Saturday, July 20, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 20

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on September 12th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 28

Blame game

Let's play a game. 

Here are the rules: Pick whatever it is that bothers you about a community, and blame it on something you hate!

It seems like a lot of Central Coasters are playing that game right now. You don't have to look much farther than the pages of the Sun to see what I'm chirping about.

How about the knock-down drag-out fight between Santa Maria Police Department Sgt. Russ Mengel and city resident Gale McNeeley over Measure U, the proposed sales tax increase on the November ballot (see page 7).

According to McNeeley, ever the thorn in Santa Maria's side, the city doesn't need more sales tax revenue for the police department or revenue-generating big-box developments like Enos Ranch (see page 10). If Santa Maria wants to keep kids out of gangs, it needs arts programs, parks, and fountains for crying out loud. Fountains!

Mengel, on the other hand, says public safety comes first, which is no surprise coming from a cop. But when asked about gaining revenue from possibly allowing recreational cannabis businesses in the city, he did a full-court blame-game press.

If you believe Mengel, Denver, Colorado, is basically a smoking hole in the ground since the state legalized pot and the city allowed recreational weed businesses to set up shop.

"It's devastated the Denver area," he said. "The businesses, it hurt them. Many of them are leaving and going to different places."

I wonder when was the last time he visited Denver, but I think the city's doing just fine. According to The Gazette in Colorado Springs, cannabis is the business not just in Denver, but the whole state. Cannabis accounted for "$1.51 billion in 2017, generating more economic output than 90 percent of all other industries in the state," the paper reported earlier this year.

To be fair, police departments like Santa Maria's can still treat weed like a menace to society all they want. In the same article, The Gazette pointed out that the black market did boom in Colorado, and enforcement of illegal grows was up.

That's why I wouldn't be surprised if we see more of the same in Santa Barbara County, which has had more applications for growing permits than any other county in California. We'll see what the Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Bill Brown and other law enforcement agencies turn up in the not-too-distant future.

But McNeeley did make a good point about pot in his battle with Mengel, that Santa Maria was being "more moralistic than realistic" about it. A city is free to enforce or tax weed all it wants, but can still have all kinds of problems without having legal pot shops.

Take a look at Lompoc, and the state of homelessness there illustrated so clearly in the Santa Ynez riverbed. That problem was there long before the Lompoc City Council agreed to allow recreational cannabis in the city proper. The county Board of Supervisors just declared a shelter crisis (see page 4) to help acquire some state funding for the cleanup there and the homelessness problem rampant across the county, for crying out loud! Legal cannabis didn't create that problem, but tax revenue from it could help assuage the problem without the city having to declare a "crisis."

But even then, that added cash flow won't solve the issue. That's the problem with the blame gameā€"there's hardly ever one reason why problems arise, and never one magicbullet cure. Lompoc is the "City of Arts and Flowers," everything McNeeley could ask for (including the fountains), but it's still got issues. 

Talking about issues, I wonder if the ongoing feud between the Santa Maria Public Library's director, Mary Housel, and the Friends of the Santa Maria Public Library is over. Housel contributed a pretty lengthy opinion piece last week ("Checking the facts on the library debate," Sept. 6) to rebut some of what I said previously ("Frenemies," Aug. 23) and claims from the Friends.

Housel and the library just celebrated its own shop on Sept. 11 (see page 7), basically the same thing the Friends did, just without any friends. Aw, how sad. 

But so far, I haven't heard a peep from the Friends since Housel's op-ed. Maybe they're too busy planning their upcoming book sale, which will happen Sept. 21 and 22 at the library (see page 26). Or maybe they're tired of playing a back-and-forth blame game with her. 

The Canary is tired of all the games too. Send your thoughts to

Weekly Poll
What do you think of the changes Santa Barbara County made to its cannabis ordinances?

It was too early to make any changes. The industry is still new.
The changes were necessary. Cannabis farms are ruining our quality of life.
The changes are too restrictive and could stifle a growing industry.
More changes are needed to address the odor problems and other issues.

| Poll Results