The Woodside Town Council acted unanimously on two matters Tuesday: preserving the council's right to locally regulate the cultivation and handling of locally grown marijuana, and shifting council elections to even-numbered years when turnout tends to be much higher .
The council introduced an ordinance to extend each council member's four-year term by one year, which would change elections to even-numbered years.
Elections in even-numbered years will be in alignment with statewide and federal elections, when voter turnout is usually higher.
As usual with a new ordinance, the council must vote on it once more, but in this case, instead of then becoming law in 30 days, the ordinance will go to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors for its review.
The council approved an urgency ordinance to preserve the council's right to regulate the cultivation and handling of marijuana in Woodside. The ordinance becomes effective Nov. 9 if voters approve state Proposition 64 on Nov. 8. legalizing the cultivation and recreational use of marijuana.
Had the council not acted, the town would have been regulated by the state law established by Prop. 64, which would preempt local regulations.
The urgency ordinance is a placeholder that expires in 45 days, but the council can extend it to up to two years to allow the town to craft a more detailed ordinance. The urgency aspect sidesteps the normal process of two public readings and a 30-day wait before it becomes law.
The urgency ordinance dies if voters do not approve Prop. 64.
In discussing this process and the window of time allotted to refine the urgency ordinance, council members spoke of holding at least one study session to explore with the public how to locally regulate marijuana.
Town Hall staff will be working on draft language for the council's consideration. Two residents spoke at the meeting, both asking the council to act with prudence and to consider the potential for consequences harmful to the community.
The council had several options in complying with a state law aimed to increase voter turnout, but by consensus chose the option with the most immediate effect: extending council members terms by one year.
The prospect of not acting quickly carried with it a financial penalty. Elections cost money and the jurisdictions in the county share the costs. In Woodside, a typical election costs about $7,500, according to town staff.
The shift to even-numbered years is required by a law passed and signed by the governor in September 2015. As jurisdictions in the county make the move to even-numbered years, the number of jurisdictions still holding elections in odd-numbered years shrinks, boosting their share of the costs for holding elections in odd-numbered years.
For Woodside, the cost could have jumped to $50,000 or beyond, Town Manager Kevin Bryant told the council. "I've seen estimates that go a lot higher," he said.
The terms of Mayor Deborah Gordon, Councilman Dave Tanner and Councilwoman Anne Kasten will now expire in 2018, and terms for councilmen Peter Mason, Tom Livermore, Chris Shaw and Daniel Yost will expire in 2020.