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Last week I wrote about City Council member Jim Mosby agreeing with Mayor Bob Lingl and council member Jenelle Osborne to put a 600-foot buffer zone around dance studios that cater to the youth of the community.

It was Mosby who originally asked that a dance studio on North A Street be considered as a “youth center.” The city attorney agreed, and the buffer zone was added. Then other dance studios that had been in business for several years were added and the buffers became inconvenient to both property owners and the cannabis operators.

To justify his change of heart, Mosby argued that, given the studios' mostly limited hours of operation, “the dance studios are primarily closed and thus are not primarily serving youth.” And thus, they weren’t a “public or private facility that is primarily used to host recreational or social activities for minors” as defined in state law.

This sounds a lot like a similar argument that was made by another council member when Mosby voted in favor of the bans.

State law doesn’t set the hours of operation as the defining factor in determining which facilities are primarily used to host minors. If this were true, a public school, only open for part of the year, couldn’t be called a school.

During public comment a local student said, “As a student I have seen some pretty dumb ideas, and in all honesty, this is one of them. The idea of not allowing a dance studio to be a youth center and building a dispensary right next door to a ballet studio is outrageous. It actually contradicts everything we are taught as a child,” she said, noting popular anti-drug campaigns aimed at children.

Sometimes we should listen to the younger voices in our community who will be directly impacted with decisions like this one.

There is a lot at stake with this unwise decision. Osborne, who was an early supporter of the cannabis industry, said, “You are opening the door to litigation and a fiscal cliff we do not need to walk off. I cannot support changing this and playing around and opening the door to litigation. … It’s not an area I want to test or draw attention to in our community. I can’t support this, and I think it’s a bad decision.”

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She was right, but that didn’t deter the council majority as they plowed ahead and removed the buffer zone as Mosby, predictably, changed his mind.

Osborne is concerned that “A majority of council keeps making decisions that seem to be catering to an industry, rather than treating it normally.” She’s right again, this action is consistent with other concessions they have provided to the new industry, such as not placing a sales tax on the ballot, which was a huge windfall for cannabis operators.

When council member Victor Vega proposed a reduction of buffer areas to 400-feet, that was the icing on the cake. Obviously, Vega doesn’t understand how state laws are created and/or who can change them. There is a common thread with these three — they are always pushing the envelope with their faulty interpretations of what they read.

The council mindset must change. If we keep electing folks who think that governing a community is a chance to experiment with the lives of the people they serve, we are dragging our town down a crooked path.

The November election is an opportunity to change things.

Ron Fink is a local activist and can be reached at: rfink@impulse.net.

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