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Carson City Council Tackles Hot Button Issues

2019: The Year the Carson City Council tried to Ban Guns and Cigarettes

It was an interesting 2019 for Carson’s City Council, who hired a new City Manager and held more than 20 special meetings in addition to their regular calendar.

The last months of the year saw significant time devoted to the ongoing discussion of district-based city council elections. But the City also addressed a number of policy issues, including its budget and pension obligations, potential bans or restrictions on gun sales and electronic cigarettes, and finishing long overdue development projects.

Some of the notable topics:

Potential Pension Obligation Bond

Pension obligations are among the biggest issues facing California cities. Recent bankruptcies in the cities of Stockton and San Bernardino were largely driven by these issues. As of last year, the City of Carson’s primary pension plan for city employees was only 65% funded, with a net liability of approximately $107 million expected as of this year.

In an attempt to mitigate some of the budgetary impacts over the coming years, the council has been discussing a Pension Obligation Bond, a financial mechanism that would allow them to reduce their current unfunded pension liabilities by borrowing against future tax revenue. City staff estimates that by proceeding with a bond the City has potential savings of $45 million dollars. The long term impact, however, depends greatly on the economy and market factors beyond the City’s control. This has led many to call these bonds risky.

Discussions and presentations on the subject were held throughout the month of November and at a Dec. 5 public hearing. At that hearing the Council voted to hire Larry Kosmont of Kosmont Transactions Services to explore the matter further.

Restrictions on Gun Sales

Prompted by the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in schools across the nation, Mayor Albert Robles introduced a potential ordinance in September “to expeditiously move to implement new or additional regulations to severely restrict the possession and sale of firearms in the City of Carson to protect public safety.”

The ordinance, discussed at the Nov. 19 council meeting, included more restrictive permitting for gun vendors, creating distance between gun dealers and schools, churches, day-care centers, and residential zones, among other restrictions.

This motion did not proceed as no council member would give the Mayor a “second” to bring the matter to a full vote.

Restrictions on Tobacco Sales

Mayor Robles introduced an ordinance to ban the retail sale of all tobacco products and paraphernalia in the City, terminating the City’s existing tobacco and electronic cigarette permitting program. After discussion this item was “tabled” by Councilwoman Lula Davis-Holmes and Mayor Pro Tem Cedrick Hicks.

A few months later Councilman Jim Dear introduced a different ordinance banning just the retail sale of e-cigarettes not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It passed 5-0. At the first council meeting of 2020, Councilman Dear added an amendment to this ordinance to include banning all flavored tobacco products. It also passed unanimously.

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