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Local Voters Take Initiative

By Lookout Staff

November 9 – Local voters Tuesday approved three ballot initiatives, defeated one and left another hanging in the balance.

With all the precincts in -- but with thousands of absentee ballots still to be counted -- Santa Monica voters easily approved initiatives to give the City Manger more power over the hiring and firing of top officials and to make the enforcement of marijuana use the police department’s lowest priority.

Local voters, however, rejected a measure placed on the ballot by the City Council that would have slackened tough campaign finance restrictions, and barely approved, for now, a parcel tax to help clean up the bay.

When it came to forking over money, local voters seemed more generous than their statewide counterparts, easily approving a $268 million bond to renovate and repair the district’s aging schools, eight of which are more than 60 years old.

The bond – which needed only 55 percent of the vote – won 19,419 votes, or 67, to 9,518 votes, or 33 percent.

Voters also seem on the verge of approving Prop V, a $40 million property tax that will fund upgrades to the storm drainage system and other water management projects designed to clean the bay.

The fate of the measure – which requires two-thirds of the vote -- was too close to call, with 16,623 voters approving, or 66.77 percent, and 8,273 opposing Prop V.

Perhaps the most controversial of the proposed laws, Prop U -- which won 15,339 votes to 8,164, or 65.26 percent -- directs Santa Monica police to make marijuana enforcement their lowest priority for people 21 and older discovered with the drug.

Proponents said it was a logical response to the war on drugs, which, they say, has been a massive public policy failure that has drained billions of dollars and put millions of people in jail.

Local police -- who said the measure was “a solution looking for a problem “ -- are alarmed it will set a dangerous precedent by allowing citizens to dictate how the department should do its job.

A far less controversial measure to boost the City Manager’s power won easily with 15,823 voters, or 71 percent, backing the measure, and 6,424 opposing it.

The brainchild of Lamont Ewell, who assumed the city manager’s post in January, Prop U strips department heads of civil service protections and bypasses the approval of board members and commissioners.

The charter amendment also expands the hiring pool available to the city manager, allowing the City to consider outside applicants, as well as more than three applicants for top management positions.

It also allows the City to fill an empty manager’s position with a temporary hire for 180 days – up from 90 days – so that there’s ample time to look for the most qualified candidate.

Voters Tuesday rejected a measure that would have replaced the controversial “Oaks Amendment,” which prohibits elected officials from profiting from their position.

Prop W – which grabbed headlines after opponents used the Santa Monica Pier sign trademarked by the City in an ad blasting the council – went down with 11,933 voters, or 53 percent, opposing the council-sponsored measure and 10,588 approving it.

One immediate result of the vote is that council incumbents will not be able to recover the campaign contributions they returned under the Oaks Initiative.

Approved by voters six years ago, the law prohibits City officials from accepting gifts, jobs or campaign contributions from a person or group that benefited from a vote or decision made by that official.






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