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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Capps Eyes Carbon Scrubber Rule and Other Pot Law Changes - Touts Progress on County Ethics Reform

Supervisor Laura Capps said on Friday that "it's time to look at" making anti-odor, carbon scrubber technology mandatory, to address longstanding and widespread complaints by neighbors who live near cannabis grows in Santa Barbara County.

With typical terpsichorean talent, however, Capps quickly added that she still is assessing the prospects of assembling a majority vote for such a regulation.

The five-member Board of Supervisors, until her recent arrival, has reliably, staunchly, and often unanimously, favored the economic interests of the pot industry over its consequences and impacts on the living conditions of nearby residents.

"I know how to count," Capps said, during a conversation with Josh Molina and the genial host on this week's edition of Newsmakers TV.

"I'm open to a lot of options," she added, "but I'm looking where I can five votes, or at least three."

Past due taxes. During her first months as 2nd District supervisor, Capps succeeded in steering through one the first significant changes to the county cannabis ordinance, which has caused deep community fissures and raised serious ethical questions about its key sponsors in its five years of existence. The board voted 5-to-0 last month to crack down on scofflaw growers who don't pay their taxes on time, or fail to report their revenues at all.

Responding to a question, she said that the possibility of requiring growers to install carbon scrubbers -- considered the best current anti-odor technology -- now "seems like a smart way to go from my perspective.”

"I think it’s time to look at it," she said. "If that’s the one that's working the best, why aren’t we using it?”

Before her election last year, Capps in 2020 gathered considerable support from voters adversely affected by the cannabis industry in District 1, for a challenge to Supervisor Das Williams, to whom she lost narrowly. Williams is the chief architect of the cannabis ordinance, and has repeatedly expressed disdain for the distress of neighbors whose health and quality of life have been damaged amid his aggressive effort to transform Santa Barbara County into the cannabis capital of California.

As a new board member, and now colleague of Williams, she has toned down her rhetoric on the issue considerably, while still moving cautiously to offset the external effects of the controversial, pro-industry pot law.

In our conversation, she expressed optimism about putting a measure before voters next year that would change the taxation system for cannabis, from a self-reporting gross receipts method to a more transparent approach based on acreage under cultivation. She also did not rule out reduction of the county's acreage caps on weed cultivation, given the glut of product throughout the state and the county, which has deeply downgraded revenues, which Williams and his chief ally, Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, famously promised in trumpeting the law.

A question of ethics. In the 2020 race, Capps pointed to Williams' tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from pot growers, much of it channeled to him during the very time he was crafting the law, as a prime example of why county government needs sweeping ethical reforms.

As in the case of the cannabis ordinance, Capps has taken a more modest approach to this issue since coming into office.

However, she pointed to the board's recent approval of a new requirement that the chiefs of staff and other aides to supervisors for the first time file financial disclosure forms as evidence of progress; she also said county staff is formulating policies and procedures to implement a new state law that requires supervisors, not only to disclose publicly any contributions of $250 or more from individuals or organizations with a financial stake in certain matters before the board, but also to recuse themselves from voting on them.

In a wide-ranging discussion of other key issues, Capps also spoke in detail about the state-mandated push to build more housing; the controversy over new facilities for homeless people in her district; questions about the recently approved new ambulance contract and a new, blistering grand jury report about the deaths of mentally ill people in county jail.

Plus: some walk down memory lane reflections about her sponsorship of SB Unified School District Superintendent Hilda Maldonado's hiring during Capps' days on the school board.

All this and more, right here, right on Newsmakers TV.


You can watch our conversation with Supervisor Laura Capps via YouTube below or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here: ttps:// TVSB, Cox Cable Channel 17 airs the show at 8 p.m. every weeknight and at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. KCSB, 91.9 FM, broadcasts the program at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.


Cartoon credit: The New Yorker.

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