Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bass Pro Shops Issue Won't Go to Public Vote

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bass Pro Shops Issue Won't Go to Public Vote

Article excerpt

Backers of a proposal to have Oklahoma City residents vote whether the city should fund a development for use by retailer Bass Pro Shops were told by city officials Tuesday that state law would not permit such a referendum.
Municipal Counsel Bill Burkett said Oklahoma City cannot call a referendum on the issue, saying the matter is an administrative rather than a legislative issue. The city has no authority under state law to call a referendum for an administrative issue, he said.
The comments came in response to recent radio and newspaper advertisements by a group, Citizens Against Taxpayer Abuse, calling for a public vote on funding the Bass Pro Shops development. In a letter dated Monday, the group said it believes such a vote would be legal.
"Elections can be held only for those purposes that are specifically stated in either the Constitution or statute. We don't have a right to elections (for this issue). It has to be provided by law," Burkett told City Council members Tuesday.
Oklahoma City is in negotiations with Springfield, Mo.-based Bass Pro Shops to locate an 110,000-square- foot sporting goods and outdoor equipment business in Bricktown. Although the City Council has not received a final contract, the city is expected to offer to build the building and make improvements to the development estimated to cost $17.2 million. The city would then lease the property to Bass Pro Shops for 15 years.
The development would be the anchor for the east end of the Bricktown entertainment district and provide more than 300 jobs, according to city records. Mayor Kirk Humphreys said the development also would attract further development by other retailers in the Bricktown area.
Citizens Against Taxpayer Abuse said the city financing to build the project should be approved by voters.
"We believe that if the city intends to earmark or pledge sales tax revenues, generated by Bass Pro or any other source, for a period in excess of a year, in order to retire bonded indebtedness or for any other purpose, the assent of the voters is required as a matter of constitutional law," attorneys Irwin H. Steinhorn and Peter B. Bradford said in a letter to the city attorney on behalf of the group. …

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