City appeals Fuji, fairgrounds question to Supreme Court
The Fuji Park and fairgrounds ballot question is headed to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Criticizing a recent district court decision as lacking details, Carson City supervisors voted 5-0 Tuesday to appeal to the state’s highest court whether they will have to place on the November ballot an ordinance asking to preserve Fuji Park and the city’s fairgrounds.
They also decided to continue down a “messy” path to prepare both their own advisory question and the ordinance presented to them on a 3,400-signature petition, although they expect only one question to be on the ballot.
Judge Michael Griffin decided April 15 that Carson residents deserve a chance to vote on the ordinance submitted by petition. If it passes, he said, city officials can challenge its constitutionality.
Supervisors disagreed, saying it would be a waste of time to campaign for or against an ordinance that won’t stand up in court. They were also chagrined Griffin offered no detailed explanation.
“It is rather unfortunate that the judge did not take the time or the opportunity to give us an opinion of how the decision was framed,” Mayor Ray Masayko said. “Do we need to get that? This member of the board does before we go out there with a question.”
Masayko and Supervisor Richard Staub criticized Griffin’s decision, and Staub suggested politics may have swayed the ruling.
“Is Judge Griffin up for re-election? Looking at the decision, I wonder if he is,” Staub said. “I feel deprived the court decision came down the way it did. That is sometimes the politics of the issue instead of the legality of the issue.”
About 30 people listened to a two-hour discussion as the supervisors weighed their options. Several, including members of the Concerned Citizens to Save Fuji Park and the Fairgrounds, who circulated the petition, urged supervisors to place just one question — the initiative ordinance — on the ballot.
“Keep the initiative only on the ballot,” Judy Larquier said. “The public has spoken about what they want to do with the park and the rest of the community needs to vote on it without being confused.”
Chamber of Commerce representatives encouraged the city to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Concerned Citizen representative Jon Nowlin argued the city’s advisory question, with references to preserving Fuji Park but developing the fairgrounds, will confuse voters.
Masayko said Carson City’s appeal would clarify the initiative petition process for other Nevada counties.
“I don’t think there’s a member sitting here who wants to take steps to deny the citizens of Carson City their opinion on this matter,” Masayko said. “There are just two different ways to get there.
“We’re not trying to side-step the issue; we’re trying to clarify the issue.”
Two committees, drafting the pros and cons of each ballot question, will work until the Supreme Court makes a decision or July 15 when language for the November ballot must be submitted.
The future of the fairgrounds, which sits in the middle of the region’s hottest commercial property, has been enveloped in controversy since the city decided to sell vacant Fuji Park land to Costco in 1999. Community members were angered last year when the city offered the fairgrounds to Wal-Mart to keep the retailer from relocating in North Douglas County. The Concerned Citizens responded with the initiative petition, and city officials responded with the alternate ballot question, promising to abide by its outcome.
Carson City’s advisory question:
“While retaining and improving the area known as Fuji Park, should Carson City make available for commercial development City property known as the Carson City Fairgrounds?”
Concerned Citizen’s proposed ordinance:
“Fuji Park and Carson City Fairgrounds be maintained and improved in not less than its present size as a park in perpetuity.”