A Little Known Fairground Victory

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Over at The City Paper, Steven Hale has the story about Metro Council attorney Jon Cooper announcing that the state fairgrounds can't be redeveloped without amending the Metro Charter:

“The Charter amendment approved by the voters in August 2011 included two provisions,” Cooper explained in a follow up email to The City Paper. “The first provision requires all of the activities that were taking place at the fairgrounds as of December 2010 (expo center, flea market, racetrack, etc.) to continue on the property in perpetuity. This means that no redevelopment of the fairgrounds that would involve stopping any of the existing activities could take place without approval of the voters through another amendment to the Charter.”

The general understanding — reflected in, and likely perpetuated by, local media coverage of the issue that was incomplete, at least — had seemed to be that 27 votes from the 40-member council would clear the way for redevelopment. But strictly speaking, that would only be enough to demolish any existing facilities.

This is good news for the supporters of the fairgrounds, but I'm actually more interested in the second paragraph. I think Hale is right that most people have been operating under the assumption that the council could vote to redevelop the fairgrounds. And I would guess that if you asked voters who actually voted on the amendment, this would have been the understanding of most of them.

I mean, I feel like I'm a fairly smart, informed person, and I'm sure I didn't get the distinction Cooper is outlining when I voted.

I think it goes to show the importance of making sure these things are clearly and plainly written to begin with. Voters can't actually do our jobs if we don't understand what we're voting on. And if even the media can't make heads or tails out of it, that's a problem. I'm glad Cooper clarified, but it shouldn't take a lawyer three years to decide the meaning of something ordinary people only had a few minutes to look over in the voting booth.

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