Judge dismisses streetcar lawsuit

A Jackson County judge today dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the election and funding for the $102 million Downtown streetcar system.

Judge Peggy Stevens McGraw ruled that the lawsuit filed by two Downtown property owners raised issues that were already settled when Judge Charles Atwell ruled on them last April.

Atwell ruled that the procedures used in the election were constitutional. No appeal was filed  and the city moved forward with the December election.

“The purpose would be eviscerated if plaintiffs were allowed to proceed on their petition at this late date,” McGraw wrote.

Election laws also applied to three of the four counts in the lawsuit, she wrote, which was filed 50 days after the Dec. 12 election – 20 days past a deadline for such election challenges.

Mark Bredemeier, attorney for plaintiffs Sue Anne Burke and Stretch/Jeffrey Rumaner, said this morning, “The plaintiffs will explore all their legal options.”

Douglas Stone, attorney for the Downtown Streetcar Transportation Development District, said, “At this point the project needs to move forward.”

If the plaintiffs appeal, the district will request they post a significant sum of money because of the danger that bond rates and costs will increase with further delay.

In the mail-in ballot election, the 1-cent sales tax for within the transportation district passed by 351 to 198 and the higher property tax assessment there by 344 to 206.

The lawsuit contended the vote violated constitutional rights because it did not allow voting by property owners who do not live in the streetcar district.

It also contended that the district improperly stacked one transportation district on top of another because there was already a 1-cent district tax for the Power & Light district.

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