Legal Games to Defeat the People’s Initiative

         It is a well known fact one of the ways the special interests retain control over the establishment both here and around the country is to use the court system to defeat efforts by the people to take control of their government.  The latest example of this is Lakewood’s growth initiative.  

 

          When it became clear the special interests were not going to allow any reforms to the city’s management of growth, the citizens took it upon themselves to reign in the current overdevelopment.  The citizens’ group Lakewood Neighborhood Partners wrote and circulated an initiative petition to create an ordinance that uses a building permit allocation system to limit future multi-family residential growth to the previous year’s limit plus another 1% (i.e. total of 101%).  

 

          While this is a very modest proposal, the development industry (and their allies) are going berserk that they might lose control over Lakewood.  As expected, the special interests are shaking the money tree and using their mountain of cash to hire professional consultants and PR firms to defeat this proposal.  Nevertheless, they are scared to death the proposal makes such good sense that even a high-powered PR campaign just might not be able to fool the voters into voting against their own best interests.  

 

         Therefore, there is now an effort to keep the people’s initiative off the ballot.  A legal protest was filed with the Lakewood City Clerk challenging the validity of the petitions.  On the one hand, the arguments about whether the circulators used the correct terminology in their affidavits are pretty frivolous and will probably be thrown out, the challengers have made it clear they will appeal the City Clerk’s ruling.

 

          While the intent is prevent the voters from having a opportunity to weigh in on the subject of growth management it could have several unintended consequences.  At a bare minimum it could create a delay in the election.   To begin with the legal proceedings will probably take it beyond the date in which Lakewood could participate in the Jeffco coordinated ballot in November.  This would force Lakewood to run its own election process in November (more costly).  Another possibility is if there are further delays (i.e. appeals to District Court, etc.) the election may be pushed out beyond the November election date.  This could require a “special” election over the holidays or into next year.

 

          Another possible impact is it may force changes in Lakewood’s rules regarding citizen initiatives.  The opponents are claiming Lakewood can not use its home rule powers to regulate its own citizen initiatives.  Whether they require Lakewood to use the state rules or devise new rules, in any case it may become far more difficult for citizens to conduct initiatives in the future.  Whether this consequence is unintended or not is the subject of debate.

 

           In any case, the legal proceedings are forcing the citizens group to use what little funds it had, for an education campaign, on legal fees.  The group’s resources will be quickly exhausted which will mean they either can no longer contest the legal battles and/or they will be unable to participate in an eventual election campaign.  Either way, in the battle of David versus Goliath, David is taking a beating.  Again.

 

 

6 comments

  1. While I’m not surprised the establishment is doing the bidding of the development-related special interests, it is amazing how many people are falling for the misconceptions being put out. People want to control growth and preserve our right to initiative but then turn around and do nothing to help.

  2. I’m now hearing the initiative opponents are serving subpoenas over the Labor Day weekend to the circulators (petition gatherers) to appear at the next hearing. The number I’m hearing is as much 74 subpoenas. At $100 a pop that’s several thousand dollars in just service fees. Who is paying that?

    In any case, being dragged into a hearing to testify they really did sign the affidavit should create a chilling effect sufficient enough to make sure no citizen in Lakewood will volunteer to circulate an initiative petition ever again.

  3. Are you serious? How is possible that the City could allow these people to trample all over our rights to initiative. Isn’t anyone outraged at this? Regardless of one’s opinion about the merits of the growth initiative it would seem that everyone could agree on the need to protect our right to petition our government.

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  5. City Clerk is slated to make a determination as to whether the initiative petition is sufficient on Sept. 18. Then the losing side will appeal to District Court in Golden. It is now clear that it won’t be on the November ballot. The remaining question is whether the lawyers can kill it entirely or whether it will go to a special election.

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