Las Vegas wins court battle against powerful union

By Chris Rizo | May 29, 2009

CARSON CITY, Nev. (Legal Newsline)-The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that two union-backed measures should not appear on the June 2 Las Vegas municipal ballot.

The measures, organized by the powerful Culinary Workers Union Local 226, concern the city's redevelopment plans, including construction of a new city hall.

In its ruling Thursday, the state Supreme Court sided with a district judge who said the measures should not go before voters.

"The proposed referendum's statement of effect, which states that passage of the referendum would merely result in the prevention of additional development projects under the redevelopment plan, is inadequate under the law, as it fails to accurately inform the voters that the referendum's passage would also affect current and existing projects and debts incurred thereby," Justice James Hardesty wrote for the high court.

One of the proposals would have repealed the city's downtown redevelopment plan. The other would have required voter approval for a plan to build a new city hall. The decision allows the city to seek up to $267 million in municipal bonds for a new City Hall.

Officially, the measures are the Las Vegas Taxpayer Accountability Act and the Las Vegas Redevelopment Reform Referendum.

The powerful Culinary Workers Union, which represents hotel and casino workers, fought the construction plan, saying he city would have diverted much-needed money from schools, among other things.

"While the Supreme Court rejected our initiative and referendum on narrow technical grounds, we believe voters want reform of the Las Vegas City Council and Redevelopment Agency. We will continue to push for that reform," the union said in a statement.

The union led the signature gathering drive to get the measures on the ballot.

The Las Vegas City Council rejected the measures because the proposals would have forced the city to break labor contracts. The justices said the City Council erred in that respect.

"In reaching its decision, the district court ruled that the City Council had discretion to consider the measures' substantive validity in determining whether to place them on the ballot. We disagree and conclude that the City Council improperly refused to place these measures on the ballot," the Supreme Court said. "In the future, should the City Council believe that a ballot measure is invalid, it must comply with its statutory duty to place the measure on the ballot, and it may then file an action in district court challenging the measure's validity."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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