Saturday, November 20, 2010

The City of Los Angeles

A few weeks ago many things have been afoot in the City Of Los Angeles. Many of the ballot measures were voted on a few weeks ago in city council, and before that written by the City Attorney's Office. There were some controversial things, like an excise tax on oil, and taxing medical marijuana that were discussed as well as some important reforms, like DWP reforms.
On Tuesday's council meeting a lot got accomplished. In the morning, council voted to put on the ballot a measure to create more funding for the City's libraries so they can stay open longer and more days of the week. The councilmembers were very happy and positive about this measure, however other departments in the city had to lay down the facts. The city is in debt and we will definitely not have a surplus of money next year. So, the City Administrative Officer, Miguel Santana (CAO)tried to explain to the councilmembers that in order for this to work they would have to move money allocated to one area to the libraries. Even after this warning, the measure was still voted on to be on the ballot this March.
Another important package of ballot measures were voted on for DWP reform. One of the measures was put off until Wednesday. They will be on the ballot seperately, but the council looked at them in a package. The DWP reform would essentially establish someone they would have to account to. It would also establish a rate payer advocate. Councilmember Tom LaBonge likened some of the reforms to the establishment of the Christopher commission under Mayor Bradley, which effectively got out most of the corruption in the LAPD. That's essentially what council wants to do with the DWP.
The last item on the agenda for that Tuesday meeting was the taxation of medical marijuana. Although, not much was discussed about it that week, before there were discussions about it's legality ( a disclaimer I do not necessarily agree with the opinion's about the council, I'm just illustrating the legal issues). What I could surmise from this discussion is that you can't tax medical marijuana because people aren't supposed to be selling it in the first place. If you wanted to tax their gross receipts and it would apply to utilities. etc, known as reimbursements. But, as another kicker, since the collectives are non-profits they can't be subjugated to a gross receipts tax under state law. And then we have the federal government who says medical marijuana is illegal. So, this law, if passed, is preempted by both the state and federal governments. All in all, this ballot measure doesn't seem to hold water legally, but we'll see if this is explained well enough to the voters. It took me around half an hour to have this explained to me and I still don't quite grasp it all.
Later in this same week, another item was proposed to put on the ballot a sort of excise tax on oil. Basically, the companies would pay money to take oil out of Los Angeles. The ironic aspect of this item is that it was proposed by Councilmember Hahn, but she was the only one who voted against it. So, that is another thing you will see on your ballot.

You can watch these council meetings here:
on a side note, you can see me in the meeting for Tuesday if you click on item no. 14 on the scroll bar. I'm in the audience during the public comment in a white shirt)

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