The City of Las Vegas’ redevelopment plan is being challenged by Culinary Local 226 in the upcoming June election. Culinary has secured enough signatures to place two initiatives on the ballot that would (1) require voter approval for individual lease-purchase agreements and (2) repeal the city’s current redevelopment plan.
The City has proposed to issue general obligation bonds to finance, among other things, a new $267 million city hall. The project would burden local taxpayers with a significant amount of debt at a time when they can least afford it.
In response to Culinary’s actions, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has audaciously declared, “The public should know, no matter what happens with the referendum, we're going to go ahead with these projects.” In essence, Goodman is saying that ‘democracy is not valid here’ and that he will force city residents to build him a new palace whether they like it or not. Goodman contends that the taxpayer-funded development projects he has envisioned cannot be stopped because the city has entered into binding agreements on those projects that it must honor.
However, his contention is undermined by the fact that he freely admits that the contract for the new city hall “may not be specifically in writing, but these people are proceeding as though there is a contractual agreement with the city.” Hence, there is no contract.
In typical fashion, city officials are hiding behind the state’s redevelopment laws to protect acts that in principle constitute tyranny and despotism. Normally, when the City Council issues large amounts of debt through a general obligation bond, the public has the right to vote on it. When it does so under the guise of a redevelopment agency, however, democracy is suspended and Council members are allowed to impose new debt onto taxpayers in order to fund whatever pet project they desire.
Often, city officials can use a redevelopment agency to funnel taxpayer money directly to their privileged developer friends as an “incentive” (wink-wink) to undertake the project. In essence, redevelopment agencies are a tool used to tax private families in order to enrich the feudal lords.
Despotism is a way of life once a city forms a redevelopment agency in Nevada. The actions of Mayor Goodman and his cohorts on the City Council are prima facie evidence of this fact.
Reform of Nevada’s redevelopment laws is now long overdue. The state legislature can no longer regard these abuses with ambivalence. Nevadans deserve protection from their local officials’ despotic behavior.