The referendum to rescind the Pacific Grove City Council’s vote to allow one cannabis retail store was short by just three petition signatures, the city announced on Dec. 3. The referendum's creator, Debby Beck, isn't conceding defeat.
Beck asked the Monterey County Elections Department for an audit and has an appointment to inspect records beginning Monday. She’s “very optimistic” she’ll find three more signatures out of the 81 that were disqualified by Monterey County Elections officials.
“I was like, ‘you’re kidding.’ But I’d rather it be three than 30,” Beck says.
The referendum needed 1,069 signatures to pass but only 1,066 were approved by elections officials. The 81 additional signatures disqualified included 13 duplicates. Beck believes it's possible that some of the rest were disqualified because their signatures did not match what the elections department has on file. All that would be needed is a signed affidavit from people whose signatures are in question to affirm they did sign the petition.
One of the signatures in question could be Beck’s own, she says with some amusement. She received a letter from the department in November, asking her to verify her signature on the petition.
Beck undertook the referendum in late September, after a 4-3 vote by the City Council on Sept.16 approving an ordinance allowing one cannabis retail store. At the time, she was told she needed 1,045 signatures—10 percent of all registered voters in the city—but thanks to a large number of new registered voters in the lead up to the general election, the required number increased to 1,069.
City Manager Ben Harvey presented to the council in September an aggressive timeline that would have created a committee in October to select which company would be awarded a permit. The timeline included the chosen company presenting a development plan to the Planning Commission in November.
As volunteers gathered signatures around town for the referendum, Harvey attempted to move forward with the formation of the selection committee but the council showed no interest.
The agenda item was postponed three times until Nov. 4. At the end of a long agenda late that night the council wanted to adjourn the meeting. Harvey reminded them about the item to form the cannabis committee. Without a word the council voted unanimously to adjourn. The recommendation to create a committee has not returned to the council's agenda.