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Chris Djernaes

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Citizens Monday requested the Solvang City Council censure Councilman Chris Djernaes after he was seen cheering on and exchanging contact information with PETA protesters Oct. 10, in what Solvang Trolley & Carriage Co.’s owners characterized as ongoing discriminatory harassment of their business.

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The City of Solvang took its first step Monday toward changing its at-large elections to a by-district system after a Malibu-based law firm claimed Solvang’s system excluded Latinos “from meaningful participation in the City’s governance” and threatened to sue.

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In front of a packed chamber, the Solvang City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday evening to approve a short-term contract with the Solvang Chamber of Commerce, at least temporarily reinstating a working relationship that dates back three decades. The council also voted 4-1 to increase funding for an extensive audit of city services, and in a separate vote tabled any decision regarding the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau contract until another meeting.

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In heavy discussion addressing the city’s future infrastructure needs, lack of performance metrics and comparisons with other cities’ spending habits, the Solvang City Council on Monday drastically reduced funding to the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau and Solvang Chamber of Commerce. The chamber initially requested $300,000, up from last year’s $250,000 budget level.

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The Solvang City Council in anxious to set goals for the city, and City Manager David Gassaway said Monday night he’s planning a retreat for council members in early June, so they can talk about their vision. Mayor Ryan Toussaint said he felt there was “frustration” at Monday’s meeting because the council still hadn’t talked about its goals or vision five months after it had been seated.

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