The Nevada Supreme Court will not force Las Vegas to put two disputed ballot measures before voters June 2, but those promoting the measures can still go to a lower court to seek a legal remedy.
In a ruling released late Wednesday, the high court’s justices did not delve into the constitutional problems raised by the city about the measures or the violations of state initiative and referendum procedure that the city purportedly committed.
Instead, they simply said that intervening in the case would be an extraordinary and unwarranted step by the court.
“There are expedient and efficient remedies available in the district court to address matters such as those presented here,” the ruling states. “We are not persuaded that extraordinary intervention by this court is appropriate at this time.”
Culinary Union Local 226, which organized the petition drive behind the measures, released a statement Wednesday saying the fight isn’t over yet.
“We will immediately file litigation in District Court seeking to protect the fundamental constitutional right of citizens to file initiatives and referendums,” said a statement from secretary-treasurer D. Taylor. “We believe the rights of the voters should be respected.
“We find the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision on this important ruling troubling, given that the court accepted our case and heard oral arguments ... nevertheless, we respect the court’s decision.”
There’s a tight deadline looming. On Monday, the city said the printing of absentee ballots must start April 22.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman released a statement praising the ruling.
“This is a great day for the future of Las Vegas and Nevada,” the statement says. “Workers will have jobs. They will be able to pay their mortgages and feed their families.
“As an aside, the city will not be crippled by those with ulterior motives who try to extort us.”
One measure would repeal the existing redevelopment plan, which was put in place to use incentives and tax breaks to lure development into blighted areas in and around downtown.
The other would require voter approval on “lease-purchase” agreements to build public buildings. That’s the financing measure being considered for the proposed, and controversial, new city hall.
City Attorney Brad Jerbic told members of the Las Vegas City Council that the submissions met technical requirements for inclusion on the ballot.
But, he said, they would unconstitutionally interfere with existing contracts in other redevelopment projects, overreach into areas not covered by initiative and referendum law and unleash a tidal wave of litigation against the city if approved by voters.
Chris Bohner, Culinary’s research director, said the city is simply scared that voters would actually approve the measures if given a chance.
“We followed every step to the letter,” he said. “Clearly they’re afraid to have the voters vote on this.”
Union officials say they undertook the effort to counter the city’s push for a new city hall, which they say is too expensive a project to take on in the midst of an economic downturn. They’re also critical of the way the city has handled redevelopment so far.
Goodman, however, says the union is trying to strong-arm the city into forcing casino developers to negotiate labor contracts with the union, a claim Bohner and Taylor have denied. The would-be developer of a new city hall has plans for a new casino downtown, and the city is working closely with the company seeking to renovate and reopen the shuttered Lady Luck casino.
Contact reporter Alan Choate at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-229-6435.