Pasadena is asking a judge to erase a controversial ballot initiative from next year’s ballot. And it’s doing so by suing its own officials.
The Mercury News continues
Yes, this is highly unusual. No, the city’s isn’t blaming its employees for the proposed measure which, officials have said, would subvert the city’s marijuana laws to legalize currently illegal cannabis stores.
Right now, the ballot initiative — signed by more than 9,100 Pasadenans — is slated to appear on the March ballot, but city officials are asking the courts to strike it and be quick about it. To make changes to the ballot, officials need a decision from the judge by Christmas Eve, legal filings say.
But, to get this case in front of a judge, the city had to sue itself. So that’s what it did.
It’s an administrative maneuver, where most of the City Council is suing City Clerk Mark Jomsky and the County Registrar of Voters because they’re the ones who would be responsible for making changes to the ballot initiative, City Attorney Michele Bagneris said in an email.
It’s their job to ensure the petition had the correct formatting and met the required number signatures, Jomsky said in an email, but: “Only a court can determine whether the proposed initiative is actually lawful and constitutional, and that is what this lawsuit seeks to determine.”
Jomsky and the county office won’t be defending the initiative in court; that responsibility falls to the initiative’s proponents, George Bernales, Susan Gomez and Alan Jay, who were all named in the suit as “real parties in interest,” Bagneris said.
A lawyer representing the group did not respond in time for publication, but a proponent of the initiative, Shaun Szameit, said it was “criminal for the city to thwart the will of the people.”
The initiative was validated by city and county officials in September and immediately put the city in a defensive posture. The same night officials certified the results — effectively guaranteeing it would appear on the March ballot — the City Council started weighing options, possibly including a competing ballot measure and counter-campaigns.
Officials cited the initiative when they were considering changes to the existing cannabis ordinance last month, saying the city’s bungled retail cannabis application process may actually lead voters to choose the new ordinance.
If voters pass it, the proposed ordinance would legalize as many as 18 illegal cannabis retailers, which currently operate in the city without permits, according to a staff report. Additionally, they wouldn’t be subjected to any of the city’s rules for permitted cannabis retailers — the same rules that are so strict, only four of the intended six businesses have legally compliant storefront locations.