Referendum Dropped If Council Compromises On Ordinance

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The Payson Community Coalition has reached an understanding with several members of the Payson Town Council to consider some changes to Town Ordinance 709A regarding business licensing and illegal immigration in Payson.

The coalition made some specific recommendations, which are intended to limit the unintended consequences of the ordinance, while enhancing enforceability and reducing the possibility of federal legal actions against both local businesses and the town.

While the council members present in the Wednesday meeting -- Mike Vogel, Su Connell and John Wilson --made no promises regarding specific changes the town would be making to the immigration ordinance, they did commit to conducting a follow-up meeting with members of the business community and concerned local citizens where specific changes will be discussed.

Connell said another meeting with the coalition and others on the matter is planned for 2 p.m. Monday, May 7. She said it is hoped the matter can go back to council for the May 17 meeting.

In exchange for their willingness to consider changes to the ordinance, the Payson Community Coalition has agreed to withdraw the referendum petition that is presently being circulated among Payson voters.

The petition is being withdrawn for the following reasons:

  • It appears that the parties will be able to reach an agreeable compromise with town leaders to remove the unintended consequences presented by the ordinance, while preserving the major goals of the ordinance.
  • If the referendum goes forward, the cost of bringing the issue to the voters is estimated at $30,000. The coalition would rather the town not incur those costs, if a more economic solution is available. Town Manager Fred Carpenter said the cost would be approximately $30,000 if a special election was called on the referendum. However, if held until a regular election, it would not be as expensive.
  • If the referendum goes forward, it may prevent the council from changing the ordinance for the next nine months, until after the voters decide the outcome. In essence, the ordinance would be frozen for almost a year, even if the council and employers find a better solution during that time.

Town Attorney Tim Wright said the council could change an ordinance as it chooses, with no time constraints.

Costing the taxpayers of Payson considerable expense was not the intention of circulating the referendum petition, and when it appears that a compromise can eliminate the cost of a ballot measure and reduce the likelihood of attracting federal lawsuits against the town or local businesses, a negotiated settlement is clearly the best solution. We want to make sure the ordinance does not put businesses in jeopardy by requiring action that is contrary to what is allowed by federal law.

The members of the Payson Community Coalition wish to publicly thank the many Payson residents who circulated and signed the referendum petition.

This invaluable assistance made this compromise possible and will allow the community to avoid the complicated, lengthy and costly legal challenges which have been threatened by civil rights and national business groups from outside the area.

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