Tuesday, November 2, 2021
Hybrid Meeting In-Person and via ZOOM
Present: Deborah Barmack, Peter Barmack, Carole Beswick, Greg Bradbard, Mike Burrows, Mark Cloud, Ken Coate, Michelle Decker, Kevin Dyerly, Otis Greer, Milford Harrison, Fran Inman, Mark Kaenel, Lowell King, Pam Langford, Mike Layne, Bill Lemann, Darcy McNaboe, Miguel Mendoza, Dan Murphy, Vikki Ostermann, Bansree Parikh, Catherine Pritchett, Thomas Rice, Karen Richmond, Michael Rivera, Dan Roberts, Kristine Scott, Patty Senecal, Eric Ustation, Pete Van Helden, Reggie Webb and Marisa Yeager.
Guests: LaDonna DiCamillo.
Announcements: 1) Inland Action will hold a holiday party on December 9, 2021, from 5:30-8:00 p.m. at Luxivair SBD Executive Terminal. Appreciation was expressed to Mike Burrows for the venue. Rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org
Lowell King, Chair, presiding.
Ken Coate announced that the UCR School of Public Policy has asked Inland Action to be a co-sponsor of their appointments workshop with Catherine Rivers-Hernandez, the Governor’s Appointments Secretary. The workshop is intended to encourage Inland Empire residents to seek gubernatorial appointments on the Governor’s Boards & Commissions. The event will be held virtually on Wednesday, December 8 from 5:30-6:30p.m. Co-sponsorship is at no-charge.
Motion by K. Scott/Second by M. Burrows/Passed: Inland Action will co-sponsor the UCR Appointments Workshop.
Deborah Barmack introduced Brad Jensen, Director of Governmental and Legislative Affairs, San Bernardino County, who joined us in person. Brad Jensen discussed the policy issues for 2022 set by the county Board of Supervisors.
Illegal Cannabis Farming-One of the challenges and of much concern for the County is illegal cannabis farming. The problem is increasing, especially in the Mohave Desert. Recreational cannabis has been legal in California since 2016 but with more than 80% of cannabis coming from illegal farming, there are no taxes, regulation, or state oversight. Often private property is used either with or without the owner’s permission. The areas used typically are isolated with very few neighbors. Many of these illegal growers either drill illegal wells to tap into ground water basins or break into water mains/water storage facilities to obtain “free” water to grow their crops. The county has actively pursued eradication of these sites and have identified some 1,200 illegal farms and estimate another 200 that have yet to be detected.
The Sheriff’s Department has created Operation Hammer Strike to address the problem. Operation Hammer Strike consists of 5 eradication teams that go out to serve warrants, remove plants and charge the growers with as many crimes as they find on the site. In addition to widespread water theft, there are serious pollutions concerns caused by the illegal use of pesticides, rodenticides, and herbicides. The effects are impacting wildlife and are a serious threat to our ground water through pollution. Since the operation began 9 weeks ago, they have been very successful as seen in their weekly statistics.
The county wants to address illegal cannabis growing through state legislation. A coalition of counties (LA, Kern, San Diego, Riverside, Ventura, San Bernardino) have joined to back 6 new state legislation bills that would allow District Attorneys to civilly prosecute water theft, increase state funding for illegal cannabis site cleanup and increase misdemeanor fines for illegal cannabis cultivation. Discussions on greater enforcement efforts would involve CalEPA, Dept. of Toxic Substances Control, Dept. of Pesticide Regulation, Drug Enforcement Agency, and California Attorney General’s Office.
Housing and Homelessness-The County has consolidated their homelessness programs under a single Assistant Executive Officer, CaSonya Thomas, which has proven to be efficient and effective. Through state funding of Room Key and federal funding of Home Key our County is providing stable housing for the homeless. Funds are used to purchase older hotel/motel facilities that are converted into homeless shelters with wrap-around support services. These conversions are exempt from environmental review so they can quickly be up and running. San Bernardino County has spent $ 4.4 million to fund Home Key for the Pacific Village renovation, creating 28 units for up to 49 individuals in the first phase. In the second stage, there will be an increase in the number of people to 135. Another project, All-Star Lodge, received $ 7.6 million to repair a 76-unit motel in San Bernardino, which is expected to accommodate 133 people.
Wildfire Funding-The county is geographically vast and has many challenging and remote areas to address regarding wildfires. Federally owned property in our county totals some 8.5 million acres. As these properties do not generate taxes the federal government makes payment in lieu of taxes (PILT). PILT is calculated with a formula that is in part based on population. He cited that Riverside County received more funding than San Bernardino, yet we have more than 3 times the acreage. Counties with more federal acres need direct funding assistance to deal with wildfire threat amid climate change. Reevaluation of federal wildfire policy must be considered.
CARES Act and ARPA Projects-Funding from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has helped the County get many infrastructure projects underway. Through the public works department, they are doing numerous things such as street improvements, sewer system upgrades, facility reconstruction, park buildouts and improvements, and flood control infrastructure. Arrowhead Medical Center has roughly 130 projects in the pipeline to build out their campus and be the “heartbeat” of healthcare in the county.
Downtown San Bernardino master plan building project– A substantial investment will be made in the government center in downtown San Bernardino. They will add a 300,000 sq. ft. building with underground parking while create a central courtyard area. Groundbreaking is planned for mid-2022. Once the new building is completed in 2024-2025 some of the aged buildings will be demolished and the plan is to use this land for mixed retail and housing.
The draft of the 2022 San Bernardino County Legislative Platform has been submitted to the Board of Supervisors and is expected to be approved next month.
A Q & A period followed.
Meeting adjourned at 8:35 a.m.