Palo Alto weighs in on state propositions

Council supports protecting local funds, opposes 2/3 requirement for new fees, passes on the pot measure

Palo Alto officials support a state proposition barring California legislators from taking local funds and oppose initiatives that would suspend a bill curbing greenhouse-gas emissions and requiring a two-thirds vote for new fees.

But the City Council decided to pass on the "grass" Monday night and refrained from taking a stance on Proposition 19, which would legalize and tax recreational marijuana use.

The council was mostly unanimous in adopting the city's official position on a wide range of state and county propositions, though it took a bare majority for the council to support Proposition 21, which creates an $18 vehicle-licensing surcharge to help fund state parks. Council members Greg Scharff, Sid Espinosa, Yiaway Yeh and Nancy Shepherd dissented, with Scharff deriding the proposal as "initiative budgeting."

One of the council's easiest decisions was to back Proposition 22, which prevents the state Legislature from taking local funds. Last year, the council vehemently opposed the state's previous plans to close its budget deficit by taking cities' gas-tax funds. The League of California Cities has also supported Proposition 22.

"It's protecting local funds for local uses -- that's something we as a council should support," Scharff said.

The council also voted to oppose Proposition 23, which would suspend Assembly Bill 32, which mandates reductions in greenhouse-gas emission; and Proposition 26, which creates a two-thirds requirement for approval of certain state and local fees.

The council also voted unanimously to back Measure E, a proposal by the Foothill-De Anza Community College District to levy a $69 annual parcel tax for six years to raise $7 million in annual revenues; and Measure A, a county measure that would enact a $29 parcel tax to "protect maintain children's health" through checkups, immunizations and other preventive measures.

Two board members from the Foothill-De Anza board of directors, Bruce Swenson and Betsy Bechtel, attended the meeting to ask the for the city's support

"It means a great deal to us," Bechtel said. "It's for a term of six years and it would be carefully monitored with very good controls."

The council almost refrained from discussing Proposition 19 altogether. After the council completed its discussions of other propositions and prepared to move on to other topics, Councilwoman Gail Price pointed out that the council didn't get to the marijuana proposition and suggested that the council consider a resolution to support the proposition.

But Councilmen Larry Klein and Greg Schmid both argued that the issue of legalizing marijuana is one of "personal choice" and said the city should not take a position on it.

"Everyone I know of has an opinion whether marijuana should be legal or not," Klein said. "I don't think we have anything to add."

Price and Karen Holman were the only council members who supported considering a stance on Proposition 19. Councilman Yiaway Yeh abstained from all discussions relating to marijuana because he works for the City of Oakland, which has a local measure relating to marijuana.

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