THC just became of aware of a sordid little behind the curtain meeting arranged by newly hired Deputy County Counsel Joe Ellinwood. Ellinwood, who has been with the County all of three months or so, took it upon himself to arrange a meeting between some very one-sided parties in order to provide the Board of Supervisors with an alternative draft of the marijuana ordinance set to go before the Planning Commission next Thursday.
The high-powered brain trust that Ellinwood (and, THC assumes, County Planner Steve Lazar) sought to bring together to craft the alternative draft included people from groups such as the NEC, EPIC, Friends of the Eel River, Humboldt Baykeeper, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. This notably leaves out a lot of organizations in the area that probably could have given some valuable input on the subject – and we hear that there are quite a few groups that just weren’t happy about it.
Understandably, Ellinwood received a slew of complaints about the meeting that was slated to take place Thursday afternoon.
The best part about the whole thing? When the groups in Humboldt that felt they should at the very least have been alerted to the meeting’s existence – if not offered a seat at the table due to their vested interest in the creation of the alternative ordinance – complained to Ellinwood, did he do the smart thing and include them? No, he just tucked his tail between his legs and cancelled the whole frickin’ meeting! Priceless! Rather than trying to fix the situation and do it the right way by including a varied range of interested parties, Ellinwood called it a wash and cancelled the whole thing. Seems fishy, eh?
Ostensibly, the meeting was cancelled to ensure that all individuals and groups who wish to be heard on the matter have an opportunity to do so. However, THC is almost 100% certain that not only has there been ample opportunity for public input on the marijuana ordinances in the past, but also that the entire point of having a public review of the ordinance at the Planning Commission meeting is to allow all interested parties the chance to be heard. So, apparently, Ellinwood and Lazar thought it was important to give the groups that they invited to their secret little pot pow wow an extra chance to be heard. And they went to great lengths to ensure they were given such an opportunity. Trouble is, he wanted to provide that opportunity to the exclusion of everyone else in Humboldt, and not in a public forum.
We rambled a little bit about our general thoughts on the marijuana ordinance a little earlier in the week in this post. (Along the way, a friendly commenter stopped by to tell us we are “f***ing stupid”; while we don’t necessarily disagree, we were actually hoping they would have told us why. We already have enough to worry about.) In that post, we mentioned that the draft presented to the Board of Supervisors had some fairly severe changes that raised concern amongst the Supervisors. Those concerning changes largely reflected the desires that groups such as the NEC and EPIC had been crowing about all along.
None of that is to say that the concerns raised by the NEC and other groups aren’t valid. The question is, given an iteration of the ordinance that already quite clearly included some of the changes that various environmental groups wanted (a draft that NEC Executive Director Dan Ehresman described as “a well thought out framework for regulating cannabis cultivation in Humboldt County,” as quoted by Ryan Burns in the LoCO) when compared to the prior ordinance draft, why did Ellinwood and Lazar feel it was absolutely necessary to listen to the groups they contacted about their secret meeting alone?
Quite simply, THC fans, it just doesn’t add up. We won’t go so far as to say that Ellinwood and Lazar were willfully trying to influence the ordinance via soliciting groups that align with their own political thinking for input (as we honestly have no idea what the political leanings of these two may be), but we certainly will wonder about it.