Kenai council comes out against tax cap

No action taken against pot initiative

Posted: Monday, October 23, 2000

The Kenai City Council has come out against Ballot Measure 4, the proposed 10 mill tax cap initiative that will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot. The council did not, however, take any action -- pro or con -- regarding the proposed legalization of marijuana initiative.

Mayor John Williams brought the two resolutions before the council on Thursday, saying the city needed to speak out against legalizing hemp and limiting local government's ability to tax its residents. The council moved its regular Wednesday meeting to Thursday in observance of Alaska Day.

Ballot Initiative 5 would do away with civil and criminal penalties for people who use marijuana and other hemp products and would regulate the drug like alcohol. Possession of marijuana for personal use was legal in the state for 15 years until 1990, when a ballot initiative made it illegal again.

Council member Linda Swar-ner said she will vote no on the initiative come election day, but could not support the city's resolution.

"I have a hard time as the council telling citizens how to vote," Swarner said.

"I feel the general public has a right to say 'yea' or 'nay' on any initiative," said council member Jim Bookey.

Council member Pat Porter agreed.

"I don't mind publicly stating that I'm against it, and I will vote no, but I don't feel as a council we can tell people how to vote," she said. "I think marijuana and drugs are horrid, and never in my life have I smoked one or inhaled."

Williams said the legalization of marijuana would go against federal law and may jeopardize federal highway funds to the state.

"That is a major economic fact facing the state of Alaska," he said.

"I have stood up before and said we have a major drug problem in our community and our state," he added. "We in public office have a duty to say this is wrong."

One council member, Bill Frazer, joined Williams in voting for the resolution against Proposition 5.

"I, too, will vote no against this initiative, and I will support this resolution," he said. "I believe we need to take a stand."

The mayor's resolution went down to defeat 2-5, with Frazer and Williams the only votes in favor.

When the council addressed Initiative 4, it appeared it would go down to the same defeat, though after a lengthy process of rewording certain passages, the council approve it unanimously.

Ballot Initiative 4 would bar municipalities across the state from imposing any property tax above 10 mills, or 1 percent of a home's assessed value. A 10 mill tax is the equivalent of $1,000 on a $100,000 home.

The changes, suggested by council member Duane Bannock, involved replacing "Ballot Measure 4" in the title and resolution paragraphs with "any new statewide imposed tax cap."

References to Ballot Measure 4 were left in the body of the resolution as "statements of facts that educate people on the issue," Bannock said.

The council did not address the other four propositions that will appear on the general election ballot, which includes Ballot Measure 1, a constitutional amendments prohibiting voter initiatives on wildlife management; Measure 2, a constitutional amendment barring the courts from changing the language in proposed constitutional amendments; Measure 3, a constitutional amendment that would require the Alaska Permanent Fund be managed by a public corporation; and Measure 6, that asks voters if they want to approve or reject a bill that passed the legislature allowing land and shoot wolf hunting.

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