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Henderson: Hockey arena opponents erred in ballot initiative

Updated July 2, 2020 - 4:29 pm

Opponents of a minor league hockey arena in Henderson collected enough valid signatures to put the disputed project on the November ballot, but then a problem emerged: A procedural error on the petition.

Now the city has deemed the initiative petition insufficient and given project detractors two days to notify the City Clerk’s office if they wish to appeal the finding to the City Council.

“We definitely feel that the city is in error here and we adamantly disagree with their assessment that the petition is procedurally insufficient,” said John Dalrymple, spokesman for the project opposition group, the Henderson Coalition for Responsible Government. “That is simply not true. And it’s a desperate ploy by the city to try to disregard over 3,000 voters, constituents, who have voiced their opinion in order to make this a ballot initiative.”

Acting Clark County Clerk Lorena Portillo, the assistant registrar of voters, certified 2,936 of the signatures on Monday. Opponents needed roughly 2,100.

But on Wednesday, the city notified the coalition that the petition was insufficient, citing state law that requires each signature page to describe the effect of the initiative if approved by voters so they understand exactly what they are signing. The petition submitted by organizers did not have that description.

“We just want to ensure that both we and the committee follow the letter of the law,” city spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said Thursday, adding that some people who signed later stated they wished they could remove it or had received more information. “So we’re just trying to make sure their voices are heard as well.”

Consultant says city is confused

But Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, a longtime political campaign manager and advisor who has worked on ballot initiatives in the past and is advising the project opponents on this effort, disagreed with the city finding.

“The purpose of the petition itself is to be very clear and open as to what the people are signing. They don’t need to have the fiscal impact until it gets to the ballot question,” she said. “My personal opinion, and I’m not a lawyer, is that they’ve confused that.”

The petition, she said, was clear: Opponents do not want any public money used on an arena set to be the home of the future American Hockey League affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights. And they do not want it where it is proposed at the site of the current Henderson Pavilion.

The cost of the $84 million arena is expected to be split evenly between the city and Golden Knights.

Opponents started the process in May to circulate a petition, seeking to amend the city charter with language that would bar Henderson from using public money on the arena at Green Valley and Paseo Verde parkways. The council, which approved the project May 19, would have the first opportunity to adopt the initiative language and, if they did not, it would be put in front of voters in November.

“They’re trying to eliminate the democratic process that citizens have and the right to put this on the ballot,” Dalrymple said about the city.

‘Great addition’ to neighborhood

Mayo-DeRiso said that the coalition has sought the advice of an attorney, while Dalrymple acknowledged that opponents “have to anticipate that we’ll have to go the legal route” to seek a remedy.

According to the city, if opponents request a review of the city’s finding, it would be heard and considered during a special council meeting on July 16. Dalrymple said his group would make that request Thursday.

City officials have said that the multi-use arena, which is expected to begin construction this summer, will help Henderson recover from the economic dive caused by the coronavirus pandemic by putting people back to work and would also provide the city an opportunity to host events year-round.

The present pavilion is limited as an open-air venue and locked behind a gate for the majority of the year, according to Richards, who said the arena would possess a smaller seating capacity and footprint than the existing facility.

City officials have taken community concerns into account with the arena design and the Golden Knights partnership will broaden the types of events that will be booked and offer entertainment for people who perhaps cannot afford National Hockey League games, Richards said.

“It’s going to be such a great addition to the neighborhood,” she said.

A Golden Knights spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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