Power play

Contrary to what Mayor Oscar Goodman and his loyal followers on the Las Vegas City Council might believe, they do not enjoy unlimited power — not in matters affecting city policy and downtown redevelopment, and certainly not in quashing the referendum process to sabotage an election.

But Mayor Goodman and the council put on their totalitarian caps Wednesday morning and acted unilaterally to remove from the June 2 municipal ballot two questions that challenge the city’s redevelopment authority and its plan to build a new City Hall amid declining tax revenues and a devastating recession.

The move laid bare the council’s fears that the questions have a strong chance of passing.

The Culinary Local 226 gathered the signatures necessary to bring the issues directly to the electorate. The union’s motives are not pure here. It wants guarantees from the council that redevelopment projects will be union shops, and the council doesn’t want to scare off potential new taxpaying businesses. Nonetheless, its petitions were validated by the city clerk.

During Wednesday’s council meeting, City Attorney Brad Jerbic lambasted the measures, saying their passage would blow up existing redevelopment contracts and “trigger a wave of lawsuits that will make previous civil cases in this state pale by comparison.” Mr. Jerbic also claimed that the questions enter a realm that can’t be addressed by the initiative process.

But rather than take his concerns before a judge, Mr. Jerbic went to his masters on the council. And they foolishly complied with his wishes in declaring the perfectly valid, constitutional initiatives “legally defective.”

These questions were headed for a courtroom battle anyway — what initiative these days isn’t? — but the council’s power play will speed up the litigation. The right of citizens to petition the government is enshrined in the Constitution for good reason. The council overstepped.

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