Tax Pot and Save the Parks

Plus, going to the Coliseum is about to get much more expensive, although your trip might be safer — at least for now.

The economic crisis could have one significant upside. It might
convince Californians to legalize marijuana, so it can be taxed and
raise much-needed revenues for the state. Earlier this year,
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco introduced a bill to
decriminalize pot and tax it. And now backers of a measure that would
legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and allow the state
to tax its sales hope to put their initiative on the statewide ballot
next year.

Oaksterdam University, a medical marijuana education center and
dispensary in downtown Oakland, is backing the pot legalization measure
and founded TaxCannibis2010.org, according to the
San Francisco Chronicle. Supporters plan to start gathering
signatures in August. The measure would allow adults to maintain a
small growing space and legally possess up to an ounce of pot for
personal use.

Too bad we can’t pass the measure now. Those marijuana revenues sure
would come in handy before the legislature and the governor slash vital
state services beyond all recognition. State Senate President Pro Tem
Darrell Steinberg, the state’s leading Democrat, told the Chron
that the legislature is ready to go along with nearly all of the more
than $20 billion of cuts proposed by Schwarzenegger. Steinberg said
that the only things Democrats won’t agree to eliminate are health care
for poor children, cash grants to college students, and programs that
help single mothers find jobs. As for the governor’s proposal to close
most of California’s state parks and raid the coffers of city and
county governments? It’s unclear what is going to happen, although we
should find out soon. Steinberg predicted that they’ll have a budget in
place by June 30.

Ticket Prices Are About to Soar

In Oakland, four city council members have decided that one of the
best ways to offset the city’s massive deficit is to raise ticket
prices at all events at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and Oracle
Arena. The plan would add an additional 10 percent tax on tickets at
the two facilities, including Raiders, A’s, and Warriors games, and
concerts, according to the Oakland Tribune. The tax purportedly
would raise about $9 million annually for the city, although there is
strong reason to doubt it will generate that much money. In fact, it
may do more harm than good.

The problem is that tickets are already overpriced, and a new tax
likely will only depress event sales even further. In fact, as the
Express reported last fall, concert promoters cited the existing
city and county 5 percent ticket tax as one of the biggest factors for
why the arena consistently underperforms in comparison to similar
facilities around the nation, including San Jose’s HP Pavilion. So
increasing the ticket tax could actually decrease the total revenues
the city receives from the facilities, rather than increasing them.

Plus, many Coliseum and Arena goers are already going to be digging
deeper into their pockets thanks to the decision by the BART board of
directors to raise fares by 6.1 percent across-the-board. The board
also voted to slash weekend and evening service. In other words, expect
to be stuck at that expensive concert, or ballgame, later than you
wanted.

Crime Is Down, but It May Rise
Again

But it’s not all bad news in Oakland. According to the Trib,
major crimes have dropped 15 percent in comparison to last year.
However, it may not last. The Trib also reports that the Alameda
County Board of Supervisors plans to cut fourteen prosecutors in its
effort to balance the county’s budget. The board also plans to
eliminate 49 positions from the Probation Department, which means that
convicted criminals on probation will have much less supervision,
thereby increasing the likelihood of recidivism. Let’s hope that both
the district attorney and the probation folks prioritize their
resources well. Suggestion — eliminate minor drug crime
prosecutions and relax supervision of those convicted of minor drug
offenses. And, oh yeah, legalize pot.

Express Execs Sued by Ex-Owner

Speaking of legal issues, an entity controlled by the newspaper
chain that formerly owned the Express sued two of the paper’s
current owners, claiming that they owe $500,000 as part of the 2007
sale of the paper. According to the suit, President Hal Brody and
editor Stephen Buel agreed to pay the money by May 17, 2009. But Brody
said he and his partners decided not to pay because Village Voice Media
has repeatedly poached the paper’s advertisers and employees in
violation of the 2007 sale agreement. Brody estimates that the chain
owes the Express more than $2 million.

Three-Dot Roundup

A minor uproar occurred in Oakland last week after the Chron
erroneously reported that the city council was seriously considering
bankruptcy. … Meanwhile, the media almost completely overlooked the
fact that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to cut general
assistance to the poor. … At the same time, the East Bay MUD board
voted for a steep water-rate increase to raise revenues after too many
people conserved water during the drought. The board again decided to
penalize water conservationists just as much as water guzzlers. … The
state Supreme Court upheld Berkeley’s school integration plan, opening
the door for other school districts to finally bring an end to
segregated schools. … Chevron’s Richmond refinery expansion suffered
a big blow when a judge threw out the project’s environmental report.
The decision puts the whole project in doubt because the oil giant no
longer controls the Richmond City Council. … And a federal judge
ruled that a US citizen who was tortured during the Bush era can go
forward with his lawsuit against UC Berkeley law school professor John
Yoo, the legal architect of the nation’s torture policy.

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