By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Green Bay’s Protection and Policy Committee spent a good chunk of its Monday, June 20 meeting discussing the potential of putting an advisory marijuana referendum on the November ballot.
The request came from District 7 Alderperson Randy Scannell – one he said he made after the county only addressed a portion of the issue.
“The county ended up just putting forth a referendum on medical marijuana,” he said. “We were hoping at the time that they would have done both… I couldn’t understand why the county voted that down. I mean, even if you didn’t like marijuana, this isn’t binding you to anything, and if people come up strongly for it, I think that’s something you should know. So it makes sense to take it to the city – the largest city in the county. So it would be a significant tally one way or the other, however it goes.”
District 1 Alderperson Jennifer Grant questioned Scannell, saying that since the referendum was advisory and non-binding, ‘what was he trying to accomplish with bringing this forward?’
“Getting information from our constituents,” Scannell said in response. “It’s just a way for citizens to express their wishes.”
Scannell said the referendum doesn’t legalize marijuana, as the City of Green Bay does not have authority to do that.
“This is just an advisory referendum to let the state know how our citizens feel on this issue,” he said.
Scannell said it is an issue that he doesn’t think is going to go away.
He said he has an opinion on legalizing marijuana, but that it isn’t what is being discussed at this point.
“That can come at a future time,” Scannell said.
Grant said she saw it as a waste of city time and money – which is expected to cost around $15,000.
“I’m not in support of this,” Grant said. “I think right now, in the environment we are in with taxpayer dollars, we need to be very smart and respectful of how we’re spending them, and I just don’t see being able to explain to my taxpayer citizens that I just spent $15,000 on something that can’t change anything right now. I think there’s ways that you can vocalize to your legislators for free via email, phone calls – there’s ways to get loud without costing money.”
Though District 5 Alderperson Craig Stevens said he isn’t against the referendum, he couldn’t support the cost.
“I understand the marijuana situation, but when it comes down to $15,000, unfortunately, I’m going to have to say no to this,” he said. “We can spend $15,000 to fill potholes in the city that need to get done.”
A motion to approve the request from Scannell failed without a second.
After a mistaken motion to receive and place the item on file failed unanimously, District 3 Alderperson Bill Morgan made a motion to deny, which passed 3-1, with Scannell placing the sole dissenting vote.
It will now head to the full City Council meeting June 28.
Policy regarding use of city flagpoles
Earlier this month in conjunction with June pride month, Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich and members of the city’s Equal Rights Commission raised a pride flag on the flagpole in front of city hall.
The issue found its way to the agenda of the June 20 Protection and Policy agenda through a request from District 8 Alderperson Chris Wery.
“I truly believe most feel that the flagpole should not be used for political or social commentary,” Wery said. “Because who’s in charge of the type of flag or the message? Is it the mayor? Evidently it is, because we weren’t involved in any of the planning or approvals.”
Wery proposed that the council adopt a policy or pass an ordinance that reserves city-owned flagpoles to just three flags – the American flag, the Wisconsin flag and the City of Green Bay flag, in that order – and nothing else.
Grant agreed, saying as a government entity, the city needs to focus on policies and not be divided and torn between representing certain people throughout the year.
“We all have our ways of showing our own personal views on things, and we all can do that on our own personal property,” she said. “We can do that and be welcoming as a city government personally, but I think we do need to be respectful and focused on our duties at hand.”
Scannell used the word bigotry when describing some of the reasons brought up in opposition to the pride flag at City Hall.
“This is pride month,” he said. “I mean, we’ve done the bridge in pride colors, and I’m having a hard time understanding what the problem is with the flag. I fail to see any disrespect. I fail to see any controversy, except for people who are bigots. That’s the only controversy I can see here.”
Stevens suggested potentially looking into adding additional flagpoles in front of City Hall to accommodate different types of flags.
Ultimately, the committee voted to refer the policy to staff to clarify the language in regards to a policy or ordinance before bringing it back to committee for further discussion.
The full council could still pull the item for further discussion June 28.