Polystyrene Ban Creates Council Debate
Mayor Clarke and Councilwoman Sahli-Wells Square Off
February 16, 2017
By Stephen Hadland
Mayor Jim Clarke and Councilwoman Meghan Sahli-Wells debated an amendment introduced by Clarke to the ban on plastics and polystyrene. The ban is modeled on the ordinance currently in place by the City of Manhattan Beach.
The ban would include plastic lids and other plastic items. Exemptions would be subject to review every year.
The amendment expands options for exemptions to the ordinance based on economic hardships with an annual review of the hardships based on changing technology. Some of the hard plastics that have replaced polystyrene are not recyclable.
Clarke stated that he visited Manhattan Beach and visited three businesses in the community and found all three were in violation of the ordinance.
The Mayor stated, "It might feel good to pass this but we want to do something effective."
His emphasis appeared to be on structuring the ordnance on business and scientific evidence and reviewing it each year.
Craig Cadwallader, representing the LaBallona Renascence, questioned the wording "economically feasible" according to whom he asked. He went on to state, "the ordinance as written was comprehensive and well written. It is a strong, effective ordinance. The loose wording (in the amendment) just weakens it."
Clarke disagreed and contended it strengthens the ban.
Sahli-Wells stated the amendment was "very vague and she was extremely uncomfortable." She argued that it was like "ground hogs day where we have to vote on it every year."
On a 3-2 vote with Council members Sahli-Wells and Thomas Smalls voting to oppose, the amendment will have to come back before the council for a first reading and the public will have a chance for further comment before a final vote.
Council also voted unanimously to support Measure H on the March 7 ballot, a countywide ¼% sales tax increase to help combat homelessness. The tax would raise $355 million dollars a year and would be used exclusively for the purpose of assisting the homeless.
Council was concerned that with no local items on the March ballot turnout in Culver City would be low. Acting City Clerk Jeremy Green said the clerk's office would begin an outreach program to local voters.
The county's current homeless population is closing in on 47,000 up from 38,000 in 2009 at the beginning of the recession. Should Measure H pass Culver City residents will be paying sales tax at the rate of 10%.
Council began the process of wrestling with the issue of growing, delivering and dispensing marijuana. Staff pointed out that while California voters passed a law to legalize recreation use of marijuana it remains a Schedule 1 drug which is a crime under federal law. Cities need to be very careful under how many businesses they can audit because it remains an all cash business.
City Manager John Nachbar said he came back from a statewide conference of City Managers and commented that the issue is much more complex than the staff report and that no one at the meeting "really has a handle on this in its totality. Cities need to be careful and go slow."
He also pointed out that any new tax has to go on the ballot for voters to approve.
Former Mayor and Councilwoman Jozelle Smith spoke about the relief a friend of hers suffering from breast cancer found that marijuana provided her with relief from her pain so she could enjoy the rest of her life without the pain.
She also got what she described as an "unexpected endorsement" when she attended a seminar including police chiefs. The chiefs were in favor of legalization so "law enforcement could concentrate efforts on really important crimes."
Councilwoman Sahli-Wells said she wanted marijuana legal in Culver City but "wanted it done safely and regulated and not to drive it underground."
Councilman Goran Eriksson had a list of questions he wanted answered including, zoning regulations, reports from the police and fire departments on the impact on those departments, location and number of marijuana facilities to be allowed and taxation issues.
Ultimately the council referred the matter back to city staff for further review.