An attempt to require voter approval for a downtown stadium was rejected Friday by the city's title board (pictured), which determines whether ballot measures proposed by members of the public meet legal requirements.
The board numbers three mayoral appointees: City Clerk Sarah Johnson, City Attorney Wynetta Massey and Presiding Municipal Court Judge Hayden Kane. Though Kane said during the hearing that the measure passed the board's tests of being related to a single subject and being a legislative matter, and though it would have mirrored an existing city charter provision for a downtown convention center, Johnson and Massey voted it down.
The proposed measure, submitted by a petition committee that includes Councilor Joel Miller's wife, Anita, grew out of unrest over plans for the City for Champions tourism venture, which Mayor Steve Bach has championed. It would have prohibited the city from planning, building or financing any stadium and event center without voter approval.
Massey said it failed the legislative test because it would bar the city from spending money through the Urban Renewal Authority or public facilities corporations, as well as "funds provided by any other government." Massey and Johnson argued that because those groups aren't under city authority, voters can't direct them in spending money.
The Urban Renewal Authority, organized under state law, is autonomous from the city; it will handle C4C money from state sales taxes as well as from any arrangement using local taxes.
Massey said if she had held her office in 2005, she would have disqualified the convention center ballot measure on the same grounds. Patricia Kelly served as city attorney at that time and was Massey's boss.
"The purpose of the initiative is to empower voters on how they will spend their money," said attorney C. Adam Foster of Denver, who represents the petitioners. Had it been OK'd, petitioners would have needed signatures of 5 percent of the city's registered voters, roughly 10,400 people, to make the April ballot.
Foster says the petition committee can drop the measure, bring back an amended measure, or appeal the ruling to district court.
In the meantime, discussion about a Council-referred measure just like the initiative was originally expected to take place Tuesday, but looked likely at press time to be postponed until Nov. 10, in order to avoid triggering a special election.
A referred measure would make a petition drive unnecessary.