BY ODOM STAMPS
Monday morning at 8:30 am, I attended an in-person meeting of the South Pasadena Public Safety Commission in hopes of supporting another small town business owner. It was part of a larger issue on the agenda and I was hoping to ask the Commission for a waiver 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 on all tobacco sales, who were allowed to speak in public comments as well as others who spoke virtually via the internet. Unfortunately, ALL of the Commissioners, Staff Presenters and the Council Liaison Officer were absent from the town halls!
This disconnected process which excluded the public present, allowed the host to take charge of a train of “experts” and finally to manage the result in stages. Several commissioners, including the chair, tried to carefully craft motions that would ask staff to consider the possibility of excluding a small business.
This supported motion would have required staff to further research the tax impact of this action on South Pasadena’s revenue from all sales sources. Also, to further research the impact on a company that sells premium cigars and permits their consumption on-site – a company that does not sell cigarettes, flavored tobacco, vaping, or e-cigarettes – and that has never had a citation for selling to anyone under the age of 21.
The motion also asked the city attorney to render an opinion on the viability of the law to resist a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and other interests (such as Big Tobacco).
Staff said (incorrectly) that there have been NO legal challenges in two Los Angeles County cities, Manhattan Beach and Beverly Hills, regarding their complete ban on all tobacco products. Both of these cities are well funded and have the means to lead and resist costly legal challenges.
After these misleading clarifications, the motion was amended and amended to present the existing staff report to City Council with “suggestions” (the provisions of the previous motion) to be added for Council to consider. Thus, the Public Health Commission has abrogated its responsibility and has not used its forum to develop a well-reasoned policy and educate our citizens with openness and transparency.
For over 28 years in our community, I have attended and participated in countless city council, commission and council meetings. Since the implementation of the Covid distancing protocols, I have sent or left prerecorded Zoom messages. Recently, I regained my hope when City Manager Chaparyan let me know that in-person town hall meetings are back in July.
It’s the third week of October and it’s not a public meeting!
Attention Council Members: We hope you can do better.
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