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New Bessemer City Council commences with old, new business


November 21, 2017


Bessemer — The new city council and mayor opened Monday’s city council meeting in Bessemer by adding three articles under “New Business” and could not get to them fast enough. New council member Allen Archie added to the agenda a review of the new police powers ordinance and zoning amendments passed by the prior council and returning council member Linda Nelson added an opt out procedure of the 2016 Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act passed by the last council, after a full year of contentious discussion.

Bill McDonald, during the opening public comments after approval of the agenda said in an exasperated voice, “You’s are doing the same damn thing!”

Former councilman John Frello spoke up saying, “Talk about honesty and transparency ... it’s hard to believe these agenda items could not be included in the agenda and had to be added.

The Council rushed 5-0 to pay the bills, without informing the public of the dollar figure associated with the General Fund, Local Street Fund, Water Utility Fund or the Sewer Utility Fund. The council agreed the bills should be paid when funds are available.

A document was introduced regarding the past council’s letter to Heidi Washington regarding the impact closing the Ojibway Correctional Facility would have on the community. Washington responded to the former council’s letter and the group agreed to put it on file instead of reading it for the public. The letter went unread as Charly Loper, city manager, quickly offered a condensed paraphrase.

Under old business, the council has still not agreed to accept Robert’s Rules of Order or any other kind of order, but Terry Kryshak did state the city’s charter refers to the rules as “rules of order” not rules of conduct or procedure. The council agreed Loper should continue crafting new rules to satisfy the council’s wishes and to provide the newest update to the council when available.

Kryshak brought forth a discussion on the hiring of Ray O’Dea as city attorney during the last meeting. Kryshak said the city manager is supposed to request competitive bids as outlined in the city’s charter. Kryshak said the hiring of O’Dea when the new council was sworn in because they needed an attorney was out of order and did not follow procedure.

Kryshak brought forth a motion to rescind the offer to O’Dea and follow the city’s charter while encouraging Loper to pursue bids so an educated and transparent process could be completed by the council. The room stayed silent as the new council, many of whom ran on a platform of transparency and following the rules, chose to ignore the city’s charter and keep O’Dea as the city’s attorney without a competitive bidding process. Kryshak’s motion to follow the rules died without a second.

The council agreed 5-0 to table the discussion on whether to sell the property in the industrial park to interested investors until the next meeting where actual square footage and dimensions of the property can be added to the discussion.

Archie began the discussion on the police powers and zoning ordinances by saying he had concerns regarding the language of unlimited licensing under the MMFLA relegated to the industrial park. Archie pontificated about the difference between science and anecdotal evidence and how he wants all decisions regarding marijuana to be based on science.

Archie then spent the remainder of his time using anecdotal evidence to lay out his position against marijuana in Bessemer. Archie said.

—Medical marijuanas passage by the last council inadequately reflects the will of the people, even though the people widely supported it in the city’s poll.

—The information is not available regarding the impact medical marijuana will have on the city, as it could go either way.

—There are not adequate protections and law enforcement options available to regulate the marijuana businesses.

—The prior council did not convene an open dialogue where people could speak honestly regarding medical marijuana and they ram-rodded the ordinances through.

—The science coming out of the National Institute of Health is inconclusive regarding the efficacy of medical marijuana and it is 50/50 whether it is good or bad.

In response to Archie’s diatribe opposing marijuana, Kryshak said, “Our age group is probably the biggest users of marijuana in history and it was totally illegal then. Let’s get this hashed out.” Archie then proposed tabling the discussion on police powers and zoning so they could move forward and discuss opting out of the 2016 medical marijuana law entirely.

Nelson brought forth a motion to begin the procedures necessary to opt out of the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act of 2016 and to empower Loper to begin discussions with the city’s attorney. The new mayor, Adam Zak, began talking about how there are too many unanswered questions regarding the benefits and drawbacks to the community. Zak said the ordinances should be repealed and looked at longer and with more open meetings and perhaps in the future, after more meetings and discussions, passed by the current council, despite the last council passing it.

Zak then made a motion to opt out of the MMFLA of 2016, it was seconded by multiple people and the council passed the motion by an unclear voice vote. Zak and Archie then packed their bags and waited for the public discussion to cease.

When asked what exactly the council agreed to during public comment by the Globe, there was a significant amount of commotion and it remained unclear. Did the council vote to begin the procedures necessary to opt out as Nelson originally proposed or did they agree to opt out of the MMFLA of 2016 as brought forth by Zak? It remains unclear as of Monday evening at press time.


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