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Pot Effectively Legalized In Santa Cruz

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In a big defeat for organized labor, Santa Cruz voters tonight trashed a measure to boost the minimum wage in the city to $9.25 an hour. But another controversial initiative that would all but legalize pot smoking for adults passed easily.

If the wage measure had passed, Santa Cruz's minimum wage would have been 23 percent higher than the state minimum beginning in January. While the measure drew wide support from labor unions and low-income workers, local business people said it defied the laws of economics.

If the marijuana initiative is upheld by the courts, police will be forced to make marijuana crimes their "lowest priority."

Two other measures aimed at controlling growth at the University of California-Santa Cruz sailed to victory, and a measure to permanently raise Santa Cruz's sales tax to 8.5 percent also passed.

Meanwhile, city council members Cynthia Mathews and Mike Rotkin handily won re-election, with neighborhood activist Lynn Robinson taking the third open council seat. Bruce Van Allen, Chris Cobb and Simba Kenyatta trailed badly.

Rotkin and Mathews, both longtime council members, argued that Santa Cruz couldn't afford to lose their experience during fiscally scary times. The four non-incumbents contended that the city needed fresh ideas and fresh faces.

Measure G, the minimum-wage initiative, was the hottest measure on the Santa Cruz ballot. Backers argued that the lowest-paid workers deserve a boost in pay because they live in one of the nation's priciest housing markets. Opponents claimed that having an only-in-Santa Cruz minimum wage would make it nearly impossible for locally owned businesses to compete.

Measure K, the marijuana initiative, was put on the ballot with the help of pot-smoking billionaire Peter Lewis of Cleveland. Proponents said police needed to spend less time arresting pot smokers and more time focusing on serious crime.

But Santa Cruz police accused Measure K supporters of blowing smoke. Police officers argued that the measure would make it harder to do their jobs and send a message to teens that it was cool to smoke dope.

Measure I, one of the two initiatives aimed at reining in UC-Santa Cruz growth, requires the council to oppose all increases in the university's student enrollment until the university pays "the full costs of mitigating past and future growth impacts."

A companion initiative, Measure J, amends the city charter to require Santa Cruz residents to vote to approve new water and sewer hookups in areas outside the city limits. Most of the new growth at UC-Santa Cruz is expected to be outside the city's boundary lines.



NewsHawk: _qWERTY - 420 Magazine
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Pubdate: Wed, 08 Nov 2006
Copyright: 2006 San Jose Mercury News
Contact: letters@mercurynews.com
Website: MercuryNews.com : Bay Area news, technology, jobs, cars & real estate
 
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