Voters Decide on Local Measures

Voters Approve New Medical Marijuana Limits, Library Bond Measure

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Measure FF

Measure FF, the proposal to fund the renovation of Berkeley's four branch libraries, passed with 67.7 percent of the vote, barely surpassing the two-thirds majority needed.

Updating the branch libraries, some of which have not been remodeled in 40 years, will bring the structures into compliance with seismic laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Historic features of the structures will also be restored as part of the retrofitting.

"Our library provides so much in terms of empowerment and education, to have our libraries ... here for our current and future generations, it means so much as a democracy, as a city," said Roxanne Figueroa, executive director of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation.

The renovations, which proponents said are needed to preserve the libraries as community resources, will be funded by a 30-year bond that will raise $26 million through property taxes.

Over the 30-year life of the bonds, the annual tax of a home is expected to be approximately $27 per year.

Those who opposed the measure had argued that making residents foot the bill in an uncertain economy is unfair.

But UC Berkeley student Derek Magnuson said the amount to fund the libraries is minimal.

"It didn't seem like that much money to pay per resident," he said. "It costs a lot more to rebuild than to retrofit."

-Alexandra Wilcox

Measure GG

Measure GG, which enables the city to improve emergency medical response and disaster preparedness at the cost of a minor property tax, passed with 71.6 percent of the vote, more than the two-thirds majority vote required.

Measure GG stipulates that the $3.6 million raised in the tax's first full year would go toward eliminating the rolling closures currently planned for fire stations due to a lack of funding.

Christine Smith, a UC Berkeley junior and campaign manager for the measure, said their victory was unexpected.

"You hope for it and you work for it, but I was still scared to hope for it," she said. "It's so amazing."

A possible reason for the outcome is Berkeley residents' concern about their safety. Susan Klee, a local resident, said she voted for fear of her home's vulnerability to fire.

"I think we need as much protection, especially on fire," she said. "I live in a woodsy neighborhood and its a big concern."

Smith said that many firefighters were excited to hear the results.

"They're incredibly happy that it went so well and that our volunteers were able to bring out the vote," he said. "It's incredible that everyone believes in the firefighters and public safety so much."

-Emily Grospe

Measure HH

Measure HH, a Berkeley initiative to maintain higher levels of property tax to pay for city services, was passed by 76.9 percentage of Berkeley voters.

The measure allows for the renewal of tax increases instituted between 1988 and 1998 to pay for libraries, city parks, emergency medical services and medical services for severely disabled people. Without Measure HH, these tax increases were set to expire.

According to the city attorney's analysis of the measure, taxes to pay for the services will not be increased and will remain at levels that city voters already approved in the past.

Opponents, on the other hand, have said the city could pay for these same services through the general fund, adding that the extra taxes did not help increase funding for the city services.

But proponents, including Mayor Tom Bates, argued that the measure will result in millions of dollars in tax revenue, which will be directed to those essential services. Other voters said there was simply no reason to oppose the measure.

"Yes I voted for it because there was no opposition," said Berkeley resident Jon Squire. "It wasn't one that was controversial."

-Kelly Fitzpatrick

Measure II

Measure II, which will give the city of Berkeley additional time to redraw district lines after the national census, passed with the support of 77.9 percent of voters yesterday.

The city will now have until Dec. 31 of the third year after the census is taken to redraw district boundaries. The measure is intended to give the city time to fully evaluate the census data and ensure fair redistricting.

The measure was created in response to the time crunch the city faced while redistricting after the 2000 census.

The city was previously required to adopt its new districts at the end of the year after the decennial census.

Passage of this measure will not incur any additional financial costs but will simply give city officials more time to redistrict.

There was no noted opposition to the measure.

-Anna Hiatt

Measure JJ

The City of Berkeley passed Measure JJ with a 62.3 percent vote on Tuesday, lifting restrictions on the amount of medical marijuana that a qualified patient or dispensary can possess.

A qualified patient or primary caregiver can now possess and grow unregulated amounts of marijuana, provided that only 10 or fewer of the plants are visible from other properties. Limits for dispensaries have also been eliminated as long as the collectives do not possess beyond a "reasonable quantity" of cannabis, according to the proposed measure.

"I basically voted 'yes' because I don't think that a lack of restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries is that big of a deal," said sophomore Patrick Owens. "Dispensaries have a big enough problem at the federal level with the (Drug Enforcement Administration) infringing upon state laws ... I just thought it was basically going over old territory."

Passing of the measure also creates a Peer Review Committee to ensure that all dispensaries uphold "safety and operational compliance standards." These standards, according to the measure, will be established by the Peer Review Committee.

This comes just over nine months after the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to declare Berkeley a medical marijuana sanctuary, although possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

-Matt Kawahara

Measure KK

Berkeley residents rejected Measure KK yesterday, a local initiative that would have mandated voter approval for an expensive bus rapid transit plan, with 76.5 percent of voters against the measure.

The City Council will now decide to what extent the Bus Rapid Transit Plan, a regional plan to designate a lane specifically for buses and high-occupancy vehicles on various streets, including Telegraph and University Avenues, should be implemented. No specific plan has yet been decided, but the estimated costs are $500,000.

Berkeley resident Anya Shyrokova voted in favor of the measure with the intent to approve the proposed bus plan in the later election, saying the plan would improve the efficiency of the transit system.

"I take the bus a lot, so anything that helps the buses, I'm for," she said.

The City Council voted unanimously against the measure a month prior to yesterday's elections, with some saying that if the proposition had passed, the voting process it would have required would have been cumbersome and expensive.

"My main concern is we could be delayed for years, and if we are delayed for years, that just doesn't serve anybody," said Councilmember Linda Maio. "Also, it's expensive to put things on the ballot."

Regardless of the election's outcome, residents are more aware about the measure's significance because of its presence on the ballot, said Karl Reeh, president of the LeConte Neighborhood Association, who reported voting for the measure.

"I think the main thing that I look at is that this is a victory for the people who started it, because it got attention to the matter by all of Berkeley," he said.

-Deepti Arora

Measure LL

In a blow to members of the Berkeley City Council and local developers, 56.7 percent of Berkeley voters rejected Measure LL, a plan to give the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission greater authority to prohibit demolition of city landmarks.

Under the measure, the commission would have been able to streamline the review process when considering alteration or demolition of buildings with historic landmark status.

But opponents, and the majority of Berkeley residents, thought the process may have given the commission too much power.

Daniella Thompson, board member of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, said she voted against the measure and said the streamlined review process would have compromised the public's ability to review and present evidence for a building's historical merit.

"The timeline proposed really makes it difficult for the public to process, so this is not favorable for preservation," she said.

Other opponents said they did not vote for the measure because they liked the status quo.

"I consider myself a preservationalist, and people who I respect, who hold preservationalist values, also voted no on it," said Berkeley resident Rob Browning. "I think we have a system that works pretty well."

-Carol Yur

Measure VV

A local ballot measure intended to alleviate a $20 million AC Transit budget deficit passed in Alameda County by a wide margin Tuesday.

Measure VV will raise an existing parcel tax on county property owners by $4 to make up for the shortfall caused by rising fuel prices and an ailing economy.

AC Transit officials say the measure is necessary because of the effect the lagging economy had on the bus authority serving Oakland, Berkeley and surrounding areas.

"It seemed like a lot of people rely on public transportation," said Berkeley resident Jamie Erfurdt, who voted in favor of the ballot measure.

Though the measure passed overwhelmingly, many voters expressed reservations about AC Transit's purchase of imported buses from Europe, citing design problems and the possibility the purchase could take work away from American companies.

"The more buses there are, the more likely people are to leave their cars at home," said Berkeley resident George Moore, who said he voted for the measure despite misgivings. "I just wish they ordered buses that gave Americans jobs."

The goal of the measure was to solidify AC Transit service for students and seniors, two groups particularly affected by bus fares. However, opponents of the measure say that conflicts of interest mire these good intentions.

-Zach Williams

Measure WW

Measure WW, which extends the existing $500 million park bond measure, received 268,688 votes yesterday, more than the two-thirds majority it needed to pass from Berkeley voters at the polls yesterday.

The East Bay Regional Park District bond measure will allow the district to continue to finance the restoration of natural habitats, protect wildlife[,] and develop recreational facilities.

Given the city's green lean, the majority of voters supported the measure.

"I'm an environmentalist and I believe it's a good use of funds," said Berkeley resident Aydee Virgen, who voted in favor of the measure. "The Bay Area is growing ... it's getting more important to provide habitats for animals and plants because urbanization is encroaching on them."

Although property tax rates will not increase beyond the present rate of $10 per year, some voters said they did not feel it was the wisest use of funds.

"I voted 'no' mainly because of the spending-I was looking at the fiscal impact and I don't really use the parks that much," said UC Berkeley freshman Nanxi Liu.

-Jessica Kwong

Tags: LOCAL ELECTIONS 2008, ELECTIONS 2008


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