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North Las Vegas clerk rejects rent control ballot measure; Culinary fighting back

Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Election 2022HousingLocal Government
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Backers of a historic North Las Vegas ballot initiative seeking rent control are calling for a review of the city clerk’s determination that the petition was “insufficient” and, therefore, cannot be placed on the November ballot.

In a challenge sent to city council members on Friday, an attorney for the Culinary Union, which is sponsoring the measure, wrote that the city clerk violated the Nevada Constitution by using turnout figures from the June 14, 2022, primary election rather than the June 11, 2019, general election to determine the required number of valid signatures to qualify the petition. The attorney requested a review of the clerk’s decision by the city council at the council’s next meeting on Aug. 3.

The state Constitution maintains that the number of signatures required for an initiative petition is “equal to 15 percent or more of the voters who voted at the last preceding general county or municipal election.” The signatures must be from registered voters.

“We will not be deterred,” Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Union, said in a press release sent Monday. “The Culinary Union submitted 3,396 signatures, and we are confident in their validity. The City of North Las Vegas is misreading the law as to how many signatures are required.”

The decision, issued last week by City Clerk Jackie Rodgers, said the petition had insufficient valid signatures and that the proposed ordinance contains differences in phrasing and style from the original petition, making it invalid. 

The city clerk cited three differences between the proposed ordinance circulated for signatures and the one submitted as part of the petition. She said the proposed ordinance contained the additional words, “The people of the state of Nevada do enact as follows…”, adding that the sequence of pages is different between the two versions, as are bolded findings.

In early July, the Culinary Union held a large celebration outside North Las Vegas City Hall to mark the submission of the signatures, noting they had gathered nearly 3,400 signatures – far exceeding the 476 needed to qualify the measure for the municipal ballot, based on turnout during the 2019 general election. Petitioners, who launched their effort with a major press conference on May 18, said the clerk advised ballot measure supporters to gather signatures based on the 2019 general election turnout.

Out of 3,396 signatures submitted as part of the petition, 2,679 were valid, short of the required 3,968 signatures, Rodgers wrote. (That determination was calculated using 15 percent of the 26,448 voters who cast a ballot in the city’s June 14 primary election.)

But the attorney representing the petitioners said the clerk’s reasons are “legally deficient.” She noted that the required number of signatures should be based on voter turnout during the city’s last general municipal election (3,169 voters) and that “differences” in the language between the petition and ordinance are non-substantive and meet the requirements of the law.

“The Committee respectfully requests the City Council to review and disapprove the Certificate and instruct the City Clerk immediately to complete her review by using 476 as the required number of valid signatures for sufficiency,” the attorney wrote.

The denial and challenge of the petition arrive almost 24 days after a July 1 deadline to submit signatures for a ballot initiative, meaning petitioners will not have any additional time to collect more signatures. 

The petition marks the first step in a journey to get a rent control measure in North Las Vegas on the books. It signifies at least the seventh initiative from across the U.S. proposing to implement or expand rent control measures this year — and the first organized effort in Nevada since the 1970s

The proposal would tie maximum rent increases to North Las Vegas’ Consumer Price Index (CPI), stipulating that rent hikes could not exceed 5 percent year over year. 

Though no rent control or rent stabilization laws are in effect in Nevada, an April Nevada Independent/OH Predictive Insights poll indicated that 65 percent of state residents from across the political spectrum support enacting rent control policies or limiting the amount a landlord can demand when leasing a home or renewing a lease. Earlier this year, candidates for North Las Vegas mayor also agreed that if elected, they would enact a policy to stabilize rental fees.

Officials with the city of North Las Vegas shared a copy of the clerk’s decision and did not provide further comment on the situation. 

This story was updated on July 25, 2022, at 5:07 p.m. to include a note from officials with the city of North Las Vegas.

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