BY ODOM STAMPS
On Monday morning at 8:30am, I attended an in-person meeting of the South Pasadena Public Safety Commission hoping to speak out in support of a fellow small town business owner. It was part of a larger issue on the agenda and I hoped to ask the Commission for a carve out so that their family business would not be completely ruined.
There were a handful of citizens on both sides of the issue, which was a ban of all tobacco sales, that were allowed to speak in the public comments as well as others who were speaking virtually via internet. Unfortunately, ALL of the Commissioners, the Staff presenters, and the Council Liaison were absent from the Public Meeting Chambers!
This disconnected process that excluded the attending public, allowed the web host to load up on a train of “experts” and ultimately stage manage the result. Several Commissioners, including the Chair tried to carefully word motions that would direct staff to study a way for a small business carve out.
That seconded motion would have required staff to further research the fiscal impact of this action on South Pasadena revenue from all sales sources. In addition, to further research the impact on a business that sells high end cigars and allows their consumption on premises – a business that does not sell cigarettes, flavored tobacco, vapes or e-cigarettes – and who has never had a citation for selling to anyone under the age of 21.
The motion also called for the City Attorney to render an opinion for the viability of the law to withstand a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union and other interests (such as Big Tobacco).
Staff stated (incorrectly) that there have been NO legal challenges in two Los Angeles County cities, Manhattan Beach and Beverly Hills, to their comprehensive ban on all tobacco products. Both of these cities are well-funded and have the wherewithal to lead and withstand costly legal challenges.
After these misleading clarifications, the motion was amended and changed to advance the existing staff report to the City Council with “suggestions” (the previous motion provisions) to be added for the Council to consider. Thus, the Public Health Commission abrogated their responsibility and failed to use their forum to craft well reasoned policy and to educate our citizenry with openness and transparency.
For over 28 years in our community, I’ve attended and participated in countless City Board, Commission and Council meetings. Since the implementation of Covid distancing protocols, I’ve emailed or left pre-recorded Zoom messages. Recently, I had renewed hope when City Manager Chaparyan let me know that in-person public meetings were back as of July.
This is the third week of October and this is not a public meeting!
Attention Councilmembers: We hope you can do better.
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