Documenter: Josef Sibala

Here’s what you need to know:

  • City Council (4-2) agreed to clarify the cannabis ordinance and provide direction for the next meeting on Aug. 18, 2021.

  • The council unanimously passed the use of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) funds, which total $23 million, toward existing water and sewer projects, to mitigate “significant” rate increases. 

  • California Rural Legal Assistance Director Baldwin Moy and Madera residents demanded the council spend “a portion” of ARP funds on mental health, rent relief, and student enrichment.

The Scene

According to its website, the Madera City Council, a board of seven, is the elected legislative body of the City of Madera. There are six council districts. The district elects members of the City Council and the Mayor at large. Members of the City Council, including the Mayor, serve four-year terms.

Due to COVID restrictions, the meeting was on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, at 6 pm through YouTube

Officials Present:

  • Mayor Santos Garcia

  • Mayor Pro Tem Artemio Villegas, District 6

  • Councilmember Cece Gallegos, District 1

  • Councilmember Jose Rodriguez, District 2

  • Councilmember Steve Montes, District 3

  • Councilmember Anita Evans, District 4

  • Vacant, District 5

Others Present:

  • City Manager Arnoldo Rodriguez

  • Finance Director Roger Sanchez

  • City Clerk Alicia Gonzales

  • City Attorney Hilda Cantu

  • Cannabis Compliance Director David McPherson at HdL Companies

  • Madera Youth Commission represented by Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) Commissioners Johnny Mendez, Yvette Flores, and Isha Bains

  • ENGIE Summer Internship Program Interns Belen Gonzales, Fatima Gonzales, Alize Alejo, and Suad Taha

  • California Rural Legal Assistance Director Baldwin Moy

  • Soleiman Javed

  • Monica De Orta

  • Maria Elena Medina

  • Lourdes Herrera

  • Ariana Valdez

Discussions/Actions

In the public comments, Isha Bains requested a resolution in solidarity with farmers in India protesting against laws that leave them prey to large corporations. 

ENGIE Summer Internship Program interns Belen Gonzales, Fatima Gonzales, Alize Alejo, and Suad Taha proposed “boosting” youth involvement and awareness of “green and sustainability” issues through internships and social media, recycling, and waste education in schools, and enforcing environmental laws. 

Next, Youth Leadership Institute Commissioners, such as Yvette Flores, have worked on an activity resource book and community app to promote an inclusive community. 

City Manager Rodriguez and Cannabis Compliance Director McPherson at HdL Companies informed the council on cannabis business permits such as standard, social equity, and vertical integration. 

Then, they talked about procedure guidelines, which include meetings and workshops to cater to applications of local cannabis business owners and solicit public feedback. 

Afterward, they asked for a review of the criteria and the number of cannabis business permits. Director McPherson added that the social equity application allows owners “flexibility.” City Manager Rodriguez suggested priority processing dates to accommodate a large number of applications. 

In a separate public comment, Soleiman Javed and other phone calls urged transparency in the “process” and support for the local cannabis industry against “big money” companies. They shared concerns about building availability and price. 

City Attorney Cantu and Councilmember Rodriguez wanted the language of the cannabis ordinance to be clarified to avoid future litigation against the City. 

Mayor Santos seeks to encourage “mom-and-pop” cannabis business owners to thrive by lowering the limit to 10,000 square feet, which will make buildings affordable. He proposed allowing more social equity applications. 

Councilmembers Rodriguez, Montes, and others agreed for the cannabis ordinance to be a “living document” open for changes. Besides, they stressed the possible “jobs and revenue” that can result from the ordinance. 

Council agreed (4-2) to clarify the cannabis ordinance and provide direction for the next meeting. Mayor Santos and Councilwoman Evans opposed.

Council unanimously approved items B-1 to B-12 while mainly discussing the following: 

On item B-9, City Clerk Alicia Gonzales clarified that the Old Timers’ Day Parade fee scheduled for September 25, 2021, is $79, not $100. 

Councilmember Jose Rodriguez asked for item B-10 entitled Letter in Support of Proposed Changes to Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021” to be out of the schedule. He sought to add a letter to support the Dream Act of 2021 for the following schedule. 

Under public hearing, Finance Director Sanchez suggested using ARPA funds toward the existing water and sewer projects, which total $23 million, to mitigate “significant” rate increases. The council unanimously agreed.

California Rural Legal Assistance Director Baldwin Moy demanded the council to spend “a portion” of ARPA funds on mental health, rent relief, and student enrichment.

Likewise, Monica De Orta, Maria Elena Medina, Lourdes Herrera, and others echoed using rent and utility relief support for low-income families who do not qualify for COVID-related assistance.

Councilmember Gallegos responded that spending ARPA funds on existing water and sewer projects will help low-income families prevent rate increases. 

Lastly, the council unanimously agreed to designate Gallegos and Evans as voting delegates, while Councilmembers Villegas and Gallegos as respective alternates for the League of California Cities 2021 Annual Conference.

During the closed session, the council discussed the items as follows:

G-1 Conference with Labor Negotiators – Under Government Code §54957.6 Agency Designated Representative: Arnoldo Rodriguez 

Employee Organization: Mid-Management Employee Group

G-2 Conference with Legal Counsel – Anticipated Litigation Initiation of Litigation Under Government Code Section 54956.9(d)(4) 

One Case: City of Madera v. High-Speed Rail Authority. 

The meeting ended at 9:34 pm. On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, the next regular meeting will be at 6 pm on YouTube

If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at Documenters-admin@thefresnoland.com with “Correction Request” in the subject line.

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