The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors slightly altered a proposed campaign contribution limitation ordinance during its Tuesday meeting by removing a clause that would have allowed the donation limit to increase every two years.
With only local media representatives and two members of the public in the audience during the discussion, several supervisors said it was a clear example of the community and county officials’ view on campaign finance reform.
“There is so much talk about it and so little action,” 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell said. “I’m actually extremely proud of this board that we’re moving forward and we are moving towards campaign finance reform.”
The proposed ordinance would limit campaign contributions to candidates running for a county office to $1,500 during a primary election cycle and an additional $1,500 should a run-off general election occur.
The majority of the ordinance is based off one from Sonoma County, but the board decided some parts of the template measure did not fit. One clause that was removed in the 4-1 vote — with 3rd District Supervisor Mark Lovelace dissenting — would have increased the maximum contribution limit by 5 percent biannually. The board also chose to increase the threshold for reporting late contributions from $500 in Sonoma County’s ordinance to the state’s $1,000.
Lovelace voted against the original proposal last month and called for a lower limit. In his critique on Tuesday, Lovelace said that the ordinance continues the county’s “current paradigm” that has been “clearly advantageous to certain interests in the county.”
“I support campaign finance reform,” he said. “This isn’t it.”
The altered ordinance is set to go back before the board at a future meeting for final adoption.
Yurok Tribe controlled substance ordinance
Earlier in the meeting, Yurok Tribe Executive Director Troy Fletcher gave a presentation on the tribe’s controlled substance ordinance and its efforts to eradicate marijuana grows on and near tribal lands.
Approved in February, the tribe’s controlled substance ordinance created regulations and set punishments for the cultivation and distribution of drugs, mainly focusing on marijuana grows on both tribal and fee lands in the reservation boundaries.
Fletcher said the tribe has the authority to eradicate grows in both of these areas.
“This isn’t about a medical marijuana issue. This isn’t even about recreational use,” he said. “It’s about a blatant disregard for the communities these activities are taking place in. … People are coming in these areas thinking, ‘Hey, tribal land, the county won’t know what to do, the tribe won’t know what to do, we’re going to get away with this.’ And they are.”
Fletcher gave a summary of July and September’s multi-agency effort — dubbed Operation Yurok — which targeted and eradicated several marijuana grows in the area. He said the prevalence of the grows have held the nearby town of Weitchpec “hostage.”
In his presentation, Fletcher said 54 grows with thousands of plants were identified, with several showing evidence of environmental degradation such as illegal clear-cutting, road grading, stream diversion, and poor containment of fertilizer and pesticides.
One of the main topics of discussion was over the tribe’s jurisdiction over fee lands. Fletcher said the lands are under the jurisdiction of the tribe in this case as the marijuana grows impact the health, welfare and safety of the Yurok Tribe.
“There is no specific litigation here,” he said. “People have been cited into different courts.”
Stormy Menning of the Highway 169 Landowners Association said he grows medical marijuana to treat injuries suffered in a car accident and his land parcel was excluded from tribal jurisdiction several decades before he purchased it in 1984. Menning said he and other members of the organization grow medical marijuana, and a tribal judge recently issued a warrant to search his land.
“Again, we sympathize to the tribe’s problems, but we are not contributing to the tribe’s problems,” he said. “… Amongst the landowner’s association, we have no mega-grows. Every one of us is 215. Basically, we take exception to the tribe’s assertion that they have jurisdiction over these lands. Federal courts since 1978 have upheld that no tribe has jurisdiction over fee land.”
As the tribe has “zero-tolerance” for marijuana grows, Fletcher said its operations are not going to change until the “green rush” is controlled.
“We’re going to continue to stop by this gentleman’s house if he continues to grow and continue to eradicate,” he said.
Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said that the county differs from the tribe in that it recognizes medical marijuana use. With two local ordinances being considered by the board for outdoor cultivation, Sundberg said the county is readying itself for what he said will likely be the approval of legalized recreational pot in the state in 2016.
“Either you’re ready for it or you’re left behind, and there are processes going forward right now that are working on the regulatory framework,” he said. “We’re going to be part of that, and once that’s done we can show that it works. Sounds like that if you’re saying that, if there is a handle on it, … that you may reconsider.”
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.