Now That September Trial Date Has Been Set in Wet-Dry Case, What About Existing Permits?
Blake -- who, a few weeks back, also denied the attorneys' request to halt TABC permitting till the case goes to trial -- whittled down the case to a single argument this morning: Did Keep the Dollars in Dallas gather enough valid petition signatures to trigger the referendum? Or, as the anti attorneys might phrase it: Did City Secretary Deborah Watkins tell the council to call the election without first making sure all the petitions were valid?
"That's closer to the way I would say it," de la Garza tells Unfair Park this afternoon.
The trial dates has been set for September 12, with depositions set to begin within two weeks, says de la Garza.
"There are really two issues here," he says. "Did the city secretary comply with her statutory duty to certify the number of qualified voters signing the petition, and did the council comply with its statutory duty to only call a local option election if there was a sufficient number of signatures of qualified voters? While we would rather the court have not removed form the lawsuit the claims related to historically dry areas, that's her ruling, and we reserve the right to appeal that ruling at the end of the case."
Update at 5:41 p.m.: The lengthy response from the City Attorney's Office just arrived. It too is on the other side.
I asked Carolyn Beck, spokesperson for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission: If, at the trial, it's determined the election was improperly called, does this void the permits that have been issued to that point? She says no -- because at the time retailers were given their permits, which are good for two years, they were deemed to have been issued lawfully. But they would not be renewed upon their expiration.
"And our position would be: If the election is void, the permits are void," de le Garza says. "The TABC would have to take action to cancel those permits, and if they don't take that view it would be difficult for us to cancel those, other than filing an objection requesting cancellation, which is a possibility."
The City Attorney's Office says it will have a statement shortly. I'll post here as an update when it's made available.
Below is the statement from the City Attorney's Office, which arrived at 5:41 p.m.:
Brief in Support of JurisdictionCity Attorney's press statement on local option lawsuit
Two individuals brought a lawsuit to undo the results of last November's local option election. These individuals sought to prevent the results of the election from ever taking effect. In two hearings held during the past two weeks, the City has prevailed on several important challenges to the local option election.
First, the Court refused to grant an order enjoining or delaying implementation of the local option results. The Court rejected the plaintiffs' attempt to prevent any permits being issued during the pendency of the lawsuit. Second, the Court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the local option election had to be held only in former justice precincts. Third, the Court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims that a controlling statute was unconstitutional. Finally, today the Court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims that a local option election had to be held only in the former Town of Preston Hollow.
The City followed the state law that authorizes a city-wide local option election. The only issue remaining in the case is whether the petition requesting an election was signed by a sufficient number of qualified voters. The City welcomes the opportunity to defend at trial the overwhelming decision of the City of Dallas voters.