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Election 2022: Voters in 3 cities decide on cannabis tax, mayoral election measures

Orange County Register 6/8/2022 Susan Christian Goulding, The Orange County Register

While Newport Beach voters weighed a proposal to elect their mayor directly, Westminster residents grappled with just the opposite — whether to swap at-large mayoral elections for annual appointments.

Early voting results Tuesday evening indicated Newport Beach voters do not support Measure B, known as the “Elect Our Mayor” initiative. This initiative would amend the city’s charter to have voters directly elect the mayor as opposed to have the position rotate among council members.

On the other hand, so far, Westminster voters appear poised to prefer an elected mayor. Initial returns suggest voters will reject a measure to eliminate the elective office and increase the number of council members.

Voters in both cases had to approve changes to their city charters by a simple majority.

Elections officials will continue counting mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day into next week. So if results are close, it might be several days before it’s clear who made it out of the primary in every race.

The Orange County Registrar of Voters will provide another update at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The Register, at ocregister.com, will provide regular, live updates along with reactions from candidates and experts.

Newport Beach’s mayor holds a largely ceremonial role — rotated among the seven city council members every December. Each council member represents a district, but the number of districts would be reduced to six if future mayors were elected at large.

The number of districts in Westminster, too, would change if Measure C passed — from four to five — with all council representatives elected within their precincts.

Most of Orange County’s smaller cities appoint, rather than elect, their mayors.

Cannabis tax

Huntington Beach’s Measure A tackled a completely different topic: cannabis.

Like almost all cities in Orange County, Huntington Beach prohibits the sale of medical and recreational marijuana. Still, in a sort of preemptive strike, the ballot initiative addresses how to tax cannabis shops should they ever become a reality.

Because it involves taxation, the initiative requires a two-thirds super-majority. Early returns suggested that could happen.

Measure A seeks to impose a special tax of up to 6% on the gross receipts of cannabis retailers. Non-retail cannabis businesses — such as testing labs and distributors — would be taxed at no more than 1%.

The taxes would be earmarked to fund police, homeless prevention, behavioral health services, and intervention programs. A city staff report projected cannabis sales would generate $300,000 to $600,000 annually in tax revenue.

In the six years since California voters legalized marijuana use for adults 21 and over, only two Orange County cities have approved dispensaries. Santa Ana became the first in 2017. Costa Mesa voters chose to legalize cannabis sales there in 2020.

©2022 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit ocregister.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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