Clarifying the ballot
April 5, 2002
The question on November’s ballot for Carson City residents should be the one 3,400 people read when they signed petitions calling for a vote on Fuji Park.
It asks whether Fuji Park and the adjacent fairgrounds should “be maintained and improved in not less than its present size as a park in perpetuity.”
With that said, however, we think most Carson City residents are satisfied that supervisors did, indeed, put a question on the ballot so voters will get an opportunity to express their opinion.
The question on the ballot — unless a court determines otherwise — asks: “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?”
There are important differences between the question submitted by petitioners and the one approved by supervisors.
For one thing, the supervisors’ language actually asks two questions. It’s certainly possible for people to favor retaining and improving Fuji Park, but oppose development of the fairgrounds.
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So what does a “no” vote mean? Don’t retain and improve Fuji Park, and don’t develop the fairgrounds?
In the end, we hope most people understand the supervisors are committed to protecting Fuji and their question is really only about the fairgrounds. However, the people drafting “pro” and “con” arguments should address the ambiguity, which was apparently written intentionally to get people to vote “yes” based solely on the first part of the question.
In the meantime, we will be interested in a ruling on whether the supervisors can, in fact, ignore the specific wording on the petitions circulated by Concerned Citizens to Save Fuji Park and the Fairgrounds.
The group has sued to force its wording onto the ballot, and both sides seem to have legitimate legal points to make. If a judge can clarify the law on initiative petitions, it might be the first clear answer to emerge since the Fuji/fairgrounds issue erupted.
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