The Ketchikan City Council took a stand against state Ballot Proposition 2 on Thursday by approving a resolution that urges local residents to vote no on the initiative that seeks to legalize marijuana in Alaska.
The resolution opposing Proposition 2 was part of the Council’s consent agenda. That part of the meeting is dedicated to items that the Council approves without debate, because it’s assumed that everyone agrees.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Eric Muench took issue with that assumption.
“This item should not be in the consent agenda to start with, as though there cannot possibly be any other view to consider,” he said. “That, I believe, was an arrogant assumption on the part of whoever put the agenda together.”
Muench said the Council should not try to influence voters. He added that marijuana can be used safely by adults, and keeping it illegal creates unnecessary criminal charges.
“The most beneficial effect of prohibition is to keep lots of law enforcement people, lawyers and testing labs busy, at great public expense, even though it does no long-term good,” he said.
When the consent agenda came up for a vote, Council Member KJ Harris said he kind of agrees with Muench, although Harris didn’t ask for the Proposition 2 resolution to be voted on separately. Harris said he’s heard from constituents on this issue.
“And many of them don’t want to say out loud how they feel,” he said. “One person is married to a police officer and she didn’t want to make her opinion vocal and in public. I’m not saying yea or nay, I just understand how a lot of people don’t want to say out loud how they feel.”
Council Member DeAnn Karlson also addressed the issue, and said she has mixed feelings about legalization of marijuana. Karlson said if it’s available in a parent’s home, kids are more likely to get hold of it; but at the same time she doesn’t want to tell adults how to behave in their own homes. She also expressed concern about people driving under the influence of marijuana.
“There’s so many caveats to it. It’s a moving target,” she said. “I don’t know how something like this can be legislated. I guess we’ll just wait and see how things pan out.”
In other business, the Council talked about community agency grant funding, an annual concern during budget time. Council Member Harris asked for it to be on the agenda as a discussion item, so the Council could talk about whether the city should hold grants at the current level, cut them or stick with the formula.
The funding formula for nonprofit grants provides a percentage of sales tax receipts to be divvied up among the recipients. City Manager Karl Amylon said that, because the Council chose to raise sales taxes, the projected amount for grants is expected to be higher.
“Using the same formula, projecting for 2015, recognizing that the Council increased the sales tax rate, we would project a $390,000 appropriation for community agency funding, or a percentage increase of 8.9 percent,” he said.
Council Member Matt Olsen said the formula was established by the Council just a few years ago, and he wants to give it a chance to work.
Council Member Judy Zenge said she’d like to look at options, such as funding some of the nonprofits through the city’s share of the state cruise ship head tax.
Council Member Karlson said the city gets beat up when it spends money, and when it doesn’t spend money. She said she had been wondering why nonprofits can’t be more self-sufficient, but some comments by a citizen earlier in the meeting made her realize that the agencies have a trickle-down benefit for the community.
That citizen was Chuck Slagle, who asked the Council to consider how much nonprofit agencies contribute to Ketchikan.
“There’s a lot of people that have mental problems, health problems, family problems that end up being embraced by a church or nonprofit agency and doesn’t end up costing us, doesn’t end up at the hospital,” he said. “There’s a lot of leveraging that goes on. You don’t see Rasmuson standing here offering you money. Rasmuson is offering the nonprofits money. It’s the enthusiasm of the nonprofits and their volunteers that are bringing this money to town. They’re true multipliers.”
The City Council did not direct Amylon to change the established funding formula for the draft budget.
Also during public comment, the Council heard from Rob Holston. He objected to some of the television programming available for an extra fee through Ketchikan Public Utilities Telecommunications. Holston said that a city-owned company shouldn’t offer pornography.
The Council did not address that issue during the meeting.