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El Paso opponents: We want ballpark on fall ballot

New El Paso Ballpark

Opponents of a new El Paso ballpark for a Triple-A team want to force approval of the project on the fall ballot, as they’ve gathered over 2,300 signatures on the issue.

The ballpark is already tentatively on the ballot in the form of a proposal to raise the city’s hotel/motel occupancy tax by two percentage points to pay for the facility, but opponents want to give more power to voters to actually approve the project and have presented petitions to City Hall to force the issue. Right now the city is committed to funding the $50-million ballpark even if voters shoot down the occupancy tax; it’s a done deal.

However, there are some questions as to the measure’s legality: it asks that the petition’s provisions be enacted retroactively (ex post facto). That means all the work done on the ballpark — which, we assume, includes the lease with MountainStar Sports Group, which has committed to buying the Tucson Padres (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), a purchase that still needs final approval — would be either tossed out or altered to allow for voter approval. The problem with that: in general, you can’t enact legal changes retroactively because you’re changing the rules of the game that both sides worked under in good faith. That, and the verification of valid signatures, should be hot topics of debate in coming days, as the City Council will discuss it.

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