By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Marijuana ban will be lone proposition on this May's ballot

Candidates can file to run for council and school board beginning Thursday


Valdez Star file photo

A ballot measure to outlaw commercial marijuana sales in Valdez was spearheaded last summer by Carl Hedman and will be on the ballot in this May's municipal elections.

Have you ever wanted to run for an elected position in city government?

If so, now is the time to begin the process to run for a seat on the city council or board of education because Valdez is heading into election season.

It is also a good time to make sure you are properly registered to vote, because the elections are slated for May 2.

Three seats will be open for city council and three for the board of education.

Anyone hoping to run can begin by picking up a petition from the city clerk's office this Thursday.

"People that want to run, they actually have to come in person," said Allie Ferko, the city's deputy city clerk.

The Office of City Clerk is responsible for running elections in Valdez.

The petition to run for school board or city council is fairly easy. It requires the potential candidate to pick up a nominating petition in person from the clerk's office and return it by March 15, with the signature of at least 25 qualified voters.

Other requirements are nominal: you must be a one-year or longer resident of Valdez and also be registered to vote.

The two-year terms of council members Lon Needles, Ryan McCune and Lea Cockerham are up this May. It is not yet known if these council members will run for re-election.

The terms of school board members Darryl Verfaillie, Alan Sorum and Bill Connell are also expiring.

All candidates for board of education will - if elected - serve a term of three years.

City council seats are different this year. In the past, council member terms were for two years. In the 2016 elections, voters approved a proposition to increase city council terms to three years. In the 2017 election, one of the three council seats will be for three years, and two of the seats will be for two-year terms.

"We're doing a graduated" process to implement the new three-year long terms for city council, Ferko said.

She also said that information on casting an absentee ballot will published by the city in late March.

There will be only one proposition on the upcoming ballot.

"That, Proposition #1, will be the only one on the ballot," Ferko confirmed Tuesday morning.

Proposition 1 - if passed by voters - will effectively ban the sale of commercial marijuana and all cultivation facilities within the city limits of Valdez and for a ten-mile radius outside the city limits.

Voters cannot prohibit the private possession of use of marijuana under state law, which does contain limits on the amount of pot a person can grow and possess for personal use.

Proposition 1 is on the ballot because of a citizen's initiative spearheaded by a local pastor, Carl Hedman.

The measure would require the city's existing marijuana establishments - Herbal Outfitters and two licensed cultivation facilities - to shut their doors within 90-days of its passage.

In 2014, Alaska voters approved legalizing recreational use of marijuana for people 21 and older with the expectation that it would be regulated like alcohol.

In Valdez, the city council is also the local regulatory body governing commercial marijuana. It chose to govern commercial sales, growing operations, testing facility and manufacturing under the city's zoning regulations.

However, the regulations allow municipalities to opt out. The measure to legalize commercial marijuana statewide was passed by Valdez voters by a ratio of almost two to one in the statewide elections.

Anyone looking for additional information on the upcoming municipal elections is encouraged to contact the city clerk's office at city hall or visit the city's website.

Valdez Star file photo

The new voting machines leased by the City of Valdez will be used in the next municipal elections.


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