The La Mesa City Council voted unanimously on June 24 to let people other than councilmembers write ballot arguments for the following measures set for November: to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, to set term limits for the mayor and council, and to change the job of city clerk to an appointed position.
The council first voted on "administerial" resolutions, including placing the three measures on the ballot. Mayor Art Madrid joined in the vote but opposed putting the term-limit and city-clerk measures on the ballot.
"Can I ask why?" said councilman Ernie Ewin.
"No," Madrid said.
Petition drives led to the dispensary and term-limits measures.
Madrid cast the “no” vote when the council voted November 13, 2012, http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2014/may/16/stringers-la-mesans-lose-right-vote/ to schedule a vote on the Compassionate Use Dispensary Restriction and Taxation Ordinance.
The Citizens for Patient Rights' ordinance allows dispensaries in "appropriate zones" and establishes a 2.5 percent sales tax on cannabis products.
Last year, vice mayor Kristine Alessio couldn't persuade her colleagues to schedule a public vote on term limits. She supported the initiative to establish a limit of three consecutive terms for mayor, council, or a combination of those offices. If approved by voters, it affects candidates elected in November.
Madrid also voted May 13 against councilwoman Ruth Sterling and Ewin's proposal to schedule a public vote on the city-clerk issue.
This month, the council discussed whether to submit arguments against the initiatives and in favor of the city-clerk measure. If multiple arguments are submitted, the election code gives first priority to the legislative body; the second priority is "bona fide sponsors or proponents of the measure."
Some on the dais opined before voting unanimously against writing arguments, with Madrid again opposing the two measures.
Alessio said, "I don't think the council should be biased" about measures; however, individual legislators could have opinions.
Ewin referred to the council vote on the city-clerk measure and asked if four councilmembers "could link up" with others to write the argument.
Yes, said city attorney Glenn Sabine.
During discussion of dispensaries, Madrid said expertise, rather than opinion, was important for the opposition argument. (“I don't think anyone is self-medicating yet," he said.)
Madrid said several times that dispensaries are currently illegal in La Mesa.
Sterling asked, "When do we get [to say] where we don't want them?"
Sabine said the ordinance contained "locational criteria."
Sterling spoke about having "a professional, well-learned person" write the con argument to the dispensary ordinance so voters understand the issue.
Sabine said the council either takes a position (to write arguments) or doesn't, and he was "fairly confident" that the city "get folks to take a side either way."
Councilman Mark Ararpostathis said, "It's a high-wire act if we start taking positions as a council on the ballot."
Proponents and opponents have until August 20 to submit arguments of no more than 300 words. The city clerk "trades" arguments with the other side on August 21, and August 28 is the deadline for rebuttals of up to 250 words.