By Steven Tavares

Looking forward to a new city council next year, District 6 member Jim Prola may become the the body’s strongest and most influential voice. Monday night, Prola so outmaneuvered Councilwoman Diana Souza on the issue of extending a moratorium on zoning and establishment of medical marijuana facilities, that one had to wonder whether she was in a pot-riddled fog of confusion or not paying attention.

Souza and Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak supported extending the ban for 22 month, 15 days–the longest possible and one of only two choices available to the council, the other being 10 months, 15 days favored by Prola. If neither scenario was agreed upon by a supermajority of five councilmembers, the city would risk the possibility of accepting individuals interested in expanding the burgeoning business of medical marijuana to San Leandro.

So, here what happened Monday night, Souza motioned to vote on the 22-month ban even though it appeared Prola and Gregory would vote no and that’s was the case as the motion was denied after failing to muster five affirmative votes. This left only the 10-month ban preferred by Prola or nothing. Only then did it occur to Souza that she had made a parliamentary blunder. She asked for reconsideration, but apparently did not understand the procdure, either, since the losing party (Prola, Gregory) would have to ask for reconsideration, which they would not.

Prola had the council just where he wanted as he detailed the council’s new deal–10 months or nothing. “I’m not going to change my mind,” crowed Prola. “Let’s get this done now.” The most liberal of San Leandro councilman, Prola believes it is better to bring the ubiquitious pot trade in the city out of shadows, especially with large-scale growers. “It is safer to have large growth houses in San Leandro so we can control it, tax it and regulate it,” he said. It also doesn’t hurt politically since Alameda County voters easily approved Proposition 19, despite its defeat at the polls earlier this month.

The Prola-preferred 10 month ban eventually passed with every vote except Starosciak, who either was stubbornly sticking to her position or gambled her voting bloc with Souza would help her defeat the motion, but it did not. The city’s moratorium now extends to Sept. 30, 2011 or until the council formulates an ordinance on issue in before the end of the ban. By choosing the shorter moratorium, the council also retains the option to extend it for another year.