. She came to see what was going on. She belongs to St. Elizabeth's. She said they have 400 kids being educated there every day, plus 200 teenagers. She doesn't want the dispensary to be in front of the church.
Mr. Gray asked her if she was opposed to dispensaries in the city. She said she was not. She said the kids are there Monday through Friday. She said they get mainly religious instruction while they are there. She said it is a religious school.
Mr. Parker asked her if she knew of anyone from the city or the Brown Dog Collective came to the church to find out what they thought about this project. She said no one asked her. She got a fax from the church the day of this meeting. She said the kids are ages 8 to 14. Mr. Gray asked her several leading questions that confirmed his view that this is a school.
Alex Meyerhoff read a letter that had been received a couple with the last name of Churchill. They attend St. Elizabeth's. THey said the dispensary is too close to the church. It is a danger to those who come to AA and NA at the church.
Mr. Parker said he wanted to respond. He direct a comment at Mr. Quintanilla incorrectly attributing to him a statement that city staff could not possibly have overlooked the potential reaction from St. Elizabeth's church. What Mr. Quintanilla said was that he is sure that if St. Elizabeth's was a school, someone on city staff would have recognized that.
Mr. Parker continued to say "I think the short answer is that the church, as Terri said is primarily Latino. It's a Latino church. And, you know, government doesn't see those people. People who center their lives on getting elected and counting votes don't look at those people because a lot of those people can't vote or don't vote. A lot of those people don't speak English that well. A lot of those people don't come to public meetings. So they don't matter. But I think that they do matter. And it may be possible for people - for this government to continue ignoring the rights of these people just like they ignored the rights of black people in the south for many long years. But eventually justice prevailed. And so I believe that the way this should have functioned, nobody, according to her, nobody ever even went over their and asked them how they felt about it. So I would like to suggest to the developer, the owner, the landlord who obviously is a rich man. He has deep pockets. That's how he measures his conscience and his value. Now that you know that these people are very concerned about this, how much of a problem would it be to you to go find another building? To Andrew Milk [sic] - I'm not done, I'm not done, I'm not done - [someone in the audience asked him to shorten it] Okay, Mr. Milk said he chose the building because it has a block wall around the parking lot. What's the problem? Is the block wall..." Chair Sobotta cut him off at that point because a member of the public was waiting to speak.
Mayor Sanchez and City Manager Martín Magaña may be surprised to hear that they don't "see those people."
Margaret Webb was at the podium. She is "Teen Mom." "It's not true that they ignore the the Latino, Mexican, Spanish, whatever you want to call them because President Barack Obama just said that they could go and line up and get driver's licenses." She said she is a woman of color. She said she is not African. She has never been to Africa. "Never call me African-American - I'm an American." "There's always more Latinos here than my caramel skin. Caucasians, white people, Anglo-Saxons, whatever title you want to give yourself, that's fine with me." "There's not a lot of businesses that want to come to Desert Hot Springs." She was at the KFC and saw four people there, one of whom was "Anglo-Saxon," another was Latino, and the other two "I didn't even recognize what their title was." They were teachers in two DHS schools. They were all under age 30. They were talking about moving out of Desert Hot Springs. She said she didn't like to hear that. She said "it's not a good look" when the City Council or a Commission bickers amongst each other. "You need to respect Chuck." [Parker or Maynard, I don't know which.] "You need to respect Dean." She tossed off several other first names, telling them they need to respect each other and the people who put them there. "You need to stop all the bickering," she said. At this point it was almost 10 PM and meeting had been running for four hours. She listed off the usual sorts of things that overfill a mother's day "and I got 22 people texting me saying I've got to be here. And this is what I had to come to listen to?" "I haven't even had time to clean my fingernails." She asked Chair Sobotta if he didn't want everything to be "decent and in order" when he comes here. "Respect each other," she said. "I could not sit there and not say anything."
Mr. Sobotta returned to Mr. Parker, but he said he couldn't remember the question now.
Ms. Romero noted that several people had come forward to express concern for people in recovery. "It's not something I take lightly." She has had family members in recovery. She works with individuals that are going through recovery, teaching a parenting class to them. One of the things they talk about is how to talk to kids about drugs. Recovery is a lifelong thing, she said. We expect people to drink and use prescribed medicine responsibly, but that is not always the case. "It is a responsibility of every single one of us to be sure that those in our community aren't placed in a position to fall again." The person in recovery likewise has a responsibilityu to rely on the resources available so they will not fail in their recovery.
But she also recognizes that some people in DHS need medical marijuana, and for some transportation is the big barrier to services in this city. Putting a dispensary out by the freeway would not be a good idea for those who have difficulty obtaining transportation. She thinks the location for this dispensary is good.
Mr. Parker said that the business plan for this dispensary sounds great. But he has a problem with the location. It displaced an AA meeting site that had been there many years. He said we have a lot of empty buildings and vacant lots in town.
Mr. Gray said this is not a discussion about who's the most level-headed, smart or compassionate. "Those things have no relevance to our discussion." He said the only relevant to their discussion is whether St. Elizabeth's constitutes a school.
And here I was thinking that the only thing relevant would be a discussion of the proposed CUP. How old-fashioned I must be.
One of the main points of discussion, debate, argument is to change people's minds. I wonder if Mr. Gray ever pauses to consider how to get a fellow Commissioner to change his or her mind. Or does he think the point is to repeat everything 10, 20, 30 times, louder and louder, until everybody in the room is sick and tired of him. And then he loses the vote.
Nr. Parker said this is probably not the first time this issue has come up in California. "There's case law," he said. [Four hours of talking and Mr. Parker finally gets something right.] He moved to continue "until the attorney can research the case law regarding this clause."
Mr. Sobotta said he believes there is case law on the definition of a school. Mr. Gray objected to Mr. Sobotta speaking because he thought Mr. Parker had addressed his "question" to Mr. Quintanilla. Mr. Parker said it had not been a question. It was a motion to continue. The motion was seconded.
The motion was defeated 2-3 with Mr. Parker and Mr. Gray voting in favor.
Mr. Voss moved to approve staff recommendation. Ms. Romero seconded.
Approved 3-2 with Mr. Gray and Mr. Parker voting against.
Mr. Voss moved to adjourn. Seconded by Ms. Romero.
"We have comments," Mr. Gray said. "They are trying to shut us up so that we can't make any comments."
I'm at a loss to understand why Mr. Gray didn't make a similar remark when Mr. Parker moved to adjourn earlier in this meeting.
Mr. Gray said the motion was to silence two Commissioners. Mr. Parker moved to amend the motion to adjourn after Commissioner comments. This would mean the only thing cut out of the meeting would be the report from Community Development Director Meyerhoff.
Mr. Voss said he would not accept any amendment. Mr. Gray seconded Mr. Parker's motion. Chair Sobotta dealt with Mr. Voss's motion. Mr. Parker objected.
Mr. Parker called "point of order." Mr. Voss advised him to learn the rules. He said that with his motion on the floor, Mr. Parker's motion is irrelevant. I don't know if Mr. Parker's motion got a second. I didn't hear one, and it could not have been done electronically, since that system is capable of handling only one motion at a time.
Actually, if you got to page 4 in Rosenberg's Rules Of Order you will see that Mr. Sobotta and Mr. Voss were incorrect. The chair should have had the Commission vote on the move to amend first. It would surely have lost, so the next action would be to vote on Mr. Voss's original, unchanged motion. This error had no effect on the ultimate outcome and it shortened the meeting by a minute or two, so who's going to complain?
The vote on Mr. Voss's motion to adjourn passed 4-1 with Mr. Parker voting No. Mr. Gray came over to Chair Sobotta to congratulate him. "What a leader, Steve. Doing a really good job."
Mr. Parker said he would bring his Robert's Rules Of Order to the next meeting. Mr. Parker. Back in his usual form.
What The Future Holds
There are two items on the City Council agenda for Tuesday, January 20 dealing with removal of Commissioners.
Under the existing rules a Commissioner is removed if the Council member who appointed them wishes to have them removed and can get that ratified by a simple majority vote of the City Council. One effect of this rule is that no Commissioner can be removed without the cooperation of the Councilmember who made the appointment.
The intent of item 12 on the Council's agenda is to remove Mr. Parker from the Commission. He was appointed by Councilmember McKee who now wishes to appoint someone else.
Item 13 on that agenda is an amendment adding one more way to remove a Commissioner. A 4-1 vote would be sufficient to remover any Commissioner, regardless of the opinion of the Councilmember who had made the appointment. This, obviously is aimed at Mr. Gray who, we must assume, is still considered a valuable asset of our city by his appointer, Councilmember Betts.
The revisions also include clarification of a few other issues regarding Commissioners. Most notably, the rule on absences will be simplified. It will not matter if absences are "excused" or not. If a Commissioner misses three consecutive meetings, he's out.
I expect it will be a show.
Final note: do not forget that our founding fathers included provisions in the Constitution to protect we citizens from the attacks of petty government officials with delusions of grandeur. The 4th and 5th amendments are still alive and kicking.
January 16, 2015
Finally. The U.S. Supreme Court Will Review Same Sex Marriage Rights
The Supreme Court has accepted four cases from the Sixth Circuit where a decision in November 2014 upheld bans on marriage or marriage-recognition in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. One case each will come from those four states.
- Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
- Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
The Kentucky case (Bourke v. Beshear) raises both of the issues that the Court will be deciding, the Michigan case (DeBoer v. Snyder) deals only with marriage, and the Ohio (Obergefell v. Hodges) and Tennessee cases (Tanco v. Haslam) deal only with the recognition question. If customary practice is followed, the first case listed in the order — the Ohio case Obergefell v. Hodges — will become the historic title for the final ruling.
Plaintiffs' briefs are due February 27; defense briefs are due March 27; reply briefs from the plaintiffs are due April 17. The actual hearing will take place between April 20 and 29.
January 15, 2015
There's an item on the agenda for next Tuesday's city council meeting entitled "Ratify the removal of the Planning Commissioner appointed by Council Member Joe McKee." The Commissioner appointed by Councilmember McKee is Chuck Parker, who was in very fine form at the January 13 Planning Commission meeting. The item refers to this part of the city code:
A. Any member or alternate of a board or commission of the City may be removed from office at any time, with or without cause, by the Councilmember who appointed him/her with ratification by a majority vote of the City Council.
Biggest Ever Burning Man Art Project
Interim Police Chief Jeff Kirkpatrick
The City of Desert Hot Springs is pleased to announce the hiring of Interim Police Chief Jeff Kirkpatrick. City Manager Martín Magaña, with the full support of the City Council of the City of Desert Hot Springs, has selected Chief Kirkpatrick to replace outgoing Interim Chief Charles L. Maynard. Chief Kirkpatrick will direct the Police Department until a permanent Police Chief is chosen.
Jeff Kirkpatrick served as the Chief of Police for the City of Seal Beach from October 2005 to June 2011. He previously served with the Santa Fe Railway Police Department, and the La Palma, CA Police Department. Kirkpatrick retired in 2011, with more than thirty-four years of law enforcement experience, including more than 28 years in command and leadership positions.
Kirkpatrick is a graduate of the Fullerton College Law Enforcement Academy, the Rio Hondo College Police Academy, and the National Railroad Police Academy.
He possesses an Associate of Arts Degree from Golden West College, a Bachelor of Science Cum Laude from the University of San Francisco specializing in Organizational Behavior, and a Master of Arts in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from California State University-Dominguez Hills. He is a graduate of the FBI's National Academy in Quantico, VA, the Federal Department of Justice Southwest Command College, and the FBI's Law Enforcement Executive Development program.
Chief Kirkpatrick and his wife, Carolyn, have been married for thirty-nine years and live in Indio, CA.
January 12, 2015
Ten Bridges Epic Walk
Yesterday I went on the Ten Bridges Epic walk, which crosses 10 of the bridges over the Los Angeles River. It came to about 14½ miles. Maps:
This is a detail from the photo above. These are the most recently unearthed remains of the Zanja Madre which were found in 2014. The brick probably dates from the 1880s, although the ditch itself goes back to the settling of Los Angeles. News story with photos here.
We try a shortcut along the river that is probably railroad property. It turned out to be a dead end and we had to follow our steps back and loop around.
The Vernon Chamber of Commerce. I expected something a bit nicer.
The famous hockey burger - which sets it apart from those ordinary hockey burgers that you never heard of.
January 10, 2015
Some photos I shot this past Wednesday.
Amoeba Music, a real record store with a big selection of used discs. Besides CDs they sell LPs and even Laserdiscs. On Sunset at Ivar, which is a block west of Vine.
"Spirit of the CCC" at Travel Town in Griffith Park. There was a CCC camp in Griffith Park. The history of the statue is here. This is not the original.
January 8, 2015
"Brokeback Mountain" Shirts
These are the very shirts (and photo and closet door, for all I know) from Brokeback Mountain on display in the Autry National Center in Griffith Park. The shirts are on loan. Here's a video of the ceremony when the shirts went on display.
For those who are asking themselves "Huh? Shirts?" (and I know there are at least a couple) here are some videos to help. I'm trying to avoid "spoilers" for the benefit of those who think the enjoyment of a story is less because you've finished it.
Here is the end of the movie where we see the shirts just as they are displayed in the museum. Technically, it's not a spoiler, but if you have even just a single crumb of human empathy you can tell what happened before that scene.
If you're still all like "huh?" here's the beginning of the shirt story. Sometimes a fight is just a fight. This is not a fight.
If you still don't get it, then here's a third clip showing the convergence of the shirts. Technically not a spoiler in my book.
If you need yet more clarification, it's time for you to go see the movie. Netflix has it on disc, but not streaming. But it is available for streaming on Amazon.