Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2019

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Culinary moves to block LV redevelopment & city hall project

The Culinary Union has taken its fight with Las Vegas City Hall to the next step.

The 60,000-strong union of hotel and casino workers filed paperwork today try to kill a downtown redevelopment project vaunted by city officials as a "no-brainer" but derided by the Culinary as fiscally irresponsible.

At issue is a $266 million bond measure that would finance construction of a new city hall — and, officials say, set into motion a series of development projects, including a gaming resort, that would revitalize downtown.

The city is pursuing a so-called "certificate of participation" instead of regular bonds, meaning it is not required to put the measure before voters but can act on the authority of the city council. The Culinary's effort — to circulate a petition to force an initiative and referendum — would change that, requiring voter approval of appropriations.

In a news release, Culinary Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor pointed to the city's anticipated $150 million deficit over the next five years.

"The City of Las Vegas is asking taxpayers to make sacrifices in services like public safety because of current economic conditions. At the same time, they are asking taxpayers to finance a new quarter-billion dollar city hall.

We believe this is a case of a redevelopment agency gone amuck,” Taylor said. “The City Council is promoting this irresponsible set of policies and we believe it is time for the voters in the City of Las Vegas to have a say in where their tax dollars go.”

The union's proposed referendum would repeal the current redevelopment plan, which offers developers incentives to build, including diverting some taxes to pay for infrastructure costs.

With enough signatures, the measures could be on the city elections ballot next spring.

City officials have acknowledged the plan has risks, but insist the risk of doing nothing is far greater.

The Culinary went on record last month, when Chris Bohner, the union’s research director, protested the measure at a contentious city council hearing. Backed by more than 100 union members wearing red T-shirts, he called the plan fiscally irresponsible, especially at a time when the city faces a $150 million deficit over the next five years and has announced cuts to public services.

The protest drew the ire of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who accused the union's leadership of intimidation and attempting to derail the downtown development plan.

To be sure, the Culinary also wants to ensure that any future casino jobs are union.

Goodman is set to discuss the Culinary's protest this afternoon.

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