California City Mayor Responds to Kern County Grand Jury Report

By California City Mayor Jennifer Wood

When I received a copy of the Kern County Grand Jury’s Cities and Joint Powers Committee report, I initially thought that I must have been reading about another city. I serve as the Mayor of California City and know that this report isn’t about who we are; nor it is about what or how we do things.

This isn’t the city’s official response. It is mine alone.

Our city chose to pursue medical cannabis in mid-2016. It’s been a long road and we have only one cannabis related business at this time. While I know there are folks both at the State, County and City level who are opposed to this industry, the voters legalized both medicinal and recreational and it is now an industry that we have pursued. Due to our location we have not attracted many businesses nor industries that could potentially reduce the city’s impact on supplemental parcel taxes. This is one that we hope will start the ball rolling.

Over a quarter of the findings in the Committee's report are either directly or indirectly tied to marijuana or hemp. Complaints about the lack of transparency; council members’ total hours spent at city hall; accusations of closed-door meetings; violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act and so on don’t portray the city or council that I am a part of. Not to make light of any of these allegations because we take them seriously, but I’ve been referred to as the ‘hall monitor’ because of my insistence that we always follow the rules and laws set before us. I, and others who serve, do the best that we can to bring business and industry to our community.

I’ve drawn the conclusion that change is not easy for some folks. They like things a ‘certain way’ and have in past years been allowed to do things that favor a few but not all. In addition, there are disgruntled folks that may include some employees and/or those who do not like the current administration (or the last one) and some council members.

Accusations about the lack of transparency are questionable because during my terms as Mayor, more data has been made available on our web page than at any other time in our history. We don’t have a dedicated web master and staff pulls double and triple duty much like other cities operating under austere financial conditions. Every city and Mayor would tell you that things could be done better. Not one of us is flush with revenue to do every little thing. But we try to be innovative in ways that abide by the laws of our nation and state.

California City has improved greatly over the past 5 years. Let’s face it, California City had been in decline for many years. We have done a lot of good to correct poor habits that have been practiced. There is much more work ahead.

I can’t say it enough: this report isn’t who we are or how we do business. Do we, the council, do the things insinuated in this report? Not on my watch we don’t. Reports such as the one we are now enduring take our focus off of the good work many in our city are doing to make sure that we do everything within our power to do things the right way with the cannabis industry. It’s all new to many cities; ours is no different. Nothing malicious or unseemly is going on. There is no malfeasance, as some might like to have folks believe.

I’ve been disappointed in how the media has sensationalized this report. Only a couple of publications contacted me personally on the report; the rest ran with what was being reported and piled on with other, un-related issues.

The City will be writing the official response to the Kern County Grand Jury soon.