Marijuana questions to dominate Alamosa ballot this November

© 2017-Alamosa News

ALAMOSA — Alamosa voters will face numerous questions on their city ballots this November ranging from marijuana to council compensation.

Although not always unanimous in their views, Alamosa city councilors on Wednesday night voted on ballot questions that will be presented to voters in the city limits this fall.

The council has no say over two of the questions, presented by citizen initiative: 1) asking voters if they wish to allow medical marijuana stores in the city limits; and 2) if they wish to allow retail marijuana stores in the city limits.

However, the council had a choice of whether or not to place questions on the ballot seeking specific taxes for medical and/or retail marijuana stores if voters approve such establishments in the city. The council decided on a split vote not to seek additional taxes for medical marijuana sales but to seek 5 percent additional taxes on retail marijuana sales, if residents vote to permit them in the city. The additional tax would be used to mitigate any effects the marijuana sales might have on the city, such as increased law enforcement.

Alamosa Mayor Josef Lucero and Councilman Michael Stefano voted against the 0-tax proposal for medical marijuana sales, as they were in favor of requesting a 2-percent tax on medical marijuana sales, which is the wording staff originally proposed to the council Wednesday night. However, when the block of ballot issues came to a vote, both voted in favor of the slate of ballot questions, which included the marijuana-related questions.

The council was unanimous in: asking voters to give the city more leeway in partnering with broadband providers, a ballot question specifically titled “SB-152 opt out; posing a question amending the city charter to allow non-residents who work, own property or own businesses in the city to serve on advisory boards, except for the planning commission or personnel board; and asking voters to repeal a charter requirement for performance bonds on construction projects over $5,000, which would allow more local companies the opportunity to bid on city projects.

A final ballot question that will be posed by the city will be to seek an increase in compensation for city councilors and the mayor. The council was split 4-3 in deciding to place this question on the ballot, with Lucero, Stefano and Councilors Charles Griego and Jan Vigil voting to place it on the ballot and Councilors Kristina Daniel, Liz Thomas Hensley and Ty Coleman voting against it. Voters will be asked to increase council compensation from $4,800 to $7,200 per year and mayor compensation from $7,200 to $9,600 a year with the compensation to be adjusted in the future passed on the Consumer Price Index which operates similarly to cost of living.

In addition to the ballot questions, voters will decide council and mayoral races between the following candidates: Mayor Lucero and Councilman/Mayor Pro Tem Coleman for mayor; Councilor Daniel and contender David Broyles for Ward 2; and Councilor Stefano and contender Michael Carson for Ward 4. Councilman Vigil is unopposed in his bid for re-election as councilor at large.

Ballot questions have to be provided to the county clerk by Friday, Sept. 8, to be included in the combined mail out election this fall, with votes tallied on November 7.

Councilman Coleman encouraged residents to go to the city’s web site for more information about the ballot questions and encouraged everyone to vote. He said ballot questions can sometimes be difficult to understand, but the city’s web site provides information on each question that will help voters understand what they are about. (See cityofalamosa.org)

Most of the council debate over the ballot questions Wednesday night revolved around the tax questions for marijuana. Councilman Griego said he initially believed a 2-percent tax on medical marijuana sales was appropriate but after receiving input from community members he believed the city should not seek any additional tax on medical marijuana sales and 5 percent additional tax on retail sales.

After learning that no taxes are charged on prescription medicines, Councilor Daniel said she did not believe the city should ask for an additional tax on medical marijuana either, because it is used as a medicine for many people.

Councilor Hensley also favored zero tax on medical marijuana because of its medicinal use but believed seeking an additional 5-percent tax on retail marijuana sales was appropriate, as that is the average tax other communities are levying on retail marijuana sales. She said if voters approve medical marijuana sales, and there are more enforcement or other problems as a result, the council could ask voters in a subsequent election for a tax on medical marijuana.

Lucero said, “I think the 2 percent is a justifiable tax in my mind. Whether it’s for medical or not, let’s remember marijuana is still illegal at the federal level even if it’s legal in Colorado.”

Prior to the council’s discussion about ballot questions, during the public comment portion of the meeting Andrew Hobbs urged the council not to seek any extra tax on medical marijuana sales, as that would put greater hardship on people who needed medical marijuana and were already having trouble paying for it.

Shanna Hobbs, who led the initiative to place marijuana questions on the ballot, also asked the city council not to pursue additional taxes for medical marijuana. She said the county does not impose additional taxes on medical marijuana, and she asked the city not to either.

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