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city hall:

Supreme Court rejects redevelopment ballot petition

Updated Thursday, April 9, 2009 | 12:57 a.m.

Statement by D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer, Culinary Workers Union Local 226

  • "In light of today's Supreme Court decision, we will immediately file litigation in district court seeking to protect the fundamental constitutional right of citizens to file initiatives and referendum. Over 14,000 voters signed petitions asking for their right to vote on the use of taxpayer money for the new $267 million city hall and redevelopment subsidies for developers, and we believe the rights of voters should be respected. We find the Nevada Supreme Court's refusal to make a decision on this important issue troubling, given that the court accepted our case and heard oral arguments on the issue. Nevertheless, we respect the court's decision, and will pursue our case in district court."

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court has rejected a petition seeking to force the city of Las Vegas to put a redevelopment referendum on the June 2 municipal election ballot.

The court said the Las Vegas Taxpayer Accountability Committee and the Las Vegas Redevelopment Reform Committee should take its petition to the district court first.

The two groups supported by union officials gathered more than 14,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot. That’s more than the required number to qualify the referendum.

But City Attorney Brad Jerbic told the Las Vegas City Council in March that the petition was defective. He said the referendum would repeal the entire Redevelopment Agency and would end the agency’s ability to pay more than $80 million in redevelopment bond obligations and operating costs.

The council then decided against putting the issue on the ballot.

The referendum would require the voters to approve large appropriations by the city under so-called "lease-purchase" agreements. The city is currently considering a lease-purchase agreement to finance a new city hall in downtown Las Vegas.

The city is also considering redevelopment plans for Union Park and reopening the Lady Luck Casino as part of the effort to revive downtown Las Vegas.

The Supreme Court said it considers emergency petitions only when there is “no plain, speedy, and adequate remedy at law.” It said “there are expedient and efficient remedies available in district court to address matters such as those presented here …”

"We will immediately file litigation in district court seeking to protect the fundamental constitutional right of citizens to file initiatives and referendum," said D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, in a statement. "We find the Nevada Supreme Court's refusal to make a decision on this important issue troubling, given that the court accepted our case and heard oral arguments on the issue. Nevertheless, we respect the court's decision, and will pursue our case in district court."

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman released a statement Wednesday night indicating he was happy with the decision.

"This is a great day for the future of Las Vegas and Nevada. Workers will have jobs, they will be able to pay their mortgage and feed their families. Wonderful projects will be built like the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, the Performing Arts Center, World Market Center and the discount mall, making us into a world-class city," he said. "As an aside, the city will not be crippled by those with ulterior motives who try to extort us."

Attorney Richard McCracken, who filed the petition in the Supreme Court, said the city clerk determined there were sufficient signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot. And it was the ministerial duty for the city council to place the issue on the ballot.

McCracken said the arguments by Jerbic “are utterly baseless.” He said a 2006 Supreme Court held that substantial constitutional challenges may not be brought pre-election.

If there is a question about the constitutionality, it could be challenged after the voters have cast their ballots.

McCracken argued he needed a speedy ruling by the Supreme Court because the absentee ballots for the June 2 general election must be printed and mailed no later than April 24.

But the court said there is adequate time to bring the issue in the district court, even giving the three day notice required by law.

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