Fairgrounds ballot question in Supreme Court's court

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The arguments are in, and now Nevada Supreme Court justices must decide which of two opposing questions regarding the future of the Carson City fairgrounds will be on the ballot this year.

Carson City attorneys and the attorney for the Concerned Citizens to Save Fuji Park and the Fairgrounds agreed to an abbreviated filing period for the Supreme Court appeal and finished filing paperwork Thursday.

The city is appealing an April 15 district court decision to place the Concerned Citizens proposed ordinance on the ballot. While District Judge Michael Griffin did not specify between the primary and general election ballots, Concerned Citizen attorney Julian Smith is asking the Supreme Court to order the issue onto the Sept. 3 primary ballot.

Carson City Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Forsberg argued the same points he has made since the Concerned Citizens began the process last summer to put an initiative petition ordinance on the ballot: the process attacks the city's state-granted rights to sell property.

"It seeks to compel an administrative, rather than legislative action by the Carson City Board of Supervisors, and thus it ultimately must fail, voter approval notwithstanding," Forsberg wrote in his argument. "The voters will have their say, both by approving or disapproving the advisory question posed by the board, and, under our democratic system of government, by exercising their power to elect representatives to act on their behalf.

"Allowing such an invalid exercise of the initiative process may seem politically expedient, but it can do nothing but foster a distrust of the electoral process and an erosion of citizens' confidence that the laws enabled by our state constitution and enacted by our legislature can and will be followed."

Smith argued the initiative petition process granted by the state constitution is "meaningless words on paper if the city is correct that the initiative process is only available for acts not delegated to the city by the Legislature."

The Concerned Citizen's petition, signed by 3,400 registered Carson voters, asks that Fuji Park and the fairgrounds "be maintained and improved in not less than its present size as a park in perpetuity." While Forsberg argues that wording will force the city to dedicated funding to the park from an unknown source, Smith said all it asks is for city leaders to extend the same protection granted Fuji Park -- a promise of no commercial development -- to the fairgrounds.

Smith also noted the city cannot, under state law, devote any resources to opposing a ballot question. Forsberg countered it would be unfair for the city not to respond to the lawsuit filed by the Concerned Citizens.

"This case is not about Carson City supporting or opposing a ballot question, it's about the constitutionality of the initiative ordinance process," Forsberg wrote.

City leaders have looked at commercial development at the city's fairgrounds off Old Clear Creek Road as a way to compete with commercial development just over the Douglas County line. The backlash in the community created the Concerned Citizens' movement, and forced city leaders to postpone development plans in favor of an advisory vote on the issue. While the city awaits a Supreme Court decision, a committee is working on drafting ballot language for both questions.


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