By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
That may seem a strange stance, given that more than 100 medical marijuana outlets legally operate in L.A.
But under the law, the dispensaries are considered collectives where growers of marijuana theoretically take their plants and are reimbursed for them.
Several cities have passed laws taxing medical marijuana, including San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Berkeley. But Carter says those city councils did so without the approval of their city attorneys.
"People want to use Oakland and San Francisco as an example, but their law enforcement agencies are looking the other way," he says. "We are not looking the other way."
When asked if voter approval of the failed Proposition 19 would have changed matters, Carter simply says, "Yes. But it did not pass."
Some L.A. residents find the idea of taxing profits from medical marijuana absurd.
"I am for legal marijuana," says Jeffrey Arzouman, who says he has smoked pot in public. "But to tax it? It's still considered illegal. Proposition 19 didn't pass. What's the next thing? They are gonna tax the crack dealers on Grape Street?"
Others say the idea came from City Hall too soon. "If they make it legal, then I am all for taxing it," says Caryl Kim, a store owner on Third Street in L.A. "But if it's illegal, it doesn't seem fair."
One rushed ballot measure brainchild, from Councilman Herb Wesson, would ask voters to approve a 12 percent tax on purchases of billboard ad space. The money would be sent to the city's empty General Fund. Wesson and others had hoped to bring in $24 million the first year.
But as the Weekly previously reported, antiblight activist Dennis Hathaway says that if voters approve the tax, it will have a negative unintended consequence: The money-hungry City Council will become attached to thousands of illegally erected billboards that council members have repeatedly vowed — and failed — to remove from L.A.'s cluttered skyline.
"That's the danger," Hathaway told the Weekly. "If the City Council starts looking at billboards as revenue, it will decrease the incentive to reduce billboards."
Beyond the issue of the extensive visual pollution, none of the massive illegal billboards has been inspected for earthquake safety.
They rejected putting Wesson's proposal on the 2011 ballot — because outdoor advertising firms such as Clear Channel Outdoor, CBS Outdoor, Regency and major advertisers and business leaders opposed it.
Another ballot measure that may or may not appear on the March ballot is intended to restore the city's devastated library system, which the Weekly wrote about in its September cover story "City of Airheads."
How it ended up in the last-minute crush of possible ballot measures shows how voters are sometimes asked to make hard decisions that the City Council refuses to deal with — in this case, defying Antonio Villaraigosa over his library budget slashing.
The Weekly story detailed the unusually severe 2010 library cuts made by Villaraigosa and approved by the City Council, even as they maintained their own lavish staffs and funded pet projects. The article resulted in national criticism of Villaraigosa and the council.
Los Angeles is the only significant U.S. city that closes its entire library system two days each week, and the only big American city, other than Detroit, that closes its vaunted central library two days a week.
The Weekly discovered that the Garcetti-led Los Angeles City Council was the only city council, among the top U.S. cities, to fail to fight or even resist severe mayoral budget cuts to public libraries. The New York City Council, for example, fought and reversed many of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed cuts.
In September, council members Tom LaBonge and Hahn came up with a motion to delay an unusual Villaraigosa requirement that forces the Los Angeles Public Library system to pay the DWP for the libraries' huge utility bill. The forced utility payments have drained the public library's budget.
But the LaBonge-Hahn motion never got before the City Council. It was held up by the City Council's Energy and Environment Committee — made up of chairwoman Jan Perry, Tony Cardenas, Richard Alarcon, Paul Krekorian and Koretz. "It's out of our hands," says LaBonge spokeswoman Stephanie Mar.
Watching the library rescue motion essentially die in committee, Bernard Parks met with Los Angeles Public Library City Librarian Martin Gomez and decided to go instead directly to L.A. voters.
His idea, backed by LaBonge, would raise the City Charter–mandated funding for the public libraries to about the same level as the Department of Recreation and Parks. Since the ballot measure doesn't include new taxes, money would be shifted from other areas. Says Councilman Parks' spokesman Dennis Gleason, "It would change the City Charter and ask for better protections."
Gleason says Garcetti helped fast-track the proposal. But time is running out, showing how dicey the last-minute crush of ballot measures is.
The language is still being written by the city attorney and is supposed to come before the council at the last possible moment: November 16.