Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink has yet to rule on the validity of Glendale's $325 million, 20-year arena lease deal with Greg Jamison's ownership group, which is seeking to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes from the National Hockey League.
But on Tuesday, he did make a ruling that could dramatically impact that bid.
From Lisa Halverstadt of the Arizona Republic, reporting on the Goldwater Institute's case against the Glendale City Council:
Judge Dean Fink on Tuesday ordered Glendale to add wording to the ordinance approved in a 4-2 vote on June 8 to clarify that the measure didn't garner enough support to make it effective that day. The informal order made it clear Glendale residents have time to propose a ballot initiative against the deal with Coyotes suitor Greg Jamison.
What does this mean for Jamison's bid? Put it this way: E.J. Montini's blog post on the matter is titled "Could 1,862 names kill Coyotes deal?".
Citizens get a month or so to collect signatures for a referendum. Then the city gets to look them over. Then the county. If the signatures are valid an election will have to be scheduled. That can't be good news for the National Hockey League or the potential new owners of the Coyotes.
I'm wondering if they'll even choose to go forward if enough signatures are collected. It's hard to imagine the angry, frustrated and confused Glendale voters going along with the council's decision.
The move could essentially kill Jamison's bid to buy the team from the National Hockey League either by squelching the favorable arena deal or scaring off investors by dragging out the process. "That's their real goal," said one official familiar with the Coyotes deal.
A Coyotes' ballot measure could be teamed with a potential referendum backed by Glendale car dealers against a proposed city sales tax increase.
Keep in mind that what helped sink Matthew Hulsizer's bid for the Coyotes — which, incidentally, ended a year ago next Wednesday — was uncertainty. Goldwater was threatening lawsuits, affecting Glendale's ability to sell bonds and making it difficult for Hulsizer to close the sale.
Right now, Jamison's trying to raise equity for the sale. As Sunnucks wrote:
"Multiple sources on the pro-side of keeping the Coyotes in the Phoenix market say Jamison has the investment and financing to buy the team but the legal and political challenges can still kill the deal."
Joyce Clark, a pro-arena deal member of the Glendale City Council, took to Twitter regarding the referendum:
"Coyotes Troops: It's not over until the fat lady sings and this fat lady isn't singing yet. The opposition has to get 1862 valid signatures and turn them in on July 9 (July 8 is a Sunday). They really need at least 2450 to account for invalid signatures and they have to do it in 18 days with a long July 4th weekend. I'm not saying it's not do-able but it will be very, very difficult."
That might seem like a defeatist stance, but that's politics: Better to snuff out the opposition early than to battle it at the polls. But in the end, the simple threat of the referendum and a public vote on the arena deal may chill the chances for Jamison to raise the equity to close this deal -- and polls like this one, from the Arizona Republic on June 6, can't be encouraging:
(Ed. Note. Hearing from a few Coyotes fans that this poll was skewed "by Canadians" who caught wind of its existence. So while we'd expect you to approach any online poll with skepticism, understand the alleged basis for these results as well.)
For his part, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the Coyotes will be on the 2012-12 schedule set to be released Thursday and that it's his "anticipation and expectation" that they'll play in Glendale next season.