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City, union officials craft agreement to avoid legal battles

At one point, relations between Las Vegas officials and the Culinary union were downright nasty.

Former Councilman Larry Brown called the union’s leadership “cowardly.”

Mayor Oscar Goodman said, “They are evil,” and accused them of trying to extort labor concessions by pretending to oppose downtown development projects.

Now, apparently, the two sides have reached an agreement to play nice. And the union, which represents hotel and casino workers, got the labor guarantees the city accused them of wanting.

In return, the union has agreed not to use lawsuits or ballot measures to oppose a proposed new city hall or similar projects in the city’s redevelopment area, which consists of areas defined as needing special incentives to spur investment and development.

“It resolves a long-standing and fairly acrimonious public discourse about the future of redevelopment,” said Las Vegas City Manager Betsy Fretwell. “The Culinary union staked out a pretty significant position regarding the future of redevelopment in our community.

“We think we’ve worked out a pretty good compromise between the two positions.”

The agreements are contained in a memorandum of understanding that the Las Vegas City Council will consider at next Wednesday’s council meeting.

“The redevelopment agency has faced challenges to its process,” D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of Culinary Local 226, said in a written statement. “We are pleased the city is making steps toward improving its process, and we think the agreement signals that in the future there will be meaningful dialogue in the redevelopment process.”

The agreement states that Las Vegas must enact a labor peace ordinance by June 30 requiring that “gaming hospitality projects where the city has a financial and proprietary interest, the developer must obtain a labor peace agreement with an appropriate union.”

The city is hoping that two hotel-casinos will be built downtown in the near future: one on city-owned land in Symphony Park and one where City Hall stands now. Las Vegas also has offered incentives to the CIM Group, which plans to reopen the Lady Luck casino.

In return, the union must refrain from lawsuits or ballot initiatives opposing a proposed new city hall or projects in the redevelopment area. It also agreed to stay neutral on state legislation affecting redevelopment law, unless involvement “will further the interests of a balanced and successful redevelopment process.”

Earlier this year, the city and the union endured a bruising legal fight when the union tried to put ballot measures before voters that would have, at the least, delayed a proposed new city hall building and enacted severe restrictions on the redevelopment agency’s activities.

The City Council voted not to put the measures on the ballot, saying that they didn’t meet legal requirements for ballot measures and that they would make it impossible for the city to operate. The union sued, but the city prevailed in court.

Those measures “would’ve basically created a complete inability for the Redevelopment Agency to go forward… and, quite frankly, probably would’ve even compromised our ability to pay off our current debt,” Fretwell said.

The memorandum also calls for:

• A citizens advisory committee for the Redevelopment Agency.

• Focusing any expansion of redevelopment on neighborhoods at risk of decay and declining property values.

• A living wage study.

If approved, the agreement would be in place for five years, with the option of two extensions of two years each.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.


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