Scottsdale City Council to Invoke Emergency Clause: Flagrant Abuse of Municipal Power

Posted on June 30, 2004 | Type: Press Release
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PHOENIX - The Scottsdale City Council will vote Tuesday to approve a controversial plan to turn the site of the former Los Arcos mall into a business park. Scottsdale officials plan to invoke the city charter's emergency clause to prevent a voter referendum on the $130 million project.

Normally, voters would have the constitutional right to send the matter to the ballot. However, by invoking the emergency clause, the city council ensures their plan immediately takes effect without being subject to voter approval. Article 4, section 1(3) of the Arizona Constitution states that municipalities can enact emergency measures in order to "preserve the public peace, health, or safety."

"Constructing a building isn't an emergency by any honest definition, and doesn't preserve the public's health or safety," said Mark Brnovich, director of the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Government. "Using the emergency clause to shield the project from voter scrutiny is a flagrant abuse of municipal power."

Arizona courts have rendered themselves almost incapable of checking such abuses of municipal power. In its 1951 City of Phoenix v. Landrum ruling, the Arizona Supreme Court stated that the determination that an emergency exists is an act of legislative discretion not reviewable by the judiciary. Arizona cities have since abused the emergency clause, with cities like Glendale using emergency powers to circumvent a voter referendum and secure a hockey arena and football stadium.

The emergency clause will continue to be abused until the judiciary reclaims its constitutional responsibility to serve as a check on such abuse of municipal power.


Mark Brnovich, Director, Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Government, (602) 462-5000 x 232,

Andrea Woodmansee, Director of Communications, Goldwater Institute, (602) 462-5000 x 226,

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