4 Hot Issues to Watch This Week

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Here’s a rundown of interesting issues this week throughout Orange County.

Is there something happening in your city we should know about? Let us know!

1. Costa Mesa Could Make Repetitive Comments a Crime

Speakers at public Costa Mesa City Council meetings who repeat themselves or what others before them have said could be ordered to stop talking and, conceivably, be charged with a misdemeanor if they refuse, according to a proposed change in speaker rules.

The city council is scheduled to vote on the change at its meeting Tuesday.

If approved, the new ordinance would make it a misdemeanor to engage in “disorderly behavior that actually disrupts, disturbs or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of any city council meeting.”

Such conduct would include acts like throwing things, yelling, using profanity or obscene gestures, continuing to speak beyond the three minutes allotted to individual members of the public or trying to speak without the permission of the council’s presiding officer.

But No. 8 on the list of don’ts is: “Continuing to speak after being informed by the presiding officer that the comments are unduly repetitive of either prior comments from that speaker or comments by other speakers.”

The Costa Mesa action comes as legislation to give speakers at local government meetings more protection is nearing final passage in Sacramento.

That bill, AB 194 by Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose), would amend California’s open meeting law, known as the Brown Act, to clarify some of the public’s rights to speak during meetings.

Among other things, according to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, the bill expands current legal protections for public speakers.

It would bar city councils, boards of supervisors and other local agencies from “prohibiting public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs, or services of the agency, or of the acts or omissions” of the local government body.

It’s not clear how the proposed Costa Mesa ordinance would mesh with the pending state law.

In addition, the Campos bill would address a growing statewide practice by some other local jurisdictions that limit public comment to just the beginning and end of meetings, a practice opponents call “corralling.”

The Campos bill, which cleared its final Senate committee last week and is likely to come up for a vote by the full Senate in August, would prohibit herding speakers into such groups.

The Costa Mesa City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. To view the agenda, click here. 

2. Santa Ana Again Takes Up Medical Marijuana Outlets

The Santa Ana City Council, wrestling with a proposed ballot initiative to regulate medical marijuana outlets, is scheduled to vote Tuesday on staff suggestions for city control of where and when they could operate.

In addition, city staff is recommending the plan authorize the City Council to make future changes in the proposed law without seeking voter approval.

The suggestions are based on numerous recommendations from city council members and public comments.

Among other things, the staff is recommending the estimated number of medical marijuana outlets be increased from 12 to 15, hours be limited to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays and that only adults 21 and over be allowed to enter unless accompanied by parents, a licensed doctor or other legally responsible care giver or guardian.

If passed by voters in November, the ordinance would tax the outlets, known as collectives or cooperatives. Currently, there are about 150 dispensaries and competition for the estimated 15 spots is expected to mean hefty campaign contributions to elected city officials.

The city council meeting begins at 5:45 p.m. To read the staff report, click here. 

3. Jump in San Clemente Water Prices Up For Final Approval

Water rates in San Clemente will increase about six percent under an ordinance scheduled for final approval Tuesday by the City Council.

Communities throughout California have been increasing rates in the face of a severe drought and ever-rising overall consumption, although current water supplies are estimated to be enough for this year.

The Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown currently are negotiating the price and terms of a possible bond proposal for the November ballot. Brown’s latest plan totals $6 billion but water agencies and interests throughout the state contend it’s not enough.

In Orange County, south county cities are particularly dependent on imported water. San Clemente imports an estimated 90 percent of its drinking water.

And the San Juan Capistrano City Council voted this month for a five percent annual increase in water rates for each of the next five years. That rate hike is effective July 1.

The San Clemente City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. Click here to view the agenda.

4. Chickens to Take Up Residency in Dana Point?

If it’s okay in Irvine, why not Dana Point? That’s one of the arguments the Dana Point City Council will consider Tuesday when it debates whether to allow backyard chicken houses.

Resident Nancy Weagley, according to the city staff report, researched ways to make pet chickens compatible with Dana Point’s residential neighborhoods.

Chickens as pets are growing in popularity nationally, with owners harvesting eggs and learning the personality quirks of birds that traditionally were limited to farms or commercially confined to cages.

Dana Point currently prohibits keeping livestock, poultry and bees at home.

Under discussion, among other issues, will be how many chickens, if any, would be allowed in the backyard of a home, how far from a neighbor’s property line the chicken enclosure would have to be (no free rangers) and, most likely, no roosters.

Other area communities that allow chickens, but limit the number and set other regulations, include San Diego, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Irvine, San Juan Capistrano, Long Beach and Oceanside.

Newport Beach requires a special chicken permit.

Beverly Hills says no.

The Dana Point City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. You can view the agenda by clicking here

Other city council meetings:

Tuesday

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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