Updated: Voters approve Ypsilanti marijuana proposal; city charter revision fails with close vote
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
With all of the precincts reporting, 74 percent of Ypsilanti registered voters approved the proposal to redirect police efforts away from enforcing laws against marijuana use in the city of Ypsilanti. The city charter revision that would have effectively eliminated partisan elections failed with 50 percent against the revision and 49 percent in favor.
Results showed 5,635 voters favored the marijuana proposal and 1,914 against it.
Tom Perkins | AnnArbor.com
Ypsilanti residents voted on the following question:
- "Shall the Ypsilanti City Charter be amended such that the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21 years or older is the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel?"
- "Shall the City of Ypsilanti Home Rule Charter, proposed by the Ypsilanti Charter Revision Commission be adopted?"
- Addition of a provision prohibiting council from increasing its compensation by more than the rate of inflation.
- Elimination of a provision placing a charter revision question in front of voters every 16 years.
- Requiring the city clerk to report to the city manager instead of city council.
The marijuana initiative was organized by the Eastern Michigan University student organization Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Ypsilanti Lowest Law Enforcement Priority initiative.
In May, the groups announced their efforts to secure enough votes for the initiative. Chuck Ream, political director of the LLEP, provided most of the funding for the campaign to secure votes.
Other cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and Kalamazoo all passed LLEP initiatives, LLEP organizer Chuck Ream said in November 2011, Kalamazoo voters by a nearly 2-1 margin voted to make the crime of the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis by adults the lowest priority of law enforcement employees.
Ream told AnnArbor.com in May his goal was to exceed the Kalamazoo vote with more than 70 percent of voters being in favor of it.
“We’re going to top that,” Ream said at the time. “We’re going to have at least 75 percent of the vote. There’s no question. I won’t let it fail.”
Council Member Brian Robb said council wasn't necessarily against the measure, but he believes the passing of the proposal will not change anything.
"I don't think it means anything," Robb said. "This is how we've always sort of treated it. We passed the whole medical marijuana thing 75 to 80 percent."
Council Member Ricky Jefferson said with medicinal marijuana already being sold at dispensaries in the city, he wasn't too surprised to see the voters overwhelmingly in support.
"It's a lot of pressure on the police department," Jefferson said.
City Charter revision
Ypsilanti voters decided on the city charter revision that has a variety of changes. Some said those changes were not clearly explained on the ballot, including a switch from the heavily democratic city’s elections from partisan to non-partisan.
Results for the charter revision were extremely close throughout the night, but ultimately 2,983 voted no and 2,969 voted yes.
The ballot question was:
Other proposed changes include:
The revision also included other changes that officials described as housekeeping items and updates to the language.
Yet, the most controversial portion of the revision is the change of Ypsilanti’s elections from partisan to non-partisan. Ypsilanti is estimated to be more than two-thirds Democratic and currently has partisan elections and primaries.
Jefferson said he was surprised to see how close the votes were for the revision.
"I'm surprised it's close because I didn't realize how much information people were receiving on it," Jefferson said. "The majority of voters I talked to in Ward 1 voted against it."
Jefferson and Robb said the change from partisan to non-partisan would have had a huge impact on the city.
The commission, who proposed the revision, was comprised of four Republicans, four Democrats and an Independent.
Independent former Mayor Cheryl Farmer, who helped craft the current charter, and Democrat John Gawlas were the lone votes against the proposed change on the provision.
Democrat William Fennel was not present at the last vote. Democrats Robert Doyle and former Ypsilanti Public Schools Superintendent James Hawkins joined Republicans Karen Quinlan-Valvo, James Fink, long time local activist Peter Fletcher and Chair Kim Porter-Hoppe in voting for proposing non-partisan elections.
Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2548 or KatreaseStafford@annarbor.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @KatreaseS.