One of my favorite comedy scenes of all time was when the character played by the late John Belushi in the movie “Animal House” was told that the days of fun-and-games at his college fraternity were “over.”
“What?” Bluto asked. “Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now.”
“Forget it; he’s rolling.”
I think of that scene every time someone tells me that Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers has told them that the fight over awarding Republic Services that 14-year, billion-dollar NO BID contract extension is “over.”
Sorry, councilman, but it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. And it ain’t over now.
You see, before Councilman Beers and the other members of the city council could vote (5-2) to award Republic Services that billion-dollar NO BID contract extension, they first had to pass a new ordinance to “repeal and replace” Chapter 9.08 of the Las Vegas City Code governing trash collection because the old ordinance didn’t allow for single-container residential recycling and other matters.
Which means without this new-and-improved (but not lemon-scented) ordinance, Councilman Beers’ sweet-heart billion-dollar NO BID contract extension for Republic Services — which includes either cutting your residential trash collection from twice-a-week to once-a-week or DOUBLING your monthly service fee! — could not legally be implemented.
And while there’s absolutely nothing the voters, taxpayers, rate-payers and citizens of Las Vegas can do about Councilman Beers’ billion-dollar NO BID contract extension itself, there DOES appear to be something they can do about repealing the ordinance that made it possible.
It’s called a voter “referendum.” And it’s the law. You could look it up.
And if the ordinance is repealed via voter referendum, one would assume the contract based on the new ordinance would become null and void. Now…
According to Article 19, Section 4 of the Nevada Constitution, the “referendum powers provided for in this article are reserved to the registered voters of each county and each municipality as to all local, special and municipal legislation of every kind in or for such county or municipality.”
And “referendum” means if enough signatures are gathered by the registered voters of Las Vegas, the ordinance that allows Councilman Beers’ Billion-Dollar NO BID contract extension could still be repealed!
It wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. And it ain’t over now.
So how many signatures would be required?
Well, according to the Nevada Constitution, “Referendum petitions may be instituted by 10 percent or more of” voters “who voted at the last preceding general county or municipal election.”
If you go by the last municipal election, held on April 4, 2017, the total turnout was 23,317.
Which means to qualify a referendum calling for a repeal of the ordinance that allows Councilman Beers’ billion-dollar NO BID contract extension that either cuts your service in half or doubles your monthly fee, circulators would have to collect just 2,332 signatures.
Now get this…
Before the vote on the ordinance to enable the contract extension, citizen activists who wanted the contract put out for competitive bidding gathered signatures from Las Vegas residents on an unofficial petition that was submitted to council members before their April 5 meeting.
And guess how many signatures they collected?
Wait, it gets better…
There’s a very good chance that turnout for the June 13 general election for two Las Vegas city council seats –- including the seat of Councilman Beers –- could be even LOWER than the primary election turnout. So it’d actually probably be better to wait to file the referendum until after June 13.
Either way, gathering enough signatures to qualify putting Councilman Beers’ new trash collection ordinance up for a referendum should be a slam dunk. The same citizens who circulated the earlier petition already know 6,000+ people who would surely sign a new petition on the same subject.
Great! So what’s the process, you ask?
According to the “Initiative and Referendum Guide” published by the Nevada Secretary of State’s office…
“Any five registered voters of the county or city may file with the Clerk an affidavit stating that they will constitute the petitioner’s committee, be responsible for circulating the petition and filing it in the proper form. The affidavit must also contain the full text of the proposed initiative ordinance or cite the ordinance sought to be reconsidered.”
So the first step is to find five registered voters in Las Vegas to form the official referendum committee. Any volunteers? Shoot an email to me at email@example.com.
OK, once a referendum petition is filed with the city clerk, supporters have 180 days (six months) to get enough signatures to qualify. Once the signatures are submitted and verified, here’s what happens…
“If the petition is deemed sufficient, the board or council shall promptly consider the ordinance in the manner provided by law. If the board or council… fails to repeal the referred ordinance within 30 days after the date the petition was determined sufficient, it shall submit the proposed or referred ordinance to the registered voters in the form of a ballot question at the next general election (if a municipal initiative, the question will be voted upon at either the next general city election or general election).”
In English that means if we gather enough signatures, the city council must re-vote on the ordinance that enables Councilman Beers’ Billion-Dollar NO BID contract extension for Republic Services. And here’s the interesting thing about that…
By the time the council would be required to re-vote, both Council Beers and Councilman Steve Ross –- both of whom voted AGAINST putting the Billion-Dollar contract up for bid — could be off the council. Mr. Ross is already term-limited out and Mr. Beers could possibly lose his re-election bid on June 13.
And two of the candidates running for those two seats, who have a decent chance of winning, are already on record as favoring a competitive bidding process for this contract.
So a re-vote – assuming Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian and Councilman Ricki Barlow again vote to issue an RFP (request for proposals) — could go 4-3 the other way in favor of good government and competitive bidding for this Billion-Dollar contract extension
But even if those things don’t fall into place and the city council refuses to repeal the ordinance enabling Councilman Beers’ Billion-Dollar NO BID contract extension for Republic Services, the matter then goes to the people of Las Vegas for an up-or-down vote in the 2018 general election.
How many Las Vegas voters are going to vote to slash their trash pick-up service from twice-a-week to once-a-week or pay double their monthly service fee for nothing more than the privilege of dumping their recyclables into one container instead of three?
I like our chances.
Of course, Republic Services and the city will file a lawsuit to block the referendum. And if the court green-lights it anyway, they’ll launch a massive disinformation public relations campaign to persuade people that black is white and up is down –- and maybe, indeed, they’ll be successful in fooling enough people into voting for Councilman Beers’ Billion-Dollar NO BID contract extension.
But at least the people themselves will have the final word.
And THEN the people will have decided it’s over.
Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy grassroots advocacy organization and publisher of NevadaNewsandViews.com. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.