Hemig: The debate to hold the Measure S debate | TheUnion.com

Hemig: The debate to hold the Measure S debate

Jim Hemig Publisher The Union
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

Measure S opponents still plan to present panel discussion

Regardless of what you might hear, The Opposition to Measure S panel still plans to be available to answer questions for the public regarding Measure S, on September 23, 2014, at 6:00, at the Nevada County Board of Supervisors Chamber. The panel feels it is very unfortunate that the proponents of Measure S have declined attendance at the scheduled venue.

Sheriff Royal states, “This is one of the most significant local ballot measures Nevada County has seen in many years, and if passed will dramatically change our community as we know it and our quality of life. While supporters of Measure S see the ballot measure as a “sensible solution”, the truth of the matter is it will radically increase the volume of marijuana grown in our County and significantly increase the nuisance issues associated with growing marijuana.”

Don Bessee, a local advocate for neighborhood property rights, believes the measure will significantly increase complaints of pungent odors, environmental impacts, traffic, and increase crime levels. Many neighbors of large marijuana gardens experience first-hand the nuisance issues associated with these grows, including negative impacts to their own personal health and well-being. Don says, “Everyone needs to ask themselves what kind of a community do we want to live in? Neighboring counties are adopting regulations more conservative than our own. Do we want the marijuana growers flocking into our neighborhoods? Do we want the negative connotation as is currently associated with Humboldt and Mendocino Counties?”

County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green states, “The existing ordinance is working, and has been a balanced approach to consider the needs of the marijuana growers and the community at large. This year we have seen a reduction in the number of marijuana nuisance complaints; evidence the current ordinance is working.”

Opposition members believe the community deserves the truth about Measure S, and will continue to work with the media to ensure their story is told.

— Submitted by Nevada County Sheriff's Office

Last Friday, in my column, I announced I would moderate a Measure S debate the evening of Sept. 23.

My column was simple enough. I mentioned the location, date, folks involved and a little about Measure S.

For those who missed it, Measure S is a proposed revision to the county’s existing medical marijuana cultivation ordinance on the Nov. 4 ballot.

I’ve since learned that this topic is so controversial that while we could agree on having a debate, we couldn’t get all parties to agree on a debate location. For that reason, the debate is now canceled.

So we have a stalemate. After 313 individual emails (I counted) between myself and the folks mentioned above, I am left with no approved venue – which means no debate.

The debate idea started when Measure S author Patricia Smith agreed to participate. I offered to moderate in an effort to equally share both sides of this issue with Nevada County citizens.

We needed a venue, preferably a free or low-cost location, since this wasn’t a money-making effort, and Smith recommended the Banner Grange.

The Grange can hold a couple hundred people, and we found a PA system to provide the audio.

Smith was willing to debate in support of Measure S and could find a second, and possibly a third, person to join her. I needed to find two or three people who oppose Measure S to establish a debate that would represent both sides of the issue. I reached out to Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal, Don Bessee, a representative of the International Faith Based Coalition, and County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green for the opposition. All accepted.

Bessee recommended we change the location to the Board of Supervisors’ Chambers at the Eric Rood Administration Center to allow both radio and TV access to the debate. I thought it was a good idea to maximize the exposure and audience reach far beyond those we could cram into the Banner Grange, since Measure S impacts the far corners of Nevada County,

With radio and TV mentioned, I reached out to Paul Emery at KVMR. We joined forces to determine the broadcast capabilities. The Board of Supervisors’ Chambers was already wired for easy radio and TV access.

However, Smith and her team were not in favor of the Rood Administration Center. She said their last experience at that location was not favorable. While providing public opinion during the creation of the original medical marijuana cultivation ordinance, she said the Board of Supervisors’ Chambers was surrounded by armed officers, creating what she felt was a less than open environment for free speech.

“Our members simply were not comfortable returning to the Rood Center after the show of force the last time they went there when nine armed deputies were brought in to guard the room,” she wrote in an email.

Smith suggested using the Nevada Theatre as a more neutral location, somewhere other than the Grange and the Rood Center. The Nevada Theatre could also provide for live radio and TV coverage. But neither Emery nor I could procure that location. So we convinced Smith the debate needed to be at the Rood Center.

Shortly after I published the date, time and location last Friday, Emery was able to get a hold of the right people and confirm the Nevada Theatre as an option for the debate’s location.

That’s when things got complicated.

Smith and supporters of Measure S wanted the Nevada Theatre and were unwilling to debate at the Rood Center.

“We bent over backwards to accommodate the opposition, but they would not give an inch. I am now looking at options for a Town Hall Forum, with or without them, and hope the public will turn out to learn more about Measure S. I think this is one of the most important issues facing our county and voters need to hear both sides of the issue to make an informed decision,” Smith said.

Royal, Bessee and the team against Measure S wanted to debate at the Rood Center and were unwilling to meet at the Nevada Theatre.

“Jim, I’m not happy with the change. You will not see a balanced audience,” Royal wrote. “Additionally, the theater has terrible parking, whereas the County building has a lot of parking. Media never seems to have an issue with coverage of Board of Supervisors meetings. So I question the change. Sorry Jim, I don’t know if we can resolve this.”

So we have a stalemate.

After 313 individual emails (I counted) between myself and the folks mentioned above, I am left with no approved venue — which means no debate.

I deeply believe Nevada County needs to hear both sides to make an informed choice during the Nov. 4 election. With an unprecedented combination of radio, TV and newspaper coverage, this debate could have helped people decide.

Both sides were unable to come to an agreement. I have a feeling this is a good indication of how Measure S will be discussed over the next 53 days leading up to Nov. 4. And The Union will be covering it every step of the way.

Jim Hemig is publisher at The Union. Contact him via email at jhemig@theunion.com or at 530-477-4299.

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