Issue 3 Flops in Election Day Turnaround


Bryan Rubin, Photo editor

College sophomores Josh Biales (left) and Christian Bolles file out of Philips gym after casting their votes on Election Day. Ohioans voted yes on Issue 1, which calls for redrawing voting districts, and on Issue 2, an anti-monopoly initiative, but rejected the initiative to legalize marijuana.

Tyler Sloan and Eliza Guinn

After the proposed legalization policy went up in smoke, many Ohioans were left wondering why the pro-marijuana support had seemingly vaporized behind the polls.

The push for marijuana legalization, which previously accrued 90 percent approval from those vying for medical marijuana and 53 percent from recreational cannabis supporters, was shot down by 64.1 percent of voters last Tuesday. Issue 3 flopped after the language of Issue 2, an initiative fast-tracked to counteract the legalization amendment, swept through the Buckeye state.

Because Issue 3 required 10 growers to maintain exclusive commercial rights, many raised concerns over ResponsibleOhio creating an oligopoly over the industry. To prevent this, Issue 2 called for the institution of a Ballot Board to review whether the initiative constituted a monopoly, oligopoly or cartel and to reject it if it did.

But the main backers of Ohio’s pro-weed campaign have confirmed that they are going to continue their attempt to cultivate the necessary approval rating for their initiative.

“We started the conversation, and we’re going to continue the conversation starting tomorrow,” said Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, in a statement Tuesday night. “The status quo doesn’t work, it’s unacceptable, and we’re not going away. All the things we’ve fought for are true. Ohioans still need treatment and deserve compassionate care, and our state needs the jobs and tax revenue that marijuana legalization will bring.”

While future campaigns may not involve attempting to legalize recreational marijuana outright — several politicians have cautioned against attempting to garner voter approval in an off-year election — it is likely that James’ vision of a legalized state will find room to grow. Democratic Rep. Mike Curtin of Columbus, one of the authors of Issue 2, told USA Today that he predicts Ohio voters will first vote in medicalized marijuana, paving the way for recreational cannabis to gain necessary traction.

As for the influence of Issue 2, ballot measures in Ohio will no longer be allowed to grant monopolyies oligopolies or cartels exclusive financial benefit.

“I think the speculation could be endless that unions, any type of corporation, anybody who where a court or the ballot board could construe that there is some sort of financial benefit, they may say that that group cannot bring that ballot initiative or has to go through this extra hurdle,” said Mike Brickner, senior policy director at the ACLU of Ohio, in an interview with Ohio Public Radio.

The final initiative on the ballot, Issue 1, was not nearly as controversial as Issues 2 and 3. Issue 1 creates a bipartisan committee that will redraw Ohio’s voting districts, which have been historically sub ject to gerrymandering. The initiative won overwhelming approval both in Oberlin and in greater Ohio. The initiative was approved with 88 percent of Oberlin’s vote and 71.5 percent of the state’s vote.

On Issues 2 and 3, Oberlin’s votes swung a different direction than the rest of the state. Only 46 percent of voters supported Issue 2 while 44 percent voted in favor of Issue 3. Still, voter turnout was notably low, with only 28 percent of Oberlin residents showing up to the polls.

Voters also elected new City Council members Linda Slocum and Kelley Singleton on Tuesday. The newcomers will join incumbents Bryan Burgess, Scott Broadwell, Ronnie Rimbert, Sharon Soucy and Sharon Pearson in the Oberlin City Council for the next two-year term.

Fourteen candidates ran for seven seats on the council — an unusually high number, though not unprecedented in Oberlin. Former City Council member Elizabeth Meadows was not reelected, and former councilwoman Kristin Peterson did not run.

“It usually happens when there’s a major issue in the city,” said Burgess, referring to the high number of candidates. “There are lots of people who want to weigh in on what should be done. So I would take 14 candidates as an indication that whatever the topic of the day is, it’s a really important topic.”

Pearson said she agreed that the large number of candidates reflected the importance of the issues being debated. She added that the competition encouraged candidates to step up their game and will force them to stay active and engaged even though the election is over.

One of the most pressing issues City Council faces this term is how to allocate the money returned to Oberlin through Renewable Energy Certificates. Bryan Burgess, Sharon Pearson and Sharon Soucy all agreed that the most important and contested issue in this election involved the use of approximately $800,000 in rebates.

This issue, according to Pearson, has become increasingly controversial. One option is that the money could be returned to the ratepayers in the form of small installments.

This has raised questions about the long-term benefits of the payments, which, while providing short-term payments to community members, could take funds from the underfunded Sustainable Reserve Fund.

An alternative is to put the money back into the Sustainable Reserve Fund to be used for citywide green initiatives, which was the original aim of the initiative. This would help reduce energy costs in the long run and increase energy efficiency. Incumbents Burgess, Pearson and Slocum have all previously voiced their support for this initiative. Soucy advocated for returning the money to the ratepayers while still providing the option of contributing the payment to the fund if any ratepayers decide to do so.

City Council will also address affordable housing and the Green Acres project, which would provide rental space for low-income and senior Oberlin residents. Other City Council priorities will include lowering the unemployment rate, raising the minimum wage and increasing public transportation. Burgess added that he is also concerned about flooding issues in Oberlin.

“It’s more than just a nuisance now,” he said. “It’s more than just a wet basement. It’s streets that are so flooded the ambulance can’t get through the street. A few years ago, someone had a heart attack on Reserve Avenue, and the ambulance couldn’t get to them because the street was flooded. That can’t be allowed to continue.”