Does Las Vegas have a new constitution? Officials won’t say

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By David Giuliani

Fifty-six percent of Las Vegas voters approved a new city charter in March, but that doesn’t mean the city is ready to accept it.

The charter, which acts as a constitution for the city, would give mayors four-year terms, instead of two, and set up runoff elections to ensure that mayoral and City Council winners get at least 50 percent of the vote.

It would also limit mayors’ and council members’ pay to $10,000 a year.

But because of questions over the new charter’s validity, City Attorney Dave Romero has urged the city to seek a declaratory judgment from a district judge on the charter’s legitimacy.
He said this week that the city was in the process of seeking that judgment.

Alex Aragon, the vice chairman of the committee that drafted the charter, contended it was a waste of money to seek a court’s judgment. In any case, he said the city attorney should have acted more quickly in going to the court. The city doesn’t have a lot of time to get the judgment because the charter is supposed to take effect the day after the March 2012 election, he said.

“The charter was taken before the people; they voted for it. It’s been filed with the secretary of state,” Aragon said. “People need to know if the charter is going to happen.”

Four decades ago, local voters passed the current city charter when they voted to unite the two Las Vegases.

A day after the March election, local attorney Danelle Smith announced that she believed the charter didn’t pass. She said the old charter required 60 percent for passage of amendments.

But Charles Rennick, the charter committee’s attorney, said state law and the state constitution required only 50 percent for passage.

Besides, he said the city was repealing its charter, not amending it.
Mayor Alfonso Ortiz said he didn’t like the proposed charter, but he figured whether it had passed was a “dead issue.” He said he was glad that Romero was seeking a judge’s determination.

Ortiz said he didn’t like how the charter would shift power from the mayor and City Council to the city manager. He said that was a reaction to a temporary political situation earlier this year.