Friday, May 2, 2014
I, along with city and county representatives from throughout the Rogue Valley, attended a very informative meeting on Wednesday with Steve Marks, director of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and Rob Patridge, the Commission chair. While the stated purpose of the meeting was for OLCC to talk to local governments about their concerns with OLCC and how they might be addressed, most of the meeting was spent talking not about liquor but about marijuana. OLCC figures to become the stateís lead regulatory agency if recreational marijuana is legalized in November and the agency has already begun an interdepartmental effort to address the multitude of policy and process questions that would arise post-legalization. Of course, I suggested that local governments should be engaged in that planning effort. Steve and Rob agreed with that, although it remains to be seen what role local government might actually play.
In addition to a marijuana legalization measure, thereís likely to be a liquor privatization measure on the November ballot and there was quite a bit of discussion about the impacts of that measure should it pass. One very direct impact could be a reduction in state shared liquor revenues to cities and counties (currently about $290,000/year in Ashland), since the measure caps the allowed wholesale mark-up on liquor at a much lower level than the current OLCC mark-up. This was the privatization experience in Washington, where liquor prices went up and tax revenues went down.
A couple of interesting articles for your consideration. The first is from Oregon Business magazine, which notes that while Oregon experienced strong job growth in March, the state is falling behind in terms of the number of people participating in the labor force. The other is from the Guardian newspaper, regarding Madridís experiment with ďsmartĒ parking meters that will charge more for cars that pollute, while reducing charges for more efficient vehicles.
The Parks Commission has begun reviewing the Integrated Pest Management plan (IPM) and is considering adjustments recommended by staff. The current recommendations include using herbicide on some Cit- owned properties, at the request of the city, that are not managed as designated parks. Those areas may include certain city building landscapes, parking lots, and medians.
You may have read recently that the Commission has voted to decommission the wading pool at Daniel Meyer Pool. This difficult decision was done for sanitation and health reasons along with budget issues. The wading pool is on the same circulation system as the large pool. The very nature of the wading pool results in frequent fecal contaminations. As a result the health department requires different treatments for the wading pool when this happens. We have been informed that some of the standard procedures from the past will no longer be acceptable and as a result a shut down on the wading pool would also mean a shutdown of the main pool. The cost of putting the wading pool on its own system would be an additional $30,000 that is not budgeted versus $3000.
From Parks and Recreation Director Don Robertson:
Whew itís done! Today is the first day the restaurants are serving on the new improved Calle!
I want to take a moment and thank several folks and departments. My first tip of the hat goes to Recreation Superintendent and project manager Rachel Dials. Well played young lady! Secondly I would really like to thank the folks in Planning, Engineering, Water, Electric and AFN: All played a huge role in making this a success. I would also like to give a shout out to the folks at Avista for playing along and the fine people of OBEC, who were invaluable to this project, along with our contractor friends at Kogap. I also want to thank the property owners, business owners and artisans who were incredibly patient with us and put up with the colossal mess and disruption that this project caused.
If you have read or seen the reports, you will know we talk about beginning the planning for this three years ago and the construction last December, but I would be remiss in not sharing the way-back story that started this project long before that.
About nine years ago, the Commission began its budget process with a review of every service provided and every fee charged. This was done because the last time it happened was about 10 years prior and we were badly out of date. When they got to the Calle, staff recommended drastic changes in how we do business and completely restructured the fee schedule and assessment method. The Commission stepped up and instituted the changes with the understanding that any monies collected with the new methodology would go into a savings account for future Calle improvements. There was a huge push back by the restaurants and artisans at the time, but the Commission held its ground.
Staff worked with the Finance Department, especially Accounting Manager Cindy Hanks and the accounting division who set up a separate revenue line item to account for the Calle funds earned. Every year since then, Cindy and her crew worked with us to manage those funds, making sure the right amounts went into that account. As the years went by and the commission adjusted the rates, they continually reminded the restaurants and artisans that they were saving for the day when they could do the improvements. The restaurants were never happy about it (until today), but they always accepted it, knowing they had the word of the Commission that the improvements would one day happen.
The Commissioners who started it nine years ago were: Commissioners Eggers, Gardiner, Lewis, Amarotico, and Rosenthal. Thank you for your foresight and saving funds for this project!
Lastly I want to thank the current Commission: Commissioners Seffinger, Landt, Gardiner, Lewis and Shaw for keeping the word of the previous Commissions and adding funds to the CIP. Itís been a tough couple of years, but your support of staff has never wavered on this or any other project. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
This week the Police Department sent out an invitation to participate to about 500 law enforcement and advocacy agencies nationwide that are on our mailing list for the "You Have Options" sexual assault reporting and prevention program. This was done to give us an idea how many law enforcement agencies are serious about going forward with the program. We have been contacted by several hundred advocacy organizations or other groups involved in responding to sexual assaults, interested in having law enforcement agencies in their area join the program. Approximately 100 representatives from law enforcement agencies have contacted us and expressed an interest in the program and perhaps 10 have indicated that they intend to adopt the program. The day after the information was sent out, Warrenton, Oregon, became the first department to send us a signed intent to participate form. This form is not binding and before any agency actually joins the program they will have to sign a formal MOU with the City of Ashland and agree to the terms of that agreement. This week, Denver PD became the first agency to sign up for the three-day You Have Options train the trainer class when they reserved 10 spaces for the course that will be at presented at SOU in October. The national website was developed with a grant so there is no cost to us or any other agency that joins the program and uses the website. If we are unable to renew the grant when it expires there might be a minimal cost to participating agencies to maintain the website.
The Police Department was notified this week that its presentation on the YHOP at the End Violence Against Women International conference in Seattle was very well received and they have already been invited to speak at next yearís conference in New Orleans with all expenses once again covered by EVAWI.
The owner of Siskiyou Medical Supply (a.k.a. Puffs), which has been Ashlandís only medical marijuana dispensary, has advised us that his application for a medical marijuana license has been rejected by the Oregon Health Authority and as far as we know, he has stopped his dispensing operation. The owner has advised us that he has appealed that denial. Under the law they cannot legally operate as a dispensary during an appeal. (Note that under Oregon law they have never been authorized to sell medical marijuana but have been operating under a legal loophole and would have been difficult to prosecute if they were to get a license to run a dispensary. It is now clear under the law that they cannot operate a dispensary.)