City Hall’s soccer fans couldn’t help but smirk at the apparent failure late last week of a petition drive designed to halt a government subsidy for a $200 million downtown stadium.
After having the goal moved on them by the city clerk’s office, petitioners came up approximately 1,300 short of the 8,258 they were told they needed to gather in order to qualify their question on the June 2 ballot. The clerk’s office originally said petitioners needed to collect just 2,300 signatures within the short deadline. (The group actually gathered 9,811 signatures but had a substantial number disqualified.)
That larger figure proved too much for the group, led by the council’s most vocal stadium subsidy opponents, Bob Beers and Stavros Anthony. Unamused by the change from the clerk’s office, Beers is litigating the issue. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in District Judge Jerry Wiese’s courtroom.
Whether the judge provides a remedy that satisfies the stadium’s foes or tells them tough luck, fallout from the city’s narrow decision to encumber $56.5 million in public funds to support the stadium project has only begun. The usually uneventful and uncompetitive city election promises to offer a little more action this year.
Anthony, for example, said the issue largely convinced him to run against stadium proponent Mayor Carolyn Goodman. Beers has his own ambitions, namely challenging for Harry Reid’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016.
Anti-stadium activist Lisa Mayo-DeRiso appears to have been actively recruiting candidates to challenge incumbents who endorsed the development offered by The Cordish Cos. and Findlay Sports &Entertainment.
On Monday, local business owner and downtown newcomer Eric Krattiger announced his candidacy for the Ward 3 seat held by reluctant stadium endorser Bob Coffin. It was Coffin who changed his view of the development after the city made assurances that no taxes would be increased and funds would be made available for parks in his care-worn ward. Krattiger’s press missive focused on the candidate’s opposition to the stadium vote.
Last week, Randy Voyard announced his candidacy or the Ward 5 council seat currently held by stadium proponent Ricki Barlow. In his media release, Voyard said he was a 10-year resident of the ward and was outraged by the stadium deal.
Drawing an opponent is one thing. Losing to someone who has minimal name recognition, slight political experience and is campaigning from scratch sounds like a real long shot. Unless, of course, voters really are as outraged over the stadium decision as Anthony and Beers contend.
Incumbents enjoy big advantages over most challengers. They generally have a healthy campaign bankroll to work with and benefit from the city’s short campaign season. The races aren’t costly marathons but sprints. Opponents with no name recognition can remain a mystery to voters.
Although the signature drive appears to have failed, and a judge reasonably could conclude the clerk acted in good faith, the stadium story still promises to complicate things for incumbents.
Those signatures might not be enough to place the stadium question on the ballot, but they represent thousands of citizens ticked off by the idea of spending $56.5 million in public money on a private development at a time parts of the city are still recovering from recession.
From a political standpoint, that is a gift. Although Mayor Goodman has said vocally that the stadium development is part of her vision for a new downtown and a “world class” city, the project’s proponents on the council have been far less demonstrative.
They have, so far, managed to keep the smiles on their faces even as opposition mounts and upstart challengers emerge from the woodwork.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. E-mail him at email@example.com or call 702-383-0295.