A tar sands showdown in a small town in Maine, a battle to label genetically modified foods in Washington and a fracking fight in Colorado are some of the issues to watch on Election Day.
Common Dreams zooms in on six hotly-contested battles poised to set a course for progressive politics:
Washington State’s I-522 would require foods that have been genetically modified, or GMOs, to be labeled as such for retail purposes in the state.
Following legal pressure from anti-GMO campaign groups such as Moms for Labeling and Yes on 1-522 and the Washington State Attorney General’s office, the pro-GMO trade group Grocery Manufacturers Association was forced to release a list of its high rolling donors who have financed the NO on I- 522 drive.
As was expected, major food corporations and GMO users such as PepsiCo, Nestle USA, The Coca-Cola Co. and General Mills, among many others, had secretly donated millions of dollars to the GMA campaign.
GMA spending made up $7 million of the $17 million dollar No on I-522 push.
A similar initiative in California, Proposition 37, lost on last year’s ballot due to a similar flood of campaign money from pro-GMO food companies.
The following is the ballot text:
Initiative Measure No. 522 concerns labeling of genetically-engineered foods.
This measure would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale.
Environmentalists are facing off with the tar sands industry in a hotly contested election in the coastal Maine town of South Portland. At issue is the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, a land-use zoning ordinance up for referendum Tuesday that would prevent oil industry efforts to build a massive tar sands export facility at the waterfront of this town of 25,000.
South Portland grassroots organizations are putting the ordinance to referendum in a proactive bid against industry plans to use a 70-year-old, 236-mile pipeline, currently employed to transport crude oil from freighters in the South Portland harbor to Montreal, to instead transport tar sands oil from Canada by reversing the flow of the pipeline. Under this industry scheme, tar sands oil would be distributed internationally by oil tankers and an ‘upgraded’ terminal in South Portland. The so-called upgrade would include two 70-foot smokestacks on the waterfront and storage tanks near local schools.
Big oil is throwing big money at the campaign, out-spending green groups six to one. “Oil industry spending is completely over the top,” said Robert Sellin, from the group Protect South Portland, in a previous interview with Common Dreams. “Clearly they have all the money. We are talking about some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. They do not want a community to stand up for itself.
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The election is poised to have nation-wide ramifications as the dirty oil industry looks for other options for tar sands transport in the face of nation-wide opposition to Keystone XL.
If passed, Question One on the ballot in Portland, Maine would make it legal for adults 21 and over to possess — but not purchase or sell — up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana.
“I think there’s national implications, keeping the momentum that Washington and Colorado started last November in ending marijuana prohibition,” said David Boyer, the Marijuana Policy Project’s political director in Maine. “This is just the next domino.”
Likewise, ballot proposals in three Michigan cities, Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale, would amend city charters to legalize the use or possession of up to one ounce of marijuana on private property by anyone 21 years or older.
Tim Beck, a the chairman of the Safer Michigan Coalition, an organization working with local groups to pass new marijuana laws, told Michigan Live that he is confident voters in the three cities will vote to decriminalize marijuana, and may lead to wider reaching state ballots in the future.
Earlier this month a national Gallup poll showed that, for the first time, the majority of Americans want to legalize marijuana.
With 58 percent support, the number of those favoring the drug has jumped a dramatic 10 percentage points since November 2012—with the momentum showing “no sign of abating,” Gallup notes.
Colorado’s Proposition AA: The Marijuana Tax
Now that marijuana has been legal in Colorado for a year, residents are grappling over exactly how much to tax it. Colorado’s Proposition AA, on the table for the Tuesday election, with hit marijuana with a 15 percent in excise tax, and 10 percent sales tax if passed. The taxes would pay for school construction and enforcement of marijuana law respectively.
Supporters of marijuana legalization fall on both sides of the issue. The ‘No’ campaign charges that the tax is excessive and will drive pot users back underground, and it is gaining support from some conservatives, including gubernatorial candidate Greg Brophy and former Senator John Andrews.
The ‘Yes’ side argues that, in order to build a national case for pot legalization, it is necessary to show the public just how socially beneficial this legalization can be. “Taxes are an opportunity for marijuana to show it can play a valuable role in the community,” said Joe Megyesy, spokesman for the campaign promoting the tax measure, in an interview with the Associated Press.
Polls indicate the proposition will pass.
The race to succeed billionaire Mayor Bloomberg pits heavily-favored Democrat Bill de Blasio against Republican Joe Lhota.
City Public Advocate de Blasio has campaigned on a “tale of two cities” narrative that focuses on the city’s inequality, has voiced strong opposition to stop-and-frisk policies and has promised to tax the city’s wealthiest to fund universal pre-kindergarten and after school programs.
Challenging the progressive is Lhota, Rudy Giuliani’s deputy mayor and former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, who has defended stop-and-frisk, promised an increase in charter schools, a decrease in taxes, and has warned that crime would increase under de Blasio.
A de Blasio victory would mark the first Democratic mayor in the city in over 20 years.
Anti-fracking opponents will have their eyes on four cities in Colorado–Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette–on Tuesday.
Voters in Lafayette will vote on a ban of the fossil fuel extraction method, while the other three cities have a five-year moratorium on their ballots.
The Denver-based Colorado Oil and Gas Association has poured money into the issue, spending 32 times what anti-fracking activists have spent.
“Can the richest and most powerful industry on the planet — which pollutes our air, water, land and neighborhoods — also buy and pollute our local democracy in Fort Collins?” asked Gary Wockner of Save the Poudre and Clean Water Action. “We’ll find out.”
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