Culinary argues for ballot measures in Supreme Court brief

The Nevada Supreme Court should sidestep a thorny legal question by hearing the Culinary union’s ballot measure appeal as soon as possible, argues a brief submitted this afternoon in the ongoing dispute between the union and the city of Las Vegas.

The union wants two measures placed on the June 2 municipal election ballot. The City Council voted not to do so, calling the measures legally flawed and unconstitutional.

In doing so, it’s the city that’s acting unconstitutionally, Culinary Local 226 attorney Richard McCracken argues, saying the council is depriving citizens of a chance to vote on items of great concern.

The brief states that justices should fast-track the appeal of the council’s vote or order a special election.

Attorneys for Las Vegas have until Thursday afternoon to file a response. The union’s response to that is due May 4, after which justices promised to “immediately resolve” the question of a fast-track hearing.

Though the brief states a special election could be justified, it also acknowledges that legal opinion is split on whether courts have the power to call an election.

There are instances where it has been done — for instance, when a candidate’s name is left off the ballot, “a situation analogous to that here.”

Other decisions, though, avoid calling elections not provided for in state statute: “These courts have reasoned that the framers of the constitution and the Legislature would have given the courts authority to require special elections in express terms if that had been intended.”

Given the split precedent, the court would be better off with an expedited hearing, the brief states, since there’s still time before the election.

The ballots are being printed without the ballot questions on them, but none have been mailed to out-of-town voters yet, according to the city clerk’s office. City Clerk Beverly Bridges has expressed concern that holding the ballots too long will disenfranchise some absentee voters.

The measures ask voters to repeal the city’s redevelopment plan and give to voters the power to approve new projects handled by the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency. The agency, overseen by the City Council, uses incentives to attract new development to the downtown area, and then uses new revenue from those developments to pay for the incentives and affordable housing projects.

The union has argued that city leaders are being irresponsible with the projects, specifically by seeking to build a new city hall, and that voters should weigh in directly on the matter.


Contact reporter Alan Choate at or 702-229-6435.