Salt Lake City has rejected a ballot initiative to prohibit the city from using funds or facilities - including its "good name" - for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Utahns for Responsible Public Spending, which already is circulating a statewide initiative petition to prevent government funds from being used for the Olympics, now is trying to put similar questions on the ballot in Salt Lake City and Park City.Salt Lake officials say the petition is ambiguous, overly broad in scope and inappropriately limits the budgetary and other executive powers of the mayor and City Council.
Steve Pace, spokesman for Utahns For Responsible Public Spending, said the city is in effect prohibiting all initiative efforts, because virtually every issue deals in some way with the budget.
"This town is not big enough for the Olympics and the Constitution," Pace said.
The state official who supervises elections sees no reason the petition can't be circulated, and she will seek an opinion from the Utah attorney general's office.
Pace said he has talked with a lawyer and intends to seek a court order allowing the petition to be circulated while the question of its legality is settled.
The group submitted the petition to the cities for approval before collecting the required numbers of signatures to qualify for municipal-election ballots in November.
The proposed question asks voters to prohibit using public "funds, facilities, personnel, real or personal property, credit, equipment, vehicles, utilities and improvements, structures and/or city's good name" to "solicit, host, organize, conduct or operate" the Games.
"We don't think it's a proper matter for a legislative initiative," Salt Lake City Attorney Roger Cutler said.
A review of the proposed petition by the Salt Lake city attorney's office said initiative petitions may address only legislative matters, not executive functions of government such as the use of public funds and facilities.
The petition also is "overreaching" in its attempt to restrict the budgetary power of the City Council, which the attorney's office said is contrary to state law.
"The lawful appropriation of funds by the City Council for various purposes relating to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games cannot be interfered with by direct action of the voters," Christopher Bramhall said in a memo to the Salt Lake City recorder's office.
The petition also is flawed because it would bind actions of a future City Council, Bramhall said.
Pace said he understands that no initiative can bind future councils or legislatures. "The impact is political," Pace said. If the initiatives are approved by voters, elected officials would feel pressured to keep the spending ban in place, he said.
State says `probably OK'
Although the state usually doesn't get involved in a dispute over a local decision unless asked, Kellen Leishman, the lieutenant governor's director of elections, expects to hear from both sides soon.
"Once they start fighting it out, they usually call us," Leishman said.
Contrary to the city's opinion, Leishman said, the petition proposed by the Olympic opponents does not appear to either change or initiate a budget.
The law in question refers only to existing budgets, she said. Petitioners "can probably do something to limit spending in a par-tic-ular area," in the future, Leishman said, adding she is familiar with the petition. "I think they can do it."
A petition attempting to limit Olympic spending at the state level has been approved for circulation by the state, and the same group proposing the local initiatives hopes to put the issue before all Utah voters in November 1996.
No success in Park City
In Park City, the anti-Olympic group isn't having much luck, despite offering a number of rewrites to comply with local ordinances. Park City would be the site of several major Olympic venues.
City Attorney Jodi Hoffman said Utahns for Responsible Spending has failed so far to even field the requisite five signatures required to begin circulating a petition.
Hoffman said the organization submitted nine signatures, but none belonged to qualified voters, defined as those who took part in the city's most recent elections, in 1993.
Pace said the organization will resubmit five names, however, this time making sure they're valid.