By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor
January 7, 2019 (El Cajon)--The El Cajon City Council is set to get back to work headfirst after nearly four weeks of holiday vacation on Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. Among other items, Council will be addressing free speech by citizens at open comment session, blocking the development of a previously shuttered illegal marijuana dispensary, and regulating dockless vehicles within city limits.
Revised Free Speech Rules
This past year’s Open Comment portion of the sessions have been peppered when numerous irate citizens addressed the Council over controversial issues including ordinances, and conduct of individual Council members. Some have used repeated profanities and even made crude remarks to audience members while at the podium.
On the surface, agenda item number 11 asks the City Council to review proposed “housekeeping” amendments to Chapter 2.12 of the El Cajon Municipal which governs how the public meetings are conducted.
Most significantly, however, the measure addresses when members of the public have violated the code by addressing Council members directly rather the body as a whole, have used profane and vulgar language, and when conduct might have been “out of order” and terminated by the presiding officer, or in violation of Rules of Decorum set forth in section 2.12.160 of the City’s municipal code.
The past year has seen several incidents during Council sessions when speakers angrily denounced City Councilman Ben Kalasho and when San Diego citizen activist, J.C. Playford challenged El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells. Councilmen Kalasho and Steve Goble requested the code on this subject to be reviewed.
The measure allows the Mayor or designated officer to regulate conduct and, to some extent, speech of those appearing before the legislative body. Yet, “the City’s ordinances must always remain protective of, and compliant with, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and section 2 of article 1 of the California Constitution. It is these constitutional protections that must be considered whenever a law, regulation, or action of a governmental agency attempts to address speech and conduct, especially in the setting of a public meeting.”
The proposed changes offer guidance for the presiding officer of a meeting (in cases where the Mayor is absent). The agenda item also includes a discussion of whether or not to continue asking for a speaker’s name and residency.
The City Council will be voting to prohibit any dockless vehicles (bicycle, scooter) to be available for rent or lease inside city limits unless the person enters into an agreement with the city regarding the operation, maintenance, and storage of the vehicles. The city also would require a security deposit to ensure timely retrieval of the vehicles and a reimbursement of cost of staff time to remove the vehicles blocking the right of way or pedestrian paths after 72 hours.
Along with other requirements, it will also be unlawful for any parent or guardian of a minor to allow a minor to use or operate a dockless vehicle in the city.
Property owner with illegal marijuana dispensary fined
El Cajon is continuing to enforce its zero-tolerance policy on marijuana dispensaries and puts some teeth into it when it votes to fine a property owner of an illegal operation at 743 El Cajon Blvd. the amount of $6,616.95. The action comes when the city’s code compliance staff visually inspected the facility and notified the Building Official/Fire Marshal of magnetic door locking mechanisms. City and State zoning laws require that these types which “restrain” the public from exiting a building in case of an emergency.
The following day, the city requested SDG&E remove the electrical meter to the dispensary in order to de-energize the door locking mechanisms, and SDG&E removed the meter. Two days later, Heartland Fire responded to a emergency call at the address and found a generator operating lights and the magnetic locks. One person was hospitalized. The property owner has since taken control of the property and is working to legalize all of the illegal construction at the address.
To recover the City’s cost in associated with its response, the property owner is being fined.
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