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February 27, 2015

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Boulder City initiative over debt faces uncertain future

An initiative that would require voter approval for Boulder City’s debt to exceed $1 million might not go onto the general election ballot because it could infringe upon the city council’s rights, the city’s attorney said.

A ballot question is being sought by residents who think the city should consult voters before being buried under that amount of debt. To be placed on the ballot, a petition must be signed by at least 642 registered Boulder City voters, according to the city clerk’s office.

Signatures for the petition haven’t been submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said signatures must be collected 130 days before the Nov. 2 general election.

City Attorney Dave Olsen said the initiative could let voters overstep their boundaries and enter the arena of the city council. The city doesn’t currently have a debt spending-cap.

Olsen said he is researching the issue but hasn’t written a formal opinion on the initiative. He said the city could take legal action if it appeared the initiative encroached on the council’s abilities.

“I’m not sure they can pass legislation like that,” Olsen said. “That ties the city council from being able to do what they do.”

Mayor Roger Tobler said he wouldn’t be opposed to the cap if petitioners raised the amount to something above $1 million.

“If our transformers went out, that’s not something I can wait on for the people to vote on,” Tobler said. “I would prefer it be left alone.”

Olsen said the city could file a lawsuit before signatures are collected or wait to see if the petition is validated through the Secretary of State. Either way, a district court judge will decide if the question should be placed on the ballot if enough signatures are validated.

The last initiative challenged by the city, involving the selling of land in the Eldorado Valley for a profit, was appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court. Olsen said residents wanted to sell land and divide the proceeds, but the city challenged it before signatures were collected.

The state Supreme Court ruled residents couldn’t vote on the initiative or have control over such land sales.

Committee leader Dan Jensen said the difference between the two cases is that his initiative is a policy change for the city and should be considered legislative. He said residents are continuing to collect signatures.

Residents also submitted a charter amendment question last week regarding the appointment of the city attorney. The amendment initiative asks whether the city attorney should be elected instead of appointed by the city council. Olsen said if the position becomes an elected one he is “not interested in running for office.”

Two other initiatives being proposed are whether the city should own only one 18-hole golf course, and if term limits should be set for various committee positions.

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