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April 20, 2014

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elections:

Council members argue for, against Boulder City ballot questions

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On Tuesday, Boulder City residents will vote on three ballot questions with serious implications for a small municipality facing decimated revenue and strained spending.

The three initiatives, if approved by voters, would limit the city to owning one golf course, allow citizens to elect the city attorney and call for a special vote if the city plans to go into debt $1 million or more.

Recent events provide the root of each question:

- Boulder City, which owns two golf courses, budgeted to lose $1 million combined on them this year as it pays off the lease for Boulder Creek Golf Club’s land.

- City Attorney Dave Olsen has been criticized for suing the petitioners of the golf course ballot initiative.

- As lease payments from a solar energy firm have gone missing, Boulder City has considered going into debt to avoid cutting services and positions.

In all, the city has 11 questions on its ballot. These three, however, have easily garnered the most attention.

The Sun asked Boulder City Council members to, in 250 words or less, defend a “Yes” or “No” vote for each question.

Mayor Roger Tobler and Councilman Duncan McCoy chose not to participate. For the sake of perspective, the council is usually divided into two voting blocks: Tobler, McCoy and Councilman Cam Walker versus Councilman Travis Chandler and Councilwoman Linda Strickland.

Walker, Chandler and Strickland e-mailed responses to the Sun. Their words, verbatim, are below.

“Shall the Boulder City Code be amended to provide that it shall be the policy of the City to own no more than one golf course?”

Councilman Walker (NO): “The golf course question is the most important one as we look to the future of our community. First, the ballot question as presented does not state anything will close and was purposefully left vague and up for interpretations. Regardless of how the outcome of the question my hope is that it leads to finally hearing some ideas for the community not just whether something is open or closed. Second, should Boulder Creek close it will cost us more money and ruin an asset instead of just depreciating it away.

We need to work together as a community to look at alternatives like voting yes on question 2 and voting yes on question 6 then we can work together on how to move forward.”

Councilwoman Strickland (YES): “We have two losing golf courses. We have tried to make them profitable: we pay Boulder Creek Golf Club’s bond debt from the general fund and not from golf course revenues. We drastically cut golf course maintenance, and we have no money set aside to replace aging equipment and infrastructure, and still they don’t cover their operational cost. You have suffered enough with increased utility rates and property taxes, and now recreational facilities, such as the pool, are in jeopardy. End the madness.”

Councilman Chandler (YES): "The City directly subsidizes Boulder Creek by at least $2.8 million each year, with indirect subsidies easily doubling the amount. Although smaller and with no debt, the Municipal golf course is also subsidized by the City by over $1 million yearly. There is no free lunch, BC residents pay those subsidies through tax and utility rate increases, and reduced Police, Fire and Paramedic protection and other services. Special interests, their lawyers including our current City Attorney, and some judges do not approve of democracy and your Right to Petition, so current Nevada case law forbids you from voting on what to do with the golf courses to achieve your policy. That decision must remain with the Council. They may sell or close either course, but a majority of the Council has stated publicly it will probably be Boulder Creek to avoid litigation from homeowners at the Muni course. Closing Boulder Creek will leave the revenue bond debt, with debt service the only significant remaining loss, at 1/4 of the amount of the current $2.8 million subsidy (loss)."

“Shall Section 8.1 and 15 of the Boulder City Code be amended to provide that the City Attorney shall be elected in the same manner as the Mayor and Council members, for a term of four years to begin on the first regular business day of July following the election?”

Councilman Chandler (YES): “We need an independent City Attorney to represent the People, who are the municipal corporation he serves, and not a three-member majority of the Council which presently has the power to dismiss him. Currently the Attorney is under enormous political pressure to provide legal opinions that serve their political agendas.

As an example, he has sued the People to disenfranchise them from voting on how many expensive golf courses are too many. He assured us his legal case was a slam dunk winner, but he lost in court on both of his legal theories. Using outside lawyers, he has wasted $35,000 of taxpayers' money on it so far, plus many hours of his time which should be spent on other vital City matters.

An elected attorney will be independent of political pressure from the Council, and can be faithful to the law and to the People he serves. Faithful service to the law will get him through cases more quickly and efficiently, and have the beneficial effect of reducing the amount of expensive litigation.”

Councilman Walker (NO): “When the City Attorney is elected instead of appointed they become a political position in our community, a critical issue my colleague would not debate with me. Travis Chandler himself provides the best reason for Boulder City voters to vote NO on Question 8. His deliberate misinformation as to my availability and writing politically charged letters instead of picking up the phone are exactly why we do not want another politician for our City Attorney.

Just look at other communities for examples, San Diego had lawsuits between their elected city attorney and city council. San Bernardino is considering a ballot question this same election abandoning their elected city attorney to save money. The elected city attorney disagreed about the question “saving money”, just like Travis Chandler, and personally sued the petitioners stating otherwise, the citizens won since it indeed saves money. When disagreements between the council and an “elected” attorney happen, which they will, special council will be required for the council’s protection. I firmly believe that this significant change to our charter is wrong and will cost Boulder City.”

Councilwoman Strickland (YES): "Our City Attorney has sued voters for sponsoring initiatives, refused to turn over public records, and failed to stop the Council from raiding utility funds to build Boulder Creek. He has publicly said that he feels obliged to follow the desires of the Council. Its time for a change- lets elect an Attorney who will make decisions with an eye toward the public interest as opposed to the special interests of City Hall."

“Shall the Boulder City Code be amended to provide that the City and its agencies and enterprises shall not incur new debt obligations of $1 million or more, as defined under NRS. 350.0045 to NRS. 350.0075 inclusive, without the approval of the electors of Boulder City in a general or special election?”

Councilman Walker (NO): “You elect a city council and mayor as a 'Republic' to consider the interests of all in our community especially our children. As one of your city council members you have entrusted me with decisions on over $50 million in annual expenses and revenues.

$1 million is just too restrictive and somewhat punitive tying the hands of you elected body to make informed decisions for all. This ballot question has already raised questions about the city’s ability to refinance past debt that would save over four million dollars. There is a good chance the community would not have voted for the raw water line or the third straw without understanding the water rights issues. If that would have been presented as a ballot question and defeated we would not have access to our water rights as a community.

As I have stated before, $10 million is a better amount and the voters always have the right to vote a council member out of office.”

Councilman Chandler (YES): “In 2000 Boulder City was essentially debt free. By 2008, two members of the Finance Advisory Committee reported we had debt obligations of more than $120 million. These arose mostly to build a second golf course and a second "raw" water main to service it and other golf courses.

If this ordinance had been on the books in 2000, we might have avoided that burden. Residents have had to pay it through tax increases, utility rate increases, and reduced Police, Fire and Paramedic protection and other services. Under the ordinance and NRS 350.020, the Council may call a special election at any time to meet any unforeseen emergencies. It's your money, you should decide.”

Councilwoman Strickland (YES): "Our City’s spending has gone unchecked. Our “trust” in City Hall resulted in Boulder Creek, which one judge recently called a “financial disaster”. We need to gain control of our City expenditures, and this is the mechanism to do it."

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