The Observer: Still muddled after all this time

Believe me I understand why most folks remain perplexed about the County’s now four-year-old failed Pot Ordinance.

Simply put, the Ordinance is incomprehensible and unfathomable. As I’ve said many times previously, there’s a reason(s) why 90 percent of the County’s conservatively estimated population of 10,000 growers have deliberately with full intention avoided all contact with the County’s weed application process.

The Board of Supervisors this Tuesday, Sept. 22, will once again undertake the topic of what to do and what direction to take with the botched Ordinance.

The Supervisors themselves readily admit they have spent more time — not to mention money — on the Pot Ordinance than any other issue in County history. And, they basically have nothing to show for it.

Appearing below is the agenda item concerning the Supes latest attempt to un-muddle a congentively muddled Ordinance.

The agenda item itself is nearly impenetrable to human comprehension.

Most of the Agenda’s references to CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) matters are all due diligence items the county should have performed 4 years ago when they began the whole ordinance ordeal. An even cursory review back then of the legislative history of state cannabis legislation, plus the actual statutes themselves, would have revealed that the state has the legal authority to impose all the various “environmental” protections and procedures the County is now questioning or confounded about.

Is it any wonder why the existing Pot Ordinance’s main, enduring public policy is creating chaos instead of order to our local economy?

Here’s the cannabis item as it appears on the agenda:

6b) Discussion and Possible Action Including Direction to Staff on Cannabis Cultivation Permitting Priorities Including, but Not Limited to: County Counsel Analysis of State CEQA request, Digital Portal, Cost Recovery for Work Outside of Application Scope, Interagency Biologist Agreement, Publication of Cannabis Cultivation Guide, Plan for Staffing Increase or Consultant RFP Request for Proposal (RFP), Equity Grant Program Update, Notices to Correct Applications, Request Provisional License Extension from California Department of Food and Agriculture, and Schedule Special Board of Supervisors Meeting for Cannabis Cultivation Phase 3 Zoning Table and Permitting Model 
(Sponsor: Cannabis Ad Hoc Committee (Supervisors Haschak and Williams).

Recommended Action:
 Direct County Counsel to opine on whether County has already met the requirements of CEQA in regards to Cannabis Cultivation permitting And whether State’s demand for “Appendix G” is a legally supported county obligation and report back within 30 days; 2) Direct the Executive Office and Planning and Building Services to engage with Information Technology consultant to develop a fully digital submission portal capable of instantaneously generating accurate status reports for staff, applicants and the public; 3) Direct Planning and Building Services to implement cost recovery for staff time allocated to cannabis cultivation development discussions beyond existing application scope; 4) Direct Planning and Building Services to engage in an interagency agreement with California Department of Fish and Wildlife for a biologist to assist with Sensitive Species and Habitat Review; 5) Direct Planning and Building to publish and maintain a Cannabis Cultivation Guide, including flow chart, on website; 6) Direct Planning and Building Services to develop a staffing plan to complete processing of Cannabis Cultivation applications within six months or an RFP for outside contractor if county lacks feasibility to perform; 7) Direct Cannabis Program Manager to prepare Equity Grant Program plan presentation; 8) Direct Planning and Building to generate Notices of Correction and establish processing priorities; 9) Direct Executive Office to add Provisional License extension to legislative platform and Direct ad-hoc to engage with RCRC, Assemblymember Wood and Senator McGuire for support; and 10) Direct staff to schedule Special Board of Supervisors Meeting for Cannabis Cultivation Phase 3 Zoning Table and Permitting Model.

Presidential Vote Counting

More than likely, if the Nov. 3 Presdential election vote count is close — or even remotely close — the losing candidate of either party will litigate the outcome, as happened in the infamous Gore V. Bush “Chad Count” Supreme Court decision of 2000.

Back in June, Trump said of the upcoming election, “It’s going to be fraud all over the place. This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country and we cannot let this happen.”

Sounds like a legal threat to me, but Democrats also have their court papers ready to file in the event Trump wins in a squeeker.

Edward Foley, the director of election law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, wrote an article in December 2019 exploring how a contested 2020 election in Pennsylvania could play out.  Here’s one example of what could occur.

Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, all of which Trump won by less than one percentage point in 2016, will be important states to watch for possible election challenges.

All three prohibit election officials from processing absentee ballots until the day of the election, meaning the shift towards Democrats could be particularly dramatic as ballots are counted, and all three have Democratic governors but Republican-controlled state legislatures who could disagree over how to award the state’s electoral college votes.

Trump’s campaign is likely to challenge the validity of mail ballots and provisional ballots.

The president’s campaign could also attempt to claim voting discrepancies and fraud at in-person polling places, particularly heavily Democratic ones in urban areas.

You don’t have to look far back to see such an argument from Trump. In the 2018 midterm elections in Florida, GOP Senator Rick Scott and Gov. Ron DeSantis led by substantial margins on election night based on the in-person vote, but saw their leads narrow significantly over the next few days as mail ballots were processed.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!” Trump tweeted on Nov. 12.

After a recount in the US Senate race, both Scott and DeSantis were certified as the winners of their respective elections.

Keep in mind that state and local governments administer elections in the United States, but the Biden campaign is watching the federal government’s actions under Trump closely. Congressional Democrats are investigating changes at the Postal Service put in place by Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor installed this year as postmaster general, that could affect mail-in voting.

“I am not engaged in sabotaging the election,” DeJoy told Congress last month.

The Dems’ Joe Biden is building a new legal team in preparation for battles over how people will vote, how ballots will be counted during the coronavirus pandemic, and any voting challenges on Election Day.

According to the New York Times, Democrats have been sucessful in some states in loosening signature-matching requirements for absentee ballots, eliminating witness requirements and allowing absentee ballots to be collected and turned in by third parties, a process the Republicans deride as “ballot harvesting.”

The Biden Campaign says there are thousands of lawyers and volunteers already working on voter-protection efforts to various degrees, including a PR campaign encouraging voters to request ballots soon, make a voting plan and cast a ballot as soon as possible.

The Biden Campaign has established a major new legal operation, bringing in two former solicitors general and hundreds of lawyers in what the campaign billed as “the largest election protection program in presidential campaign history.”

The Times also reports that inside the campaign, they are creating a “special litigation” unit, which will be led by Donald B. Verrilli Jr. and Walter Dellinger, two former solicitors general, who are joining the campaign. Hundreds of lawyers will be involved, including a team at the Democratic law firm Perkins Coie, led by Marc Elias, which will focus on the state-by-state fight over vote casting and counting rules. And Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general in the Obama administration.

You to have wonder just how many millions of dollars Republicans and Democrats are spending just on the legal prep work leading up to actual litigation following election results.

Can’t help concluding that it may be weeks or several months before we know who “won” the November 3 election, and maybe we won’t even know then.