Local officials are not sure what would happen if a controversial ballot initiative forcing the city to change its election schedule fails at the polls two weeks from now.
Measure AA would force the city to move local City Council elections from March and April of odd-numbered years to June and November in even-numbered years to coincide with statewide elections.
The similar move is afoot in the Pasadena Unified School District in Measure BB. The Board of Education would also hold election in accordance with the state, and they would be run on a majority-wins format, eliminating runoff elections.
The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office would take control of the city’s elections, and the vote count would no longer be held at City Hall.
If Measure AA is approved, every council member would remain on the council for an additional 19 months.
“It’s not clear what the alternative is,” said Mayor Terry Tornek “We would have to go to court and ask them what the alternative is. It’s conceivable we could try to have a hurry-up election. It’s a good question. I have asked it several times myself.”
Measure AA and Measure BB are two of four local ballot initiatives that will be decided in the June 5 primary.
The election will also ask voters to decide the city’s position on marijuana sales (Measure CC) and a marijuana sales tax (Measure DD).
The primary election also includes races for the governor’s seat, state attorney general, congressional districts and Los Angeles County sheriff.
The city and School District is being forced to change the way local elections are held due to the California Voter Rights Participation Act (CVRPA), which requires cities with low voter turnouts to change their election dates to increase turnout.
If it passes, Tornek and councilmembers in districts 1, 2, 4 and 6 — Tyron Hampton, Margaret McAustin, Gene Masuda and Steve Madison — would not be up for re-election until 2020.
John Kennedy, Victor Gordo and Andy Wilson, who represent districts 3, 5 and 7, respectively, would face re-election in 2022.
If Measure AA passes, and if a council member or the mayor does not receive more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 2020 primary election, the two top candidates would face off in a runoff election in November, extending the election season by five months, which could lead to voter fatigue.
Under the CVRPA, the school district is also being forced to change the way it handles local elections. Like Measure AA, Measure BB changes the date of local school board elections to match statewide elections, but the measure eliminates runoff elections. The victor would be decided in a plurality vote, the candidate with the most votes wins no matter how small the percentage of the candidate receives.
Measure CC will decide the fate of recreational marijuana in the city for the foreseeable future. In order to stave off opponents of the city’s marijuana dispensary ban, who were making efforts to craft an ordinance that would have taken control of marijuana dispensaries out of the hands of city officials, the council voted to put Measure CC on the ballot. The measure would repeal the city’s ban on marijuana dispensaries and allow up to six dispensaries in the city, but no more than one dispensary could be placed in each of the city’s seven council districts. The dispensaries must be at least 600 feet away from residential neighborhoods, schools, churches and parks. Plus, dispensaries and cultivators could not operate within 1,000 feet of each other. Nuisance dispensaries, or those that have operated without a license, would be barred from applying for a permit.
“I support it because the city should get an ordinance on the books,” said Shaun Szameit, who operates Golden State Collective on Mentor Avenue.
“There is an option to amend it, so it can be changed in the future. I do think it’s too restrictive,” Szameit said.
Szameit decried the part of the measure that bars dispensaries that have operated illegally, like Golden State Collective, from obtaining a permit.
“I don’t consider myself an illegal operator,” he said. “We are a benefit to the community. We are building a platform where we can give back to the community and they are just taking it away.”
In November 2015, state voters approved Proposition 64, which allows for the recreational use of marijuana and its sale for those purposes to people 21 and older. More than 60 percent of voters favored the proposition.
Measure DD would establish a tax base for marijuana-related business. Retail businesses would be taxed at 6 percent, and all other marijuana-related businesses would pay 4 percent.
“The related tax measure is needed to generate revenues that can be applied to ensuring the city’s regulations are adhered to, working to close illegal dispensaries and providing education to young people about the health risks of using marijuana.” said City Manager Steve Mermell.
Despite predictions of a massive revenue infusion from cannabis, Tornek does not see marijuana filling city coffers.
“I don’t see it as a big revenue source,” Tornek said. “We would never permit that many dispensaries. I see us getting more money out of Airbnb than marijuana.”
“The city-sponsored ballot measure is a reasonable, logical and measured approach to satisfying state law and complying with the wishes of the voter in Pasadena,” said Councilman Kennedy, who also serves as vice mayor.
In other elections, one of President Trump’s biggest critics, US Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena) is facing Democratic opponent Sal Genovese for the fourth time in the 28th congressional district race, Republican challenger and Trump supporter Johnny Nalbandian has also thrown his hat into political ring.
In the 27th Congressional District, which includes Pasadena, former Pasadena City Council candidate and South Pasadena Police Officer Bryan Witt will face incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu.
Locals will also be voting in the county sheriff’s election between incumbent Jim McDonnell and challengers Alex Villanueva and Bob Lindsay.
When McDonnell ran four years ago, he promised he would restore integrity to the department in light of scandals in jails involving former Sheriff Lee Baca and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, McDonnell’s opponent in the last election. Both Baca and Tanaka were sentenced to prison time for their roles in the scandal.
Since then, McDonnell has backed a Civilian Oversight Commission approved by the LA County Board of Supervisors.
“It’s a new day,” McDonnell told the Pasadena Weekly’s sister paper The Argonaut. “We start looking at restoring the shine on the badge, if you will. What that really comes down to is restoring the trust of the public we serve and the pride and the morale of the men and women of the organization as well.”
McDonnell — a former Long Beach Police Chief — is the first outsider to lead the department. Villanueva calls himself a game changer and promises to dig deep in the department. He claims that most 30-year veterans that were under Baca and Tanaka would leave the department those that remained would be subjected to an one-on-one interviews.
“I’d want to know what they did during the reign of terror of Baca and Tanaka,” Villanueva told WitnessLA.
Lindsay joined the department in 1978 and retired in 2011.
“In this time of complex law enforcement issues, the community deserves transparency, can handle truth, and doesn’t need a politically motivated solution packaged to mislead the residents of the county,” said Lindsay on his website. “A speech claiming reform is nothing without the accompanying proof that the measures taken were wise, the results fair and the solutions fruitful.”
Democratic incumbent Xavier Becerra is squaring off against Democratic State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Republicans Steven Bailey and Eric Early in the state Attorney General contest.
In the race for governor, Democrats Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, State Treasurer John Chiang and Republican Businessman John Cox are running to replace Jerry Brown.
The top two vote getters will square off in the general election on Nov. 6.