City briefs: State Attorney General delivers ruling on marijuana sales, I-90 tolling update

State Attorney General says cities can ‘just say no’ to marijuana sales

The State Attorney General says that Initiative 502 does not prevent cities and counties from banning marijuana businesses.

In response to a request from the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the Attorney General’s Office last week released a formal opinion regarding local ordinances affecting new marijuana businesses in Washington.

Approved by voters in 2012, Initiative 502 legalized the possession and sale of recreational marijuana in Washington.

The formal opinion concludes I-502 as drafted and presented to the voters, does not prevent local governments from regulating or banning marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions.

In Mercer Island, however, city zoning and the close proximity of schools and day cares to areas that are zoned for commercial use indicates that no physical sites are available for selling marijuana.

The opinion states:

“Although Initiative 502 establishes a licensing and regulatory system for marijuana producers, processors, and retailers in Washington State, it includes no clear indication that it was intended to preempt local authority to regulate such businesses. We therefore conclude that I-502 left in place the normal powers of local governments to regulate within their jurisdictions.”

While I-502’s drafters could have structured I-502 to require local governments to accept marijuana businesses, they did not do so. If the Legislature wants to change that, it can amend the law.

The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington.


PSE’s Wappler meets with Island radio operators

The Mercer Island Ham Radio Operators (MIRO)heard from Andy Wappler, vice president for corporate affairs for Puget Sound Energy at their regular meeting last Thursday.

Wappler came to speak to a dozen or so radio operators about the unique weather of Western Washington. He noted up front, however, how important the group of radio operators are to the utility giant during storms.

During a big storm, he said, “We are leaning on ham radio guys like you, to phone in the weather if cell towers and fiber optics are down.”

A 1982 graduate of Mercer Island High School, Wapler is also a former reporter and meterologist at KIRO-TV. As head of Corporate Affairs at PSE, Wappler is responsible for public relations and company communications. He also is the chairman and president of the Puget Sound Energy Foundation

Wappler described how the unique geographic characteristics of the region determine how severe the weather will be in any particular place.

“Terrain dictates the weather here,” he said.

The effects of bad weather are intensified by the types of trees that grow here, he said. The soft wood tree species with shallow roots determine whether the power will go out and buildings are damaged.

The former weather forecaster described the possible effects of storms on power outages and structure damage in shorthand terms.

A 30 mph wind is called a ‘service man storm’ where a truck will be called out to fix a line versus a 50 mph storm where trees will definitely fall.

As such, tree trimming is a crucial element in limiting storm damage and power outages.

Wappler noted that customers can go to the PSE website or Facebook to find out when their neighborhood is scheduled for tree trimming. Tree trimming is done across the service territory on a three-to-four year rotation. Every crew includes an arborist, he said.

Emergency preparedness is key for both communities and individuals, he emphasized. Despite the utility’s ability to restore power during a major storm, coordinating and mobilizing that ability is also affected by storm severity.


City manager’s update on I-90 tolling

At the end of 2013, the city worked closely with the legislators during the special legislative sessions to seek funding for SR-520 that would not involve tolling I-90.  Staff were pleased that the final proposals discussed during Senate and House negotiations did not include I-90 tolls.  Unfortunately, the Legislature did not reach agreement and pass a final transportation package, leaving the question of tolling I-90 unresolved.  The Legislature’s regular session has just started and the city is hopeful the Legislature will again take up transportation funding.  The city will continue to work with key legislators to advocate for funding packages that do not involve tolling I-90.

Staff are also continuing to monitor the Washington State Department of Transportation’s environmental impact study of tolling.  City staff will be meeting with WSDOT officials soon to get updates on the status of the study and to learn about the results of the tolling survey conducted on Mercer Island.


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