The Las Vegas City Council today heard four items relating to the city of Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency, the Taxpayer Accountability Act Initiative and the Las Vegas Redevelopment Reform Referendum Petition. After a presentation by City Attorney Brad Jerbic, the City Council voted to deny the placement of the initiative and the referendum on the June 2, 2009 Municipal Election ballot.
The council also directed the City Clerk to send a letter to the petition committee stating that the referendum and initiative are illegal, unconstitutional and not properly subject to a vote of the citizens.
City Attorney Jerbic said that while the ballot measures meet the technical requirements of having enough signatures, they are not legally sufficient or proper to be placed on the ballot. The referendum would repeal the entire Redevelopment Agency, which would end the agency’s ability to pay over $80 million in redevelopment bond obligations and operating costs, and would likely result in a multitude of civil lawsuits against the city, Jerbic said.
Jerbic cited the U.S. Constitution saying that a law cannot be passed that interferes or impedes existing contract rights. The $80 million in redevelopment bond obligations and operating costs are an existing contract. In 1995 a similar ballot measure was proposed to eliminate the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency (RDA), but that proposal was found to be legally insufficient and was denied in an opinion by the Nevada Attorney General.
The initiative would delegate administrative authority to citizens, but the Nevada State Constitution sets out that an initiative can address legislative issues, but not administrative issues, Jerbic said. The initiative is therefore “legally defective,” according to Jerbic.
The RDA is designed to stimulate new development and redevelopment within its boundaries. These new developments bring in goods and services to a previously blighted area. These developments in turn create additional tax revenue that can be used to provide services for city residents. These dollars generated by the RDA go to schools, public safety and other public needs.
Over the last five years the tax revenue generated by the RDA has tripled from roughly $8 million a year to $25 million per year. About 20 percent of these new tax revenues from the RDA go toward education and critical public services. This in turn provides additional funding for education and city services. Over that same time period the RDA has developed 104 projects totaling $2.9 billion in private investment, which created 7,543 permanent jobs and 9,711 construction jobs.