2020 CANDIDATE FORUM Q&A FROM Liza Welsh
Do you support cannabis manufacturing, distribution, and/or retail in Eureka?
a. What types of cannabis businesses currently operate in Eureka?
b. What are the pros and cons of the cannabis industry operating in Eureka?
Cannabis is an integral part of Eureka's past, present, and future. At the heart of the Emerald Triangle, with proximity to farms producing the best cannabis in the world, Eureka is an ideal spot for lovers of cannabis to live, work, and play.
Currently, Eureka has approximately 70 operational cannabis businesses. The majority of these are support facilities, especially manufacturers and distributors. These businesses provide at least 200 jobs and are not subject to any excise taxes. This differentiates us from other cities. Eureka should continue to tax cannabis companies at the same rate as other businesses and should advertise that fact so that we can encourage more cannabis companies to establish and headquarter here.
In addition to support facilities, I would like to see more cannabis technology and cannabis lifestyle brands established in Eureka as well as businesses that cater to cannabis tourists, especially social spaces that are permitted for onsite consumption.
These ideas come with the caveat that in welcoming new cannabis businesses to our City, we must consider responsible land use. In Eureka, we have a limited amount of industrial and warehouse space, especially space in proximity to the port. To facilitate commerce and the transportation of goods in and out of the City, I believe that we need to preserve this warehouse space for the storage and movement of goods as much as possible. I would not like to see it converted to indoor cannabis cultivation, as has happened in some other cities.
2. What recommendations could you make to revitalize business in Eureka?
a. What can the city do to help reduce commercial storefront vacancies
b. What outdoor projects in the city of Eureka do you support?
Our efforts to revitalize business in Eureka should be driven by an understanding of what is affecting businesses now and what businesses can do to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. First, we need to look at why commercial storefronts are vacant. Is it the cost or quality of the vacant storefronts? Is it a lack of capital to start a business? Then, we need to respond accordingly with targeted policy solutions.
I was pleased to see businesses given easy access to permits to conduct sidewalk sales during this pandemic. Let’s take that idea further by considering closing off an entire street in Old Town to vehicle traffic, such as what San Francisco has done with Market Street. In other communities, this has increased foot traffic and sales in local businesses. Additionally, it’s relatively inexpensive to run ads on Facebook, and yet I see few ads for local businesses on my feed. Let’s help local businesses to leverage technology to advertise and sell their products and services. I know that there are many consumers who would rather purchase from a local business than from Amazon. Let’s make that easy!
Finally, I am passionate about the role of public art in creating a strong sense of place, which will facilitate our branding and marketing efforts. While we are doing great with our murals, electric boxes, and benches, I would like to see more large-scale sculpture in Eureka. I see this as an opportunity for collaboration between sectors (government, nonprofit, private).
3. What is your position regarding the ongoing increases in the cost of city development fees and
a. If parking becomes a more significant challenge in the future, what solutions would you
suggest helping alleviate the problem?
b. What is your position regarding Sea Level Rise regulations?
When development fees are too high, small business owners are discouraged from seeking the permits necessary to expand their businesses or to start new businesses. We should keep fees low and keep development services accessible for everyone.
Mandatory off-street parking requirements should be relaxed. Instead of putting the responsibility for parking on individual businesses, we should use space more effectively and consider how we can prepare now for the technology of tomorrow, which will almost certainly include self-driving vehicles. This may alleviate the current need for both on-street and off-street parking. Finally, we should encourage bike and scooter use, and should invest in our public transit system and trail networks so that folks have additional options for transportation.
I am pleased that the City Council unanimously approved a deferral to the scheduled water and sewer rate increases as a result of the pandemic. I support extending the timeline for large projects, but I am also concerned about the ability of our infrastructure to accommodate higher sea levels and an increased rate of 100-year and 500-year storm events that cause flooding. We need to repair and replace our culverts, storm drains, and sewer systems to ensure that the have the capacity to respond to these challenges, but that will be expensive, and that is why we need to aggressively pursue grant funding and to do everything we can to facilitate sustainable and responsible economic development that will generate jobs for Eureka residents and revenue for the City.