Another legal fight over petitions

The city legal department has told media that there cannot be a citizen referendum on a soccer stadium in May because we just voted on two referend(a/ums) in November. This is apparently the section of the city charter they’re relying on:

Special elections on initiated or referred ordinances shall not be held more frequently than once each six (6) months, and no ordinance on the same subject as an initiated ordinance which has been defeated at any election may be initiated by the voters within two (2) years from the date of such election.

Two questions:

  1. It says “special elections.” The two recent initiatives were on the general election ballot. Isn’t that different?
  2. Wouldn’t a May election be in line with the 6-month waiting period, since it’s occurring exactly six months after the last election? The charter language is barring them from happening more frequently than once every six months.

Now, the other distinct legal question is whether this initiative, if approved, can even affect the McKalla Place stadium. Soccer supporters say no.

Richard Suttle, PSV’s attorney on the stadium project, said state law would prevent a completed contract from being abridged by a city ordinance, making the push to stall the stadium a nonissue.

“We have a signed contract and you can’t undo that by ordinance,” he said. “The way we see it, we won’t be involved or affected by this even if (the petitions) do get certified.”

There is no way that I have the legal capacity to delve into what state law says on this matter, but I am inclined to believe Suttle’s reasoning. But I’m old enough to remember when everybody with a law degree who wasn’t working for Fred Lewis argued that state law clearly prohibited the anti-CodeNEXT initiative.

If it was determined (by the city, the courts etc) that this initiative could in fact stop the MLS stadium, then there could very well be a high-profile election campaign, with heavy spending on both sides. There would be two very wealthy entities with a lot riding on the vote: Anthony Precourt, who wants his soccer stadium, and Bobby Epstein, who doesn’t want a new team to rival his existing team at Circuit of the Americas. My bet would the pro-MLS forces would prevail and the initiative would fail.

However, if it’s clear that this initiative cannot stop the MLS stadium, then the election may be a rather sleepy affair, since there are no high-rollers with a distinct stake in the outcome. Whether it is held in May or November, there would be very low turnout since it will not coincide with any high-profile state or federal elections. In that case, the initiative may very well pass.

Don’t you love democracy?


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