Tom Widroe: Santa Barbara County’s Dispensary Selection Process Must be Transparent – Noozhawk   Recently updated !

Since 1956, the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association (SBCTA) has been weighing in on issues of importance to county taxpayers.

Tom Widroe

SBCTA cares about how our county operates, and how county staff and elected officials make use of the enormous power granted to them by county residents and voters to meet the county’s goals and its stated mission.

The association has a long history of demanding transparency and accountability from county staff and elected officials in pursuit of their goals and obligations.

One of our core beliefs is that important government decisions are observable and understandable by county residents, and free from concern that the integrity of the decision process is in any way compromised due to inappropriate outside influence.

While we feel that, in general, the Santa Barbara County’s operations satisfy our standards, the current scheme used to evaluate applicants for the county’s six retail cannabis licenses raises concern.

The SBCTA has remained mute thus far with respect to the county’s cannabis dispensary application evaluation process, but the current lawsuit filed by Natural Healing Center regarding the rejection of their application for a dispensary in Orcutt raises some serious questions.

Just last August, Fifth Disaster Supervisor Steve Lavagnino warned his colleagues that a so-called merit-based selection process could expose the county to challenges of staff decisions and/or those of their hired consultant. In fact, the lawsuit brought by the rejected Orcutt applicant, Natural Healing Center, alleges that county staff’s decision-making process was arbitrary and lacking in evidentiary support.

The one certainty, in the opinion of SBCTA, is that the evaluation and decision-making process failed to meet the standards of transparency, observability and understanding, which we feel county residents and

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