The Culinary union has gathered enough signatures to put the fate of a proposal for a new Las Vegas city hall in the hands of voters later this year, union officials said Wednesday.
The news came on the same day that Las Vegas City Council members approved a site plan for the proposed building. During the discussion, city leaders criticized project critics as ill-informed and misleading.
Culinary Local 226 members have spearheaded a drive to put two measures before voters, most likely in June. If successful, one measure would require voter approval for lease-purchase city construction projects, which is the financing method being considered for the new city hall.
The second measure asks voters to repeal the city redevelopment plan, which covers downtown and nearby areas, and would give voters the power of approval for redevelopment projects. The redevelopment plan, which lets businesses and developers qualify for incentives and project assistance, sunsets in 2031.
The union needs 2,700 signatures for the first measure and 1,800 for the second.
"We have more than enough signatures," union spokeswoman Pilar Weiss said Wednesday. Signatures are still being gathered, and a final count will be available today or Friday, she said.
Council members, meanwhile, approved plans for a 303,000-square-foot building at the corner of First Street and Clark Avenue. A public hearing on the financing for the project is scheduled during the council's Feb. 18 meeting.
City officials have estimated the construction cost at $150 million, but are seeking permission from the Clark County Debt Management Commission for up to $267 million in financing to account for cost upgrades and delays.
Las Vegas, like all public entities, is struggling with its budget and has taken several steps to rein in costs as a sinking economy takes its toll on tax revenues.
Mayor Oscar Goodman has started linking the city hall project to President Barack Obama's call for economic stimuli. A new city hall, he argues, is a linchpin in downtown development that's connected to new office buildings, a new hotel-casino, the refurbishment of the Lady Luck and development of city-owned land on Las Vegas Boulevard.
"The bottom line, my friend, is this: J-O-B-S," Goodman said. Those in opposition "are doing themselves and the people they purportedly represent the worst disservice imaginable. It's a sin."
Added Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese: "They're being led around by a group of people ... who really don't understand this."
If the project goes forward, the building would be built by developers Forest City and LiveWork Las Vegas and leased back to the city, which would have an option to buy it. The city would essentially be an anchor tenant for other office space that's to be built on land surrounding First and Clark, near the Regional Justice Center.
Forest City also has plans to build a hotel-casino in Union Park. Goodman has speculated that Culinary's opposition to the city hall project is rooted in a push for union representation there. Union spokesmen have denied that.
Goodman and others have said development spurred by the project and new jobs make the project worth it.
"I think they're robbing Peter to pay Paul," countered Chris Bohner, Culinary's research director. "We don't think that's a good trade-off.
"We think much of that development would happen without any city hall being built."
Contact reporter Alan Choate at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-229-6435.