Council's Deadlock Dooms Pot Club Ordinance
Sonoma Mayor Ken Brown momentarily stepped aside and Sonoma City Council member Joanne Sanders changed her vote Wednesday night, deadlocking the city council and effectively killing the ordinance that would have allowed a medical marijuana dispensary in Sonoma.
As with previous hearings on the issue, council members Laurie Gallian and Steve Barbose were in support and August Sebastiani opposed it. Sanders, whose vote became critical after Brown announced he would not take part on the advice of counsel, had previously supported the ordinance.
“I’m not going to vote for this,” she said, creating the 2-2 tie that killed the measure. (Marijuana) is against the law. We should not encourage lawlessness.”
Even with Sanders’ switch, Brown’s vote in support would have put the measure over the top. But when the item came up on the agenda, he unexpectedly announced that he would not participate, and left the nearly filled chambers.
Fifteen members of the public addressed the council. Of the five clearly in favor of the ordinance, four said they operated medical marijuana dispensaries in other communities.
Opening the councilmember comments, Sebastiani said, “I have not moved on this issue. I’m steadfastly opposed.” Gallian followed. “The compassionate side of this is to say yes,” she said. “It’s not a popular decision, but it’s the right one.”
Sanders then surprised the crowd by announcing that after much deliberation she had come to oppose the dispensary. “The votes were up here,” she said of the bill’s history, “but now that Mayor Brown has recused himself, the dynamic has changed.”
Barbose, acting as chair, did not bother bringing the measure to a vote. He reiterated his support, but acknowledged that because “Mayor Brown is absent and will be absent,” the council is unlikely to revisit the issue any time soon.
Brown was not legally precluded from participating, Sonoma City Attorney Jim James told the Sun, but was advised by James and by City Manager Linda Kelly not to take part, presumably because his wife Jewel Mathieson is a member of one of the groups intending to apply for a dispensary permit, had the ordinance been approved. Following that item, Brown returned to chair the rest of the meeting.
In other business, the Council amended the noticing requirements for applications involving telecommunications facilities. The 5-0 decision was intended to avoid the public outcry that arose when a microwave tower was installed on the campus of Sonoma Valley High School. In that case, parents and neighbors complained that they had not received adequate notice of the proposed tower.
Finally, the council also voted to support Petaluma in its opposition to a proposed asphalt and recycling plant for that city. Despite Petaluma’s own opposition, and that of various environmental groups, the county has approved the project. Petaluma City Council member David Glass and several leaders from that community came to the meeting and asked the Sonoma City Council to send a letter of protest, as other communities reportedly have, to the county.
Though it passed unanimously, the vote was only 3-0, as both Sanders and Sebastiani declined to participate. Chided by Barbose for bad manners in not hearing out the speakers, Sanders later explained that she has consistently opposed getting Sonoma involved in the affairs of other cities. She was also concerned that any rebuke of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors by the Sonoma City Council might damage relationships between the two bodies.
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Source: The Sonoma Valley Sun
Author: Val Robichaud
Copyright: 2009 The Sonoma Valley Sun
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