Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fidalgo Democrates Debate Fall Ballot issues

Former Chief of the SPD - Norman Stamper -
advocates for I 502 legalizing marijuana use.

Related links:

 I 1240 (charter schools)

I 502 (marijuana legalization) 


R 74 (marriage equality) 

Both those debating "for" and "against" these  ballot issues were well informed, passionate and effective in their presentations.   Although I was pretty sure how I would vote,  the debates  made me question my assumptions.

Initiative 502 - Legalization of Marijuana 

Former Seattle Police Chief Norman Stamper made a formidable case for legalizing and regulating marijuana claiming it would:
     -free police to spend more time on violent crimes.
    - increase tax revenues by as much as 5 billion.
    - weaken the Mexican drug cartels.
Stamper proposed that some of the increase in tax revenues should be spent on educating youth about drug use.  He reported that "kids are responsive to education that is honest about health risks to brain development".

NOT SO FAST warned our local Skagit County Sheriff Will Reichardt.  The Sheriff found devils in the details of I 502.  The law is legally problematic.  The State Attoney General and Governor will not support  legalization because it conflicts with Federal laws.  Likewise neither Gubernatorial Candidate Jay Inslee nor Matt McKenna support the law.   Reichardt questioned the effects of the law on drug cartels.  Since the regulated outlets would charge $350/oz  for marijuana +  45% in taxes the cost to marijuana user of $507/oz would be well above the street prices ranging between $250 - $300/oz.   Reichardt spoofed the idea that at those prices the State stores could compete with the current black market.   One high school teacher was concerned about Students being derailed by a criminal record after experimenting with marijuana.    I asked how many people in Skagit county were arrested for marijuana possession last year.   Sheriff Reichardt cited 265 arrested on misdemeanor charges - most of which did not go to court.

These two law officers cited conflicting examples of what effects marijuana legalization would have on usage.  Since  there are 300,000 in the State of WA that take marijuana in some form, we seem to need more information on this subject.

Initiative 1240 - Authorization of Charter Schools

     The Executive Director  of Seattle based Partnership for Learning  - Jana Carlisle - endorsed the creation of charter schools in our State.   She addressed some of the common criticism of Charter Schools.  The Charter Schools would be tuition free and open to all.   Financial support would follow the child not the school.   Charter School teachers would have the same certification requirements as traditional public school teachers.  There would be oversight to ensure academic standards.  She believes Charter Schools would provide more options especially for low achieving student as they did in Harlem.   However, an article in the Sept 2nd New York Times gave the Harlem Charter Schools very mixed reviews.    Carlisle argued that Charter Schools for minority students were a civil right, but I think that is a bit of a stretch.  Children have a right to a good education not necessarily a certain form. 

Anacortes' long time School Board member Mike Stark opposed the formation of Charter Schools.  Mr Stark was named Anacortes' Patron of the Arts for his years of support of art education for children.   He warned that Charter schools start out as non-profit entities and then turn to private sources for funding.   With support from a religious organizations the Charter School could promote religion rather than the secular education normally provided by the State.  Mr Stark did not find anything in the Charter Schools that would help special needs kids for whom the WA school system is responsible.   Most in the audience agreed with Mr. Stark's concern that charter schools would adversely impact the public schools revenues. 

Referendum 74  - Defending Marriage Equality.

Stephani Couturo, a social worker from Bellingham,  asked the audience to support marriage equality by voting FOR  R74 because Domestic Partnership legal rights do not hold up in other States or Countries.   She assured us that the Clergy and those involved in the wedding business will still have the choice whether or not to participate in a wedding ceremony.   Most in the audience were sympathetic.   

Josheph Kebble, a libertarian, had an unusual reason for opposing R74.   He felt marriage should not be defined by the government.  Government should only enforce contracts.  It should not force you to recognize his marriage nor he to recognize yours. 

  Because I believe in separation of Church and State,  I too wish marriages could be left to the churches - all of whom would have different requirements according to their custom - some supporting same sex marriage, some not.  Concordantly  the Government would just provide civil unions for everyone.  My GLBT friends said that would be good if it were possible but that our legal code includes thousands  of rights that are embedded with the word "marriage".   So my plan B is to vote for R 74. 

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