The city of Oakley does not need any self-serving councilmembers bringing up agenda items for the simple purpose of self-fulfillment of a hobby such as what Councilman Randy Pope tried to pull off last night with this beehive ordinance which he admitted was for his own interest while undermining the Council and the City of Oakley.
The discussion would have drafted language to potentially change the City Municipal Code to allow beehives in residential zoning districts which are currently only allowed in agriculturally-zoned areas. While I do not disagree with Mr. Pope that this ordinance was worthy of a discussion item; however what Mr. Pope should have done was recuse himself from this item and address the council as a citizen of Oakley rather than try and push it as a councilman.
Mr. Pope should also not have had a vote based off personal interest as according to social media, he already had his vote made up prior to discussion as I’ve outlined below.
On May 8, Mr. Pope reported his attendance at the Mt. Diablo Bee Keepers Association Meeting and their Annual Bee Workshop and stated he was interested in getting a beehive for his home, but realized City Code would not allow it. The minutes from May 8 state Councilman Pope would like to see an ordinance allowing bee hives similar to the ordinance adopted allowing a certain number of chickens and rabbits.
To put this in perspective, former Councilman Bruce Connelley did this a few weeks back at the Oversight Board of the Successor Agency to the Oakley RDA. Mr. Connelley stepped down from the Board to give comments as a “Citizen of Oakley” before jumping back onto the Board for the vote to ensure no conflict of interest would occur with his comments as a citizen versus a board member.
Councilman Pope clearly had a conflict of interest in trying to push an agenda item through for personal gain.
More to the point, Mr. Pope undermined not only this council, but the entire city of Oakley with social media as he blatantly utilized social media to get others from around the country to support his cause—even urging them to not disclose their address. Personally, I saw support online come all the way from Georgia while at the meeting; the Council stated they received a comment card online from Indiana.
In fact, Randy Pope recently joined a Facebook Group entitled “Legalize Beekeeping in Residential Areas” where I’ve captured a screen shot of him requesting “Help to persuade the city council”.
Another posts shows him telling folks they can enter “declined” if you want to keep your address private while immediately suggesting “by law the City can not require you to provide your address if you don’t want to.
Essentially, he is encouraging folks outside of Oakley to encourage a rules change on behalf of Oakley residents for his own personal gain so he can put beehives legally in his backyard.
At last night’s meeting, Mayor Romick stated 18 comment cards were submitted on this issue which is likely a record on a single issue this year. Oakley Chamber President Doug Scheer submitted a comment card supporting the ordinance change while six others from Oakley opposed it. The rest of the comments appear to be from out of area.
Pat Anderson referred to Mr. Popes social media posts by stating, “Only seven comments were form Oakley, it’s amazing what could be done with social media to get people to decline to state their address”.
Councilwoman Anderson stated if the council desires to move forward, she had changes to the language that need to be addressed from wording clarifications, to notifications to rules.
Councilman Jim Frazier asked Mr. Pope if he brought this agenda item to the Council for his own gain and he could have a beehive.
Councilman Pope responded “Yes, I want to keep bees in Oakley.”
Mr. Pope explained how he keeps bees in Brentwood and parts of Alameda while his brother has a hive of his own.
Vice Mayor Rios stated, “I don’t want to get into being the beekeeping police. It’s not like dogs and I don’t want the city to be the regulating authority. That is what the County is for.”
Councilman Frazier asked how many cities in Contra Costa County have ordinances for bees. City Manager Bryan Montgomery responded only Concord has rules which limits bees based on lot size limitations.
Mayor Kevin Romick took a different approach stating, “Everyone has bees in their backyard, we should look at what other cities are doing and draft a similar ordinance. If someone wants to have a beehive they should have them. We are not the be police.” He later stated he wanted to drop the prohibition on beehives.
City Manager Montgomery told the Board they needed direction based on the council’s decision on whether or not to spend staff time formally drafting ordinance. He suggested that the Council could leave it as it is and Code Enforcement could simply only respond by complaint but not seek it out. Mr. Montgomery spoke about a few incidents that were handled quickly and without incident while stating the city maybe has a few complaints about hives each year.
Councilwoman Anderson sided with Montgomery in wanting to leave it the way it is and watch for complaints, but not go forward with changing the ordinance.
Vice Mayor Rios suggested she’d like to go silent on this and let it continue to go through the County while continuing to do what we are already doing with this.
Mayor Romick said he wanted to eliminate prohibition and let the County handle it.
The council then took a straw poll to see if there was a need for staff to work on changing the ordinance which it failed 2-3.
Yay: Pope, Romick
Nay: Anderson, Frazier, Rios
With the City choosing to do nothing and only enforce this ordinance upon complaint, it would be interesting to see if Councilman Pope puts beehives in his backyard. The ordinance will come back to the council in a year per the suggestion of Vice Mayor Rios while at that time, the dynamics of the Council will likely change.
For the record, my problem is not with the ordinance itself, I really do not care one way or the other and would likely agree with Romick and Pope on this one if given a vote, but my problem is with how Councilman Pope brought this agenda item up in the first place and clearly undermined the city and his fellow councilpersons.
This type of behavior by a Councilman is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.