Who would have thought the Fresno City Council would be unanimous on a medical marijuana vote?

It happened at Thursday’s meeting (Dec. 14). There was plenty of debate. And plenty of opinions that have been opined before in favor and in opposition.

This time around, councilmen Clint Olivier, Oliver Baines and Paul Caprioglio wanted to initiate a text amendment (i.e. work with staff, a yet-to-be-hired consultant, and among themselves) to allow marijuana operations, cultivation, manufacture, extraction, testing, distribution, delivery, and medical dispensaries.

For Caprioglio, it appeared he had softened on the marijuana issue. In August, he was in the 4-3 majority to ban commercial dispensaries, but would not support a limit of marijuana plants. He cited compassion for medical marijuana users.

The two most conservative members of the council, Garry Bredefeld and Steve Brandau, appeared to soften as well on the medicinal side of cannabis. Brandau acknowledged how far he has come on the issue. Even Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer offered tentative support for proper medicinal use.

But, Bredefeld and Brandau could not get over anything in the resolution that might be construed as endorsing recreational use (or as Olivier prefers, “adult use”). Brandau proposed an amendment to the ordinance to restrict all zoning to medical uses.

That idea won the support of Baines. Olivier called for a time-out to confer with his co-sponsors. After returning from the brief break, Bredefeld got hot, saying any discussion should be held in public. Olivier deferred to city attorney Douglas Sloan whether this was a Brown Act violation (it wasn’t in Sloan’s opinion). Bredefeld retorted that it was beside the point. Things got testy for a moment.

Olivier then shot down Brandau’s amendment, saying he wouldn’t support it. But Brandau gave another impassioned plea. It worked. Olivier relented, the vote took place and the medical marijuana resolution passed 7-0.

There is no timetable when the text amendment will return to council. They also have a decision to make in hiring a consultant, discussed earlier this year.

No Council Raises for Now

Oliver Baines withdrew his proposal to raise city council pay at the start of the meeting. Without any fanfare, the city clerk announced that the item would not be heard. Baines addressed why during his report: He wanted a well thought out process and a better way to explain it to the public.

The proposed bill would bump salaries from $65,000 to $80,000 annually hen a new term starts. Also, starting in 2022, it would tie it to a percentage of what the Fresno Board of Supervisors make (which is tied to what a Superior Court judge makes).

Conventional wisdom on the dais goes that a councilperson won’t bring something to the board that won’t get passed — there is no need to have a public repudiation. Baines says he will bring back the motion next year.

Council Overides Staff on PR Contract

One of the more interesting debates was awarding a contract for public relations on behalf of the public utilities department (trash, sewer, water, etc.). The council did not go with staff’s recommendation, and chose another firm that, in fact, had a lower bid.

Three companies replied to the city’s Request for Proposal and it went through a special internal selection committee. The seven-member group consisted of City Hall communications director Mark Standriff, members of the city’s business and purchasing staff, as well as one outsider (Micheline Golden from Fresno State). The contract was for three years with two one-year extensions.

The three finalists were Jeffrey Scott Agency, JP Marketing (both of Fresno) and VRPA Technologies & On the Mark Strategies of Sacramento. The committee recommended JSA, despite the group having the highest bid of $520,555. JPM, led by well-known publicist Jane Quebe, turned in the lowest bid at $436,955.

Enter Greg Grannis, JPM’s creative director. He didn’t need to get too creative in his direct appeal to the council: They deserve a chance and they will save the city more than $400,000 over the life of the contract. It would be a disservice to the city not to pick JPM. And, one of executives who made the presentation for JSA is now with JPM (no names were named).

The council, led by Bredefeld and Baines, asked the obvious question: Why was the higher bid recommended and the lower one rejected? If two firms are deemed equally capable, what is the tiebreaker?

No one from the committee, nor Public Utilities Director Tommy Esqueda could provide a satisfactory answer. Standriff noted he has worked with JSA before and felt comfortable with them. “For me, that was a determining factor,” he told Baines. Standriff said he had not worked with JPM.

That answer was not good enough for a majority of the council members. They decided to award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder, JPM. The final vote was 5-2 (Caprioglio and Luis Chavez voted no).

Vidak Wants Fellow Senator Gone

State Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) wants one of his colleagues accused of inappropriate sexual behavior gone.

The cherry farmer legislator announced he is drafting legislation to expel Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) for violating several Senate codes of conduct. Such a vote, if it makes it to the Senate floor, requires a two-thirds majority to take effect.

Mendoza is accused of sexual harassment of female workers in his office. He has refused requests from Democratic leadership to take a leave of absence during the investigation.

“Many of us have been waiting for Senator Mendoza to do the right thing and resign, but that has not happened. The Senate Democrat Leadership has failed in their responsibility to request that Mendoza resign. Apparently, they’re still interviewing law firms,” Vidak said.

What’s Going on in Madera?

The Madera Tribune is reporting some issues going on at Madera City Hall. According to a story this week, longtime city administrator David Tooley resigned. It comes after complaints from residents of eyebrow-raising salaries of top city staff.

Read more here.

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