Pubdate: Mon, 23 Dec 2002
Source: Columbia Daily Tribune (MO)
Copyright: 2002 Columbia Daily Tribune
Author: Henry J. Waters III, Publisher


Good to be helpful

Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren rather harshly criticized the local 
marijuana petitioners for not complying fully with state requirements even 
though she and the county attorney agreed they had done enough to qualify 
under city rules. After her admonition, her office proceeds with 
verification of the names.

Well, sure. Those who petition the government for action or redress should 
be given every appropriate bit of latitude. The sins of the marijuana 
petitioners do not compromise the validity of their effort, if indeed the 
names are found to be those of currently registered voters, a detail Noren 
& Co. will verify.

Noren explained that the processes used by these petitioners never would 
have qualified under state law but that the violated provisions are not 
contained in city law. Her criticism had a school-marmish flavor, aimed at 
citizens' actions that are personally offensive to her, even though they 
had complied with city law and showed no signs of willful violation of 

Noren griped because no dates accompanied the names of petition signers. 
Under state law, people who sign petitions must be registered voters at the 
time they sign. City law requires only that they be registered voters when 
the clerk checks the names. Noren knows some were registered at the same 
time they signed, and she gripes with justification that some of the new 
registrants' names were not turned in to her office before the petitions, 
which would have been helpful even though not legally required.

The petition leader says that she took good notes when proper procedure was 
explained by the clerk's office and that nothing was said about the state 
law requirements. And, let's face it, if the process got a few more people 
registered, there's merit in that. Some of these former dropouts might vote 
in other elections as well.

Hey, let's agree these petitioners could have been more precise, but they 
were a group of citizens gathering names and did comply with the law. I 
have great admirations for Noren's rigorous attention to electoral detail, 
but it's also the job of public officials to accommodate petitioning 
citizens with kindness and the most allowance possible. Wendy is a bulldog. 
She could impose her will more like a border collie without compromising 

In this case, she should not have said petitioners' practices were 
"abominable." A nice explanation of error would have been more appropriate, 
particularly since she was in the process of accepting their documents.

The petition in question asks the Columbia City Council to pass a law 
requiring that prosecution for possession of small amounts of marijuana be 
done in municipal court, where no state record would be made. Now, at 
police discretion, the cases are sent in both directions. The initiated law 
also would make allowances for those who use the drug for medical purposes.

Noren has not yet finished verifying names. If she finds the petition 
adequate, she will inform the city council, which then must either pass the 
law or pass a resolution placing it on the ballot. To get this done in time 
for the April election, the council will have to decide by Jan. 20.

I think this is a reasonable proposal, but more on this after the petitions 
are processed.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens