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Henderson council rejects anti-arena petition

Updated July 16, 2020 - 7:51 pm

An effort to block a publicly backed minor league hockey arena in Henderson all but died Thursday.

The Henderson City Council voted unanimously to uphold the city’s finding that an initiative petition to put the arena on ballots in November was insufficient due to a procedural error.

The city found the petition did not meet a legal requirement to add a description to each signature page that would explain what would happen if voters approved the measure.

“The outcome was not a surprise,” said John Dalrymple, spokesman for a project opponent group called the Henderson Coalition for Responsible Government.

Dalrymple argued to the council Thursday that the group’s inclusion of the exact language it wanted to add to the city charter gave a clear enough description of what would happen if voters approved the initiative.

The petition sought to bar Henderson from using any public money or assets to replace the Henderson Pavilion at Green Valley and Paseo Verde parkways with an arena.

“The signatures were legitimately obtained,” Rebecca Perlmutter, a project opponent, wrote to council members. “Signers were asked if they understood what the petition was about, if they had questions they were answered and everyone was asked to read the petition statement to make sure they knew what they were signing. There was complete transparency in the process.”

Council members approved the arena in May. The $84 million budget will be split evenly between the city and the Vegas Golden Knights, which owns the Henderson Silver Knights. The Silver Knights will play home games at the arena.

Opponents of the arena do not like the location and have been critical of using public money on the project. The city has said the pavilion is plagued with issues.

Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, a political consultant advising in the initiative effort, vowed this week to take the dispute to court if the council upheld the city’s finding. The group planned to discuss possible legal action Thursday night, she said.

“Everything is kind of on the table,” she said.

Council members also voted Thursday to authorize the city attorney’s office to either begin legal action or defend the city if the dispute is taken to court. The item allows the city attorney to file a challenge to the initiative to stop it from going on the ballot, if necessary.

City Attorney Nicholas Vaskov told council members that, aside from the procedural insufficiency of the petition, the initiative is unconstitutional because it intends to block a specific project, not set policy. Its unconstitutionality means it cannot be placed on the ballot, he said.

In addition, questions have been raised about whether the petition could be applied retroactively, since the arena has already been approved by the council and the initiative wouldn’t have been placed on the ballot until November.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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