ONTARIO — A variety of topics were discussed during the Citizens Coalition of Ontario forum Wednesday, including where the money collected from the city’s 3% sales tax on retail marijuana sales should be spent.
The initial payments to the city amounted to about $90,000, which was budgeted to be spent on infrastructure items, said City Manager Adam Brown.
Because the amount of the tax revenue may go down as other states legalize recreational marijuana, Brown said it is not prudent for the city to become reliant on that revenue for general budget items. In the first go round, the money is going toward beautification projects, he said. However, Brown said the marijuana tax revenue shared by the state is going to the Police Department since it can only be used for law enforcement.
In regards to beautification around town, Brown said, the city was putting out more benches, trash receptacles, hanging planters and decorative street lights.
Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero discussed his focus on community policing, explaining this includes law enforcement and community involvements.
Romero said that with a smaller police force has been seeking to work with other law enforcement agencies, and to increase the number of reserve officers.
Focusing strategically on identified problem areas in enforcing the law will help reduce crime across the city, he said. Also, he noted that an additional ordinance officer was being sought with the new fiscal year budget, commenting that keeping areas around town cleaned up is also a crime-reduction issue.
City Councilor Freddie Rodriguez and Romero defended the cleanup and enforcement by police during a recent cleanup of city property along the Snake River. Romero said the police presence was requested by the Public Works crew, and police did not initiate any enforcement.
Romero said he did engage one person who was homeless, and encouraged him to get assistance to change his life and improve himself. The man took up Romero’s offer, he said, showing up at the chief’s office and being connected to various services.
Rodriguez said moving the people who are homeless was regrettable but was necessary to protect the city.
The Citizens Coalition sponsors the forums to provide an opportunity for citizens and city officials to communicate with each other and for residents to ask questions of their leaders.
Other participants were Dan Cummings, Community Development director; Andrew Maeda, executive director of the Ontario Recreation District; and city councilors Michael Braden and Dan Capron.