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Judge throws out STOP's arena petitions

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The last major hurdle to a new downtown arena has been cleared.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It's official.  Judge Timothy Frawley has upheld the City Clerk's decision to toss STOP's petitions to put the arena on the ballot.  Fox40 was first to report:

Frawley heard arguments last Friday but refrained from giving a final ruling until written arguments had been submitted by yesterday.  He had indicated that he was tentatively in favor of the city and that STOP would need to be extremely convincing for him to change his mind.  STOP filed their argument late last night, but it was not enough to convince the Judge.

In his decision, the judge sided with the city regarding the fact that a vote would violate the city charter:

Judge Frawley concluded with this (emphasis mine):

In reaching its decision, the court also has taken into account the sheer number of violations committed by the proponents. The court is not aware of any case where the petition process, from beginning to end, was so infected with errors. The law should not demand perfection, but neither should it condone carelessness or indifference. The integrity of the electoral process demands that proponents make a serious and determined effort to understand and comply with the election requirements. The court simply is not persuaded that occurred here. The evidence before the court suggests that the proponents were, at best, careless regarding the requirements of the election laws. As Respondents argue, allowing the measure to move forward when the petition process was so infected with errors and omissions undermines the integrity of the election process.

You can read the full 14 page decision by the Judge here, thankfully linked by Aaron Bruski.

The likelihood of an appeal from STOP is strong, but this is twice now that the petitions have been deemed irreparably flawed.  The deadline for anything to get put on the June ballot is March 3rd anyway, which is this Monday.

So barring anything unexpected, the last major hurdle towards a new downtown arena has been cleared.  The city council will vote on approving bonds in May, and groundbreaking could begin as soon as September.  If the timeline holds, the new arena will be ready for the beginning of the 2016-17 season.

It's been a long, long road to get to this point, with many twists and turns, and multiple drivers, but the end is finally in sight.