Deadline Shorter

We’ve just learned that even though –

The City told us in in the first letter from the City Clerk that the due date is this Saturday…

And repeated in the second letter that increased the number of signatures required from 2,306 to 8,258 that the due date is this Saturday…

That the due dates is actually tomorrow. I don’t know for sure that they deliberately gave us a deadline for the day after the legal deadline, but it doesn’t matter now. We’ll be out in front of City Hall with notary public services all day tomorrow, and aim for a turn-in tomorrow night.

We don’t need 8K. The city is wrong.

I already wrote about the city’s “error” where they told us instead of the 2,306 signatures required to qualify the initiative, we need 8,258. You can read the city’s letter here.

Essentially, somebody over at the City Hall has decided that the Nevada Constitution doesn’t mean what it says, it means what they want it to. This is the city’s justification for violating the law, under which our Committee only needs to gather 2,306 signatures 15% of the number of people who voted in the last city election.

It turns out that the Legislature has taken up the city’s interpretation of the Constitution – that the phrase “preceding general county or municipal election” really means “preceding general county or general municipal election” instead of what it says. In 1967, the Legislature specifically considered and rejected applying the percentage to the last city general election and made it the last city election.

Here is the letter I would have delivered to the City Clerk’s office yesterday if it has been open. We are requesting they acknowledge that we need to gather 2,306.

If you don’t fight, you can’t win

Here is the letter from the City describing how they decided to change the target number of signatures required from 2,306 to 8,258.

Article 19 of the Nevada Constitution was amended in by the Legislature and the people about the time I was born. It’s about how citizens of a state go about petitioning its government directly. The focus is mostly on state matters – state law, the state Constitution, etc. Way down in section 4, it says “Oh, by the way, this applies to counties (regional government) and cities (city government) as well. It combines both in that one paragraph.

It says:

initiative petitions may be instituted by a number of registered voters equal to 15 percent or more of the voters who voted at the last preceding general county or municipal election.

When the Legislature next met, it turned the new Article 19 into Nevada Revised Statute 295. They separated county initiatives and city initiatives into separate sections, as you can see. They considered whether the amendment authors meant :”at the last preceding general county or general municipal election” or meant what they wrote.

Amongst their considerations is how odd City Elections are: they are held apart from normal November elections, in June. Often, only half of the city votes. Sometimes, there is no general election. Generally, cities’ purpose – making sure the water system works, the sewer system works, the police, fire and emergency response systems work, and the roads are serviceable – does not make controversy. Redevelopment Agencies had not yet been added to Nevada law, so no one had figured out how to turn them to personal profit at the expense of taxpayers, or that they don’t accomplish much.

And they decided that the amendment authors actually meant what they wrote, not something else. So, in the paragraphs about cities which does not include counties, they wrote (at 295.205(2)):

Initiative petitions must be signed by a number of registered voters of the city equal to 15 percent or more of the number of voters who voted at the last preceding city election.

In determining the number at 2,305, the City Clerk applied the Constitution’s plain reading, the law, and all City of Las Vegas precedent to base the calculation on the turnout at the last preceding city election.

Yesterday’s letter is based on the City deciding that the Legislature was wrong, lo those many years ago. Instead, the Constitution doesn’t mean what it says, because it was sloppily drafted. The City now contends that what they really meant to write was “at the last preceding general county or general municipal election” instead of what they actually wrote.

What do you think? Any attorneys out there want to take this up pro-bono? Maybe ask a judge for an extension of time, at the least?

MLS 2014 Top Stories: “Expansion Surge”

Nate Sulat, writing for the MLS official website MLSSoccer.com on Monday, says the 8th biggest story for MLS fans in 2014 is the league’s expansion surge. He notes that the league awarded two new franchises during the year, to Atlanta and Miami, and plans to award one more sometime in the first half of 2015.

About Las Vegas, Sulat writes:

But the inclusion of Atlanta and Miami means that a place like Las Vegas – with very little fanfare until 2014 – still has hope on the basis of their large and rapidly-growing population. The owners have submitted a contentious stadium proposal that will be voted on by the City Council this week.

Both the Miami and Atlanta metro areas hold 5.5-million people each, two and a half times larger than Las Vegas, and the distance between the two (about equal to the distance between Laughlin and Burning Man, both inside Nevada’s borders) holds another couple of million potential fans.

You won’t find more than a few tens of thousands of additional people within a two hour drive of Las Vegas, thought It’s statistically valid to bump our population up by a half million visitors (40,000,000 annual visitors x average stay of 4.3 days ÷ 365 days a year), which still leaves us less than half of Miami or Atlanta.

Sulat quotes MLS commissioner Garber:

“(Atlanta) is much different than the average American or Canadian city,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in April at the team’s introductory press conference. “It’s incredibly diverse. It’s very young and most of those young people are working at corporations downtown and are living downtown.”

Las Vegas, of course, is also much different than the average American or Canadian city – we’re already the entertainment capital of the world, home to Penn & Teller, Wayne Newton, David Copperfield, Celene Dion, BB King, and, this month anyway, KISS. We’re also different than Atlanta, in that we do not have very many people working at corporations downtown or living downtown.

Here’s the entire story at MLSSoccer.com.

We Won’t Get Fooled Again

Because we’re uncomfortable showing the front cover

The “final” deal details for City of Las Vegas taxpayers to give public money to a downtown soccer stadium were released this week. It’s not very different from the last several sets of deal details, though it is much less risky for Las Vegas taxpayers than the first deal that was proposed (which had the city paying for almost all of it). And all of it is contingent on Las Vegas actually being awarded a soccer team (which seems less and less likely).

Here is what the City will be giving to the wealthy team owners:

  • The City will borrow $25-million and build the stadium’s parking garage. The team owners will be given free use of the garage for up to 90 event days per year, during which they will be able to keep whatever they can charge people to park. This will be only a little closer to the front door than the existing even larger garage at the World Market Center, which is nearly empty 49 weeks out of the year (the other three weeks are when the World Market Center holds its international home furnishings trade show, when it is full). This seems likely to spark a “rate war” on most game days, when the World Market Center might charge less for parking than the team owners will charge.
  • The City will give the team owners $56-million, about half of it borrowed on “revenue” bonds instead of “general obligation” bonds. The risk to taxpayers is identical, but the cost to taxpayers is much higher for technical reasons that Guy Hobbs explains here. The loan will be repaid from parks maintenance/construction funding. The other half is money that will empty out City savings accounts.
  • The City has been given $50-million in coupons from the Federal Government that really rich people can use to get out of their income tax bills with (called “New Market Tax Credits”). The City plans to fire-sale these coupons for $10-million and give the proceeds to the team owners.
  • The land in Symphony Park is worth $38-million to $48-million. The City didn’t pay that much for the land years ago, but has borrowed dozens of millions of dollars (still not paid back) to “improve the site.” Through a complicated long-term “ground lease”, this land will essentially be given to the team owners.
  • The City will give back the “property tax increment” – basically about 75% of the property taxes that the facility would pay, something between a half million and a million per year. [This will only be given to the team owners if they actually build the stuff they’ve promised to build.]
  • The team owners will offer soccer clinics for kids that the team owners value at a half million dollars per year (this is a league requirement for all MLS teams).
  • The City Council gets a free luxury box suite in the stadium.

The council is expected to vote this proposal up or down next Wednesday.