Wednesday, May 5, 2021

5.4.21 Meeting Summary

 Last night the Council discussed and took action on two significant items.

The first was regarding library services.  

The Clayton library is staffed by a mix of County staff for certain library services, and a host of volunteers for other activities.  Due to agreements between the City and the County, and the County's MOU with the union that the county library staff belong to, generally the volunteers at the library are not able to perform duties that would otherwise be performed by County staff.

Historically, Clayton received at no cost an amount of County supported library staff that allowed the library to be open 35 hours per week.  The City separately engaged the county to expand that amount of time to 44 hours per week, or an additional 9 hours per week and paid approximately $13K/year for this.  During various pandemic related closures, library hours were reduced and modified, but eventually was set at 40 hours per week.

Going forward and beginning in July 2021, the County has informed the City that the previous arrangement will not continue.  In its place, the County has stated they will now provide at no cost to the City, an amount of County supported library staff that will allow the library to be open 40 hours per week.  The schedule will differ from the previous schedule.  We have the option to purchase additional hours, but at a closer to market rate rather than the subsidized rate we were previously paying.  To increase the hours open by six to a total of 46 hours per week, the incremental cost to the city would be approximately $59K.

This represents a significant increase and one that our city cannot afford within our current budget.  To cover this cost would require an increase in revenue (taxes, fees, etc.), a reduction in services, or some combination.  The Council decided to accept the 40 hour allotment.  If in the future the funds become available either through the city, or through significant donation, we could update our agreement with the County and fund additional hours.

The hours that would be available are as follows:

Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 12-8
Wednesday: 10-6
Thursday: 10-6
Friday: 9-5
Saturday: 9-5
Sunday: Closed

The second was outdoor cultivation of cannabis.

State law requires that cities allow indoor cultivation of up to six cannabis plants for personal use.  In 2016, voters of the state of California approved a proposition legalizing recreational use of cannabis, where previously only medical use was decriminalized.  The voters of Clayton also approved recreational use with 54% in favor.  Subsequently the City restricted cultivation to indoors only, and prohibited all cultivation for commercial purposes.  We were asked to amend our ordinances to allow the outdoor cultivation for personal use.

Cannabis is currently a Schedule I controlled substance, which means federally, cannabis has the characteristics that include a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical treatment, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.  Other substances that meet this criteria are heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy.  There are federal criminal statutes for possession, use, and distribution of controlled substances and though the probability of federal enforcement is likely remote, residents should be aware of the risks involved when engaging in activity that while legal at the state level, remain prohibited federally.

There is also the matter of the drug free school zone laws.  Legalizing recreational use of cannabis in California did not change the restriction near schools.  These drug free zone laws exist both at the state and federal level and can carry severe penalties and penalty enhancements.  Federally, conviction under the controlled substances act may carry severe penalties which could include everything incident to felony conviction - the loss of suffrage, inability to serve on a jury, prohibition from running for statewide public office, the right to arms, certain forms of public housing and public assistance, and various state sanctioned licensure.  In addition, there are other potential consequences including increased rates for insurance, increased challenges to obtaining financing, difficulty in employment, etc. I would caution anyone who wishes to engage in this activity to be aware of the potential consequences and choose accordingly.

That being said, even though there are choices that I see as unwise, does not necessarily mean they should be illegal.  Individual liberty necessarily means that people ought to have the ability to make both good choices and bad ones.  What is right for one may not be right for another, and we each ought be able to make those choices based on our own personal circumstances.

I made a motion that we direct staff to draft an update to our ordinances to allow the outdoor cultivation of cannabis, with the restriction that it not be visible from the public right of way, for a maximum of up to six plants in aggregate indoors and outdoors.  This passed unanimously.  The ordinance is not yet changed - staff will draft a proposed update which will be brought back to Council at a later time.