Archive » March 27, 2008
CITY COUNCIL DIVIDED
By India Allen, Staff Writer
Solvang Mayor says ‘no’ to recusal; City Council divided
Dissention among Solvang City Council members is still brewing following the March 24 meeting, in which, for the second time, the council voted down a proposal to discuss possible Chumash Casino expansion.
In a second 3-2 vote, the council decided for the second time in two weeks that, at least for now, it would not dive into discussions about rumored casino expansion plans.
After reading a letter from a community member who urged the council to reconsider its March 10 decision, council member Jim Richardson requested that the discussion be brought back before the council.
Richardson called the previous vote “lame at best,” and again endorsed the council sending a letter to the governor stating its opposition to local casino expansion.
“It would behoove us to anticipate [the Chumash] will make that move,” he said. “Lets not wait until the horse moves [from] the barn.”
Along with his request, he dropped a bombshell of a demand for Mayor Linda Jackson to recuse herself from decisions and discussions about the expansion issue, saying that her position as executive director of the Solvang Chamber of Commerce put her in an ethically untenable position.
Because the chamber receives a $24,000 marketing grant from the Chumash Casino, Richardson claimed that Jackson had a conflict of interest and an “ethical” responsibility to remove herself from any involvement with the issue.
“It’s a double whammy in my mind,” he said.
He also criticized Jackson’s previous estimation that one in five Solvang citizens supported the expansion proposition measures that were on the Feb. 5 ballot, declaring she misrepresented the city’s voting population.
But Richardson’s request proved futile as Jackson refused to recuse herself, stating that she had spoken with the city attorney and discovered that she was well within her legal right to participate in decisions and discussions about local casino expansion.
“I believe I can discern how I want to vote,” she said. “I am not persuaded, one way or another, by funds given to the chamber.”
She called Richardson’s innuendo of misconduct a “misinterpretation” and charged him with making false accusations about her.
“I am not buyable,” she said. “The chamber is not buyable.”
Councilman Palmer said he resented Richardson’s request and accused him of causing division and infighting in the council.
“In this forum there has been character assassination of anyone who says ‘let’s take an unbiased look at this,” he said. “I voted no on all of the [propositions], but that doesn’t mean I have a closed mind.
“From now on I will be labeled a casino lover, nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
He added that he didn’t care about numbers and placed importance on “collegiality and respect for one another.”
Palmer also criticized Richardson’s stance against the casino, saying “he patronizes what he’s objected to,” and implied that Richardson was “jumping on the bandwagon” to help his upcoming campaign for mayor.
Though Councilman Eugene Boyle and Mayor pro tempore Edwin Skytt didn’t participate, for the most part, in the verbal barrage and crossfire between Richardson, Jackson and Palmer, when it came time to vote on the suggested action, both voted as before, Boyle: yes and Skytt: no.
In other City Council news
The city council unanimously voted to pass the first reading of a revision and correction to the Transient Occupancy Tax Ordinance, which misstated the city’s interest rate.
The council also approved the city’s occupancy tax audit result, which was completed by Muni Services out of Los Angeles. The audit, which cost the city approximately $12,000, collected and analyzed the city’s tax returns from July 2003 through April 2007. Muni Services also completed a trend analysis for every hotel in Solvang in which each property was analyzed.
“There really wasn’t much of a concern overall,” said Dana Waite, finance director for the City of Solvang.
Prior to the most recent audit, the city’s records had not been reviewed since 1988. In its audit, Muni Services reported that it was impressed with the organization and maintenance of the city’s records.
The council also announced that the City of Solvang will have to zone for 170 new residential units as part of the 2009-2014 state mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment affordable housing allocation.
The council also requested that the Sheriff’s department compile a documented recap of crime in Solvang for the past five years.
In other news, the council will be bringing back the dog noise ordinance for discussion and will be placing an item on a future agenda to discuss adding new traffic lights at five intersections.